Sunday, December 16, 2018

The 3 - December 16, 2018

In this week's edition of The 3, focusing on three stories of relevance to the Christian community, there is a story out of Virginia in which a teacher was fired for not referring to a transgender person by her requested pronoun; and students have shown support for the teacher.  Also, President Trump has signed a bill that deals with religious freedom protections for those in Iraq and Syria.  And, in excess of 100 members of one church in China, including the pastor and his wife, have been arrested - the pastor had written a letter in advance of his imprisonment.

3 - Teacher fired for not calling transgender student by preferred pronoun, students walk out to show support for teacher

Peter Vlaming, until recently, was a teacher in West Point, Virginia, after he declined to call a  transgender student by the student's preferred pronoun.  According to the Christian Post website:
Following a brief suspension, Vlaming was fired after the school board accused him of engaging in “discrimination” and contributing to a “hostile learning environment.”
The teacher explained that while he agreed to use the student's chosen name, he drew the line at pronouns, as doing so violated his conscience.
The story quotes from another Christian Post story, in which Vlaming is quoted as saying, "I won't use male pronouns with a female student that now identifies as a male though I did agree to use the new masculine name but avoid female pronouns..."

And, students are siding with...Mr. Vlaming.  The original Post story reports:
Less than 24 hours after the West Point, Virginia school board unanimously voted to terminate high school French instructor Peter Vlaming, a large group of students walked out of their classes to protest the decision.
“He's an amazing man,” student Wyatt Pedersen told WWBT News. “I think he really was going with what he believed was right and it's really unfair that he’s being punished for that, especially in such a dramatic way.”
The story refers to Forrest Rohde, the student who organized the walkout, who "emphasized that the protest was not about the transgender student. Rather, he said students took issue with the school board 'trying to force the teacher to conform to their ideologies with the threat of removal from the school.'"  The article also says:
Vlaming’s attorney, Shawn Voyles, maintained that the school system was not respecting the constitutional rights of his client, but praised West Point for permitting students to participate in the walkout.
2 - President signs law protecting religious freedom in Iraq and Syria

Recently, President Trump signed into law a bill that is designed to stand with persecuted religious minorities in Iraq and Syria.  The Washington Free Beacon reported that the bill "will help channel U.S. humanitarian and rebuilding assistance to Christians, Yazidis, and other religious and ethnic minorities in Iraq and Syria who were the victims of ISIS genocide."

The reports says that: "The measure...ensures that the U.S. aid may come through the federal government or other entities, including faith-based groups." The bill "also enables the State Department, in collaboration with other federal agencies, to conduct criminal investigations and apprehend individuals identified as alleged ISIS members, and to identify warning signs of genocide and threats of persecution."

And there's more: the Free Beacon states that the new law "encourages foreign governments to identify suspected Islamic State perpetrators in security databases and security screenings to assist with their capture and prosecution."

It is notable that religious groups working in the region will now be able to receive U.S. assistance.  The article says:
The piece of the legislation allowing faith-based groups working in the region to receive the U.S. aid directly changes the prior policy of the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development, which argued for a "religion-blind" policy of distributing funds mainly to the United Nations.
To hear analysis of this bill, as well as other aspects of the situation in the Middle East, you can listen to or download a conversation with Jalil Dawood of World Refugee Care here.

1 - In excess of 100 members of Chinese church arrested, pastor writes declaration about civil disobedience

On Sunday, December 9th, over a hundred members of the Early Rain Covenant Church in Chengdu, China were arrested, including its pastor, Wang Yi, and his wife, Jiang Rong, according to the China Partnership website. 

The site recently published a letter from the pastor and stated:
Foreseeing this circumstance, Pastor Wang Yi wrote the declaration below to be published by his church should he be detained for more than 48 hours. In it he explains the meaning and necessity of faithful disobedience, how it is distinct from political activism or civil disobedience, and how Christians should carry it out.
The declaration was posted on his Facebook page. After affirming his respect for the authority of the Chinese government, he wrote this:
As a pastor of a Christian church, I have my own understanding and views, based on the Bible, about what righteous order and good government is. At the same time, I am filled with anger and disgust at the persecution of the church by this Communist regime, at the wickedness of their depriving people of the freedoms of religion and of conscience.
He also stated, "...I believe that this Communist regime’s persecution against the church is a greatly wicked, unlawful action. As a pastor of a Christian church, I must denounce this wickedness openly and severely. The calling that I have received requires me to use non-violent methods to disobey those human laws that disobey the Bible and God. My Savior Christ also requires me to joyfully bear all costs for disobeying wicked laws."

Pastor Wang Yi also wrote:
If I am imprisoned for a long or short period of time, if I can help reduce the authorities’ fear of my faith and of my Savior, I am very joyfully willing to help them in this way. But I know that only when I renounce all the wickedness of this persecution against the church and use peaceful means to disobey, will I truly be able to help the souls of the authorities and law enforcement. I hope God uses me, by means of first losing my personal freedom, to tell those who have deprived me of my personal freedom that there is an authority higher than their authority, and that there is a freedom that they cannot restrain, a freedom that fills the church of the crucified and risen Jesus Christ.

Sunday, December 09, 2018

The 3 - December 9, 2018

This week's edition of The 3 focuses in on a large Christian women's organization that wants to see a Cabinet member removed.  Also, a family in Idaho has received a federal court ruling in a lawsuit against a homeowners' association that did not approve of a Christmas display.  And, two board members of a Christian college have resigned, citing a departure from Christian teaching.

3 - Large Christian women's organization calls for Cabinet member's resignation

There are changes in the offing for the Trump Administration, with his announced intentions to nominate William Barr as Attorney General, a position he held during the Bush 41 Administration, and Heather Nauert as U.N. Ambassador.  Plus, Chief of Staff John Kelly will be leaving his post soon.

A well-known Christian organization, Concerned Women for America, would like to see another Cabinet official replaced.  The Washington Times reports that CWA's CEO, Penny Young Nance, has called for Labor Secretary Alex Acosta's resignation. The reason, according to the report, is "his former role as a prosecutor in a plea deal for pedophile Jeffrey Epstein."

Nance, according to the story, "said she believes President Trump would not have nominated Mr. Acosta for the Cabinet post if reports by the Miami Herald had emerged earlier about Mr. Acosta’s role in the scandal in Florida." She tweeted out, “Labor trafficking is often conjoined w/ sex trafficking. I believe @SecretaryAcosta should resign..."

The Times reports:
Epstein’s lawyers got an extremely favorable deal in 2007 from Mr. Acosta, the prosecutor at the time, who agreed to allow him to serve a short sentence in the county prison and obtain daily work-release for up to 12 hours per day.
2 - Residents win court fight over Christmas display

It can be very discouraging when you see the celebration of Christmas used as a source of division.  We have seen that occur in schools, displays on government property, and in one case in Idaho, in a neighborhood.

WORLD Magazine reported on a family from Idaho that had moved into a particular neighborhood in Coeur d'Alene and was told by the local homeowners' association that they would have to cease their five-night Christmas display.  The article says:
Before moving to their current home in the West Hayden neighborhood of Coeur d’Alene, the Morrises began holding a public Christmas program in their front yard, complete with an elaborate lights display, live music, actors, and animals to share the story of the birth of Jesus. They paid for the event out-of-pocket, did not charge for admission, and gave all donations to local charities benefiting childhood cancer victims and providing safe haven for children suffering abuse.
When the family decided to buy a new home in West Hayden, Jeremy Morris contacted the local homeowners association saying he intended to continue offering the program at their new home. In early 2015, the HOA board sent a letter saying he would have to scrap the Christmas event if he bought a West Hayden home.
The Morrises continued their display at the new home and even expanded.  This drew the ire of some neighbors who, according to the article, "...became vigilantes, reportedly throwing snowballs at buses hired to transport attendees, yelling 'Get out, this is our neighborhood,' and kicking cars."  There was even a reported death threat. 

Morris went to court; he filed a lawsuit against the homeowners' association for "religious discrimination and property right violations." And, as WORLD reported, a federal jury "unanimously ruled in favor of Jeremy and Kristy Morris in late October, awarding them $75,000 in damages and concluding a four-year dispute with the couple’s homeowners association."  The Morrises now plan to leave their West Hayden neighborhood.

1 - Christian university trustees resign over perceived drift on theology

There's more trouble out of a Christian college out of California.  Last September, CBN News reported that "the university came under fire after reversing its policy on banning public LGBTQ relationships on campus after caving in to pressure from activists. However, the Board of Trustees said they never approved the change and have reinstated the policy."  The Board said in a statement:
"That action concerning romanticized relationships was never approved by the board and the original wording has been reinstated."

Now, there's more controversy at the school: CBN News now reports that:
Two members of the board of trustees of Azusa Pacific University, (APU) the first Christian college on the West Coast, resigned last week, arguing the major evangelical university has "drifted" from its mission and that its new ideology is at odds with many of its policies, statement of faith, and even the Bible itself.
The story says that "WND (formerly WorldNetDaily) reports Raleigh Washington, a prominent pastor known for his leadership of the Promise Keepers men's movement, and Dave Dias, a Sacramento-area business executive submitted their letters of resignation to Azusa's board of trustees."

Washington said to WND: "What happened with the student handbook was an indication of a bigger problem that exists, and that problem is theological drift from what is required of an evangelical Christian university," a statement with which Dias agreed. Board chair David Poole, in a statement to CBN News, said, "Despite the assertions made by those who resigned, the board stands united in our commitment to our evangelical Christian identity."

Sunday, December 02, 2018

The 3 - December 2, 2018

This week's edition of The 3 highlights these three stories of relevance to the Christian community.  They are: a significant meeting with the President of Nigeria and church leaders to discuss violence involving Islamic militants.  Also, a New Jersey university, despite student interest, has chosen not to allow a restaurant chain which is based on Christian values, to operate there.  And, a Department of Justice official has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to issue a ruling on transgenders serving in the military.

3 - Nigerian church leaders meet with country's president

According to a church leader in Nigeria, in one state alone, the Plateau state, since March, over 600 Christians have been killed, presumably by Islamic militants - that is what Dacholom Datiri, president of the Church of Christ in Nigeria (COCIN) told Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari in a meeting last month, according to Morning Star News.

And, Datiri disputes the popular narrative that, these people are killed by unknown gunmen, or suspected herdsmen, or that there have been farmer-herders clashes,” adding, “All these are deceptive narratives deliberately framed to conceal the truth and continue to perpetrate the evil.”

The story says that Datiri related that, "The truth, he said, is that Muslim Fulani militias heavily armed with sophisticated guns, including AK47s, machine guns, and rocket-propelled grenades have attacked and killed Christians."  

And that death toll doesn't count people in other parts of Nigeria who have been attacked by militant groups such as Boko Haram. Datiri also questioned the commitment of the military to keeping Christians safe; he said, "Are we to believe that the armed forces sent to keep peace go with the instructions to protect them?” He added, “The implication is that they protect the aggressors and leave the victims mercilessly helpless.”

The story also reports:
For his part, Plateau Gov. Simon Lalong reportedly faulted Muslim and other community leaders for compounding the crisis of violence in the state by hiding criminals.
Buhari, a Fulani Muslim, responded to the Christian leaders by saying he did not doubt COCIN’s report on the atrocities committed against their communities.
“The communities (in Plateau) have lived long enough to know that there is nothing they can do without each other than to live together in harmony,” Buhari said. “As leaders, we must persuade the upcoming generation using every channel, particularly the educational institutions, to live together with our neighbors.”
Christian and Muslim leaders have to work harder to convince the upcoming generation that they must live together in the same country, Buhari said.
2 - Restaurant chain banned from university in values clash

The students at Rider University, which is located in New Jersey, were asked which fast-food chain they would like to have locate on their campus.  But, as FoxNews.com stated: "...once it became clear students were craving Chick-fil-A, the university excluded the option, citing concerns over the company’s attitudes towards the LGBTQ community."  The Fox story stated:
The school said in a statement that the Chick-fil-A option was removed “based on the company's record widely perceived to be in opposition to the LGBTQ community.
It admitted that the move could be perceived as a “form of exclusion,” but the institution wanted to remain “faithful to our values of inclusion.”
This is yet another example of people who claim to be "inclusive," yet exclude points of view with which they disagree.  This, of course, stems from Chick-fil-A's CEO Dan Cathy and his comments a number of years ago in support of traditional marriage.  But, I have yet to see a report in which a Chick-fil-A restaurant denies service to anyone because of his or her views on same-sex marriage or to people who practice homosexuality.  (How would they even do that?)  In fact, the article says:
"Chick-fil-A is a restaurant company focused on food, service and hospitality, and our restaurants and licensed locations on college campuses welcome everyone. We have no policy of discrimination against any group, and we do not have a political or social agenda," the restaurant's spokesperson told CBS News.
1 - Administration requests swift action on transgenders serving in the military

The question of whether or not transgender individuals should be allowed to serve in the U.S. military is quite an important one, and the nation's Solicitor General has asked the Supreme Court to fast-track its response on two important cases, according to a report on the Breitbart.com website, that reports that the President, in July 2017, attempted to reverse his predecessor's policy change to allow transgenders to serve.  The story continues, stating that the Department of Defense, "formulated a policy allowing some transgender individuals but not others. On December 2017, a federal district judge issued a nationwide injunction blocking DOD’s policy across the country."

The article says that Defense Secretary James Mattis "conducted a study, modifying the original assessment and recommending that some transgender individuals can serve, but those with a history of gender dysphoria that results in expensive gender-reassignment surgery and others therapies that render them unable to serve for significant lengths of time should not be able to serve in uniform."

The story continues:
In March 2018, President Trump adopted that recommended policy. On April 13, 2018, a federal judge in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington [State] refused to lift the preliminary injunction blocking the first version of the policy. The District of Columbia federal court likewise refused to lift its identical injunction on August 6 and the Central District of California did the same on September 18.
Those courts are in two circuits that are noted in the article to be "two of the most liberal courts in the nation, and widely expected to affirm the lower courts’ blocking of the policy."

Solicitor General Noel Francisco has asked the high court to, "bypass two federal appeals courts and render a final decision on President Donald Trump’s military transgender policy by summer 2019."

Sunday, November 25, 2018

The 3 - November 25, 2018

This week's edition of The 3 includes two stories out of the state of Ohio: one involves a college professor who has been caught in the "preferred pronoun" trap, which he is contending violates his religious freedom.  Also, the legislature there is attempting, once more, to ban abortions after a heartbeat is detected.  And, there is news out of a remote island near India of an American missionary who went there to share the gospel and lost his life.

3 - College professor in Ohio at odds with school over gender pronouns

There seems to always be some story or set of stories on a weekly basis about collegiate policies that are an affront to religious liberty.  A recent development at Shawnee State University in Ohio fits into that category.

Baptist Press article provides details on a tenured faculty member there, Nicholas Meriwether, who "uses courtesy titles like 'Mr.' and 'Miss' with students' last names in his classes."  The article points out that "his belief that God created humans immutably male or female puts that practice at odds with the Shawnee State nondiscrimination policy, which demands employees affirm a person's preferred gender."  He has now filed suit against the university.

The article reports:
A disciplinary letter placed in Meriwether's personnel file in June claimed he created a "hostile environment" in his political philosophy class by refusing to address a male student, Alena Bruening, as female.

Meriwether suggested to the student and school administrators that he refer to Bruening by first or last name only, with no gender-specific prefix. According to the lawsuit, Bruening took offense at the offer and responded with an obscenity. Bruening filed two discrimination complaints and threatened to have the professor fired.

Meriwether claims in a federal lawsuit that administrators violated his free speech, his religious liberty, and his employment contract by demanding he submit to the university's identity politics. The lawsuit claims Shawnee State showed animus toward Meriwether's religious beliefs as early as 2016.
Travis Barham of the Alliance Defending Freedom is quoted as saying, "Public universities have no business compelling people to express views they do not hold...That's the message of this case."
 
2 - Ohio lawmakers attempt to ban abortion after detection of heartbeat

Two years after the governor of Ohio, John Kasich, had vetoed a similar bill, the House of Representatives in Ohio, by barely a veto-proof majority, has passed a bill that would, according to WORLD Magazine, "penalize anyone who performed an abortion on a baby with a detectable heartbeat," which, as the article said, is, "typically at six to eight weeks' gestation."

The article relates:
State Rep. Christina Hagan, a Republican who sponsored the bill, told WYTV in Youngstown that lawmakers drafted the legislation in direct opposition to Roe v. Wade: “Our intention is to go directly to the heart of Roe v. Wade and to challenge the question of when a life begins in the United States and when their constitutional protection is due to them.” Hagan, whose newborn twin sons were by her side during floor debate, added, “We know when a heartbeat stops that we have a lost a human life.”
The bill in 2016 had cleared the House and Senate, and was vetoed by Kasich because he did not believe it would survive a court challenge; Kasich did sign a law banning abortion after 20 weeks' gestation. WORLD reports:
Kasich said he would veto the bill again should it pass the state Senate. And if the state legislature doesn’t garner the necessary votes to override him, lawmakers will have to wait until the next session to take another crack at it. But that will be after Republican Gov.-elect Mike DeWine takes office, who has said he would sign such a bill.
It would take 60 votes in the House and 20 in the Senate to override a gubernatorial veto.

1 - Missionary killed in attempt to minister to secluded tribe

North Sentinel Island is situated off the coast of India, and it is the home, according to Christianity Today, of the "the most isolated tribe in the world."  That story announced that:
All Nations, a Christian missions agency based in the US, confirmed that John Allen Chau traveled to North Sentinel Island after years of study and training to evangelize its small indigenous population, who remain almost entirely untouched by modern civilization.
The article continues:
According to news reports based on Chau’s journal entries, the Oral Roberts University graduate shouted, “My name is John, and I love you and Jesus loves you,” to Sentinelese tribesmen armed with bows and arrows. He fled to a fishing boat when they shot at him during his initial visit, with one arrow piercing his Bible.
The young missionary did not survive a follow-up trip on November 17.
Mary Ho, international executive leader of All Nations, which says, according to the CT article, that "it trains and supports 150 missionaries in 31 countries, including India," is quoted as saying: “John was a gracious and sensitive ambassador of Jesus Christ who wanted others to know of God’s great love for them,” adding, “As we grieve for our friend, and pray for all those who mourn his death, we also know that he would want us to pray for those who may have been responsible for his death.”

The article relates that:
This was Chau’s third visit to the Andaman and Nicobar island chain. Its police chief called his recent trip “misplaced adventure,” but his family and friends insist that he knowingly violated protocol to enter the dangerous territory for the sake of sharing the gospel.
Because of a prohibition against even contacting members of those tribes in the region, there will be no action taken against those who took John Allen's life. Christianity Today also reports that:
His family posted a tribute on Instagram, saying they forgive those responsible for killing Chau and requesting that charges be dropped against the fishermen accused of endangering his life by helping transport him to North Sentinel Island.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

The 3 - November 18, 2018

This week's edition of The 3 features two instances of opposition to Christian speech on college campuses.  One, at the University of Colorado, involves a group of students that has been denied recognition because it will not allow students who don't adhere to their faith perspective to hold leadership positions.  Another instance, at the University of California, involves a member of the student government who was ostracized by her own party for taking a position consistent with a Christian worldview perspective.  And, there is an update on developments on what may be the new home for the Pakistani woman whose death sentence for blasphemy was overturned.

3 - Christian group challenges University of Colorado policy

A student group at the University of Colorado has filed a Federal lawsuit against the school because the university has attempted to force the organization to place people in leadership who do not share the group's Christian beliefs.  The Alliance Defending Freedom website states that:
The university refused to grant Ratio Christi registered status because it only allows those who share and personally hold beliefs consistent with the group’s mission to serve as its leaders.
It further states, that, "Ratio Christi seeks to defend the Christian faith and explain how the Bible applies to various current cultural, ethical, and political issues. Any student can attend its events. Any student of any faith can become a member of Ratio Christi, as long as he supports the group’s purpose."

But, the group has a requirement that leaders "share its religious beliefs."  The registered status, according to ADF, means that its "access to funding, meeting and event space, and administrative support" are limited. ADF Senior Counsel Tyson Langhofer, director of the ADF Center for Academic Freedom, is quoted as saying, “Despite claiming inclusiveness and diversity as its core values, the University of Colorado is failing to foster real diversity of thought and is, instead, discriminating against a Christian group based on its beliefs..."  The legal group alleges that the university is treating Ratio Christi differently than other organizations.

2 - University of California student encounters opposition to Biblical view of sexuality

A Christian student at the University of California at Berkeley, who serves on the Student Government Association, is facing opposition and calls to resign from her position as the result of her taking a stand consistent with a Biblical view of sexuality.

According to the Campus Reform website, Isabella Chow decided "to abstain from voting on a resolution to oppose the recent Title IX changes proposed by President Donald Trump."  The changes would return the definition of gender under the Civil Rights Act to mean simply one's biological gender.  The previous Administration had expanded the definition to include gender "identity."  The resolution was, according to the website...
...intended to display solidarity with members of the LGBT community, specifically "transgender, intersex, nonbinary and gender nonconforming students,” as reported by the independent student newspaper the Daily Californian.
Now, Isabella is facing calls to resign and, as the website previously reported, she has been "disavowed" by her own party, called Student Action. The article states that:
Chow, who says she "campaigned very clearly as the candidate who would represent the Christian community” chose not to vote for the bill, stating that she could not do so "without compromising [her] values and [her] responsibility to the community that elected [her] to represent them.”
During an interview with Campus Reform, Chow said that she was “unprepared” for the reaction that she received after being disavowed by her own party.

"I didn't expect the backlash and misunderstanding to be so swift,” Chow said, adding that she believes said misunderstanding is one that comes from "a difficulty to reconcile how the traditional Christian worldview can espouse love and validity for all individuals and yet disagree with certain identities or choices.”
“At the end of the day, it's a belief in objective truth,” Chow explained.
Isabella Chow says she has no intentions of resigning. She said, "There's a Christian community and campus that has been praying for me and encouraging me throughout all this. And if I don't represent their views, who else will?"

1 - Asylum for Asia

Asia Bibi, who has been set free by the Pakistani Supreme Court after being jailed and facing a death sentence under charges of blasphemy, is trying to keep a low profile in the face of protests against the ruling.  And, there is talk about her seeking asylum, but so far, there are no takers.

According to the BBC, "Asia's husband Ashiq Masih called for the UK to grant his family refuge amid fears for their safety after the Pakistan Supreme Court overturned her continued detention." The website reports there are "seven church leaders" who have signed "an open letter which has been sent to Home Secretary Sajid Javid urging him to grant her asylum."

Also, in Pakistan, some are attempting to check the high court ruling for "errors," according to Faithwire, which states that:
...while her own government seeks to put her on its Exit Control List (ECL), a petition has been lodged by those same religious fundamentalists in a bid to identify “errors” in the Supreme Court ruling – an appeal that the government has agreed not to obstruct. Should the review conclude that the Supreme Court was erroneous in its ruling, Bibi could find herself thrown back into prison, and may be swiftly placed on death row once again.
And, how about the possibility of Asia Bibi coming to America?  Politico reports that Senator Rand Paul has said, “I have talked to the president about this, and I can't characterize his position, but I know from his concern for the pastor in Turkey and working to get that pastor out that it would be consistent with what they did with the pastor in Turkey to help get Asia Bibi out, and I hope they will..."

Monday, November 12, 2018

The 3 - November 11, 2018

This week's edition of The 3, highlighting three stories of relevance to the Christian community, literally brings news from around the world, including the perseverance of Christian leaders in Nigeria in light of the kidnapping of a Christian teen and Christian aid worker by an Islamic fundamentalist organization.  Closer to home, religious freedom protections now are seemingly baked into the latest rules governing the Obamacare contraception mandate.  And, pro-life perspectives seemed to come into play in the recent mid-tern elections.

3 -  Nigerian church declares vigilance regarding kidnapped teen

You may be familiar with the story of 15-year-old Leah Sharibu from Nigeria, who was abducted along with over 100 female students back in Feburary.  According to Morning Star News, Leah was "not released with the others because she refused to convert to Islam, will never be freed because Boko Haram’s Islamic law allows “infidels” to be kept as slaves, according to a statement by the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), commonly known as Boko Haram."

Boko Haram announced recently that it would hold Leah, along with a "Christian UNICEF worker Alice Ngaddah," as slaves. The article said this about Alice: "Kidnapped along with two other aid workers in March, Ngaddah is a member of the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria (EYN)." The story  states that, "Boko Haram last month killed an aid worker as an 'apostate' from Islam and vowed to keep Leah and Ngaddah as slaves."

But Nigeria church leaders are continuing to persevere. Morning Star News relates:
Leaders of the Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) have intensified discussions with government officials urging that they continue talks with Boko Haram to win the release of 15-year-old Leah Sharibu and other Christian girls and women being held captive by Boko Haram, an ECWA spokesman told Morning Star News.
Rev. Romanus Ebenwokodi is quoted as saying, “We strongly believe that as long as Leah and others are still alive, it is possible to secure their release.” He added, "The church and Leah’s parents believe that God can make it possible for Leah and others in captivity to regain their freedom if we don’t give up...The hope in Jesus Christ, which is the hope of glory, has kept Leah’s parents going and sustained the church on her knees. We shall continue to pray without ceasing until this faithful servant of Christ and others like her who are being held captive are released.”
 
2 - Religious freedom protections from HHS contraception mandate issued

Believe it or not, it was 2011 when the Department of Health and Human Services in the previous Administration announced its mandate that employers provide free contraception and abortion-inducing drugs as part of their health care plans.  Numerous lawsuits were filed by for-profit businesses and non-profit organizations.  The Hobby Lobby case granted exemptions for certain companies, but there have been a variety of court rulings regarding charitable organizations.

Baptist Press reports that:
The Trump administration issued two final rules Nov. 7 that supply conscience protections to Americans with a religious or moral objection to the 2011 mandate instituted under President Obama. 
One of the rules, according to the article, "finalized 'interim final' rules issued in October 2017." This rule "exempts entities and individuals from the requirement based on their religious beliefs, while the other rule protects individuals, nonprofit organizations and small businesses on the basis of a moral conviction apart from a specific religious belief."

Also, according to the article:
On the same day as the release of the final mandate regulations, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a proposed rule also affecting abortion coverage. The rule requires health plan issuers in the exchanges created by the 2010 Affordable Care Act to collect separately funds for elective abortion and thereby prevent taxpayers from subsidizing plans that cover abortion, according to the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC).
The story also says:
Cases out of California and Pennsylvania involving the Little Sisters of the Poor, however, are still under appeal. The Little Sisters of the Poor is a Roman Catholic order that serves the poverty-stricken elderly and became the face of the institutions objecting to the mandate.
Mark Rienzi -- president of Becket, a nonprofit religious freedom law firm representing the Little Sisters of the Poor -- said in a written release, "This long unnecessary culture war is now almost over -- all that is left is for state governments to admit that there are many ways to deliver these services without nuns, and the Little Sisters can return to serving the elderly poor in peace."
1 - Pro-life voters seemingly have impact in mid-term election

No matter what a person's political persuasion might be, he or she might have found some things to like and plenty to dislike about the outcome of the mid-term elections.  Congress will have split leadership in the House and Senate; there are already statements out there that House leadership will pursue investigations regarding the President and Administration officials, and the Senate will continue to have a majority that should enable the confirmation of judges generally in line philosophically with those who have already been confirmed, including Supreme Court members Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.  It could also help the President with confirmation of various Cabinet-level and other Administration officials, such the replacement for UN Ambassador Nikki Haley and former Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

The Senate outcome has yielded positive comments from some in the pro-life movement, according to a story on the LifeSiteNews.com website.  The story stated:
“Yesterday was a clear victory for the pro-life movement,” Susan B. Anthony List president Marjorie Dannenfelser claimed, while adding that pro-lifers “cannot be complacent” and “must be prepared to fight to hold the line on important pro-life policies such as the Hyde Amendment.” Family Research Council president Tony Perkins stressed that “most presidents lose seats in the House and Senate in the first midterm election,” but Trump “defied history” by “expanding the GOP majority in the Senate.”
March for Life president Jeanne Mancini struck a different tone, however, warning that “all pro-life gains made by this Administration will come under fire, and we will no doubt see efforts to expand taxpayer funding for abortion as well as the erosion of conscience rights.”
Bruce Hausknecht of Focus on the Family, in an interview for The Meeting House on Faith Radio, discussed the confirmation of strict constructionist judges.  This could have an impact regarding the protection of unborn babies.  But, as he points out, the composition of the House will likely impede any positive action on life and religious liberty.  Bruce and I discussed the apparent losses by four Democratic Senators in states that went for Trump in 2016, all of whom voted against the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh.  Those four were: Florida (if the recount holds up), Indiana, Missouri, and North Dakota.

In other pro-life news, state voters in Alabama and West Virginia approved pro-life amendments, prompting Tony Perkins to say, according to the FRC website: "Consider that voters in West Virginia and Alabama approved pro-life ballot measures and polls show nearly two-thirds of Americans oppose the government’s forcing taxpayers to fund abortion. There is simply no groundswell of support for forcing taxpayers to become indentured servants to the abortion industry."

Sunday, November 04, 2018

The 3 - November 4, 2018

This week's edition of The 3 offers news and information relative to a visit by evangelical leaders to Saudi Arabia.  Also, there has been concern expressed by believers in New Zealand about a political leaders removal of references to Jesus in prayer before the body.  And, a Pakistani woman facing the death penalty for blasphemy was released by the nation's highest court.

3 - Evangelical delegation meets with Saudi leaders

Even before the mysterious disappearance of a Saudi journalist in Turkey, there were plans underway for a delegation of representatives of the evangelical community to visit with Saudi officials, including the Crown Prince.  And, according to CBN.com, a leader of the delegation, author and commentator Joel Rosenberg, believed the trip should go forward as planned.

The article states:
"There’s a lot of people who would say this is the wrong time to go to Saudi Arabia and meet with the leadership there," author Joel Rosenberg told CBN News. "I understand that criticism, but I disagree."
He added, "Given the fact that we care about the people of Saudi Arabia, Christianity in the Arabian Peninsula, the desire to see more freedom of worship, even Christian churches being allowed to be built, this all seemed important to us to do..."

Jerry Johnson, President of National Religious Broadcasters, is quoted as saying, "When I think of Saudi Arabia, I think of that verse, 'We are ambassadors for Christ. That’s Who we are representing, not the United States of America. We’re representing the Lord Jesus Christ...'"

The article notes:
This is the latest in a series of meetings with Sunni Arab leaders, including Jordan's King Abdullah II, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and UAD Crown Prince Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan. The meetings are part of a long-term agenda.
2 - New Zealand removes Christian language from government prayer; Christians protest

Late last year, the speaker of the Parliament in New Zealand made the decision to remove references to Jesus in prayer before the body.  The Christian Post relates that the new speaker, Trevor Mallard, "...decided to remove all references to Christ in the prayer, describing it as a 'compromise,' as the phrase 'almighty God' remains."

The Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, who is said to be "not religious," was reportedly supportive of the move, saying, "I think that having the prayer in itself sets a good tone for Parliament, but it has been done in a way that the speaker has tried to make a bit more inclusive..."

The article says that Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters...
...said that the entire parliament should have been allowed to decide whether to remove Jesus' name from the prayer.
"Well the decision as to what should be changed should be made by parliamentarians and not the speaker — that's our position, I don't mind telling you publicly," Peters said.
The Post reports that, "Christians have rallied on a number of occasions over the issue," and that includes this past week, when some one thousand people gathered in protest. Ross Smith led the protest and "told Radio New Zealand that the country's Christian heritage should not be erased." He is quoted as saying, "It's a legacy. The principals and the values that are in this nation are based on our Christian-Judea roots..."

1 - Pakistan high court frees woman charged with blasphemy

Just before the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church was commemorated on Sunday, a victim of persecution in Pakistan was released.  Her name is Asia Bibi, and she had been sentenced to death back in 2010, according to Open Doors, which reported that the Pakistani Supreme Court had released her.  The report states:
According to the official ruling, the prosecution has categorically failed to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt. The judges quoted extensively from the Quran and other Islamic scriptures, saying among other things that non-Muslims were to be dealt with kindly.
Another report on the website relates that she...
.... was arrested in June 2009 after a dispute with some Muslim women. She was accused of blasphemy and sentenced to death by hanging in 2010. Ever since she was held on death row.

Most of the past eight years Asia Bibi has spent in solitary confinement.
Even though Open Doors reports that Asia Bibi is in hiding because of safety concerns, there are widespread protests.  The website says:
Meanwhile, protests have erupted in many cities around Pakistan, and the government has a hard time controlling the situation. It prompted newly elected Prime Minister Khan to air a brief video message in which he warned groups who have railed against the Supreme Court’s ruling. Pakistan was founded “in the name of Islam” and the verdict given by the Supreme Court is in accordance with the Constitution, which is in line with the teachings of the Holy Quran and Sunnah (traditional practice of the Islamic community based on the teachings of the Islamic prophet Muhammad), Khan said. He sharply criticized the protests.
There was concern expressed by an Open Doors partner that the Prime Minister's message did not offer comfort to Christians who are concerned about their security.

And, Faithwire reports that:
The Pakistani government has been widely criticized for striking a deal with radical Islamic clerics and agreeing to prevent Christian mother Asia Bibi from leaving the country, despite her Supreme Court acquittal for blasphemy. The action, taken by Prime Minister Imran Khan in response to increasingly explosive protests at the ruling, will entail the pursuit of legal proceedings to place Asia Bibi on the “exit control list” (ECL).

Sunday, October 28, 2018

The 3 - October 28, 2018

On this week's edition of The 3, highlighting three stories of relevance to the Christian community, there's a story out of Virginia, where a middle school chorus will not be allowed to sing "sacred" Christmas songs; perhaps this is one of the first of such instances that we seem to see annually.  Also, in an age where we need prayer to address violence in our cities, police in a Louisiana city will not be allowed to promote prayer vigils now.  And, there are reports that the Trump Administration will soon reverse special treatment granted by the previous Administration for transgender individuals; some response, ahead.

3 - Middle school will not use Christmas songs containing the name of Jesus

It has become of regular occurrence of the Christmas season, where you see schools or governmental organizations place restrictions on the expression or celebration of the holiday.
ChristianHeadlines.com reported on a decision by a middle school in Virginia not to allow songs that mention Jesus - yes, the One whose birthday is being celebrated - as part of its Christmas-related presentations.

The story says that:
David Allen, the father of a student at Robious Middle School in Midlothian, Va., told WWBT-TV that the chorus teacher told him that songs of a “sacred” nature won’t be in the winter program. Allen gave the television station a copy of an email exchange he had with the teacher.

“They were unable to [sing this song] because the word ‘Jesus’ was in there and apparently someone assumed it was of a sacred nature,” Allen said.
The father said that the teacher had told him that some students were "uncomfortable" with the inclusion of "sacred" material. Allen is quoted as saying, "I’m trying to rationalize how you can encourage diversity and yet be exclusionary in one specific area,” according to WWBT.

2 - Shreveport police to discontinue prayer gathering after threats

We recognize that prayer can be a powerful tool to change the atmosphere of a community.  And, since 2017, the Police Department in Shreveport, LA, has encouraged people to take part in prayer vigils.  ChristianNews.net has reported that practice has now ended, thanks to a complaint from the so-called Freedom From Religion Foundation.  The article states that FFRF...
...sent a letter to Shreveport Police Chief Alan Crump in August to assert that the prayer vigils are unconstitutional because they prefer “religion over non-religion” and run afoul of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause.
FFRF also demanded that the department end its chaplaincy program.  The article continues:
While the City does not plan to end its chaplaincy program, it did agree to discontinue holding the prayer vigils.
“We have to be inclusive of all of our citizens and representative of all of them. We want to make sure we’re implementing practices that do not alienate certain groups of people,” City attorney William Bradford told the Shreveport Times.
ChristianNews.net stated, "The City of Shreveport will now depend on local citizens to organize their own prayer gatherings."

1 - Response to reports that Trump Administration will rescind changes in Title IX allowing for gender redefinition

When news surfaced that the current Administration was considering reversing the previous Administration's position on gender discrimination under Title IX, it certainly set off a wave of protest.  But, as David French of National Review wrote, this was just going back to a change made in 2014; a change that had reversed, as he puts it, "millennia" of social science.

He writes that a document from the Obama Administration...
...stated that “Title IX’s sex discrimination prohibition extends to claims of discrimination based on gender identity or failure to conform to stereotypical notions of masculinity or femininity.”
Empowered by this new definition, the Obama administration issued extraordinarily aggressive mandates to schools across the nation, requiring that schools use a transgender student’s chosen pronouns and that they open bathrooms, locker rooms, overnight accommodations, and even some sports teams to students based not on their biological sex but their chosen gender identity.
Again, this was done without an act of Congress and without even a regulatory rulemaking process.
He made reference to a New York Times article, with the headline, “Transgender Could Be Defined Out of Existence Under Trump Administration," which, according to French, indicated "The administration may issue formal guidance establishing a biological definition of sex. Specifically, the administration may define sex to mean 'a person’s status as male or female based on immutable biological traits identifiable by or before birth.'"

Family Research Council expressed its alarm at the alarmism, stating:
In Sunday's piece, a trio of reporters argues that the Trump administration is disenfranchising people by defining gender as it always has been: a "biological, immutable condition determined by genitalia at birth." No one is quite sure how that's radical, since it's how the law has been understood both before and since 1964. Not a single president questioned it until Obama, who decided that he didn't care what the Civil Rights Act said. He was going to "reinterpret" the 54-year-old law on "sex" discrimination to mean "sexual orientation" and gender identity too.
The FRC piece also says:
This "new" definition of sex, the Times insists, "would essentially eradicate federal recognition of the estimated 1.4 million Americans who have opted to recognize themselves -- surgically or otherwise -- as a gender other than the one they were born into." First of all, this "new" definition of "sex" is 54 years old. Secondly, who are these 1.4 million Americans? The Times didn't bother citing the statistic, and it certainly seems higher than most credible national surveys. Lastly -- and perhaps most instructively -- people who identify as transgender don't enjoy special federal recognition under the law, because the American people have never passed any legislation granting it.
French notes:
In reality, the claim that you “dehumanize” a person if you hold contrary beliefs about sex and gender is a common, inflammatory rhetorical tactic that creates a false choice. Either you recognize a transgender person on their own terms, or you “deny their humanity.” You “deny their existence.”

Wrong. I believe that each and every single human being is created in the image of God. We are of equal worth and value in His eyes. I also recognize that some percentage of those human beings have gender dysphoria, but that condition does not transform a man into a woman or a woman into a man...
He also states, "The Trump administration’s proposed regulatory change conforms the law to the truth. Defending that truth isn’t dehumanizing. It’s not denying anyone’s existence. It’s standing athwart a lawless redefinition of biological reality and quite appropriately yelling stop."

Sunday, October 21, 2018

The 3 - October 21, 2018

This week's edition of The 3 includes a revision to a campus policy at an Atlanta-area university allowing for greater freedom of speech, in response to a Christian group's desire to have a pro-life display on campus.  Also, the Alabama Supreme Court has ruled in a death penalty case that the death of an unborn child was indeed the death of a human person.  And, the former Fire Chief in Atlanta received a financial reward from the city's Council in light of the city's attempt to punish him for his expression of religious beliefs.

3 - Atlanta-area college changes policy regarding speech zones

The ability of Christian groups on college campuses to share their messages has become an issue at a number of schools over the years.  And, recently at Kennesaw State University, located in the Atlanta suburbs, a group called Ratio Christi, which is a Christian apologetics group, had wanted to place a pro-life display on campus.  That was OK'ed by school officials, but they limited the area in which the display could be erected.

Alliance Defending Freedom defended the campus group. Its website said the display was relegated "to a 'speech zone' that made up less than 0.08 percent of the 405-acre campus."  ADF states that:
Previously, no guidelines existed for KSU officials to follow, which gave them unrestricted discretion to grant, deny, or modify a student organization’s reservation request even for unconstitutional reasons. Thus, officials relegated any activities they deemed “controversial” to the small, less-accessible speech zone.
The university reached a settlement with the group, which provides that, according to the website, "the school will eliminate its speech zone, students will be free to speak freely in all outdoor areas of campus, and the university will pay $20,100 to ADF and Ratio Christi, the student organization that sponsored the pro-life display, to cover legal expenses incurred in defense of the group’s constitutionally protected freedoms.  The site states that, "The settlement eliminates the speech zone, allowing students to speak freely in all outdoor areas of campus, and when they seek to reserve space, they can’t be relegated to disfavored areas."

ADF Senior Counsel Travis Barham is quoted as saying, “Kennesaw State has done the right thing in ending the ability of officials to quarantine any student speech they deemed ‘controversial’ to a tiny, difficult-to-access part of campus. We hope that this settlement will prompt other public universities to eliminate similar unconstitutional policies..."

2 - Alabama Supreme Court upholds death sentence in case where unborn child died

In a recent court case involving the death penalty, the Alabama Supreme Court ruled that a convicted murderer, Jessie Phillips, should receive that penalty not only for the death of his wife, but also for their unborn child.  Liberty Counsel provided news and commentary on the case.  It states:
Phillips had argued that he should not get the death penalty for killing his unborn child because he said the child was not a “person” under Alabama law. The Court rejected Phillips’ arguments and held that, under Alabama law, Baby Doe was a full “person” and that “the value of the life of an unborn child is no less than the value of the lives of other persons.”
The ruling from the state's high court was unanimous.  As Life Site News points out:
The Alabama legislature expressly enacted the “Brody Act” 12 years ago to protect pre-born babies. Under the Brody Act, the definition of a “person” includes “an unborn child in utero at any stage of development, regardless of viability.” The Brody Act is consistent with numerous other sections of Alabama law which recognize the equal status of the child in the womb.
The article also states that:
The national significance of this case cannot be understated, since the question of personhood has been the lynchpin to the so-called right to abortion, ever since Justice Blackmun erroneously wrote in Roe v. Wade that children in the womb are not persons and therefore not entitled to any of the fundamental constitutional protections.
Responding directly to Roe’s flawed ruling, the Alabama Supreme Court unanimously ruled that “unborn children are persons entitled to the full and equal protection of the law.”
That article, as well as the Liberty Counsel release, points out that Justice Tom Parker wrote an additional opinion.  Liberty Counsel states that:
Justice Parker wrote separately to emphasize how broadly and consistently the law and judicial decisions in Alabama and around the country protect the rights of unborn children. This, Justice Parker said, contrasts with “the continued legal anomaly and logical fallacy that is Roe v. Wade.”
1 - Former Atlanta Fire Chief receives significant payout in aftermath of termination

You're probably familiar with the plight of Kelvin Cochran, the former Fire Chief of Atlanta who was terminated as the result of a book that he wrote, outlining Christian principles regarding masculinity.  In the ensuing days, Cochran was fired by then-Mayor Kasim Reed.  WORLD Magazine reports:
Reed, in a letter, had defended the firing, saying Cochran didn’t have permission to write the book, which “required prior approval from the Board of Ethics,” and had compromised his ability to lead city employees who might be homosexual. But an investigation found no evidence that Cochran discriminated against any member of the fire department because of his religious beliefs.
WORLD references a WSB Radio report that the Atlanta City Council voted 11-3 to pay Cochran $1.2 million.  The article says:
Cochran won a lawsuit against the city and Mayor Kasim Reed late last year. A U.S. District Court ruled that Atlanta’s policies restricting speech outside of work allowed city officials to unconstitutionally discriminate against views with which they disagreed.
Alliance Defending Freedom pointed out:
With regard to the city’s “pre-clearance” rules, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia wrote in its December 2017 decision in Cochran v. City of Atlanta, “This policy would prevent an employee from writing and selling a book on golf or badminton on his own time and, without prior approval, would subject him to firing. It is unclear to the Court how such an outside employment would ever affect the City’s ability to function, and the City provides no evidence to justify it…. The potential for stifled speech far outweighs any unsupported assertion of harm.”

Sunday, October 14, 2018

The 3 - October 14, 2018

This week, on this edition of The 3, voters went to the polls in Romania to define marriage as one man and one woman, but the vote on that constitutional amendment did not garner that necessary percentage of eligible voters in order to be recognized.  Also, cake bakers in the United Kingdom who declined to provide a cake in support of so-called "gay marriage" were exonerated by the U.K. Supreme Court.  And, an American pastor is back home in the U.S. after being released from captivity in Turkey.

3 - Romanian marriage amendment invalidate due to insufficient turnout

Residents of the eastern European nation of Romania were scheduled to go the polls recently to vote on a constitutional amendment defining marriage as one man and one woman.  But, according to a report on the WORLD Magazine website, the vote did not reach the threshold necessary to allow the referendum to be recognized.

WORLD reports:
More than 90 percent of Romanian voters supported defining marriage in the constitution as the union of one man and one woman, but election officials said just 20.41 percent of eligible voters participated, short of the 30 percent required for the referendum to be valid. The nation’s constitution currently defines marriage as between “spouses.” It does not allow civil unions, nor does it recognize same-sex marriage from other countries.
The WORLD article states that: "the Orthodox Church, which backed the referendum, called the vote 'a partial success which calls us to hope and work more.'" The country's president supports same-sex marriage, and, according to the article, "said the country should tackle the issue further with 'a mature approach and openness to dialogue.'"

2 - Cake bakers receive favorable court ruling in U.K.

There was a resounding court ruling recently from the U.K. Supreme Court in the case of Ashers Bakery, which, according to the Alliance Defending Freedom website, is "a Christian-owned business in Northern Ireland that politely declined to create a custom cake with the slogan 'Support Gay Marriage...'"

ADF Senior Vice President, U.S. Legal Division Kristen Waggoner, who had "argued the Masterpiece Cakeshop case before the U.S. Supreme Court," is quoted as saying:
“The UK Supreme Court recognized that artists and other professionals don’t discriminate when they object ‘to the message, not the messenger.’ The court also affirmed the fundamental freedom of Ashers Bakery’s owners to decline to express through one of their cakes ‘a message with which they deeply disagreed.’ In the U.S., Alliance Defending Freedom represents many creative professionals—like Jack Phillips of Masterpiece Cakeshop, Barronelle Stutzman of Arlene’s Flowers, Carl and Angel Larsen of Telescope Media Group, and Blaine Adamson of Hands On Originals, just to name a few—who all draw that simple line: They serve all people but do not express messages that conflict with their deeply held beliefs."
The U.K.'s Coalition for Marriage states on its website:
This is an emphatic victory for free speech. Five of the UK’s top judges have ruled that the law cannot compel someone to endorse a message with which they fundamentally disagree.
This ruling was vital, not just for the McArthur family who own and run Ashers bakery, but for business owners across the UK.
On the website of The Christian Institute, General Manager Daniel McArthur is quoted as saying:
“We’re delighted and relieved at today’s ruling. We always knew we hadn’t done anything wrong in turning down this order. After more than four years, the Supreme Court has now recognised that and we’re very grateful. Grateful to the judges and especially grateful to God.
“We’re particularly pleased the Supreme Court emphatically accepted what we’ve said all along – we did not turn down this order because of the person who made it, but because of the message itself.”
The site noted that it was a unanimous ruling and that, "Senior judges accepted arguments put forward by The Christian Institute over the last four and a half years."

1 - American pastor held in Turkey freed

Great news out of the nation of Turkey, where American pastor Andrew Brunson had been ministering for over 20 years.  He has spent the better part of the last two years either in prison or house arrest.  And, early Friday, a Turkish court reaffirmed the charges against him - and then set him free.  The pastor is now back in the U.S.

CBN News story quotes Pastor Brunson: "My entire family thanks the President, the administration, and Congress for their unwavering support. This is the day our family has been praying for – I am delighted to be on my way home to the United States."

The story states that:
Before the court hearing, US Vice President Mike Pence said the release of Pastor Brunson has been a priority for the Trump administration.
"Our administration has made very clear that we will continue to stand strong until Pastor Andrew Brunson is free and back home in the United States with his family and with his church," Pence said.
The article said that:
Turkey accused Brunson of participating in a 2016 coup to overthrow the government of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Pastor Brunson was facing up to 35 years in prison if convicted...of espionage, but those charges were dropped Friday.
CBN News reports that Brunson visited the White House on Saturday and met with President Trump in the Oval Office.  The article says:
Brunson prayed for the commander-in-chief in the Oval Office saying, “I ask that you give him strength. I ask you to protect him.. make him a great blessing to this country and fill him with your wisdom and strength.”

Sunday, October 07, 2018

The 3 - October 7, 2018

In this week's edition of The 3, there is a story out of north Alabama involving prayer before football games and community response to the school board's ban on the practice.  Also, the U.S. Supreme Court has allowed a lower court ruling in favor of a Tennessee pro-life amendment to stand.  And, the governor of California has vetoed a bill that would have authorized on-campus medical abortions.

3 - School prayer ban in Alabama county yields strong response from community

In Blount County, Alabama, the school board put an end to prayer before football games, even if led by a student or volunteer, an incorrect response to a threat from the so-called Freedom from Religion Foundation.  Parents responded by saying their own prayer in the stands at the county's Locust Fork High School, according to the Christian Examiner.  It reported:
Gregg Armstrong, a parent of a Locust Fork High School student and the county revenue commissioner, vowed to a local ABC News station after the announcement last week that he and other Christians around the county would say the Lord's Prayer in unison during the moment of silence.
"We are not doing this by any way to be negative or anything like that," Armstrong explained. "We are just doing this with love and doing what we feel like God has called us to do. I believe if you have 1,000 people in those bleachers saying the Lord's Prayer vocally, not over a PA system, that is probably going to be a little bit more moving than just one person praying."
Area churches banded together and sold over a thousand "We Believe" t-shirts and the article says, "An online video shows a spectator leading the crowd at the Locust Fork game by reciting the Lord's Prayer through a megaphone."

The article points out that, "Critics of the school district's decision include Roy Moore...," who "argued at a news conference in Montgomery last week that it's constitutional for students to pray over the loudspeaker before games as long as it's done so free of influence from school officials."

2 - U.S. Supreme Court allows TN pro-life amendment to stand

In 2014, voters in Tennessee amended the state constitution, according to a Baptist Press article; the amendment, "removed a right to abortion and a requirement for abortion funding from the Tennessee constitution."

The article states that:
The effort to pass the amendment followed a decision by the Tennessee Supreme Court in 2000 that struck down state restrictions on abortion and ruled the state constitution provided stronger protections for abortion rights than the U.S. Constitution, The Tennessean reported. In the wake of the ruling, an analysis by the newspaper showed more than 25 percent of abortions sought in the state were from women who lived in states where abortion restrictions were in effect.
Those challenging the amendment were essentially trying to get it thrown out on a technicality - the 6th Circuit found in favor of the state and on the first day of the new term of the U.S. Supreme Court, the justices said they would not review the lower court decision.

That Tennessee amendment was influential on an Alabama lawmaker, Matt Fridy, who proposed the constitutional amendment that Alabama voters will be considering on November 6, according to LifeNews.com, which reports:
The proposed amendment says the Alabama Constitution does not protect a right to abortion or taxpayer-funded abortions. It also directs state policy “to recognize and support the sanctity of unborn life and the rights of unborn children, including the right to life.”
The LifeNews.com article says:
State Rep. Matt Fridy, a Republican, said he had the future in mind when he proposed the amendment, according to AL.com. He told the local news that he was thinking about Tennessee where the state Supreme Court ruled that a woman has a “right” to abortion under the state constitution.
That ruling made it basically impossible for Tennessee lawmakers to pass even moderate abortion regulations, such as parental consent for minors or a ban on taxpayer-funded abortions. In 2014, Tennessee voters approved a ballot measure to amend their constitution to make it clear there is no right to abortion.
1 - CA Governor vetoes bill allowing abortion pills to be distributed at colleges

It is a bill that is not really unexpected out of California. According to a Fox News story, a bill, "would have required university health centers to offer women medical abortions on campus by Jan. 1, 2022. The majority of the funds-- $9.6 million-- would come from private donors, The Sacramento Bee reported."

Governor Jerry Brown vetoed the bill.  Fox reports that:
In his veto message, Gov. Brown called the bill “unnecessary,” noting that abortions are a “long-protected right in California.” He said most abortion providers are within a reasonable distance from campus communities.
So, not a pro-life epiphany for the governor, but a positive step for life nevertheless. The article quotes the San Francisco Chronicle: The bill was drafted after a failed effort in 2016 by students at UC Berkeley to provide medical abortions on campus, according to The Chronicle. Medical abortions differ from surgical abortions in that the former requires taking a pill over two days during the first 10 weeks of a pregnancy to trigger a miscarriage.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

The 3 - September 30, 2018

This week's edition of The 3, spotlighting three news stories impacting the Christian community, includes good news out of a Federal agency, which cancelled a contract with a provider of fetal tissue from aborted babies.  Also, administrators at a Christian university had moved to change policy toward same-sex relationships, only to have the school's trustees reverse the decision.  And, a Louisiana law that requiring that abortion doctors adhere to certain standards was upheld by a Federal appeals court.

3 - Department of Health and Human Services end contract with company involved in trafficking of body parts from aborted babies

After hearing from a number of pro-life leaders and organizations, the Department of Health and Human Services has announced that the contract with a company, Advanced Bioscience Resources, to provide the Food and Drug Administration with fetal tissue from aborted babies has been cancelled, according to a press release from Liberty Counsel.

It reports that:
National and state pro-life leaders recently sent a letter to HHS Secretary Alex Azar urging the government to end the taxpayer-funded use of aborted fetal tissue for research. The letter read, in part: “We were shocked and dismayed at the news report that the FDA has signed a contract to purchase ‘fresh’ aborted fetal organs from ABR, for the purpose of creating humanized mice with human immune systems.
In a statement, HHS said that it "...was not sufficiently assured that the contract included the appropriate protections applicable to fetal tissue research or met all other procurement requirements. As a result, that contract has been terminated, and HHS is now conducting an audit of all acquisitions involving human fetal tissue to ensure conformity with procurement and human fetal tissue research laws and regulations."

2 - Christian college modifies policy to remove language banning same-sex relationships

It was recently announced that a Christian school, Asuza Pacific University, was changing policy in order to allow same-sex relationships, according to Faithwire, which quoted Bill Fiala, associate dean of students at APU: “The change that happened with the code of conduct is still in alignment with our identity as a Christian institution. The language changed, but the spirit didn’t. Our spirit is still a conservative, evangelical perspective on human sexuality.”

The article says that:
The updated policy still requires all students to abstain from sexual behavior, but now no longer “singles out” those in the LGBTQ community, barring them from entering into romantic relationships.
This apparently came about after a campus gay group described in the story as "underground," a group called Haven, with assistance from an LGBTQ advocacy group called Brave Commons, has entered into talks with campus administrators.  The Faithwire story stated:
Those conversations, Fiala said, resulted in the university’s decision to change its rules regarding same-sex couples on campus.

The college’s SGA passed a resolution last year, asking APU administrators to create something more formal — like Haven — for the campus’ LGBTQ community.
But, wait, not so fast now - the Board of Trustees has now stepped in to reinstate the original language.  The student website ZU News reported:
Azusa Pacific University reinstated the original language in their code of conduct, reaffirming their “biblical understanding of the marriage covenant as between one man and one woman.”
Earlier in the 2018-19 school year, the APU administration board removed language from their student code of conduct prohibiting public LGBTQ+ relationships.
The Board of Trustees sent an email on Sept. 28 alerting the community of their decision to restore the code of conduct to its previous state.
“Last week, reports circulated about a change in the undergraduate student standards of conduct,” the email stated. “That action concerning romanticized relationships was never approved by the board and the original wording has been reinstated.”
1 - Federal appeals court rules in favor of Louisiana law mandating that abortion doctors have admitting privileges

A law was passed in 2014 in the state of Louisiana that, according to LifeNews.com, "requires abortion providers to have hospital admitting privileges in case patients experience emergency complications." The article notes that, "Soon after it became law, the Louisiana abortion facility Hope Medical Group for Women and the Center for Reproductive Rights challenged it in court."

The website reports that this past week:
A panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit said there is “no evidence” that the law will burden women’s access to abortion, rejecting abortion activists’ claim, according to The Hill.
The article points out that while this law is similar to a Texas bill that the U.S. Supreme Court had ruled against two summers ago, "...the Fifth Circuit panel said the Louisiana law is different because it “does not impose a substantial burden on a large fraction of women.”

Sunday, September 23, 2018

The 3 - September 23, 2018

This week's edition of The 3, spotlight three recent Christian news stories, includes a ruling in favor of the free speech of pregnancy resource centers in Hawaii, which was issued as a result of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on a punitive California law.  And, the violence by radicalized Muslims toward Christians in Nigeria continues.  And, Chinese Christian leaders are pushing back against new regulations that have restricted the religious freedom of Christians there.

3 - Pro-life victory in Hawaii related to recent Supreme Court decision

Not too long ago, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of pregnancy resource centers, who would have been forced to violate their deeply held beliefs and share information about where clients could obtain an abortion.  The implications of the Supreme Court ruling have now reverberated to the state of Hawaii.

Alliance Defending Freedom announced on its website that:
A federal district court struck down a Hawaii law forcing pregnancy centers and pro-life doctors to advertise for the abortion industry Thursday, in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision affirming free speech in NIFLA v. Becerra.
“No one should be forced by the government to express a message that violates his or her beliefs, especially on deeply divisive subjects like abortion,” said Kevin Theriot, Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel and Vice President of the Center for Life. “In NIFLA v. Becerra, the Supreme Court affirmed that we don’t force people to say things they don’t believe. For that reason, the district court was correct to permanently halt Hawaii’s enforcement of Act 200’s compelled speech requirement.”
The state of Hawaii had passed a law, Act 200, that according to the website, "required pro-life pregnancy centers to direct women to a state agency that provides abortion referrals and funding. It would have required pro-life centers to post large signs or provide notice to clients that the state of Hawaii 'has public programs that provide immediate free or low-cost access to comprehensive family planning services,' which include abortion-inducing drugs."  A Calvary Chapel-related pregnancy resource center had challenged the law.

ADF reports that even the Attorney General of the state had "agreed that the compelled speech mandate at the heart of the law was unconstitutional," in light the the NIFLA decision."
2 - Radicals in Nigeria continue to kill Christians

Over the last two months, Fulani radicals in Nigeria have taken the lives of more than 250 Christians in the nation, according to a story on the ChristianHeadlines.com website, which relayed a report from International Christian Concern about the bodies of a nine- and ten-year old which had been "found riddled with bullet holes and machete slashes." ICC stated, "The Nigerian government continues to be complacent in dealing with the problem of the Fulani militants, who have in 2018 killed nearly three times as many people as Boko Haram..."

The article, published on Thursday, September 20, points out that there are challenges that the government is mischaracterizing these attacks:
In August, board chairman of Intersociety Emeka Umeagbalasi, told The Christian Post that the Nigerian government is trying to characterize these murders as conflicts between farmers and herders. But what is really happening, he said, was a calculated attack designed to kill and drive Christians out of Nigeria.
Intersociety reported on Sunday that no fewer than 250 Christians have been killed in the last two months. They obtained this number by combining the statistics and news reports of killings since July.
Michael Brown of The Stream, has been speaking out on the plight of Nigerian Christians, to the extent of having his Twitter account temporarily suspended.  He wrote at The Stream:
Babies are being hacked to death. Children kidnapped. Women raped and savaged. Young and old burned alive. Houses destroyed, livestock plundered. Muslim herdsmen are massacring their Christian neighbors while the Nigerian media misreports and the Nigerian government refuses to act. Some even claim the government is complicit in these attacks.
President Buhari, as the watching, worldwide community, we appeal to you to act decisively and put an end to this horror. Right now, sir, many believe there is blood on your hands. Please show the world that this is not true.
He quoted from a Professor, Gerald McDermott, whom Brown described as "a respected educator and Anglican Church leader:"
The Fulani herdsman, who are Muslims, have lived in peace with their Christian neighbors for decades. Also, they cried out “Allahu akbar [Allah is great]!” as they swooped in upon these villages with death and terror.
The real story, Christians tell me, is that Islamists from other countries (like Niger and possibly Saudi Arabia) have radicalized previously-peaceful Muslim herdsmen. And the government, which is controlled by a Muslim administration, is taking advantage of this to consolidate its hold on this Middle Belt of Nigeria. Right now Jos is majority-Christian. But if the government can use these radicals to drive Christians out, Jos can become a majority-Muslim area.
1 - Chinese Christian leaders release document of solidarity concerning religious freedom

Chinese Christian leaders are pushing back against what they see as an increase in state oppression of Christians.  Faith McDonnell reports at the Institute on Religion and Democracy website:
In the midst of a campaign by the Chinese Communist Government to “Sinicize” religion and demand unswerving loyalty to the Communist Party, Chinese Christian leaders have declared their unswerving loyalty to Jesus Christ.
The article states that as of last Tuesday, the 18th, according to the St. Charles Institute, an advocacy group for persecuted Christians, over 340 leaders had signed the declaration.

McDonnell writes that, "The declaration opens with the Chinese church leaders’ affirmation of the gospel and their accountability before God to share it with the world," and adds:
It goes on to list what churches in China believe, their right to practice freely their religion, their value to and love for their country, and their refusal to compromise with the state. The courageous leaders have all identified themselves both by name and by church, and their concluding statement is a sober one, “For the sake of the gospel, we are prepared to bear all losses—even the loss of our freedom and our lives.”
The St. Charles Institute website states:
Since the official “Regulations on Religious Affairs” came into effect on February 1, 2018, the state has enforced a dramatic tightening of controls over religious matters. The new regulations have emboldened relevant governmental departments in charge of religion, and a fresh wave of attacks on religious gatherings, places of worship, and individuals have since erupted.
The site mentioned the ban on online retailers selling the Bible. A more "Sinicized" Bible is being developed. The site also reports:
Other physical manifestations of the “Sinicizing” order includes forcing churches to sing “Red songs,” or songs sung during the Cultural Revolution, praising the Communist Party of China (CPC), and advocating for support of the CPC. There have also been many churches, including official Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM) churches, who have been forced to take down crosses and Christmas trees, and instead, replace them with photos of Xi Jinping or the national flag.
Many house churches, which the government views as “uncontrollable,” have been subjected to harsher treatment.