Sunday, March 17, 2019

The 3 - March 17, 2019

This week's edition of The 3, featuring three stories impacting the Christian community, features a development from Washington state, where a new law forces churches to cover abortion in their insurance plans.  Also, the tax allowance for clergy has been challenged in court, and the latest court ruling, from a Federal appeals court, reinforced the constitutionality of the allowance.  And, "heartbeat" bills that would ban abortion after an unborn child's heartbeat is detected, are moving forward in several states.

3 - Washington state attempts to make churches pay for abortions

A law in the state of Washington signed into law last year forces churches to fund abortion in their health care plans.  A ChristianHeadlines.com states that, "The law requires insurance plans to cover abortion if they also cover maternity care. It has no religious exemptions."

Alliance Defending Freedom has become in fighting against this new law, and the story says that ADF had filed a lawsuit "on behalf of Cedar Park Assembly of God, a Kirkland, Wash., congregation. The suit claims the law violates the congregation’s constitutionally protected freedom of religion and displays hostility toward religious groups that oppose abortion."

The suit referred to the law as an "intentional" "attack on people of faith." It stated, "The strong statutory language, lack of any church exception, and anticipated evidence that pro-abortion groups assisted in drafting and enacting SB 6219, indicates that Washington and its officials deliberately targeted religious organizations and intentionally violated those organizations’ religious beliefs.”

2 - Appeals court rules that housing allowance for ministers is constitutional

It was just a year and a half ago when a Federal district court judge ruled against the longstanding ministers' housing allowance in the U.S. tax code.   But, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in the past week has struck down that lower court ruling, according to ChristianityToday.com, which reported that:
Offered only to “ministers of the gospel,” the 60-year-old tax break excludes the rental value of a home from the taxable income of US clergy, CT previously reported. GuideStone Financial Resources has called it the “most important tax benefit available to ministers.”
Th original lawsuit was filed by the Freedom from Religion Foundation, and appeals court judge Michael Brennan wrote, according to the article, "FFRF claims Section 107(2) renders unto God that which is Caesar’s,” adding, “But this tax provision falls into the play between the joints of the Free Exercise Clause and the Establishment Clause: neither commanded by the former, nor proscribed by the latter.”

The article points out that the Clergy Housing Allowance "...is currently claimed to the tune of $700 million a year..."  This is the FFRF's second attempt to overturn the allowance, having been turned back in a Federal appeals court decision in 2014.

1 - Pro-life heartbeat bills advance in several states

There are a number of states who in the process of passing legislation that would ban abortion after the heartbeat of an unborn child is detected.  Perhaps the most recent is Kentucky; according to Liberty Counsel:
Kentucky’s House passed Senate Bill 9, a fetal heartbeat bill, by a vote of 71 to 19 last night. SB 9 bans most abortions in the state once a fetal heartbeat is detected. The measure requires anyone seeking an abortion to first determine if a fetal heartbeat is detectable, typically about six weeks into pregnancy.
Since that bill has already passed the Senate in the Bluegrass State, all it has to do is be signed by pro-life governor Matt Bevin to become law; then, of course, there will no doubt it will be challenged in court.  In the neighboring state of Ohio, pro-life governor Mike DeWine has already said he would sign a heartbeat bill, something that his predecessor refused to do - twice. Cleveland.com reports, "The Ohio Senate passed a bill Wednesday afternoon that would ban abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected -- which would be one of the nation’s strictest bans on the procedure."  the vote was 19-13.  The bill now heads to the Ohio House of Representatives.

Meanwhile, Mississippi governor Phil Bryant is waiting on the state legislature to pass a heartbeat bill.  The House and Senate had passed different versions, and just this week, the House passed the Senate version of the bill, with some minor changes, according to Jackson's Clarion-Ledger.  It stated:
The House passed a bill Monday that outlaws abortion when a fetal heartbeat is detected, which can come as early as six weeks into a pregnancy.
The Senate, where the bill originated, will have another chance to review and vote on the bill and minor House changes before it could head to Gov. Phil Bryant. Bryant has said he supports the legislation and would sign it into law.
Georgia and Tennessee are other states where the heartbeat bills have recently passed one chamber of their legislatures.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

The 3 - March 10, 2019

This week's assortment of stories impacting the Christian community, The 3, involves a case that the U.S. Supreme Court rejected dealing with using taxpayer-funded historic preservation dollars for church repairs.  Also, an Alabama man is suing an abortion clinic because it performed an abortion on his pregnant girlfriend without his consent.  And, a Colorado commission has decided not to pursue a complaint against the same cake baker who won a Supreme Court ruling.

3 - New Jersey denies church rights to preservation funds, SCOTUS denies appeal, new justice balks

Almost two years after ruling in favor of allowing a religious school to participate in a playground resurfacing grant program, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to accept cases from New Jersey that would have allowed taxpayer historic preservation funds to go to churches.

CNBC.com reports that the New Jersey Supreme Court had "declined to extend the Supreme Court's reasoning" in the playground case "to historic preservation grants, saying the cases are distinct because playground resurfacing is not a religious use, but church repairs are."

But the court's newest justice, Brett Kavanaugh, expressed concern.  The article said:
Kavanaugh, who voted to deny the cases on technical grounds, wrote that preventing preservation funds from going to religious organizations "simply because the organizations are religious" raised "serious questions."
"Barring religious organizations because they are religious from a general historic preservation grants program is pure discrimination against religion," he wrote.
His statement was "joined" by justices Alito and Gorsuch.  He voted not to accept the case because it wasn't the time.  The CNBC article stated:
...Kavanaugh said that it was correct not to review the cases because of certain issues particular to the cases at hand, and because there was not yet sufficient case law in the lower courts on the question.
Justices Thomas and Gorsuch had stated that the ruling in the playground case was too narrow; in my opinion, this sets up a bloc of four conservative justices that could support the extension of historic preservation funds to churches, if the case were to come before it in the future.  The ideological balance on the high court does seem to have shifted, with four liberals, four conservatives, and a new "swing" vote in Chief Justice John Roberts, who had generally been thought to be part of the conservative wing.

2 - Unborn child is plaintiff in lawsuit against Alabama abortion clinic

It is certainly an unfortunate situation, certainly a crisis pregnancy - a 19-year-old young man and a 16-year-old young lady, producing a child.  He claims that he did not want her to have an abortion, but she did it anyway, according to FoxNews.com, which reports that the father, Ryan Magers, now 21, has hired an attorney who is filing a lawsuit and naming the unborn child as a plaintiff.  The lawyer, Brent Helms, says: "We are suing the clinic, the manufacturer of the pill, going after the doctor and going after any professional organization the doctor is affiliated with," adding, "if they are all held liable, it would put a dent on the profitability of abortions." And, as the report says:

On Tuesday, an Alabama county court recognized the aborted fetus, "Baby Roe," as a plaintiff in the lawsuit, making the case one of the first of its kind.
Magers, according to Fox, "claims his girlfriend got a medicated abortion at the Alabama Women's Center for Reproductive Alternatives in Huntsville in February 2017 when she was six weeks pregnant." He had "pleaded with his girlfriend, who was 16, not to get the abortion."

The story also states:
Helms, who is seeking monetary damages and a jury trial, says the ultimate goal is to increase the rights of would-be fathers and strip protections in place for women who are seeking abortions in Alabama.
"I'm here for the men who actually want to have their baby," he said. "I believe every child from conception is a baby and deserves to live."
1 - Jack Phillips survives (another) court challenge

Not too long ago, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of Colorado cake baker Jack Phillips of Masterpiece Cakeshop, who had declined to make a cake celebrating a same-sex marriage.  According to WORLD Magazine, according to the high court, the Colorado Civil Rights Commission "showed hostility toward religion in its earlier prosecution of Phillips for declining to make a cake for a same-sex wedding."

Another complaint was filed before the commission because, according to the article, Phillips "refused to bake a cake celebrating a gender transition because of his religious beliefs, sparking another complaint and investigation of Phillips by the Civil Rights Commission."

Jack, in turn, filed a lawsuit against the state, "saying it disregarded the Supreme Court decision by pursuing the second complaint." This week, the Commission announced it would drop the complaint; that decision, according to WORLD, "followed discoveries by Phillips’ attorneys with Alliance Defending Freedom that members of the Civil Rights Commission still exhibit anti-religious bias."

ADF Senior Vice President Kristen Waggoner is quoted as saying. “The state’s demonstrated and ongoing hostility toward Jack because of his beliefs is undeniable.”

Monday, March 04, 2019

The 3 - March 3, 2019

This week's edition of The 3 spotlights a Day of Mourning that occurred to lament the dreadful decision of New York's legislature to allow abortion up until the time of birth.  Also, the U.S. Senate turned back an attempt to protect children who survive an abortion attempt.  And, United Methodists, in a special meeting, decided to uphold traditional teaching on marriage and homosexuality.

3 - Gathering mourns New York abortion law

The response continues to be strong and passionate regarding the decision of the state of New York's legislature and its governor to allow legal abortion up until the time of birth.  The news of this becoming law was cheered by lawmakers, but pro-life Christians have a different viewpoint.

Recently, a Day of Mourning was held at the state capital in Albany, New York, and the Times-Union, a local newspaper, reported that:
Thousands of people donning black clothing prayed, prostrated and proclaimed their opposition to abortion — and New York's recently-signed Reproductive Health Act — during a "Day of Mourning" event at the Empire State Plaza Convention Center on Saturday afternoon.
The article continued, stating:
The event's speakers painted the issue as a moral crisis facing the nation, and called on Christians of all denominations to protest outside of abortion clinics, or "killing centers", as they were described by Elizabeth Johnston, a pro-life advocate and the event's main speaker.

Speakers at the Day of Mourning event included Johnston, an author and social media advocate, as well as Justin Reeder, founder of a Charlotte, N.C.-based pro-life ministry, and Blythe Mullen, an eight-year-old girl whose mother decided against abortion after an unplanned pregnancy and put her up for adoption.
Reeder said at the event, according to the newspaper "It's time to rebuild, pick up the pieces," adding, "I'm talking about a culture shift, where families stop running to the abortion center for the answer, and they begin running to the local church. That's the shift that I believe (in)." Johnston is quoted as saying, "We are standing with these forgotten and thrown-away children, and promising to do all that is in our power to end the bloodshed and defend the weak..."  Other cities in the nation had similar events planned.

2 - U.S. Senate rejects protection for babies surviving abortion

Discussion on abortion has continued throughout our nation over the past couple of months; not only was the anniversary of Roe v. Wade commemorated during January, including the March for Life in Washington, but with New York's offensive legislative action and an attempt to promote infanticide in Virginia, the issue of life is continuing to take center stage.

And, the U.S. Senate had a chance to weigh in on the protection that a child who survives an abortion attempt should have. By a 53-44 vote, in which all but three of the body's Democrats voted against
such a measure, the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act was not allowed to move forward; it needed to get 60 votes.

As the Family Research Council reported, bill sponsor Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska said (according to Breitbart), "We've heard speech after speech after speech that have nothing to do with what's actually in this bill. I urge my colleagues to picture a baby that's already been born, that's outside the womb gasping for air. That's the only thing that today's vote is actually about. We're talking about babies that have already been born… We're not talking about Roe v. Wade."

National Review Online's Alexandra Desanctis said, "Although the bill doesn't restrict abortion rights, it brings into crystal-clear focus the irrationality of the pro-abortion position," adding, "If those who support abortion concede that perhaps there is something wrong with permitting an infant to die the moment after birth if it was meant to have been aborted one minute earlier suddenly the question becomes, 'Why is it acceptable to perform that abortion one minute earlier?'"

And, there may be a cost to the Democratic party, which has embraced a pro-abortion agenda with greater fervor than ever.  FRC points out that "In the four weeks since Democrats cheered the deaths of innocent babies in New York, Americans finally understood the horrors of what they stand for. And the masses have started walking away. There are 14 percent more pro-life Democrats today than last month. Fourteen percent more who will fight to end this generation's nightmare." 

This comes as some Christian leaders are decrying partisan politics, criticizing single-issue voting (with that issue being abortion), and attempting to equate abortion with other issues which they say also shows a lack of regard for human life. But, it begs the question, which has been pointed out and even debated: what issue is there that rises to the level of the state-sanctioned murder of unborn, defenseless, vulnerable human beings, which takes thousands of lives in America every single day?

1 - United Methodists uphold traditional church teaching on homosexuality

Almost three years ago, during a contentious General Conference of the United Methodist Church, leaders made a decision to deal with matters concerning the Church's treatment of homosexuality in a specially-called General Conference.  That conference occurred in St. Louis recently, and delegates voted to uphold the traditional view of homosexuality in the Church's Book of Discipline, continued to uphold the Biblical definition of marriage as one-man and one-woman, will not allow the ordination of gay individuals.

The Institute on Religion and Democracy stated in a press release posted on its website...
...delegates gathered in St. Louis adopted a plan advocated by traditionalists which increases accountability measures for clergy and local bodies.
The United Methodist Church is the second-largest Protestant denomination in the United States, but has a global membership of more than 12 million members in the United States, Africa, Europe, and the Philippines.
The denomination’s longstanding official standards are that all people are welcome in its churches, while also teaching that marriage is only between one man and one woman.
John Lomperis of IRD, who is the United Methodist Action Director for the organization, is quoted as saying:
“This was a historic turning point for our denomination, and will hopefully help make the United Methodist Church look refreshingly very different from what we have seen in the last several years.”
He was a guest on The Meeting House in advance of the conference.  You can find that audio here.

Lester Spencer, Senior Pastor of Montgomery (AL)'s St. James UMC and President of the Alabama-West Florida Conference Chapter of the Wesleyan Covenant Association, provided a post-conference report, which you can find here.  

In a statement on its website, the Association shared its thankfulness for the Conference's decision, and stated:
We recognize that persons of divergent positions have been harmed by the acrimonious and bitter debate exhibited at the recent special General Conference. As Christians, we are called to exhibit grace and to speak the truth in love. We are committed to conversations and actions that affirm the sacred worth and love of all people regardless of their perspective in our church’s decades-old debate.
The statement also said:
From its inception, the WCA has been unwavering in its commitment to restore the good order and missional effectiveness of the UM Church. Our work will continue unabated as we address factors that have contributed to dysfunction and ineffectiveness. We are committed to working with other United Methodists to achieve that end at the next General Conference in 2020, including a gracious exit provision. And should circumstances warrant, we remain prepared to launch a new Methodist movement.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

The 3 - February 24, 2019

This week on The 3, highlighting three stories of relevance to the Christian community, within the past few weeks major evangelistic crusades have occurred in various parts of the world, including events led by the son and grandson of the late Billy Graham.  Also, another pro-life victory from the Trump Administration has been finalized.  And, there are more developments in the aftermath of the published reports about sexual abuse in churches affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention.

3 - Evangelists lead large-scale campaigns around the world

As a number of people reflected on the one-year anniversary of the death of the great evangelist Billy Graham this past Thursday, February 21, we can also celebrate how God has been working recently through evangelists who were inspired by him, including his son and grandson.

His son, Franklin Graham, spent 16 days in Australia recently, preaching the gospel in six different cities.  The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association website noted:
Sixteen days of criss-crossing Australia. Time well spent changing the spiritual landscape of this wild and rugged continent and its warmhearted people.
Sunday night in Sydney, Franklin Graham issued yet another invitation on the last night of the Graham Tour. He urged Aussies to confess their sins and surrender their hearts to Christ.
“Let’s get this straight tonight. Do it. Come on,” he said.
Many of those who heard the Gospel these past two-plus weeks did. Thousands of the more than 59,000 people who attended the tour received Jesus as their Lord and Savior.
Meanwhile, his son, Will, held nine events in eight days in various locations in the Manila area of the Philippines. The Association's website stated:
The Greater Pangasinan-Metro Manila Celebration with Will Graham was held Feb. 9-17, and included a two-day outreach at the Narciso Ramos Sports Complex in Lingayen, Pangasinan, followed by three special events for teens, government/military leaders and marketplace leaders, and culminated with a three-day, four-event series at the Quirino Grandstand at Manila’s historic Rizal Park.
All told, 149,656 people attended the Greater Pangasinan-Metro Manila Celebration with Will Graham.
Over 19,000 people made a decision to follow Christ. The website notes that this series of events "marked the first time that all three generations of Graham evangelists have preached from the same venue in the same city. Will’s grandfather, Billy Graham, preached a Crusade at Rizal Park in 1977 and Will’s father, Franklin Graham, held an evangelistic Festival in 2006 in the same location."

Meanwhile, the Luis Palau Association held a crusade in Ivory Coast, or Cote d'Ivoire, in West Africa recently. A Christian Newswire report said that, "More than 50,000 people in West Africa gathered ...in Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire for a 3-day evangelistic festival with evangelist Andrew Palau. Led by the Luis Palau Association, the week-long campaign was the culmination of more than three years of work in Cote d'Ivoire, including massive citywide festivals in other influential cities such as Yamoussoukro and San Pedro."

There were reportedly over 2,200 local churches involved, with a report of more than 19,000 public professions of faith in Christ.

Each country had its unique events and possesses its own spiritual climate.  The three crusade events just within the past month are great illustrations of how God is at work in varying parts of the world.

2 - Trump administration releases new regulation to prevent certain taxpayer dollars from funding abortion

The Trump Administration has taken another step to reduce the number of abortions in our nation.  Even though Congress has been unable to pass very much pro-life legislation in recent years because of an abundance of members who oppose restriction of abortion under the false narrative of a so-called "woman's right to choose," there are actions from the executive branch that can be and have been taken.  By the way, this week, the Senate votes on a bill that would protect infant survivors of abortion.

The Susan B. Anthony List website reports that the Administration "finalized the Protect Life Rule to redirect Title X family planning program funds away from the abortion industry. The rule advances President Trump’s promise to stop taxpayer funding of abortion businesses like Planned Parenthood, who will no longer receive Title X funding if they choose not to comply." The website states that the rule "directs tax dollars to Title X centers that do not promote or perform abortions, such as the growing number of community and rural health centers that far outnumber Planned Parenthood facilities."

This development adds to a list of pro-life accomplishments in the more than two years of the Trump Administration.  The SBA List website lists "President Trump's Pro-Life Wins, including:
  • Appointed Pro-Life Judges
  • Permitted States to Defund Planned Parenthood of Title X Funds
  • Stopped Tax Dollars Funding Abortion Overseas
  • Defunded the Pro-Abortion UNFPA
  • Required Health Insurance Companies to Disclose if Plans Cover Abortion
  • Settlements & New Rule Regarding HHS Mandate
  • Strong Pro-Life Appointments to Key Positions
  • New Office for Conscience Protection at HHS
  • Allowed States to Defund Planned Parenthood of Medicaid Funds.
The Susan B. Anthony List is in partnership with Life Issues Institute, which presents the one-minute radio feature, Life Issues, with Brad Mattes, heard throughout the day on Faith Radio.

1 - SBC attempts to deal with sexual abuse issue

In a response set off by the recent series on sexual abuse within Southern Baptist Convention churches, the SBC President, J.D. Greear, made a presentation to the Convention's Executive Committee.  In it, he made a number of recommendations, according to The Christian Index, which is published by the Georgia Baptist Convention.  He referred to a study group that had been established last summer regarding the issue, and the names of group members were made public in Monday's presentation.  The Index said: "Greear called on Southern Baptists to respond to some initial recommendations of the study group, beginning for repentance or decades of inaction."

The group had put together training materials that have been made available to churches. Also, according to the article, Greear announced that all six SBC seminaries, officers of the SBC Associational Leaders, and all state conventions have agreed to three Statements of Principles on Abuse documents.  He also called for new "policies and prodecures," a well as reassessing the process of ordaining ministers.

Plus, part of the presentation called for an examination of 10 churches that had received media attention regarding incidences in the area of abuse. Greear is quoted as saying that the churches are not being singled out "for disfellowshipping … at this point but these churches must be called upon to give assurance to the SBC that they have taken the necessary steps to correct their policies and procedures with regards to abuse and care for survivors."

The Houston Chronicle contacted the 10 churches mentioned, most of them in Texas.  For example, one, the large Second Baptist Church in Houston, responded with this statement:
“Second Baptist Church wants to assure the Southern Baptist Convention and our community that we have long adhered to strict policies and guidelines dealing with sexual conduct and abuse,” the church said. “First and foremost, we grieve with each and every child, individual, their families and everyone affected by sexual abuse. Period.”
Arapaho Road Baptist in Garland, TX, according to the article, "issued a statement saying it welcomed a conversation with Greear about how it handled past incidents of abuse and what it learned from them."

Then, there's Eastside Baptist in Marietta, GA - its pastor would have welcomed a conversation prior to it being announced as a church under scrutiny. Pastor John Hull "...invited the SBC’s leadership, based in Nashville, to visit Eastside to learn what the church has done to prevent sexual abuse and protect children." He said, "While this may be new for our friends in Nashville, we’ve been down the road on this."

Hull was interviewed in another Christian Index article.  When he arrived, the church in Marietta had just endured the report of a janitor who had inappropriately touched a young girl.  The story relates:
“I am completely mystified,” he said Thursday. In particular, the pastor doesn’t understand why Greear nor anyone from the SBC Executive Committee failed to contact Eastside to ask what had been done in the past two-and-a-half years prior to the list being made public.
Hull agrees with Greear’s emphasis on protecting children. However, he believes the SBC president missed an opportunity to show the example of a church that has committed itself to that task in a way few others have, traveling a road none would want to take.
The Chairman of the Executive Committee, fellow Georgia pastor Mike Stone, said:
“I share his deep concern,” Stone, pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Blackshear, told The Index. “President Greear was speaking as an individual, knowing that he does not possess the authority to place any congregation under investigation. And while the specific language of the president’s address did not claim that authority, the way in which it was communicated gave the unfortunate and unintended impression that this was an action of the Executive Committee of the SBC.”
This past week, according to Baptist Press, the by-laws workgroup of the SBC Executive Committee spent time crafting a statement "responding to SBC President J.D. Greear's report earlier this week on sexual abuse." The statement addresses the 10 churches.  Relative to the introduction of an amendment at the SBC Convention in Birmingham in June, it says in part:
We utterly and completely condemn the abominable horror of child sexual abuse. We must also be careful that our righteous anger does not prevent a deliberate and thoughtful response. Although the overwhelming majority of sexual abuse cases remains tragically unreported, in virtually all reported cases, the abuse and cover-up of abuse were criminal acts undertaken by a few individuals within a church. The church body rarely knew about these actions and even more rarely took any action to endorse or affirm the wrongful acts or the actors themselves. The Convention, through its Executive Committee, should not disrupt the ministries of its churches by launching an inquiry until it has received credible information that the church has knowingly acted wrongfully in one of the four ways described in the proposed amendment:

(a) employing a convicted sex offender,
(b) allowing a convicted sex offender to work as a volunteer in contact with minors,
(c) continuing to employ a person who unlawfully concealed from law enforcement information regarding the sexual abuse of any person by an employee or volunteer of the church, or
(d) willfully disregarding compliance with mandatory child abuse reporting laws.
The day after Greear's presentation, the Bylaws Workgroup requested evidence from Greear "containing the information upon which he based his naming of the churches."  The group has determined that out of the 10 churches, only 3 require "further inquiry."  One of the 10 isn't even a Southern Baptist church.  "Further inquiry is warranted" of Sovereign Grace Church in Louisville; the Sovereign Grace consortium of churches has been under a cloud of sexual abuse allegations for many years now.  Two other churches, including one in Houston that is led by a "registered sex offender."  All others, including Second Baptist, Arapaho Road, and Eastside do not warrant further inquiry.  The report contained these pointed words:
While victims of sexual abuse should always be encouraged to report the crimes against them, we urge all members of the Executive Committee and messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention to avoid publicly calling the names of churches without having documentation of criminal convictions and giving prior notice to the church. No individual possesses the authority to declare a church to be under a Convention inquiry of any kind.

Monday, February 18, 2019

The 3 - February 17, 2018

This week's edition of The 3, featuring three stories of relevance to the Christian community, includes a report on action by lawmakers in Mississippi on legislation that would prevent abortion after a heartbeat is detected.  Also, a Louisiana college has withdrawn from a national consortium of Christian schools.  And, response continues to unfold regarding reports of abuse in churches affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention.

3 - Mississippi lawmakers pass bills limiting abortion past the time an unborn child's heartbeat is detected

There was notable pro-life activity in both chambers of the Legislature in Mississippi this past week, as both the House and the Senate passed "heartbeat bills," that ban abortion after an unborn child's heartbeat is detected.

WREG Television in Memphis reported:
The Republican-controlled Mississippi House and Senate passed separate bills Wednesday to ban most abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected, about six weeks into pregnancy. Efforts to pass similar bills are underway in Florida, Kentucky, Ohio, South Carolina and Tennessee. 
“I see in this country that we protect sea turtle eggs and we protect other endangered species of animals with a greater degree of scrutiny and zealousness than we protect a child in the womb,” Republican Sen. Angela Hill, a sponsor of the Mississippi bill, said as she fought back tears during a debate.
Now, the two chambers have to pass the same bill, according to the television station, which stated: "The House and Senate must agree on a single version to send to Republican Gov. Phil Bryant, who is in his final year in office. He said he would sign it." The article quotes a tweet from the governor on Wednesday, "I’ve often said I want Mississippi to be the safest place for an unborn child in America..."

2 - Baptist school withdraws from college consortium due to LGBT accommodations

The Council of Christian Colleges and Universities is described as "a higher education association of more than 180 Christian institutions around the world," according to a story on Louisiana's Baptist Message website, which reports that Baptist-affiliated Louisiana College has withdrawn its membership.

The publication states:
The issue involves a policy passed by the CCCU board of directors which endorses so-called “Fairness for All” legislation which would add sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of federally-protected classes while also articulating protections for churches and religious organizations.
The story relates that:
Shirley Mullen, vice chair of the CCCU board and president of Houghton College, explained the CCCU position on LGBT protections as one of practicality for Christian higher education.
“[W]e are increasingly persuaded that the most viable political strategy is for comprehensive religious freedom protections to be combined with explicit support for basic human rights for members of the LGBT community,” she wrote in a position paper provided to the National Association of Evangelicals, a collaborator with CCCU in pushing for the controversial legislation.
Dave Welch, president of the U.S. Pastors' Council, which, as the article points out, helped lead the fight against Houston's so-called "Equal Rights Ordinance," spoke with The Christian Post, according to the Message, which reported:
Welch said equating “race, religion and (biological) sex to sexual behavior and mental instability” would open up a legal “Pandora’s Box” and in the end would result in “special rights for a few.”
“Christians who still actually believe and follow the authority of the entire canon of Holy Scripture” would be at risk of “civil and criminal punishment,” he said.
1 - Southern Baptists respond to newspaper investigation

Southern Baptists are continuing to speak out about instances of sexual abuse in congregations across the country, in light of a Houston Chronicle three-part series.  A Baptist Press on Friday reported on further developments and gave a summary of the series.  It stated:
The Chronicle stated in part one of its report that its investigation of sexual abuse among Southern Baptists revealed approximately 380 instances since 1998 -- including more than 250 since 2008 -- of "those who were convicted, credibly accused and successfully sued, and those who confessed or resigned." The crimes have left more than 700 victims, the newspaper stated.

Part two recounted crimes committed by some of the "at least 35 Southern Baptist pastors, youth ministers and volunteers who were convicted of sex crimes or accused of sexual misconduct but still were allowed to work at churches during the past two decades."

Part three claimed "more than 100 Southern Baptists described as former youth pastors or youth ministers are now in prison, are registered as sex offenders or have been charged with sex crimes."
One of the threads of commentary in the wake of the Chronicle article had to do with Sovereign Grace Ministries.  The Baptist Press article mentioned that: "Southern Baptist Convention seminary presidents R. Albert Mohler Jr. and Danny Akin have apologized for their former support of C.J. Mahaney, a pastor accused of concealing sexual abuse at the ministry he used to lead."

The article states:
Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, told the Chronicle in an interview published Feb. 14 he "erred in being part of a statement supportive of (Mahaney)." Mohler apparently was referencing a 2013 statement issued with Mark Dever and Ligon Duncan vouching for Mahaney's "personal integrity" after a judge dismissed most of a lawsuit against Sovereign Grace Ministries, a network of churches Mahaney led until April 2013. The network changed its name to Sovereign Grace Churches in 2014.

The suit alleged leaders at Sovereign Grace, including Mahaney, covered up child sexual abuse. The Maryland judge who dismissed the suit noted the statute of limitations had expired and didn't address the merits of the alleged victims' claims.
The Sovereign Grace issue had been brought up in an article on the Medium website that dropped a mere two weeks before the Houston Chronicle series, and it's worth reading.  A long-time, former board member of the ministry, Brent Detweiler, was prominently featured; the author says, "the evidence he compiled over the years regarding SGM, subsequent cover-ups, and fraudulent activity was extensive."  And, Detweiler has not been silent about what he had observed, informing Christian leaders, including some who have become vocal on abuse after the Chronicle series, about the evidence he had gathered.

Neither has former gymnast, now attorney Rachael Denhollender, who was the lead person in exposing Larry Nassar's sexual abuse.  The article says, "A prominent Christian figure and victim-turned-lawyer, Denhollander became an outspoken critic of Sovereign Grace. In a 2018 interview with Christianity Today, she stated that SGM and Mahaney’s involvement were “one of the worst, if not the worst, instances of evangelical cover-up of sexual abuse” and “one of the most well-documented cases of institutional cover-up I have ever seen.”

Meanwhile, former Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary president Paige Patterson, according to Baptist Press, "wrote a Feb. 14 letter to Chronicle acting editor Steve Riley claiming the paper 'slandered' him." The article says:
Part one of the Chronicle's report on Southern Baptists "slandered and totally misrepresented me, and in so doing ha[s] significantly harmed my ministry," Patterson wrote according to a copy of the letter he emailed journalists. "The events they report are tragic. However, there is no reason to punish the innocent with the wicked."
Patterson claims that he dealt strongly with an "ex-protege" mentioned in the article, and "defended his handling of alleged sexual assault cases at Southeastern and Southwestern," two Baptist seminaries that he led.  His response to allegations at Southeastern seminary was a key component to his dismissal at Southwestern. But, The Tennessean had reported that Patterson's attorney said the Southeastern student who was apparently victimized, wrote Patterson a letter of thanks for "being able to stay in school and for how the seminary handled it, he said."

The ramifications from this story will continue to emerge, and the response by the Convention's leaders will be especially important.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

The 3 - February 10, 2019

This week's edition of The 3, highlighting three stories of relevance to the Christian community, includes a story in which a judge ruled that a university could not decide not to recognize a Christian student groups because of its devotion to Christian principles.  Also, the U.S. Supreme Court blocked a Louisiana pro-life bill from going into effect.  And, both chambers of the U.S. Congress, lawmakers were unable to get a unanimous vote to protect the lives of babies surviving abortions.

3 - Iowa university student group victorious in court case

A campus student group at the University of Iowa lost its recognition by the school back in September of 2017, and recently, according to an article from the Daily Caller News Foundation published at The Stream, "A judge ruled Wednesday that the University of Iowa cannot revoke its recognition of a Christian student group based on its statement of faith, which required leaders to acknowledge sexual relations did not happen outside of marriage and every individual needed to embrace their 'God-given sex.'"

The organization is Business Leaders in Christ, which was formed, according to the article, by students in the university's business school to "provide a space for Christian students to network, hold group discussions and 'keep Christ first in the fast-paced business world,' according to a Department of Justice statement of interest filed on Dec. 21, 2018."

The article quotes Federal district judge Stephanie Rose, who wrote, “The Constitution does not tolerate the way defendants chose to enforce the human rights policy,” adding, “Particularly when free speech is involved, the uneven application of any policy risks the most exacting standard of judicial scrutiny, which the defendants have failed to withstand.”  In other words, as the article said, "the university allowed certain groups on campus to restrict access based on their requirements." Examples included:
One organization, Love Works, demanded leaders to sign “a gay-affirming statement of Christian faith.” Another group, House of Lorde, conducted interviews for potential members to ensure there is “a space for Black Queer individuals.”
2 - U.S. Supreme Court votes to not allow women's protection bill to take effect in Louisiana

There was anticipation that on Monday, February 4, a new law in Louisiana that mandated that abortion doctors have admitting privileges at local hospitals would go into effect.  But, after Justice Samuel Alito on the U.S. Supreme Court had put the implementation on hold the preceding week in consideration of a request for a stay, the entire Supreme Court weighed in.

According to LifeSiteNews
The U.S. Supreme Court has voted five to four to block the implementation of a Louisiana law requiring basic health and safety standards for abortion facilities, potentially hinting at the justices’ disposition to affirm a key pro-abortion ruling from 2016.
The article points out that Chief Justice John Roberts joined the liberal wing of the court to put the law on hold at least until the Supreme Court decides on whether or not it will hear the case itself; if it refuses to do so, the lower court ruling in favor of the law will stand.

Opponents to the law had said that the Louisiana law was different than the Texas law struck down in 2016 by the high court.  That was a 5-3 decision, in which Roberts voted against overturning the law (SCOTUS Blog). A Federal judge on the 5th Circuit had noted differences, according to the LifeSiteNews article.

1 - Bills  protecting lives of children surviving abortion attempts fails to gain unanimous vote in both chambers of Congress

It was an affirming and disaffirming week for the sanctity of life.  You had the President of the United States make strong statements on behalf of the unborn in the State of the Union address and at the National Prayer Breakfast.  And, you had brave lawmakers on Capitol Hill in both chambers of Congress who attempted to pass legislation to protect babies who had just survived a murder attempt through abortion.

However, unanimous consent could not be obtained in either chamber.  Family Research Council comments on the debacle:
In a civilized society, there should brightly colored moral lines that neither party will cross. When Democrats did, it put every American on notice that there is no bridge too far, no policy too extreme. As Senator Ben Sasse (R-Nebr.) said earlier this week, who would have thought that any leader -- let alone the House speaker -- would block legislation that makes it illegal to leave a newborn baby to die? "This is morally repugnant. Passing the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act shouldn't be hard -- there are only two sides to this debate: you're defending babies or you're defending infanticide."
It should be, Rep. Ann Wagner (R-Mo.) argued, the "simplest vote you will ever take." And yet, Democrats didn't take it. In the face of overwhelming backlash, a party in full-blown damage control dug in even deeper -- refusing not just Thursday, but today, to even bring the bill to the floor. For so many Americans, the footage of Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) asking to move the Born-Alive bill by unanimous consent was a powerful indication that the Left has no intention of listening to their constituents -- or what's left of their conscience.
The bill could still pass both chambers, but it will go through the standard procedure. As the article points out, Senator Patty Murray of Washington was the Democratic senator who thwarted the bill's progress.  In the House, chairman Henry Cuellar refused to recognize Scalise's request.

The FRC piece also commented on how out-of-step this radical agenda is from most Americans:
Already, Rasmussen polling warns, they're in a political no-man's-land with this radical agenda. Only 21 percent of Americans agree with them that abortion should even be legal in the last three months of pregnancy. Imagine how low that number would be if they'd asked about the Democrats' other agenda: infanticide.

Sunday, February 03, 2019

The 3 - February 3, 2019

This week's edition of The 3, highlighting three relevant stories to the Christian community, features a new development in the story of Asia Bibi, the Pakistani woman set free from her death sentence for violating the country's blasphemy laws.  Also, a major Christian organization is attempting to uphold Biblical teaching regarding employee policy.  And, an effort to pass sweeping abortion legislation in Virginia has been turned back.

3 - Pakistan high court upholds ruling to free Asia Bibi

The case involving Asia Bibi, the Pakistani woman who was sentenced to death under the country's harsh blasphemy laws, accused of insulting Mohammed, had another development this past week; the BBC reported that "The Supreme Court upheld its decision to overturn Asia Bibi's conviction and death sentence."

The report goes on to say:
The Supreme Court's quashing of her sentence last October led to violent protests by religious hardliners who support strong blasphemy laws, while more liberal sections of society urged her release.
Mission Network News quoted the national director of FMI, which stands for Forgotten Missionaries International, who told Executive Director Bruce Allen, "We are gradually heading towards a civil war situation." He said that "Radical Muslims have again taken to the streets," and "Protesters are calling for the execution of the Supreme Court justices who issued the ruling and the overthrow of Prime Minister Imran Khan."  The article also states that Allen "has informed MNN that Asia Bibi has been safely escorted out of Pakistan," but her location at the time was unknown.

2 - American Bible Society uphold Bible, loses staff members

You would expect an organization that is centered on the Bible to require its employees to act in accordance with the Bible's teachings.  So, it should come as no surprise that employees have been leaving the American Bible Society due to a new statement affirming a commitment to Biblical marriage relationships.

Religion News Service story quotes Society President and CEO Roy Peterson, who said that the new Affirmation of Biblical Community “was introduced because we believe a staff made up of people with a deep and personal connection to the Bible will bring unity and clarity as we continue our third century of ministry.”

The story, released in late January, states: "Those departures represent a little less than 20 percent of the society’s workforce. But several have explicitly resigned in protest of the affirmation, and more are expected to resign by the end of the month."  The policy went into effect this past Friday.

1 - Virginia bill allowing abortion up until, and perhaps past, the time of birth halted - for now

The Virginia bill that would have allowed legalized abortion up until the time of birth and perhaps allow the life of a child to be taken after he or she is born, is now on hold, according to Live Action News, which says:
Virginia’s Repeal Act will not move forward. Live Action News reached out to Rep. C. Todd Gilbert’s office who said the bill will not leave the subcommittee and no action will be taken on it. The Washington Free Beacon said the Repeal Act “when put to a vote… was defeated” and The Daily Progress reports that it was killed. The Washington Times and other sources are reporting that the bill has been tabled or suspended.
The sponsor, Rep. Kathy Tran has admitted, according to the story, that the act would allow abortion "even when a woman is in active labor about to deliver her child."  Live Action News also reported that embattled Governor Ralph Northam, who, when commenting on a radio show about a third-trimester abortion, said: "...if the mother is in labor, I can tell you exactly what would happen, the infant would be delivered, the infant would be kept comfortable, the infant would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desired, and then a discussion would ensue between the physician and the mother."

Fox News reported that the governor was trying to walk back his statement - he tweeted out, "Wednesday evening, Northam tweeted: "I have devoted my life to caring for children and any insinuation otherwise is shameful and disgusting."  The story also says that his communications director said the Republicans who had criticized him were "trying to play politics with women's health." As Live Action News reported:
Gov. Northam’s office released a statement after the interview in response to the backlash he received. He claimed that “No woman seeks a third trimester abortion except in the case of tragic or difficult circumstances, such as a nonviable pregnancy or in the event of severe fetal abnormalities, and the governor’s comments were limited to the actions physicians would take in the event that a woman in those circumstances went into labor.” This claim is inaccurate.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

The 3 - January 27, 2019

This week, in this edition of The 3, spotlight three stories of relevance to the Christian community, there is a jury verdict in favor of a Florida woman who did not wish to work on Sundays, and was fired for that.  Also, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a favorable ruling for the Trump Administration regarding transgender people in the military.  And, the state of New York now has a law on abortion that will allow the gruesome procedure up until birth, and perhaps after.

3 - Hotel employee who would not work on Sundays wins court case

Marie Jean-Pierre, originally from Haiti, formerly worked as a dishwasher at Miami's Conrad Hotel.  In 2016, she was terminated because she would not work on Sundays, according to a Baptist Press story, which reported that Ms. Jean-Pierre, a member of Bethel Evangelical Baptist Church, had won a lawsuit that she filed against the hotel owners.

The story says:
The jury ruled that the Conrad Hotel managed by Park Hotels and Resorts Inc. of Tysons, Va., formerly known as Hilton Worldwide, violated the Civil Rights Act of 1964 when it failed to accommodate Jean-Pierre's Sunday worship, The Washington Post reported.
She was awarded $21.5 million: "$36,000 in back wages, $500,000 for emotional pain and mental anguish, and $21 million in punitive damages."  Because Federal law limits the amount of punitive damages to $300,000, that will result in a sizable reduction in the jury award.

The article states that Keny Felix, the pastor of the Southern Baptist Church Jean-Pierre attends, "describes Jean-Pierre as a 'devout believer' who 'embraces her faith in all aspects of her daily life.'"

According to the Baptist Press article, her attorney, Marc Brumer, said to The Washington Post: "It's just a great day for religious freedoms and protection of workers," adding, "For them, it wasn't really money. It was trying to right the wrong."

2 - Supreme Court temporarily allows transgender policy in military to begin

One of the top stories of 2018 impacting the Christian community involved the back-and-forth about whether or not transgender individuals can serve in the military.  The Trump Administration had presented a modified policy last year, allowing some transgender people to serve, but banning those with gender dysphoria; courts ruled against the implementation.  The Administration appealed directly to the U.S. Supreme Court.

WORLD Magazine reported that the high court did indeed pave the way for the policy to take effect. It reported: "The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday said the Trump administration may immediately implement limits on transgender soldiers that President Donald Trump ordered in February 2018."  According to the article, "The high court said that policy can take effect while the debate over transgender military service continues in the lower courts."

1 - New York enacts legal abortion up until birth

There are stunning developments out of New York state, as Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law a sweeping abortion bill, about which the Family Research Council website says:
From now on, nothing stands in the way of a woman taking her baby's life -- days, hours, or even a minute before she's born. A fully grown, healthy human baby that thousands of struggling couples would give anything to have.
The article goes on to say:
Under the Reproductive Health Act, late-term abortion is the new normal. And where there's late-term abortion, there's almost always infanticide. This law guarantees it, sweeping away a large chunk of the penal codes that protected abortion survivors. Thanks to this Act, Kermit Gosnell, and his bloodstained, cat-infested, third-world excuse for a clinic, would be untouchable. The Resurgent's Stacey Lennox puts that into its gruesome context. "For those of you who saw the movie [Gosnell], Baby B would not be considered a victim."
And, according to FRC:
"Person," as far as this law is concerned, means a human being who has been born and is alive. Not a second before, and maybe -- without infant protections -- not few seconds after either. Midwives and nurse practitioners can also perform abortions under the law, meaning that this law doesn't just put unborn lives on the line -- but women's as well. Welcome back to the dark age of unregulated horror houses with rusty equipment and untrained staff who botch abortions and kill mothers...
Tony Perkins also writes this on the Family Research Council site:
Even now, in the aftermath of New York, the Trump administration is spinning into motion, combing through federal law to see where it can hold Governor Cuomo's feet to the fire. Earlier today, administration officials told me they're looking into places where the state's extremism is in conflict with federal laws like the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, Partial-Birth Abortion Act, Born-Alive Infants of Protection Act, and more. When it comes to federal dollars, we are encouraging the administration to use whatever legal and financial leverage they have to stop the nightmare in New York.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

The 3 - January 20, 2019

This week's edition of The 3, focusing on three stories of relevance to the Christian community, highlights three areas related to pro-life matters.  One area includes court actions on two different cases that, if accepted by the U.S. Supreme Court, could lead to a repeal or weakening of Roe v. Wade.  Another has to do with Federal court ruling that put on hold new Administration proposed rules that would exempt religious employers from having to provide certain morally objectionable items in their health care plans.  And, while a bill that would prevent taxpayer funding of abortion died in the U.S. Senate, the President pledged to veto legislation that would be contrary to pro-life principles.

3 - The race to reverse Roe: new developments

The potential of a change of ideology on the U.S. Supreme Court has been a major topic since before the 2016 election, as a number of Christians have been motivated to see pro-life justices appointed to the Supreme Court.  Now, with two new justices and a host of Federal judges who have been appointed who would possess a more strict constructionist, less judicial activist perspective, there is hope in elements of the pro-life community that Roe v. Wade may be overturned, or at least its impact lessened.

But you have to have a case that the high court would take that could lead to such an outcome.  One nominee would be the case about which the DallasNews.com website reports, saying that "A federal appeals court issued a decision Thursday overturning a judge's 2017 ruling that Texas could not remove Planned Parenthood as a Medicaid provider." The article says that the lower court had "the state had acted 'without cause' in terminating the reproductive health care organization from the program that provides health care to low-income Americans." It continues:
But a three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said that Sparks did not use the correct standard in making his decision. The case now returns to Sparks for further consideration.
Sparks is the lower-court judge.

The case centers on video captured by the Center for Medical Progress which shows that Planned Parenthood officials were selling the body parts of aborted babies.  The article goes on to say:
Stuart Bowen, inspector general for the state's Health and Human Services Commission, said the footage showed that the group was willing to "violate generally accepted medical standards," and the state argued that Planned Parenthood was breaking the law by offering to acquire specific amounts of fetal tissue by altering abortion procedures.
But, the lower court judge had discounted the impact of the video material.

Meanwhile, Liberty Counsel announced it had filed a brief in a case in which the 11th Circuit had overturned Alabama's law against "dismemberment" abortion.  This is a case in which a three-judge appeals panel had upheld a lower court ruling.  But, as Liberty Counsel points out:
Although the Court of Appeals invalidated the Alabama law, it did so only because the judges said they were bound by the Supreme Court, which they noted created an "aberration of constitutional law" related to abortion. While disagreeing with the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeals acknowledged it is not the Supreme Court.
It points out that "One judge expressly called on the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade."

2 - Federal courts uphold contraception/abortion pill mandate

It's a rather complicated process, but a new rule that was set to go into effect by the Trump administration protecting religious organizations from having to comply with the Affordable Care Act mandate requiring them to provide free contraception and potentially abortion-causing drugs in their health care plan has now been placed on hold.

LifeNews.com reports that:
U.S. District Judge Wendy Beetlestone of Pennsylvania blocked a new Trump administration rule Monday that protects religious employers from being forced to pay for drugs and devices that may cause abortions.
Her ruling applies to the whole country, whereas a California judge’s order on a similar case Sunday applied to 13 states. California Judge Haywood Gilliam also was a nominee of pro-abortion President Obama.
There is a lawsuit filed in 2017 by a number of state attorneys general "to overturn new religious protections issued by the Trump administration. The new rules protect the Little Sisters of the Poor and other religious employers from having to pay for birth control drugs and devices, including types that may cause abortions, in their employee health care plans under Obamacare."

The LifeNews.com story says that, "Vox reports the Pennsylvania judge did not permanently block the rule; instead, she issued a temporary injunction while the lawsuit continues."

1 - Senate votes not to move ban on Federal funding of abortion forward; President says he will veto all pro-abortion legislation

There is still more news regarding life and abortion in this week's edition of The 3.  First of all, the bad news: as Townhall.com reports: "A bill...that would have permanently banned the use of taxpayer funds for abortion failed to advance on the Senate floor Thursday with a 48-47 vote, falling short of the 60 votes needed.

The White House, indicating support for the bill, had said, "This bill would continue to prohibit the Federal Government from paying for affected procedures with the taxes of Americans and thereby protect the conscience rights of taxpayers who find abortion morally or religiously objectionable..."

Meanwhile, at Friday's March for Life, according to LifeSiteNews.com, President Trump, in a video message stated, "Today, I have signed a letter to Congress to make clear that if they send any legislation to my desk that weakens the protection of human life, I will issue a veto. And, we have the support to uphold those vetoes. Every child is a sacred gift from God..."

Sunday, January 13, 2019

The 3 - January 13, 2019

This week's edition of The 3, with three stories of relevance to the Christian community, includes another instance in which a nominee for a Federal position faced in appropriate comments about his religious practice.  Also, the topic of Internet censorship continues to proliferate, and a religious broadcasters' organization is calling for Congressional hearings.  And, there have been two instances in which the U.S. Supreme Court has had the opportunity to accept abortion-related cases, and have not done so.

3 - More inappropriate comments about religion in Congressional hearing

In yet another Congressional hearing, a candidate for a Federal judgeship, Brian Buescher, was the recipient of inappropriate comments about his religious beliefs.  According to Todd Starnes, writing at FoxNews.com:
Buescher came under attack by Sens. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., and Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, for his membership in the Knights of Columbus, a revered and highly-respected Catholic charitable organization.
Both lawmakers posed a series of written questions demanding to know if he would end his membership in the Knights of Columbus should he be confirmed.
“The Knights of Columbus has taken a number of extreme positions,” Hirono wrote in the questionnaire. “For example, it was reportedly one of the top contributors to California’s Proposition 8 campaign to ban same-sex marriage.”
That, of course, was a proposal that was passed by California voters, was challenged in court, and the Governor and Attorney General refused to defend the voters' action.  The AG is now the Governor, Jerry Brown, and Harris was his replacement.

Starnes brought out that this is not the first time that nominees were criticized for their religious beliefs.  Appeals court judge Amy Coney Barrett faced verbal barbs from Senator Dianne Feinstein, who said, "When you read your speeches, the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you, and that’s of concern..."

And, before that, Sen. Bernie Sanders criticized Russell Vought, nominated for a leadership position at the Office of Management and Budget.  Starnes wrote:
Sen. Sanders deemed Vought unsuitable for office because the nominee believes that salvation is found alone through Jesus Christ. He said someone with that kind of religious belief system is “really not someone who this country is supposed to be about.”
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, also from Hawaii, according to another FoxNews.com article, wrote an op-ed on The Hill website, in which she said, “While I oppose the nomination of Brian Buescher to the U.S. District Court in Nebraska, I stand strongly against those who are fomenting religious bigotry, citing as disqualifiers Buescher’s Catholicism and his affiliation with the Knights of Columbus...”


2 - Religious broadcasters' organization calls for action in Congress in light of censorship

There has been much concern expressed about the censoring of speech by Christians on social media platforms, and the National Religious Broadcasters organization has been involved in attempting to counter these efforts.  Its website states:
National Religious Broadcasters is urging a “careful” congressional review of the “Good Samaritan” protections in Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.
Dr. Jerry A. Johnson, president and CEO of NRB, sent letters to the chairpersons and ranking members of these committees: Judiciary and Energy in the House, and Judiciary and Commerce in the Senate. The website states:
The call for hearings comes after Big Tech leaders failed to respond to repeated requests from NRB to craft a free speech charter protecting users’ viewpoints while still permitting them to combat obscenity, incitements to violence, and other misuses of their platforms, “without unduly burdening free expression with an array of confusing and haphazardly applied speech codes,” Johnson told the congressional leaders. “I am still hopeful that such a charter could yet be put forward by the industry.”
The article mentioned a temporary suspension by Facebook of evangelist Franklin Graham, for which the social media platform apologized, and mentioned comments made by Johnson to PJMedia.com.  He said, "That the ban happened at all illustrates the pattern of censorship of Christian and conservative viewpoints by Facebook, which the company has failed to acknowledge and apologize for — a pattern shared by other Big Tech platforms,” adding, “How many similar bans have happened to Christians without the profile of Franklin Graham who have never received their apology?

1 - Supreme Court passes on another abortion case

There has been plenty of anticipation about how the addition of conservative, Constitutionalist judges on the U.S. Supreme Court would affect the cause of life.  So far, the results have been inconclusive. There was concern expressed a few weeks ago when the high court declined to hear a case out of , according to the Washington Examiner, "could have allowed states to defund Planned Parenthood in state Medicaid programs."  It takes four justices to accept an appeal from a lower court, and it appears that Chief Justice John Roberts and newly appointed justice Brett Kavanaugh had sided with the liberal bloc of justices not to take the case, a case that Justice Thomas had contended did not directly affect so-called "abortion rights."

But the article did point out that a court watcher had said that Kavanaugh may have arrived on the court too late to be an informed fourth vote on this case.  

Now, another case with ties to abortion has come before the high court. TheFederalist.com reported that, "On Friday, the Supreme Court delayed its consideration of a Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals decision that struck down two Indiana abortion statutes. The first banned abortions that take place as a result of the child’s race, sex, or disability. The second mandates that the remains of unborn children be buried or cremated."

The article goes on to say that, regarding the abortion of children with Down Syndrome, for instance, that "The first statute in the lawsuit would have banned this type of abortion." It goes on to state, "No longer would mothers be allowed to remove their children from the gene pool merely because they see their children as less desirable than they might have been without such a 'defect.' The statute does not prohibit mothers from aborting disabled children for reasons other than their disability."

Sunday, January 06, 2019

The 3 - January 6, 2019

This week's edition of The 3, with three stories of relevance to the Christian community, features several stories that are continuations of top issues from the previous year.  For instance, there is more internet censorship; this time of one of America's leading evangelical ministers.  And, the Administration's policy on transgender individuals serving in the military received an affirmative court action.  Plus, with new House leadership, taxpayer funding of abortion was included in a new Federal spending bill.

3 - More Internet censorship: Franklin Graham temporarily banned from Facebook

One of the Meeting House Top 10 Topics of 2018 involved the censorship of Christians from social media sites.  And, recently, a frequent Facebook user was banned - for an two-year old post.  The Washington Examiner published the story of Franklin Graham's short-term removal from the website.  The story stated:
Following the ban Graham said in a Facebook post on Friday that the flagged statement, which was from April, was about North Carolina's "bathroom bill" that focused on which bathrooms transgender individuals were legally allowed to use.
He also shared the content of that flagged post, urging his followers to judge whether it contained hate speech. The post was critical of Bruce Springsteen canceling a North Carolina concert over the bill's existence.
He had written, in April 2016, that, "Bruce Springsteen, a long-time gay rights activist, has cancelled his North Carolina concert," adding "He says the NC law #HB2 to prevent men from being able to use women's restrooms and locker rooms is going 'backwards instead of forwards.' Well, to be honest, we need to go back! Back to God. Back to respecting and honoring His commands. Back to common sense."

Facebook said that the move against Graham was made in error. A spokesperson for Facebook said to the Examiner: "A page admin for Franklin Graham’s Facebook page did receive a 24-hour feature block after we removed a post for violating our hate speech policies," adding, "Upon re-reviewing this content, we identified that the post does not violate our hate speech policy and has been restored.”

The article also states:
"Why are they going back to 2016?" Graham asked during an appearance on Fox News. "I think it was just really a personal attack towards me. The problem with Facebook, if you disagree with their position on sexual orientation then you could be classified as hate speech, or that you’re a racist. This is a problem."
Graham also said that he accepted Facebook's apology and was appreciative that they apologized.
2 - Trump Administration (finally) wins an appeals court victory on military transgender restrictions

Another of the top 10 stories of 2018 involved the proposed ban on many transgender individuals from serving in the military, a policy developed by then-Secretary of Defense Mattis and approved by the President.  However, these regulations cannot go into effect because of court decisions against it.

That's still the case, but the Administration did win a court victory recently about the policy.  According to the USA Today website:
A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled that the partial ban announced by the Pentagon, but never implemented, should not have been blocked by a district court while it was being challenged.
The website goes on to say that, "other courts' blockades of the policy remain in effect." It also states:
Four federal district courts blocked the policy from going into effect, and even while appeals courts have been considering it, the Justice Department asked the Supreme Court to weigh in. The justices will consider that request at their private conference next Friday.
1 - New House leadership: attempt to include taxpayer funding of abortion in spending bill

There is new leadership in the U.S. House of Representatives, which now has a Democrat majority. And, the legislative priorities have definitely changed.  While lawmakers are at a standoff regarding border security, the new majority has proposed spending taxpayer dollars on...abortion.

LifeSite News reports that:
Following her re-election as House Speaker Thursday, Democrat leader Nancy Pelosi announced that her party would be “offering the Senate Republican Appropriations [Committee] legislation to reopen the government later today.” The proposal consisted of one bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security until February 8 and another to fund federal departments until the end of September.
The article goes on to say:
The legislation lacked the wall funding at the heart of the dispute, however, and would also repeal the Mexico City Policy (now called Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance) that Trump reinstated shortly after taking office and later expanded. In addition to making abortion-involved groups once again eligible for foreign aid, the Democrat plan would also give $37.5 million to the United Nations Population Fund, from which Trump withdrew in 2017 over its participation in China’s forced abortion regime.
The priorities have definitely changed - you won't see attempts to defund Planned Parenthood from House leadership, and prior to the election, Pelosi also said that, according to CBN.com, she would introduce the "Equality Act" as one of her first orders of business.  The article says:
The act would add sexual orientation and gender identity to the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which already bars discrimination on the bases of race, color, sex, religion, and nationality. The Equality Act would expand those protections beyond the workplace. The bill would prohibit gender discrimination in retail shops, restaurants, health care, and social services, housing, applying for a loan, or participating in the jury selection process.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

The 3 - December 30, 2018

This week's edition of The 3, recognizing three stories of relevance to the Christian community, there is news of Christian persecution in Iran leading up to Christmas.  Also, the marriage of a well-known Christian women's speaker has been reconciled.  And, a Christian organization has faced negative action from a large technology company.

3 - Iranian Christians receive warning at Christmas

As Christians worldwide have celebrated our Savior's birth, we remember those who have faced death and other forms of persecution during this season leading up to Christmas. Faithwire reports during early December that "Iranian authorities have arrested more than 100 Christians as part of the government’s fresh crackdown on those who have left the Islamic faith and embraced Jesus. Reports indicate that many of the 114 detained were converts from Islam to Christianity, and were thus accused of 'proselytising.'"

Converting to Christianity is illegal in Iran, and those who do so could face over 10 years in prison, according to the article, which relates these arrests came shortly after the reinstating of sanctions by the U.S. against the nation.

The story states that the Telegraph quoted Jeff King, president of International Christian Concern, as saying, “There are many reports that [the sanctions] have contributed to the government’s ever-increasing dependence on hardline Islamic ayatollahs, who naturally see Christianity as a threat to their power..."

2 - Well-known Christian teacher's marriage is reconciled

It was a stunning piece of news when Proverbs 31 Ministries President Lysa TerKeurst announced in the summer of 2017 that she had separated from her husband, but Baptist Press shared good news of reconciliation recently; Lysa and husband, Art, renewed their vows at their North Carolina home in mid-December.

The article says that:
"On an unusually sunny Tuesday in December, we dressed up a bit and whispered healing words, heartfelt prayers, and holy vows," she posted on social media platforms after the Dec. 11 event. "A million prayers. A miracle answer. A marriage restored."
Her husband was, according to the story, "repeatedly unfaithful and abused substances." The article goes on to say that she wrote, "Never doubt we serve a God who still does miracles," adding, "In the middle of the work He did from the devastation in my marriage, nothing looked like I hoped and everything felt impossible." She continued, "But all the while when I saw nothing, God was doing something," and added, "And in His way and His timing, new life came. … God does some of His best work in the unseen."

1 - Apple removes app from ministry helping homosexuals discover freedom in Christ

One of the leading stories of 2018 involves the censorship of Christians by large technology companies, and recently, the dubious spotlight shone on Apple, which has reportedly removed an app by the organization, Living Hope Ministries, according to The Christian Post, which stated that:
NBC News reported that the tech giant removed the app that was developed by Living Hope Ministries, a Texas-based organization, following a Change.org petition from gay rights group Truth Wins Out. The petition called the "ex-gay" app "dangerous," "bigoted" and "hateful."

"The app falsely portrays being gay as an 'addiction', 'sickness', and 'sin,'" the petition argued.
Living Hope executive director Ricky Chalette is quoted as saying that the organization is "saddened" by the removal by Apple, as well as Microsoft, but vowed their work will move forward. He says:
"We are a ministry that for nearly thirty years has helped individuals resolve their feelings they deem incongruent with their faith. We help people deepen their relationship with Jesus Christ through Bible study and accountability. We walk with them to align their lives with the teachings of Jesus Christ. Through support groups they realize they are not alone and are able to share honestly and openly in a noncondemning atmosphere about their struggles, passions, and victories. From chaos and confusion they often find peace, hope, and a deeper sense of personal wholeness. Our ministry is free and strictly voluntary."