Sunday, November 22, 2015

The 3 - November 22, 2015

In this week's edition of The 3, how to respond Biblically to the Syrian refugee crisis in light of the Paris attacks has been a focus for a number of Christian leaders and organizations.  Also, the National Bible Bee finals were held this week in San Antonio.  And, it was announced this week that the U.S. Senate could be taking up a House-passed bill that would prevent taxpayer funding of Planned Parenthood.

3 - Christians debate Syrian refugees, number of Christian refugees from Syria is small

There has arisen a debate within the Christian community about how best to deal with refugees from the nation of Syria.  While there are no doubt some Syrians who are escaping persecution at the hands of ISIS, there is a reasonable concern that terrorists could be coming into America in the wave of refugees that could be allowed into the country.

Based on this type of concern, the U.S. House passed a bill on Thursday that, according to, requires new screening requirements on refugees from Syria and Iraq before they can enter the United States. The bill passed by a veto-proof 289-137 margin and now goes on to the Senate.

Over half of the nation's governors have indicated they would not take Syrian refugees in their states, and Christian leaders on both sides of the issue have been speaking out.

And, who would you say would be the most oppressed group of the Syrians leaving that war-torn nation?  How about Christians fleeing the tangible threat from ISIS?

Well, reports that roughly 18 percent of Syria’s estimated 4 million refugees are Christians. The publication asks the question, "So why have only less than 3 percent of the 2,184 Syrian refugees resettled in the United States from 2011 until now been Christians?"

Faith McDonnell of the Institute on Religion and Democracy is quoted - she wrote for The Stream that American Christians are “curious, and somewhat concerned, that there appear to be no Christian refugees in sight.” She faults the Obama Administration.  Also, according to the article, Nina Shea of the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom says that Christian refugees need special treatment because the United Nations refugee processing system “disproportionately excludes them,” according to a piece she wrote at the National Review website.

Matthew Soerens, US director of church mobilization for World Relief, The humanitarian arm of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), said that Syrian Christians perhaps had waited longer to seek resettlement because they felt protected by the Assad regime.  He also pointed out Christian refugees tend to be wealthier, so they seek escaping through a tourist visa, then applying for asylum.

Two high-profile Southern Baptist leaders are among those speaking out on the issue.  Baptist Press quotes Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, who is quoted as saying, "there's a lot of confusion among Christians on the right response to Syrian refugees because many people do not understand that while we as Christians have one responsibility individually, government has another responsibility."

Individuals, Jeffress said, must "show compassion for these refugees," support relief organizations and call on government to combat the terrorist group ISIS. "But government has another responsibility, and that is to secure our borders."
Russell Moore, president of Southern Baptists' Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, called Christians "to remember human dignity" without neglecting appropriate border security. In written comments, he told Baptist Press that, "The screening of refugees is a crucial aspect of national security, and we should insist on it," adding, "At the same time, evangelicals should be the ones calling the rest of the world to remember human dignity and the image of God, especially for those fleeing murderous Islamic radical jihadis. We should remember the history of the 20th century, of Jewish refugees from the Holocaust and refuseniks from the Soviet Union who were largely ignored by the world community."

2 - National Bible Bee finals take place in San Antonio

The National Bible Bee competition took place this past week in San Antonio, as the 360 highest-scoring Bible Bee contestants from across the nation demonstrated Scripture knowledge and memorization, according to the National Bible Bee website. The top winners were to be awarded more than $270,000, every contestant was scheduled to be encouraged and recognized for their Biblical excellence.

This year's winners were:

In the Primary division (7-10 years old): 1st Place/Jediael Chintha of Hanover Park, IL; 2nd/Seth Ross of Mission Viejo, CA; 3rd/Emma Fernandez of Haslet, TX

In the Junior division (ages 11-14): 1st Place/Taylor Bontrager of Kalona, IA; 2nd/Grace Wanliss of Fountain Inn, SC; 3rd/Everett Chew of La Palma, CA

In the Senior category (15-18 years old): 1st/Delie Moss of Bells, TN; 2nd/Bethany Xiques of Miami Springs, FL; 3rd/Emily Hamilton of Tehachapi, CA.

The Bible Bee is sponsored by the Shelby Kennedy Foundation, a nonprofit ministry established to encourage children and youth to grow in Christ through study of the Bible and Scripture memorization. Shelby died of cancer in 2005 at the age of 23.

1 - Pro-life bill proposed in Senate

Senate Republican leaders this week announced their intention to bring a bill to the floor of the U.S. Senate that would prevent taxpayer funding of Planned Parenthood, and it is structured in such a way that it only needs 51 votes to pass, not the 60-vote filibuster-proof majority that we have seen in past fights on that and other issues. reports that:

...the Senate will vote on a reconciliation bill the House passed at the end of October that will use the reconciliation process to de-fund the abortion company caught selling the body parts of aborted babies. There had been question about whether the Planned Parenthood de-funding provisions could be included in the bill, but the Senate parliamentarian has indicated they can remain.

This will be the third attempt since the summer in which Senate lawmakers have attempted to defund the nation's largest abortion provider. reports that in August, Republicans were unable to secure 60 votes on a bill that would accomplish a vote on that issue, only amassing 53 votes to shut off debate.  In September, another vote was taken, and the Senate voted 52-47 against cutting off debate.

Can the Republicans gather the now-51 votes needed to pass this bill and deliver it to the President? There are three Republican senators, who reports have balked at defunding Planned Parenthood, are Susan Collins of Maine, Mark Kirk of Illinois, and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. Take those 3 votes away, and you still have 52 potential Republican votes - enough for passage.

However, three pro-life Republicans have indicated they may vote against the bill cause they don't think it goes far enough in repealing Obamacare. Two of them are Presidential candidates: Ted Cruz of Texas and Marco Rubio of Florida. The other is Mike Lee of Utah. All three have said they want the reconciliation bill to repeal Obamacare in its entirety rather than repealing portions of it, so they may oppose the bill.

So, if these three hold to their positions, that brings the number to 49.  So, in order to pass the bill, 2 Democrats or 2 more Republicans would have to vote in favor of the bill, or one of lawmaker of each party would have to change the presumed position.

As a WORLD Magazine article points out:

The opposition aligns Cruz, Lee, and Rubio with Heritage Action, the lobbying partner of the Heritage Foundation, but at odds with the many other conservative groups that back the bill, including Americans for Tax Reform, Americans for Prosperity, and the Family Research Council. Supporters say it achieves their most important goals.

Susan B. Anthony List and National Right to Life are two pro-life groups who support the bill.

Tony Perkins of Family Research Council is quoted as saying: "The reconciliation bill strikes a serious blow to Obamacare," adding, "This alleviates federal coercion of Americans who are forced to purchase health insurance they may object to because it contains elective abortion coverage and removes the threat of punishing fines on employers who decline to violate their deeply held beliefs."

Sunday, November 15, 2015

The 3 - November 15, 2015

This week on The 3, my week-in-review feature, I devote some attention to religious content relative to the horrific attacks in Paris, where over a hundred perished and many more were injured.  Also, this past week, the U.S. Supreme Court announced it would take up 2 provisions of a Texas pro-life bill.  And, a Tennessee school district has decided to keep the Gideons from making Bibles available in its schools.

3 - TN school district puts a halt to Bible distribution

In Bledsoe County, Tennessee, free Bibles have been made available to students in the schools there by the Sequatchie Valley Camp of Gideons, but will not be made available on school property in the county any longer, according to a report from WRCB Television that was published online this week.

This comes as the result of a complaint made to the school system.  The superintendent, Jennifer Terry, in a statement, said: "Bledsoe County Schools do not allow the distribution of religious materials from any religious groups. The distribution of religious materials in a public school is in violation of constitutional provisions and well established federal and state laws and precedence." 

Charlie Queen, the chaplain for the local Gideons group, told the television station: "We simply go in and we lay it on the table. We tell them what it is and who we are. If they want one, they freely take one," adding, "We do not hand it to them, they take it freely and voluntarily."

It was reported that community members plan to protest this decision at the next school board meeting. School leaders tell WRCB they do have a Bible History course that includes a textbook. Students are allowed to Bring their personal bible to school should they wish.

By the way, earlier this year, the Tennessee House of Representatives passed a bill recognizing the Bible as the official book of the state - that bill died in the Senate, according to The Tennessean. Also, a bill has been proposed to keep religious "doctrine" from being taught in classrooms other than 10th, 11th and 12th grades.   The Chattanooga Times-Free Press said that the bill from Rep. Sheila Butt comes on the heels of complaints from some parents in several communities as to what their children are learning in middle school about Islam.

2 - Supreme Court will review Texas abortion clinic regulations

The pro-life bill in Texas, House Bill 2, contains a provision that requires abortion facilities to meet the same health and safety standards as ambulatory surgical centers, and a provision that protects women against cut-and-run abortionists by requiring abortionists to have admitting privileges at a local hospital in the event a woman must seek hospital care due to post-abortion complications, according to a statement on the Alliance Defending Freedom website.  And, the bill is going to the U.S. Supreme Court.

ADF reported that the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld those provisions after they were challenged.  This week, the U.S. Supreme Court announced that it would hear the appeal of that decision.  ADF Senior Counsel Steven Aden is quoted as saying: "Texans should have full freedom to prioritize women’s health and safety over the bottom line of abortionists. The 5th Circuit was on firm ground to uphold this law, and therefore, the Supreme Court should affirm that decision. The law’s requirements are common-sense protections that ensure the maximum amount of safety for women. Abortionists should not be exempt from medical requirements that everyone else is required to follow."

1 - Paris attacks: religious motivation, Islamic State takes credit

An unthinkable series of events transpired on Friday in Paris, with coordinated attacks in 3 different locations with around 130 people losing their lives.   WORLD reports over 300 people were injured. Eight attackers had lost their lives.

Most of the casualties were at the Bataclan concert hall, with nearly 90 people dying there.

In response, President Francois Hollande ordered security checks at the French border and raised the country’s security alert system to its highest level. He also declared three days of national mourning for the victims.

And, there are numerous religious connections here.  For one thing, militant Islamic group ISIS has claimed responsibility, which arouses concerns about the spread of radical Islam outside the Middle East.  Religious leaders have voiced their sympathy - and outrage.

On his Facebook page, Franklin Graham spoke forthrightly about the religious motivation of the attacks, writing:  

This attack was done in the name of Allah, the god of Islam. Eye witness reports say that the murderers yelled, “Allahu Akbar” before committing their atrocities. Now we know, in their own words, that the Islamic State has claimed the attack on Paris describing the city as “the carrier of the banner of the Cross in Europe.” In this case terrorism does have a religion – its name is Islam and its god is Allah.

He added, "Islam is at war with us–we’ve witnessed its evil face firsthand over and over. And today the world wakes up to their threats: 'This attack is the first of the storm and a warning.' Reports say they have also posted: 'The American blood is best - And we will take it soon.'"

In closing, Graham wrote: "As we continue to pray for the people of France we also need to pray for wisdom for the world’s leaders and that Islam will be stopped in its tracks."  The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association has sent Rapid Response Team chaplains to Paris.

The Catholic News Agency reported on an interview of Pope Francis by TV2000.  The pontiff said that the acts of terrorism which took place in Paris Friday night are the latest part in what he has called a “piecemeal World War III,” describing the attacks as “inhuman.”

A post on the Facebook page of Igniting a Nation, headed by a recent guest on my radio program, Messianic Rabbi, Eric Walker, says:

As the world looks at the events of the Paris attacks we are reminded that France has reached the tipping point of 8% Muslim. With the wide open borders of the EU, we have now seen how a small band of terrorists can mobilize and strike. America's borders are compromised and what happened there has and will continue to happen here. The influx of Syrian refugees, added to the 100,000 Muslims entering America annually, will further compromise our ability to predict and respond. The dividing lines of the world are being drawn and persecution of those labeled as infidels is on the rise.

He closed by saying, "We must use this time to share the Gospel and prepare ourselves spiritually for the battle that is coming."

Sunday, November 08, 2015

The 3 - November 8, 2015

In this week's edition of my week-in-review feature, The 3, I report on an encouraging meeting in Mississippi on race relations featuring the heads of two large Baptist denominations.  Also, the U.S. Supreme Court has announced it will review the government's contraception mandate again, this time regarding non-profit organizations.  And, there were elections held this past Tuesday, with some notable pro-family victories that emerged.

3 - Baptist leaders from black and white backgrounds meet in Mississippi

This past Wednesday in Jackson, Mississippi, there was an important meeting concerning the topic of race relations.  A Religion News Service preview reported that leaders of the two largest Baptist denominations, one mostly white and the other predominantly black, were scheduled to meet with pastors from both groups for what was termed a "Conversation on Race in America."

The event was timed ahead of an annual luncheon of Mission Mississippi, a Christian organization that has worked for more than two decades to address racism, which its leaders believe hinders evangelism.

Jerry Young, president of the National Baptist Convention, USA, and Ronnie Floyd, president of the Southern Baptist Convention addressed the gathering, and Baptist Press featured a report.

Floyd declared: "I believe that the issue of racism is from Satan and the demonic forces of hell," adding, "Racism is completely opposite from the message of Jesus Christ; it is completely opposite of the message of love, it is completely opposite of the message of dignity, value and the sanctity of human life. It is completely opposite of the message of reconciliation."  In his comments, Floyd presented the church as one body of Christ, descended from one man and comprising one race.

Young said that, "I believe that it is God's providence that has brought us here today...I am absolutely prayerful that when we leave this place, that those of us who are here will have decided that we're going to spearhead a movement in this country that is relative primarily to the church, that we will no longer be satisfied to be persons who will simply declare the Gospel with our lips, but we're going to demonstrate it with our lives."

The article stated that Mission Mississippi President Neddie Winters, joined Floyd and Young in calling the church to action.  He is quoted as saying: "It is time for the Christian community, for the church of Jesus Christ, to do what it professes to do," adding, "Stand, and live, and act like Christians, and be the salt and light for our society. Too long have we been silent on this issue as a church, and as a community."

2 - Supreme Court announces it will hear contraception mandate cases involving non-profits

The U.S. Supreme Court made the announcement Friday that it would hear seven lawsuits that have been filed by non-profit organizations challenging the mandate from the Department of Health and Human Services requiring employers to provide free contraception and abortion-inducing drugs in their health care plans.

WORLD reported on the announcement, saying that the seven cases before the high court would include the Little Sisters of the Poor, Catholic dioceses, Priests for Life, GuideStone Financial Resources, and religious colleges such as Houston Baptist University, Geneva College, and the Catholic University of America.

The case is scheduled to be heard in March.

The WORLD article highlighted that the federal government has a special regulation for nonprofits who object to the mandate on religious grounds.  What happens is that the nonprofit signs a form for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), stating its objection and naming its insurance provider. Then HHS arranges coverage of the objectionable drugs for the nonprofits’ employees through the insurer or a third party.  But, the organization still must sign on to the arrangement. Churches are fully exempt from the mandate.

1 - Pro-family victory in KY Governor's race, Houston gay rights ordinance defeat, pot turned back in OH

In some areas of our nation, the first Tuesday of November, which is the traditional day set nationally for elections, was actually that - Election Day.  Next November, Americans will select a President on that day.

But, this year, voters in Kentucky and Mississippi went to the polls to select governors, Houston residents voted on a mayor, as well as controversial ordinance, and Ohio residents voted on greater availability for pot sales.

In Kentucky, Republican Matt Bevin was the winner in the governor's race there.  As the Family Research Council's Washington Update stated:

Nowhere was the potency of social issues more evident than in the Kentucky governor’s race, where a trailing Matt Bevin (R) pulled off a surprise upset over Democrat Jack Conway, who paid mightily for refusing to defend the state’s marriage amendment as attorney general last year. Bevin, who was down in the polls as recently as last week, surged ahead on Tuesday’s ballots after making a point to highlight social issues. In Kentucky, home to the Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis controversy, the turning point for Bevin came when he made an intentional effort to defend the conscience rights of government officials.

FRC also reported on the Houston ordinance and the marijuana vote in Ohio.  Regarding Ohio, the Update said that "... to the surprise of most Buckeyes, a referendum to legalize recreational and medical marijuana failed miserably. By a 2-1 margin, Ohioans turned out to drub the pro-pot crowd, which spent upwards of $25 million on advertising. In the words of conservative Curt Steiner, 'Never underestimate the wisdom of Ohio voters' -- or any voters with the courage and the facts to make a difference."

Christianity Today reported that the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, or HERO, was defeated by a 3-2 margin. The ordinance would have extended protections for LGBT residents among other groups.

It said that the bill was "branded the 'bathroom bill' by opponents who feared accommodation of transgender individuals would give men, including sexual predators, the right to use women’s restrooms in public."  The report continued:

After Mayor Annise Parker's failed attempt to subpoena sermons by pastors who attempted a petition drive to dismiss HERO, the Texas Supreme Court ordered that the ordinance be repealed or put to a popular vote.

Conservative Christian congregations in America's fourth-largest city rallied and prayed against HERO as a violation of their beliefs on gender identity.

“Biology and the Bible show us that there’s a difference between men and women,"said Gregg Matte, pastor of Houston’s First Baptist Church. "In order to keep men out of women’s locker rooms, I want to encourage you to vote ‘no’ to Proposition 1 (HERO).”

And, according to the article, Ed Young, pastor of Second Baptist Church, reportedly told his congregation, “It has been reported that we discriminate,” adding, “If we open up our facilities so that someone can choose … those of us who believe that men should use men’s facilities and women’s facilities, we will be discriminated against.”

Back to the FRC website, which stated:

“Once again, big business wants its freedom to operate according to its values, but wants to deny that freedom to others,” Ryan Anderson pointed out. As part of Proposition 1, local businesses would have been punished for holding natural views on sexuality -- when in reality, they should have the same right to embrace those beliefs as corporate America does not to! Instead, companies are turning on their own and demanding conformity on an issue the people will decide with their own dollars. If consumers don’t like what a Houston employer stands for, they can shop elsewhere! That’s the beauty of the free market.

(By the way, as FRC points out and as has been reported by other news outlets, supporters outspent opponents 3-1, contrary to what the CT story said.)

Sunday, November 01, 2015

The 3 - November 1, 2015

In this week's edition of my week-in-review feature, The 3, I shine the spotlight on an incident in a Texas school district, which has apologized for an assignment in which the affirmation of God's existence was counted as incorrect.  Also, the religious expression of a football coach in Washington state continues to be restricted.  And, some news out of China, where all families will be allowed to have two children, in an improvement over the one-child policy that has been in effect there.

3 - Texas school district apologizes for assignment asking students to deny God

In Katy, Texas, a seventh-grader was placed in a rather odd position recently.  According to a piece on the Religion News Service website, Jordan Wooley said she answered a question on an assignment, saying that the phrase, “there is a God," was either fact or opinion. She contended that her reading teacher said both her answers were wrong and that she had to admit God wasn’t real.

Jordan is quoted as saying, “It was really confusing to me at first because I didn’t really know what to do, so the first thing I did was tell my mom.” Her mother, Chantel Wooley, said, “That a kid was literally graded against her faith in God in a classroom."

According to the RNS piece, the school district apologized, and it issued a statement on Tuesday, saying, in part, that the assignment was intended to encourage critical thinking and dialogue and not question any student’s religious beliefs. But the statement also said, "Still this does not excuse the fact that this ungraded activity was ill-conceived and because of that, its intent had been misconstrued."  The school district said the teacher who came up with the assignment is distraught and that it’s crucial not to vilify the teacher without knowing her and her Christian faith.

2 - Football coach in Washington state placed on leave after postgame prayers

The unfortunate series of events concerning Bremerton, Washington, assistant varsity football coach Joe Kennedy continued this week.  On Wednesday, the school district issued a four-page letter, according to, that announced that the coach, who had a practice of praying on the 50-yard ilne following games, had been placed on paid leave. The letter stated, in part, that, “Kennedy’s conduct poses a genuine risk that the district will be liable for violating the federal and state constitutional rights of students or others,” and, “For this reason, Kennedy will not be allowed to further violate the district’s directives.”

The story reported that Superintendent Aaron Leavell acknowledged that “[e]ach activity has been voluntary” and that Kennedy has not “actively encouraged or required participation,” but he asserted that the practices were still unconstitutional. He laid out rules so that the district would decrease its chances of a lawsuit, stating that while Kennedy may engage in religious activity, “students may not be allowed to join such activity.”

Kennedy agreed to discontinue locker room prayer, but his attorneys with the Texas-based Liberty Institute stated that he has done nothing wrong in seeking to pray by himself at the conclusion of each game. The attorneys said there is neither any constitutional violation in permitting students to join.

And, this week, as reported by, the directors of the film, Woodlawn, Jon and Andy Erwin, released a video showing Kennedy talking about his experiences, as well as his thoughts about the movie, which depicts the story of future Miami Dolphin Tony Nathan.

Kennedy is shown praying with fans in the stands after his team's Thursday night game, and said, "You put four years of your life into the kids and you miss it because of having to stand up for your faith." He continued: "Has it been worth it? Absolutely. I tell my kids you never quit. You stand up for what you believe in," adding, "It's about the rights of every single person, no matter what their faith is."

The film depicts a Christian revival that took place at a high school in the midst of racial turmoil in Birmingham in the 1970's.  The film shows the coach of the team being baptized and facing opposition because of his desire to express his faith publicly. Box Office Mojo shows that the film has now exceeded $10 million dollars.  This past weekend was its third in release.

The series of events has even attracted attention of Presidential candidates, according to the Seattle Times, which reported that Dr. Ben Carson and Donald Trump had both tweeted out support for the coach.

1 - China changes its "one-child" policy

There is apparently some news out of China that represents an improvement in the area of life. The nation's policy of allowing urban families to have only one child and for rural families to have two children is coming to a close, according to a report on the website, which quotes from, which cites a report from China’s official news service. The new policy allows two children per family.

Rep. Chris Smith, a pro-life member of Congress, is quoted as saying: “In 1980 the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party sent an open letter to party members setting forth its plan to embark on a national one-child policy." The Congressman added, “What came out of that letter? A cruel and inhumane policy, a human rights violation that is, in scope and seriousness, the worst human rights abuse in the world today. No other government policy anywhere else in the world systematically punishes, abuses, and violates women so grossly as this.”  Smith also said, "The policy required women to obtain a birth permit before becoming pregnant and all women are monitored by “crudely invasive physical check-ups.”

Life News reports that China aborts more than 13 million babies each year.   

Monday, October 26, 2015

The 3 - October 25, 2015

On this week's edition of The 3, there is violence against churches taking place in at least two areas of the world - in the St. Louis area, where a series of church fires have been set.  Also, in Indonesia, local authorities have begun to destroy churches in the wake of violence brought about by Muslim extremists in that region.  And, there are several states where there has been activity to defund Planned Parenthood.

3 - Church fires occurring in St. Louis area

A pre-dawn fire in the St. Louis area early Thursday has become the seventh fire at a church within the last few weeks.  According to CNN, St. Louis Metropolitan Police Chief Sam Dotson told religious and civic leaders on Wednesday, referring to six previous fires: "Whoever this person is, they've picked a fight they can't win."

The latest was at the Shrine of St. Joseph. The previous six were at predominately African-American church buildings, this latest was at a mostly white church in a majority African-American neighborhood.

At the Wednesday meeting, Rev. David Triggs, whose New Life Missionary Baptist Church was among those targeted, said: "We are sending a message ... that you can burn down the building, but you cannot break our body," adding, "And we will not lose our voice."

The police chief told reporters early Thursday that whoever set the St. Joseph fire, "did some research, scouted the area out and knew that they could get in and get out without possibly being seen."  He did point to the absence of surveillance cameras.

The motive is unclear, although some have suggested a racial motivation.  All of the fires were close to the city of Ferguson.  Dotson said at the Wednesday church service that, whatever the true motivation, "it's impossible to ignore that this kind of crime aggravates old wounds, old wounds that were never properly or fully healed."

He added, "When someone attacks places of worship in our community, they attack the whole concept of civil society, aiming violence precisely at the places where people are at their most decent and their most peaceful." 

Franklin Graham wrote on his Facebook page, in part, to, "Pray for the churches in this area, pray that God would bring healing in these communities, and pray that law enforcement will be able to track down and put a stop to whoever is responsible for this."  Billy Graham Rapid Response Team chaplains had ministered in the Ferguson area during a previous time of unrest.

2 - Texas ends Planned Parenthood funding, Louisiana loses court battle

On Monday, October 19, the state of Texas announced that it would no longer fund Planned Parenthood affiliates through its Medicaid program.  According to the Texas Governor's website, referenced by the Alliance Defending Freedom:

Governor Greg Abbott announced his LIFE Initiative to provide greater protections for children in the womb and prevent the sale of baby body parts. Today, the Office of Inspector General at Texas Health and Human Services Commission issued a letter ending Medicaid participation for Planned Parenthood affiliates in the State of Texas based on evidence of Medicaid program violations. The cancellation, consistent with Governor Abbott’s LIFE initiative, calls for funding to Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers out of taxpayer money to be eliminated completely, both at the State and local levels.

Kellie Fiedorek of ADF is quoted as saying:

“Texas is right to recognize that taxpayer money should go to fund local community health centers, not to subsidize a scandal-ridden, billion-dollar abortion business. Texans shouldn’t be forced to give their money to Planned Parenthood, which was caught in authenticated undercover videos trafficking aborted babies’ body parts and has a long track record of abusive and potentially fraudulent billing practices and repeated failures to report the sexual abuse of girls. That tax money should be redirected to trusted health care providers, not given to the abortion industry.”

Also, according to ADF, on Wednesday, the Ohio Senate passed a bill that requires the state Department of Health to ensure certain state and federal funds are not used to perform or promote abortions.

And, WORLD reports that a U.S. District Judge ruled last Monday morning that Louisiana must provide Medicaid funding to Planned Parenthood for another 14 days while the lawsuit over the order works its way through the courts. Last Monday was the day that Governor Jindal's executive order blocking Medicaid funding going to Planned Parenthood was set to go into effect.  

The WORLD piece states that "Four states are facing lawsuits following decisions to block the distribution of federal Medicaid funds to local Planned Parenthood affiliates. So far, courts have required Louisiana, Arkansas, and Utah to continue funding the abortion provider to some degree." WORLD also reported on Governor Abbott's decision in Texas.  Alabama is one of the states facing a lawsuit over taxpayer funding of Planned Parenthood.

1 - Churches torn down in Indonesia

According to a report on the website, authorities in the Aceh region of Indonesia have started to tear down churches following recent religious violence that left at least one person dead and forced thousands of Christians to flee.  Clashes had broken out after Islamic hardliners burned down a church in Aceh Singkil on October 13.  Local church leader Erde Berutu said that “around 8,000” fled into the bordering province of Northern Sumatra.

Muslim residents had demanded that unlicensed churches in the area be demolished, citing a lack of building permits, but religious and political figures, including Christians, had agreed at a meeting on the 12th. to close the houses of worship. 

The article states that the agreement to demolish unregistered churches was partly driven by a ministerial decree in 2006 instructing worship houses to obtain a religious building license. Such a license is known to contain stringent requirements. It quotes a source who told World Watch Monitor that, "But even after all requirements are met, many churches are still prevented from getting the permit."

The Jakarta Post reported that last Monday, the Acehnese government started the demolition of 10 churches in Aceh Singkil regency, Aceh. Regent Safriadi claimed that an earlier agreement had been struck between Christians and Muslims regarding the demolition of the 10 churches. 13 others would be assisted with their permits. reports that this province is the only one in Indonesia where a form of Sharia law is practiced.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

The 3 - October 18, 2015

In my week-in-review feature, The 3, I identify three stories of relevance to the Christian community. This week, a high school football coach in Washington state made headlines when he announced his intention to defy a school district prohibition on a weekly practice of walking to the 50-yard-line to pray, and this past Friday night, he followed through.  Also, a Kentucky city is under fire because of a cross on the top of a water tower there.  And, the news emerged this week of the death of an evangelist in eastern Uganda, who was involved in sponsoring debates with Muslims in the region.

3 - Coach defies school district, prays at midfield after game

After the Bremerton High School football game in Washington state on Friday night, assistant coach Joe Kennedy continued the practice in which he has engaged for years, walking to the 50 yard line and saying a prayer.  The Daily Mail reported on the postgame event.

The report said that the coach defied the Bremerton School District, which demanded he stop leading post-football game prayers, and went to the 50-yard line to say a 'private, post-game prayer' on Friday.  To his surprise, he was joined by some members from his Bremerton High School football team, players from the opposing team and a group of supporters during the homecoming game as a sign of solidarity.

The report quoted from the Seattle Times, which quoted the coach's prayer: "Lord, I thank you for these kids and the blessing you’ve given me with them. We believe in the game, we believe in competition and we can come into it as rivals and leave as brothers." 

Check out this quote from the district's Superintendent on the district's website: "Like every public school district in the nation, our teaching and coaching staff is not allowed to include religious expression, including prayer, in talks with students while on duty for the District."  To me, that sounds like a denial of "free exercise" of religion, as guaranteed by the First Amendment.

The Daily Mail article reports that Hiram Sasser of the Liberty Institute said the coach's prayers were legal, according to KIRO-TV.   He said, "As long as the kids understand that he's doing that in his individual and private capacity, which is what he's doing, it's perfectly constitutional and not only that, it's a violation of the constitution to tell him he's not allowed to pray."

2 - Kentucky city resists effort to remove cross from water tower

In Wilmore, Kentucky, home of Asbury University, there is a water tower that has a cross situated at the top of it.  The Freedom From Religion Foundation is attempting to force city officials to remove the cross, even though there is a 40-year-old agreement that keeps the cross on the tower, which was built by Asbury University and transferred to the city in 1968, according a report on the WORLD website.

Mayor Harold Rainwater is quoted as saying (from CBN News): “There’s nothing that’s drawn our town together more than the possibility of losing this cross,” adding, “I one hundred percent support keeping it there. We won’t take it down unless we’re forced to take it down.”

Sheila Nighy, a Wilmore resident, is creating crosses for neighbors to post in their yards in protest. She was making nearly 400 crosses for a rally on Saturday to support the water tower cross. She's quoted as saying: “We saw the letter and I said, ‘Take down our cross? We’ll put up more!’”

1 - Ugandan evangelist's body found following Muslim-Christian debate

It was announced this week that the body of an evangelist in eastern Uganda was found following a heated Christian-Muslim debate. According to a Morning Star News report on the Baptist Press website, the body of 59-year-old Samson Nfunyeku was found close to his home in Kalampete village in Kibuku District early on September 23, after the latest in a series of organized debates with Islamic scholars at Tirinyi Trading Center ended prematurely due to flaring tempers the previous night.

That debate, as well as a previous one several months ago, were sponsored by Nfunyeku's Church of Uganda and other churches. Muslim leaders had threatened him and warned him to hold no more debates, a source said.

One of the participants, a former Islamic teacher, who had become a Christian, said, "Four months ago Samson and others had a very hot debate at Tirinyi Trading Center with the Muslim scholars that ended on a bad note, and they gave warning that such debates were not good for the Muslims." Nevertheless, on September 22, a sparsely-attended debate was conducted.

The report says that converts from Islam to Christianity in eastern Uganda have recently experienced regular instances of persecution.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

The 3 - October 11, 2015

Welcome to another edition of my week-in-review feature, The 3, highlighting three news stories of relevance to Christians.  One of those stories involves another series of protests held across the nation and in other countries at Planned Parenthood facilities.  Also, this week, students were encouraged to bring their Bibles to school.  And, it appears that this year's edition of the "War on Christmas," has begun, with news of school districts under siege by a group devoted to removing religious expression from public life.

3 - Protests held at Planned Parenthood clinics nationwide

Another large-scale protest was expected this past Saturday at Planned Parenthood clinics across the nation and in other nations. reports that thousands were expected to "protest the selling of body parts from aborted babies, as revealed in recent videos, and to demand the elimination of taxpayer funding from the abortion business."

A coalition of national and state pro-life groups, #ProtestPP, had scheduled a second protest since the release of the videos by Center for Medical Progress (CMP), which is headed by David Daleiden, scheduled to speak at the #ProtestPP event in Orange, California.
Protests were planned in all 50 states and several international locations, including Canada, England, and Ireland.

In August, the first protest drew over 78,000 pro-life activists to demonstrate near Planned Parenthood facilities.
The website,, states:

The primary sponsors of #ProtestPP are Citizens for a Pro-Life Society, Created Equal and the Pro-Life Action League.

These three national activist organizations are joined by over sixty state and national pro-life groups committed to exposing the truth about Planned Parenthood and mobilizing the response of pro-life Americans to the baby parts scandal.

2 - Students encouraged to bring Bibles to school

The Facebook page for Bring Your Bible to School Day stated:

Still praising God for 140,000+ students who had the courage to celebrate religious freedom and share God's love with friends!

The Blaze featured a story about the effort, organized by Focus on the Family. It reports that President Jim Daly said that the annual effort was launched in 2014 to help young people unashamedly share their faith. He is quoted as saying: “I think that there’s been so much intimidation in the culture toward people of faith — and particularly Christians,” adding that Focus thought “this would be a good level-headed way to exercise a right that’s there.”

In the article, Daly answered critics of the effort, saying that he was somewhat perplexed by those individuals who were specifically infuriated over the effort to encourage children to bring their Bibles to school.  He said, "Why do we need to fear students expressing their faith or expressing their interest in the Bible? The Bible’s been with us,” adding, “Originally, the education system used the Bible as a book to teach children to read and write and for moral guidance.”

He said the effort was voluntary and student-led. He said, "Why would that be harmful? This is what America’s about...In the end, when we have shootings and all the others things occurring in schools today, wouldn’t it be nice to provide moral insights about life?” He continued, “We’re not thinking clearly as adults in this culture.”

1 - "War on Christmas" has early volleys

Just for the record, I'm not a fan of the phrase, "War on Christmas," but in the absence of some other descriptor, I will use it, and you can know of what I speak and write.  The WOC describes the attempt by some to eliminate or limit the mention of Christmas in our society, in either a state-sponsored setting or in a private-business setting.

It's even become a campaign issue, as Republican candidate Donald Trump said at the Values Voter Summit, according to Christian Today: "The word 'Christmas.' I love Christmas. I love Christmas. You go to stores, you don't see the word 'Christmas.' It says 'Happy Holidays' all over. I say, 'Where's Christmas?'." He said, "I want to see 'Merry Christmas.' Remember the expression 'Merry Christmas'? You don't see it anymore. You're going to see it if I get elected, I can tell you right now."

I'm not sure what the Trump plan is for increasing the visibility of "Merry Christmas" in the corporate sector.

In Indiana, though, it seems that the Freedom from Religion Foundation wants to remove Baby Jesus from a Christmas play.  As Todd Starnes of Fox News reports, this past Wednesday, the FFRF filed a federal lawsuit against Concord Community Schools in Elkhart, IN on behalf of an unnamed student who happens to be a performer in the district’s Christmas Spectacular.

The FFRF is demanding an injunction that would forbid the school from “presenting the portion of the Christmas Spectacular with the live Nativity Scene and the telling of the story of the birth of Jesus.”

The Concord School Board is apparently standing its ground. According to Starnes, Superintendent John Trout told the Elkhart Truth: “For more than 30 years, the Spectacular has been an important part of the Concord High School holiday experience,” adding, “It will continue to be so.”

Unfortunately, in Portland, OR, the outcome is not as merry for students there.  The Blaze reports that the FFRF had sent a letter complaining over the long-standing tradition of choir groups at Lane Middle School and Grant, Wilson, Lincoln and Cleveland High Schools performing at the Grotto’s Christmas Festival of Lights, according to the Oregonian.

The annual event dubs itself “the largest Christmas choral festival in the world,” and is run by a Catholic shrine called the Grotto.   As a result of the complaints to the Portland Public Schools, officials banned the performances, which had reportedly gone on for decades.

The Blaze article said that the FFRF said two unnamed Portland families complained.  A district spokesperson said there had not been complaints before. She told KOIN-TV that it wouldn’t have been fiscally responsible for the district on its “very limited budget” to go to court over a case that officials could very well end up losing.

Monday, October 05, 2015

The 3 - October 4, 2015

On this week's edition of The 3, my week-in-review feature, there is the story of a Louisiana school board that has stood up to charges from a civil liberties organization that wants to curtail religious expression at a high school in its district.   Also, Planned Parenthood was back in the news, with its president testifying before a Congressional committee and another vote taken in the U.S. House to keep from sending taxpayer money to the organization.  And, it appears that Christians were being targeted by the Oregon college shooter last Thursday.

3 - LA School Board stands up to ACLU

A Louisiana school board has rejected a claim by the American Civil Liberties Union that Airline High School in Bossier City engaged in what it calls “a pattern of religious proselytization” by allowing the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, a student-led club, to post “prayer boxes” throughout the school, according to an article on the WORLD Magazine website.   In addition, a letter to the district targeted the school’s principal, Jason Rowland, for using the phrase “God bless you all” in a school newsletter.

The letter demanded that the school remove the prayer boxes, erase any references to prayer from its website, reeducate its employees concerning religious indoctrination, and inform all students and parents of the changes.  The report says that the school board had initially issued a statement saying it would investigate the claims and respond to the ACLU after the Oct. 1 board meeting, the Shreveport Times reported.

WORLD cites a report from NBC affiliate KTAL, which reported that the next day, at a Friday night football game, hundreds of parents and students showed their support for the principal, with some folks wearing homemade T-shirts stamped with “We support Mr. Rowland” or “#IStandWithAHS,” 

Last Thursday, the school board met behind closed doors to discuss the ACLU’s demand letter and issued a unanimously passed resolution: Its investigation found the accusations of high school staff engaging in religious proselytization to be “without a factual or legal basis.”

“The board wishes to publicly reaffirm its intent to operate a successful school district in which equal access is recognized and the legal rights of all students are respected, including those of its students who wish to engage in student-lead, student-initiated religious expression,” the statement said.

Freedom Guard, a legal organization headed by state Rep. Mike Johnson, had offered to represent Rowland pro bono, should the ACLU sue the school. He wrote in a letter to the school board that, "[The ACLU’s] alarm is as misplaced as it is ridiculous,” adding, “The Supreme Court has always acknowledged that simple references to God, even by officials of the state, are an essential part of our culture and deep religious heritage in this country and are in no way a violation of the Constitution.”

2 - House votes against funding Planned Parenthood, organization's leader testifies before Congress

Planned Parenthood was back in the news this past week, as its President was testifying on Capitol Hill in Washington, and the U.S. House took another vote to keep from using taxpayer money to fund the abortion giant.

CitizenLink has a story on the week's activities.  It reports that:

The U.S. House of Representatives voted to defund Planned Parenthood for a second time after a day of testimony by the group’s president. Hearings in the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee highlighted what videos from the Center for Medical Progress has shown – that Planned Parenthood takes money in exchange for aborted baby parts. And it’s not the full-service “women’s health care provider” that supporters often claim.

CitizenLink also reported that the hearing documented that many of the top executives in the organization make six-figure incomes, including President Cecile Richards who takes home more almost $600,000 each year in salary alone.

And, despite the fact that Richards has stated that the Defund Planned Parenthood Act of 2015 would, “block access for folks who deserve high-quality, compassionate care,” Rep. Dianne Black, the bill's author, is quoted as saying, "It does not reduce public health funding by a single dime,” adding, "and it would, in fact, increase that funding for community health centers by $235 million dollars.”

During debate on the bill, Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas said that Planned Parenthood has never done mammograms...“because they are not certified to do mammograms. They bring people in and refer them out to get their mammograms. Look, I want good women’s healthcare. So, let’s fund it, but, let’s give it directly to the facilities that will do the mammograms and not Planned Parenthood – for them to take their cut.”

1 - Christians apparently targeted in Oregon mass shooting

Across the nation, there are many who are still reeling for what unfolded at Umpqua Community College in Oregon last Thursday, where a lone gunman took the lives of 9 people, and he died on the site, as well.

One of the particularly disturbing elements of the shooting rampage has to do with the gunman's apparent targeting of Christians. reports that Stacy Boylan, the father of Anastasia Boylan, who was wounded, said she told him the gunman singled out Christians.

She said the gunman entered her classroom firing, told the professor teaching the class, "I've been waiting to do this for years," and shot him point blank, Stacy Boylan said.  His daughter told her family that while reloading his handgun, the man ordered the students to stand up and asked whether they were Christians.  The gunman reportedly said to the Christians: "Good, because you're a Christian, you're going to see God in just about one second." Stacy Boylan reports that he then shot and killed them.

Anastasia Boylan was hit in the back by a bullet that traveled down her spine. While she lay bleeding on the floor, the gunman called out to her, "Hey you, blond woman," her mother said. She played dead -- and survived.

The shooter was identified as 26-year-old Chris Harper-Mercer, who was enrolled in two classes at the school, according to CNN.

This is certainly concerning for Christian believers.  Dr. Michael Brown on wrote this:

Yet the secular media, for the most part, is focusing more on gun laws than on the shooter’s alleged anti-Christian motivation. Why?'

Can you imagine what would have happened if the shooter went into a creative arts class, asked the students to declare their sexual orientation, and if they said “gay,” shot them in the head?

There would be a massive media frenzy with instant accusations of national homophobia and pulling of quotes from Christian leaders whose failure to support same-sex “marriage” would somehow make them complicit in the deaths.

The same thing would have happened if the killer had targeted Muslims with immediate charges of “Islamophobia” shouted from coast to coast.

Not so though when it’s Christians who are killed for their faith.

Is it any surprise then that hours after the eyewitness accounts had been released and well after conservative news outlets were reporting the alleged targeting of Christians, liberal news outlets had not said a word about the alleged anti-Christian connection?

And, Christians stood up for their faith, led by Presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson.  According to, it only took four hours on Friday for an image of the Republican candidate holding up an “I am a Christian” sign to be shared close to 80,000 times and receive over 625,000 “likes” on Facebook.

The post was so successful that retired neurosurgeon shared an #IamAChristian hashtag. Supporters could make the image their Facebook profile picture.

And, I don't know who Armando Hall is, but he is being quoted regarding the Oregon massacre, that the bravest person in America is the second to admit being a Christian, after the UCC gunman murdered the first.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

The 3 - September 27, 2015

This week's edition of my week-in-review feature includes more wrangling on Capitol Hill about funding the nation's largest abortion provider.  Also, Presidential candidates converged on Washington to address the Values Voter Summit, and there was a clear winner in a straw poll taken there.  Plus, the Pope visited the U.S., bringing the perspective of a spiritual - and political - leader.

3 - Another attempt to defund Planned Parenthood turned back in Congress

On Thursday, the U.S. Senate voted to block a government funding bill that would defund the Planned Parenthood abortion business. The Senate included language from the bill into legislation to temporarily fund the federal government, according to the website,, which reported that the Senate voted 52 to 47 against ending debate on the government funding bill.  8 Republicans joined 44 Democrats to create that margin.  Democrat Joe Manchin joined 46 Republicans in voting to move the bill forward.

The Administration's Office of Management and Budget (OMB) said before the vote: “The Administration strongly opposes Senate passage of the Senate amendment to H.J.Res. 61, making continuing appropriations for fiscal year (FY) 2016, and for other purposes, which contains highly objectionable provisions that advance a narrow ideological agenda.”  According to the story, the OMB added that eliminating federal funding to Planned Parenthood would "limit access" to healthcare for women, men, families and “disproportionately” affect low-income people.

President Obama said he would only sign a government funding bill that does not include language de-funding Planned Parenthood.

The Hill reports that top House Republicans are hoping to convince their members to keep the government open by using a fast-track process known as reconciliation to try to defund Planned Parenthood.

House Republican leaders are planning to target Planned Parenthood’s funding by immediately drafting a fast-track reconciliation bill, according to a senior House GOP aide. The plan would mean supporting a short-term bill introduced in the Senate on Thursday to keep the government open through Dec. 11, but it could also lead to legislation blocking money for Planned Parenthood hitting President Obama’s desk. The article points out that implicit in that course is the suggestion that the House would have to vote next week on the Senate bill that includes funding for Planned Parenthood, and the article states, "That might be a bridge too far for many House conservatives, who have insisted they will not support any government funding bill that also includes money for Planned Parenthood." speculates that:

With Speaker John Boehner announcing today that he will resign from Congress next month, the idea may generate more support from conservative Republicans who have been arguing for a shutdown of the federal government in order to attempt to de-fund Planned Parenthood.

2 - Values voters gather in Washington, Cruz wins straw poll

A total of 8 Republican Presidential candidates made their case to what are called "values voters," who could be characterized as conservative Christians, at the annual Values Voter Summit, sponsored by FRC Action, a sister organization to the Family Research Council, headed by Tony Perkins.  The Hill reports that for the third straight year, Texas Senator Ted Cruz won the Summit's straw poll, with 35 percent of those voting, ahead of runner-up Ben Carson’s 18 percent.  Last year, Cruz edged out Carson by just 5 percentage points.  In third, it was former AK Governor Mike Huckabee, with 14 percent; then, in fourth, FL Senator Marco Rubio. In fifth place, with 5 percent, it was Donald Trump.

Carson won the event’s poll for vice president, his second consecutive win for that category.

According to the VVS websiteother candidates addressing the crowd included Lindsey Graham, Bobby Jindal, and Rick Santorum.

So who's the strongest with evangelicals?  The Boston Globe ran a story that included results of 2 recent polls.  One was the CNN poll released September 10, a national poll of Republicans in which 32 percent of white evangelicals said they would vote for Donald Trump. Carson was second, with 28 percent. No other candidate was in double digits.

The Globe reported on a Washington Post-ABC News poll released on September 14 which showed that Trump’s numbers are better among white evangelicals than almost any other subgroup of voters. In the survey — which also showed Trump surging among voters overall — 54 percent of evangelicals support him on immigration, 62 percent think he is qualified to be president, and 50 percent think he is honest and trustworthy.

Warren Smith, Vice-President of WORLD Magazine says "not so fast"...he says that what he calls the "myth" of Trump support among evangelicals...

...likely started in August, when a Fox News poll said Trump was the top choice of “white evangelical” voters. But polls like this use methodology that allows respondents to self-identify their religious affiliation without any examination of their actual beliefs.

Smith quotes Chris Anderson, president of Anderson Robbins Research, which helped conduct the Fox News poll. Smith says that Anderson told him that the survey question asked, “Would you describe yourself as a born-again or evangelical Christian?” 

Smith adds:

That may sound like a straightforward question, but people who do religion polling for a living know a dirty little secret: People lie, and there’s no way to know they’ve lied unless you ask more questions that expose the lie. A famous Barna survey found that while more than 25 percent of Americans self-identify as evangelicals, less than 10 percent actually hold historically evangelical beliefs, such as the divinity of Jesus, a historical resurrection, and the authority of the Bible.

He also cites a Gallup survey of religious voters, which found that Trump received just a 22-percent favorability rating among the “highly religious” respondents, which Gallup says more accurately represents true evangelicals.

And, WORLD has been conducting a monthly survey of evangelical leaders.  In the most recent, 91 participated in September, just after the second debate.  Rubio led the poll, with 37.4% of respondents saying he was their first choice.  Ted Cruz was second, with 19.8%, and Carly Fiorina moved up to third, with 18.7% of respondents.  When you combine the number picking a candidate first with those picking the candidate second, Rubio is up to almost 57%, with Fiorina at just over 39 percent, with Cruz over 30.  Trump was the first choice of 1.1%, identical to the percentage who picked him second.

1 - Pope's visit includes Washington, New York, and Philadelphia

The greatly-anticipated visit of Pope Francis to America has reached its conclusion, and there are enormous spiritual and political implications of the visit.  The Pope made a strong defense for religious freedom in some opening comments at the White House and on the next-to-last day of his visit, gathered at the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia.  And along the way, he had his moments as a head of state, shown in his addresses to Congress and the United Nations.

But in his U.N. address, he made some bold declarations.  According to the Christian Post website, he said: "Man is not only a freedom which he creates for himself. Man does not create himself. He is spirit and will, but also nature. Creation is compromised where we ourselves have the final word. The misuse of creation begins when we no longer recognize any instance above ourselves. When we see nothing else but ourselves."

He added: "Consequently, the defense of the environment and the fight against exclusion demand that we recognize a moral law written into human nature itself. One which includes the natural difference between man and woman and the absolute respect for life in all its stages and dimensions."

The Post reports that the Pontiff touched on issues such as human trafficking, climate change, sexual exploitation, social and economic justice and international security, and religious freedom. He also warned against war and praised the Iran nuclear deal.

Austin Ruse, President of the Center for Family and Human Rights, was a guest on The Meeting House, and had made reference to concerns by himself and other pro-life individuals about the Congressional speech, but he was complimentary about the U.N. address.

Baptist Press noted that in his Congressional speech, Pope Francis commented on a variety of issues but without being particularly specific on abortion and marriage.

Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, expressed gratitude the pope spoke to Congress "about the dignity of all human life, whether the unborn, the elderly or the immigrant, as well as the importance of the family in a free and flourishing society," but went on to say, "I do think that the pope's address was an opportunity to address urgent moral issues like abortion culture and religious liberty with more clarity and directness than what was delivered."

Fox News reported on the Pope's first message on American soil, to a gathering at the White House, where, in addition to addressing climate change, he made a strong statement on religious freedom, stating that American Catholics, along with countless other people of goodwill are "likewise concerned that efforts to build a just and wisely ordered society respect their deepest concerns and their right to religious liberty. That freedom reminds one of America's most precious possessions ... all are called to be vigilant, precisely as good citizens, to preserve and defend that freedom from everything that would threaten or compromise it."

In Philadelphia, he spoke in front of Independence Hall, and while not address specifics, he made broad statements of support of religious freedom.  CNN quotes the Pontiff as saying: "Religious freedom certainly means the right to worship God, individually and in community, as our conscience dictates," adding, "But religious liberty, by its nature, transcends places of worship and the private sphere of individuals and families."

Sunday, September 20, 2015

The 3 - September 20, 2015

In this week's edition of my week-in-review feature, The 3, the Alabama Supreme Court has ruled that the state does not have to recognize a lesbian adoption.  Also, abortion was front and center on Capitol Hill Friday, as the House passed 2 pro-life bills.  And, there was a faith element to Presidential politics, with more talk of social issues in the GOP debate, and a Democratic candidate visited a Christian university.

3 - AL Supreme Court: state does not have to recognize lesbian adoption

The Alabama Supreme Court has refused to recognize a lesbian adoption from Georgia, according to a story on The Daily Caller website, which reports that this is a case centered around a lesbian couple who shared custody of three children but later split up.  One of them actually gave birth to the children, and her partner later adopted the children while living in Georgia, so they could both be the official, legal parents.

The biological mother, who now lives in Alabama, had tried to keep the children from the adoptive mother after the couple split. The Alabama high court ruled that the state did not have to recognize the adoption made in Georgia, stripping the adoptive mother of her rights to the children.

In its decision, the court reasoned that Georgia did not properly rule on its own laws regarding same-sex adoption and that the state has a vested interest in making sure adopted children have good homes.  That is a contention that the Daily Caller points out that gay rights groups have issues with.

2 - U.S. House passes 2 pro-life bills, including legislation to defund Planned Parenthood

On Friday, the U.S. House of Representatives took action on 2 pro-life bills, both of which passed the chamber. reported that the House voted 241 to 187 for a bill that would freeze Planned Parenthood funding for one year while Congress conducts an investigation into its sales of aborted babies and their body parts.

239 Republicans and 3 Democrats voted for the bill. 183 Democrats and 3 Republicans voted against it, with one Republican voting "present." Rep. Diane Black, a Tennessee Republican, is the pro-life lawmaker sponsoring the legislation and a nurse for more than 40 years. reported that the estimated $235 million of savings would be invested into Federally Qualified Health Centers. also reported that the House, by a vote of 248-177, passed the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, sponsored by pro-life Congressman Trent Franks, which would make failure to provide standard medical care to children born alive during an abortion a federal crime. It would also apply stronger penalties in cases where an overt act is taken to kill the abortion survivor.

1 - Faith and Presidential politics: 2nd Republican debate, Sanders at Liberty U.

A county clerk in Kentucky, the Planned Parenthood videos, and even casino gambling, were issues that were addressed on the debate stage on Wednesday, the second debate featuring Republican candidates.

Rachel Alexander, Senior Editor of The Stream was a guest on my radio program and offered some analysis.  Click here to access.

In her article for The Stream, she wrote:

Bush was challenged for disagreeing with Mike Huckabee that the jailing of Kentucky clerk Kim Davis represented the “criminalization of Christianity.” Bush responded by insisting that didn’t accurately represent his viewpoint and that he believes there should be an accommodation for religious freedom at the local level.

The Planned Parenthood issue was also addressed by some candidates.  Alexander wrote:

Cruz and Kasich also disagreed about stripping Planned Parenthood of funding if it were to result in shutting down government for two weeks. Kasich explained that as long as Obama is president, he won’t sign the legislation. Cruz responded in part, “We shouldn’t send millions of dollars to funding criminal enterprises. Republicans surrender, unlike Obama who sticks with his principles.”

Fiorina may have gotten the most applause of the evening when she added, “Anyone who has watched this video, I dare anyone to watch a fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its leg kicking, while someone wants to harvest its brain. This is about the character of this nation, and if we will not force Obama to veto this bill, shame on us.”

Alexander also referred to a skirmish between Donald Trump and Jeb Bush over the topic of casino gambling:

At one point, Trump and Bush got into an argument over whether Trump ever attempted to put casinos in Florida. Bush said he stopped him from bringing casino gambling to the state, and Trump said that wasn’t true and that if he’d wanted to put casinos there he would have made it happen. Which candidate was lying? It was hard to tell from the debate, but it was Trump who apparently was playing fast and loose with the truth...

Alexander referred to a Business Insider fact check on that issue.

Meanwhile, on the same university campus where Republican Ted Cruz announced his candidacy for the Presidency, Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders spoke this past week.  It was at a convocation at Liberty University, and according to a piece on the WORLD Magazine website by News Editor Jamie Dean:

Sanders’ message at Liberty stuck with his usual talking points, but offered a biblical twist. The candidate called on students to pursue justice for others, based on Jesus’ teaching on the Golden Rule and lesson from the book of Amos.

Christians agree with Sanders on the importance of helping the needy, but instead of the church, Sanders wants the U.S. government to fill that role. The Wall Street Journal estimates his plans for universal healthcare, free tuition at public colleges, and other massive programs would cost $18 trillion.

Dean also pointed out about Sanders: "After thanking Liberty for the invitation to speak, he quickly acknowledged Christians disagree with him on important issues and declared his own creed of sorts." He said in the event, "I believe in women’s rights and the rights of a woman to control her own body," adding, “I believe in gay rights and gay marriage. Those are my beliefs, and it is no secret."

Sunday, September 13, 2015

The 3 - September 13, 2015

In this week's edition of The 3, my week-in-review feature:  there is news from California that the legislative body there has approved a bill allowing physicians to assist dying patients to end their lives.  Also, a Kentucky county clerk who would not issues marriage licenses to same-sex couples is free from jail.  And, a Navy chaplain can now look forward to retirement with no blemishes on his record as the result of the findings of a committee, released just before Labor Day.

3 - California legislature approves physician-assisted suicide bill

In a special legislative session in California, the state Senate voted 23 to 14 to approve the controversial End of Life Option Act, which would allow physicians to prescribe lethal drugs to their dying patients, according to the Christianity Today website, which reported that the lower house, the state Assembly voted earlier in the week 42-33 to approve the bill.

Gov. Jerry Brown had called the session to focus solely on financing for MediCal, the state health insurance program. The story says that he has yet to announce whether he would sign any physician-assisted suicide bill. He has until October 11 to sign or veto the bill.

The story points out that:

Public debate over assisted suicide changed as Californian Brittany Maynard, 29, a terminally ill cancer patient, began public advocacy for it on YouTube and CNN. She moved from California to Oregon to take advantage of Oregon’s Death with Dignity law. She died November 1.

The CT story referred to a Life News story regarding the Assembly vote on Wednesday, which said:

Assembly members didn’t focus on the bill’s language,” said Margaret Dore, president of Choice Is an Illusion, regarding the bill modeled on similar laws in Oregon and Washington State. “The bill is sold as giving people choice and control at the end of life. Yet the bill’s language is stacked against the patient and applies to people with years, even decades, to live.”

There was also a development in the U.K. on the topic on Friday.  According to the Christianity Today story:

Earlier on Friday in the UK, the Parliament delivered a stunning setback to proponents of physician-assisted suicide. Voting 118 to 330, MPs voted down a private member's bill that would allow a "competent" person with a terminal illness to request professional medical assistance in dying.

2 - Kim Davis released from jail, plans to return to work

Rowan County, Kentucky clerk Kim Davis was released from jail on Tuesday, September 8, and a Religion News Service/USA Today report had initially said that she needed time to rest and would not return to work until Friday or Monday, according to attorneys with Liberty Counsel, who are representing Davis.

The Liberty Counsel website reported that Davis would return on Monday.  It quoted her as saying:

I am overwhelmed that people took the time out of their busy lives to write and tell me that they are standing with me. Every letter has been kind and encouraging. I am heartened that God’s people are not huddled up in a corner, but they are standing strong. Standing begins on our knees. I have no doubt that God answers prayer. God is so real to me. He has transformed my life.

The RNS/USA Today story said that U.S. District Judge David Bunning released Davis from jail Tuesday on the condition that she does not interfere with her deputies issuing licenses to same-sex couples. He said he was satisfied that the Rowan County Clerk’s Office would comply with his order. He warned Davis she would be sanctioned again if she violates the conditions of her release.  The judge ordered the court-appointed lawyers for her deputy clerks to provide an update every 14 days on whether they are complying with their sworn pledge to issue licenses to all couples.

The story quotes Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel as saying that Davis had not abandoned her conscience. In a statement, he said: “We are pleased that Kim Davis has been ordered released,” adding that, “she can never recover the past six days of her life spent in an isolated jail cell like a common criminal because of her conscience and religious convictions.”  The American Civil Liberties Union, which represents four couples who sued her, said its goal has been achieved.

1 - Chaplain charged with discrimination against gay people exonerated

A Naval chaplain is now on track to retire after he was cleared of charges brought against him accusing him of being intolerant and insensitive.

The news came down actually on the Friday before Labor Day and has spread in the past week as Lt. Cmdr. Wesley Modder can now look forward to the next step in a highly regarded Naval career.

The Military Times reported that Modder was given a "detachment for cause" letter in February and ousted from his job after his commander concluded that he was "intolerant" and "unable to function in the diverse and pluralistic environment" of his current assignment at the Navy Nuclear Power Training Command in South Carolina.

The article reports that a high-level review at Navy Personnel Command rejected the commander's recommendation to fire the chaplain, which will clear the way for Modder to retire in good standing as he nears his 20th year of service.

According to the website for Liberty Institute, the legal advocacy organization that defended the chaplain, the controversy began in late 2014, when a handful of sailors complained that they disagreed with the biblical views Chaplain Modder expressed during private counseling sessions, even though the views were in line with the teachings of his faith.    

His former commander, Captain Jon R. Fahs, had labeled Modder “unfit” and requested that the Navy detach the chaplain for cause and send him before a Board of Inquiry, which could have involuntarily removed Modder from the Navy and prematurely ended his career, which was described as "stellar."

The Military Times reported that Rear Adm. David Steindl, the head of Navy Personnel Command NPC and deputy chief of Naval Personnel, wrote a letter to Fahs dated Sept. 3, stating that Navy Personnel Command said the commander's investigation's "evidence of substandard performance in this case does not meet the standard of gross negligence or complete disregard for duty" that is required under Navy rules to warrant a detachment for cause, which is filed into an officer's record and can trigger a board that ends their service.

As it was stated on the Liberty Institute website:

The victory is of wide-ranging importance—as the case was closely watched by Congress, millions of active service and retired personnel, chaplains, and those interested in the future of religious freedom.