Sunday, February 19, 2017

The 3 - February 19, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, February 12, 2017

The 3 - February 12, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, February 05, 2017

The 3 - February 5, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2 - Boy Scouts to accept transgender "boys"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, January 29, 2017

The 3 - January 29, 2017

On this week's edition of The 3, my weekly release highlighting three recent news stories of relevance to the Christian community, I discuss the response to President Trump's order on refugees, which highlights an issues that generates a variety of positions from Christians; an issue that forces people to deal with matters of compassion and security.  Also, the U.S. House passed a bill that prevents taxpayer funds from being used for abortions.  And, the March for Life took place in Washington, generating awareness and enthusiasm for the sanctity of life, and perhaps generating more media attention because of the Vice-President's appearance and the chiding of the President.

3 - Trump rethinks refugee programs, announces he will prioritize Christian refugees

There are several spiritual elements related to the action taken by President Trump on Friday. The summary, from USA Today, says:
President Trump suspended the U.S. refugee program for 120 days, banned all immigrants from seven Muslim countries for 90 days and ordered his administration to develop "extreme vetting" measures for immigrants from those countries to keep "radical Islamic terrorists" out of the United States.
The order, signed Friday, also bars all Syrians from entering the U.S., and gives preference in admission to Christians, whom he said are persecuted in majority Muslim countries.
David French of National Review provided some analysis of the tenets of Trump's action:

1) The order "temporarily halts refugee admissions for 120 days to improve the vetting process, then caps refugee admissions at 50,000 per year." French says that, "Before 2016, when Obama dramatically ramped up refugee admissions, Trump’s 50,000 stands roughly in between a typical year of refugee admissions in George W. Bush’s two terms and a typical year in Obama’s two terms."

2) It also "imposes a temporary, 90-day ban on people entering the U.S. from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen." As French points out, these countries are "either torn apart by jihadist violence or under the control of hostile, jihadist governments."

3) The order "puts an indefinite hold on admission of Syrian refugees to the United States" until the President determines that the "admission of Syrian refugees is consistent with the national interest.;" French says, "This is perhaps the least consequential aspect of his order — and is largely a return to the Obama administration’s practices from 2011 to 2014."

But, Ed Stetzer of Wheaton College and co-host of Breakpoint This Week, is concerned about some aspects of the new policy.  He writes in Christianity Today:
It is not wrong to be wise and cautious. And part of President Trump’s plan is, I think, wise. For example, his call for safe zones in affected areas is good policy. Yet I’m grieved by other parts of the policy.
You see, too much of the policy is driven by unfounded fear of refugees.
Stetzer says, "There is a 1 in 3.64 billion per year chance that you will be killed by a refugee in a given year. If those odds concern you, please do not get in a bathtub, car, or even go outside. And, for contrast, there were 762 tragic murders in Chicago alone last year comparted to 0 people who were killed last year (or ever since the mid-70s) by a refugee-perpetrated terrorist attack."

He says that, for Christians, to be pro-life is to be pro-refugee.  Stetzer writes:
There is no more critical time than now for God’s people to instead turn towards the helpless, the homeless, the broken, with open arms and hearts, ready to pour out every ounce of love we can muster.
So, there is the delicate balance here, that Christians are having to deal with, between compassion and security.  There is an analysis of the pros and cons of the new policy at the Clarion Project website. That site summarizes the order:
Far from a being a racist ban on Muslims, the temporary plan is being implemented “in order to protect Americans.” The executive order states, “We must ensure that those admitted to this country do not bear hostile attitudes toward our country and its founding principles.”
Regarding the prioritizing of Christians who want to come into the United States as refugees, the President told David Brody of CBN News:
“We are going to help them,” President Trump tells CBN News. “They’ve been horribly treated. Do you know if you were a Christian in Syria it was impossible, at least very tough to get into the United States? If you were a Muslim you could come in, but if you were a Christian, it was almost impossible and the reason that was so unfair, everybody was persecuted in all fairness, but they were chopping off the heads of everybody but more so the Christians. And I thought it was very, very unfair.”
David French at National Review quoted from a CNS News report:
The Obama administration has resettled 13,210 Syrian refugees into the United States since the beginning of 2016 — an increase of 675 percent over the same 10-month period in 2015.
Of those, 13,100 (99.1 percent) are Muslims — 12,966 Sunnis, 24 Shi’a, and 110 other Muslims — and 77 (0.5 percent) are Christians. Another 24 (0.18 percent) are Yazidis.
David Curry, President of Open Doors USA, is concerned.  He is quoted in a press release as saying:
...Expediting refugee entry for those intentionally targeted by ISIS, like the Yazidis and Christians and some Muslim groups, seems appropriate. However, cherry-picking one religion over another only exacerbates the already severe worldwide trend of religious persecution. We encourage a need-based approach that treats all faiths equally and works toward the comprehensive strengthening of religious freedom around the world."
As USA Today reported, a Federal Judge in Brooklyn on Saturday "granted an emergency stay sought by immigrants’ rights lawyers. The judge’s ruling applies to those who have already arrived in the U.S. and those who are in transit who hold valid visas. Judges in Massachusetts and Virginia also ordered halts." The Department of Homeland Security stated, "...prohibited travel will remain prohibited, and the U.S. government retains its right to revoke visas at any time if required for national security or public safety. It added, "No foreign national in a foreign land, without ties to the United States, has any unfettered right to demand entry into the United States."

2 - U.S. House votes to prevent taxpayer dollars from going to abortion

This past week was a dramatic one for the sanctity of life, and the U.S. House made another strong statement that basically American taxpayers should not have to pay for abortion.

LiveActionNews.org reports that the a bill to make the Hyde Amendment permanent passed 238-183. The article points out that "The Hyde Amendment prohibits taxpayer dollars from being used to fund abortions through Medicaid."

According to the piece, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, in a statement, said: "This legislation protects the conscience of American taxpayers by ensuring that not a single dollar of their hard-earned money goes to fund abortions. As hundreds of thousands of Americans flock to Washington for the March for Life, we must never forget that defending all of our people – especially the defenseless – must be our top priority if we want to be a good and moral nation.”

Rep. Diane Black of Tennessee is quoted in the article.  She noted that in the Women's March the preceding weekend,  "...there were millions of pro-life women who were explicitly told that they were unwelcome at this event. So today, the people’s House is giving them, and the more than 60% of Americans from all political persuasions who oppose taxpayer funding of abortion, a voice."  Rep. Martha Roby of Alabama is quoted as saying: “It is our enduring responsibility to protect the unborn, and it is imperative we get this right" and that "the one voice not heard today is that of the baby.”

The bill now goes on to the Senate - if it passes there, then it will go to the President for his signature. In light of his support for March for Life and the pro-life executive order preventing tax dollars from paying for abortions internationally, that he would sign this bill.

1 - March for Life attracts multiple thousands and (finally!) media attention

This past Friday, the 44th annual March for Life attracted people from throughout America who marched through the streets of the nation's capital to advocate for the protection of the lives of the unborn.  And as WORLD Magazine pointed out, Vice-President Mike Pence was the highest ranking elected official ever to address the event, and he declared: “Life is winning again in America,” adding, "Compassion is overcoming convenience, and hope is defeating despair."

Presidential advisor Kellyanne Conway was also there, and President Trump tweeted out his support, according to WORLD:
“The #MarchForLife is so important. To all of you marching—you have my full support!” Trump tweeted.
Trump did more than that - earlier in the week, he took ABC News to task for not covering the March.  The Washington Examiner ran a story on Friday, which opened up:
ABC's "Good Morning America" didn't cover the big "March for Life" anti-abortion protest in Washington last year, but it decided to this year, after a very public push from President Trump.

In an interview with ABC News anchor David Muir that aired Wednesday, Trump said that the annual march is ignored by the news media. "They say the press doesn't cover them," he said.
The article noted that the Media Research Center reported that "the march was not covered by ABC at all in 2016, but Friday on 'Good Morning America,' the show gave about 2 minutes of coverage to the event."

And, Breakpoint co-host Eric Metaxas was quoted in a LifeSiteNews.com article on what he said from the stage at the March for Life:
Eric Metaxas blasted the mainstream media at today’s March for Life for its bias against the pro-life movement, punctuating his brief address with the question: “ABC News, are you covering this?”
“Jesus is Lord. ABC News are you covering that? ABC News, are you covering this? You want to see the women of America? Here they are..."
The author and commentator referred to Roe v. Wade as "fake law" and said that the ruling was “anti-science,” adding, “If the DNA of the baby in the womb is different than the DNA of the mother how can it be the mother’s body we’re talking about?”

Monday, January 23, 2017

The 3 - January 22, 2017

In this week's edition of The 3, highlighting three stories of relevance to the Christian community, a former student in a Missouri graduate school who would not counsel same-sex couples and was dismissed because of it has reached a settlement with the school.  Also, there is some pro-life news, including the speculation that American taxpayer funding of international abortion would be curbed by the new Administration.  And, there were a number of Christian-related events and speakers surrounding this past week's inauguration activities.

3 - MO school settles with student dismissed for views on homosexuality

Andrew Cash is a former graduate student at Missouri State University, who had alleged that the school dismissed him from its Masters program for counseling because he had objected, on religious grounds, to counseling same-sex couples.  That's according to a Christian Headlines report from WORLD News Service, relating that the lawsuit Cash had filed against the school had been settled.

The settlement was finalized last month but became public recently because the Springfield News-Leader reported on the agreement after an open records request. According to the terms of the settlement, the MSU Board of Governors will pay $25,000 from the state of Missouri legal defense fund; the Board stated that the amount is “the estimated tuition cost for Cash to obtain a master’s degree in counseling from Evangel University or another similar institution.” The university did not admit liability.

Cash had reportedly told the school after starting an internship with a local Christian counseling agency that he, according to the story, "would have to refer gay couples to another counselor due to his religious convictions about homosexuality. He said he would be happy to counsel gay individuals on any other matter—depression or anxiety, for example—but he could not counsel regarding same-sex relationships." After that, he was booted from the program.

2 - Pro-life headlines: amidst speculation that President will renounce U.S. taxpayer funding for international abortions, pro-life groups get cool reception at Women's March

This past Sunday was the 43rd anniversary of the Supreme Court decision, Roe vs. Wade, and supporters of the right of unborn children to live are gearing up for a big week, culminating in the March for Life in Washington, DC this Friday, which has historically drawn multiple thousands to the National Mall in the nation's capital.  And, local and regional events take place around the time of the Roe anniversary.

And, LifeNews.com published an article that included a report from a pro-abortion publication called, Foreign Policy, that stated:
As one of his first acts in the Oval Office, the Republican president-elect plans to restore the “Mexico City policy” as soon as Sunday, a congressional staffer told Foreign Policy. The timing of the executive order on Sunday would coincide with the anniversary of the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in the United States.
The LifeNews.com story gave some history on the Mexico City Policy:
The Mexico City Policy covered over $400 million in federal funds, part of which flowed to the abortion businesses International Planned Parenthood and Marie Stopes International for their foreign efforts.
As LifeNews.com reported, the pro-life policy had been in place during the entirety of the Bush administration and Obama rescinded it on his first week in office. Named for a 1984 population conference where President Reagan initially announced it, the Mexico City Policy made it so family planning funds could only go to groups that would agree to not do abortions or lobby foreign nations to overturn their pro-life laws.
Well, on Monday morning, the President did indeed sign the executive order reinstating the Mexico City Policy.  LifeNews.com stated:
Today, Trump restored the Mexico City Policy by executive order.
The Executive Memorandum to reinstate the Mexico City Policy stops taxpayer funding of groups that perform and promote abortions overseas but does not stop non-abortion international assistance. The order ensures U.S. foreign aid will continue to go to health care and humanitarian relief in the millions of dollars. It just will not subsidize abortion overseas.
In an e-mail to the website, Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser said: "President Trump’s immediate action to promote respect for all human life, including vulnerable unborn children abroad, as well as conscience rights, sends a strong signal about his Administration’s pro-life priorities.”
And, there were women that took to the streets of DC this past Saturday to bring a pro-life perspective to the Women's March on Washington, even though it became clear that the agenda of the march was devoted to so-called "reproductive rights," i.e, the ability of a woman to terminate her pregnancy.  Students For Life of America had a contingent there, which made its way to the front of the gathering.

According to The Blaze, Tina Whittington, the executive vice president of Students for Life, told the publication that their effort was about “making sure the pro-life voice was heard today.” She is quoted as saying, "Abortion is one of the most violent things that can happen to a woman, and one of the main messages of the march was anti-violence, especially violence towards women, and so we wanted to speak for those unborn women who can’t speak for themselves, so being out there in front was important to us."

The Blaze story said: "The pro-life group eventually moved to the side, where some agitated protesters continued to object to their presence. Others said they supported the pro-lifers’ right to protest."

On its Twitter feed, Students for Life quoted a Trump Administration official:
It's a shame that the March for Life, which estimates the same number of marchers in DC (650,000 in 2013) and will be happening next Friday, will not get anywhere near the same amount of coverage that this march got - and those pro-life members were NOT welcome at the Women's March.   The organizers noted that their platform is pro-choice and they revoked partnership status' from pro-life groups.
1 - Faith events surround inauguration

In the midst of overtly Christian events, as well as traditional events containing an evangelical Christian presence, Donald Trump took the oath of office on Friday as the 45th President of the United States.  Here is some material from my Meeting House Front Room blog on Friday:
God will not give America the leader it wants necessarily, but will give us the leader we need - and He speaks and operates through the electoral process.  Throughout the Bible, we see that God chose leaders who are imperfect, some of them downright wicked.  Even David, who was described as a man after God's own heart, had some very apparent flaws.  Nebuchadnezzar enslaved the Jewish people, but God worked in his life.  Some have likened Donald Trump to Cyrus, a secular king who was sympathetic with the cause of God's chosen people.
We don't know what God might do through Donald Trump in the next four years, but I'm thankful that there are Christian leaders who apparently have his ear.  The evangelical advisory board that was active in the campaign will continue to operate during the Administration, as member Dr. Richard Land announced on The Meeting House yesterday.  There were a number of Christian leaders who spoke at the traditional worship service at St. John's Episcopal Church in D.C. this morning. Christian prayers and comments were offered at the Inauguration.   And tomorrow, the customary service at the National Cathedral will feature some voices that have been heard on Faith Radio.
As Christianity Today reports:
The National Prayer Service, hosted at the Episcopal cathedral Saturday morning, will feature two former presidents of the Southern Baptist Convention, the granddaughter of Billy Graham, and Greg Laurie, the evangelist behind the popular Harvest America crusades, among a total of 26 faith leaders.
Representatives from Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Mormon, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, Buddhist, and Bahá’í traditions are also participating in the event...
Those two former SBC presidents are Jack Graham and Ronnie Floyd, who are both members of that advisory board, as is pastor David Jeremiah.  Alveda King, Harry Jackson, and Cissie Graham Lynch, daughter of Franklin and granddaughter of Billy Graham, are all on the list of participants.
A piece on the Religion News Service website proclaimed:
Donald J. Trump placed his hand on two Bibles and took the oath of office in a swearing-in ceremony that featured prayers and pronouncements of God’s favor by the largest assortment of clergy in inaugural history.
As the article points out, the President quoted from Scripture, from Psalm 133: “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!”  He also said in the speech," When you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice.”

According to the President's Facebook page, the speech included these words:
We must speak our minds openly, debate our disagreements honestly, but always pursue solidarity. When America is united, America is totally unstoppable. There should be no fear – we are protected, and we will always be protected.
We will be protected by the great men and women of our military and law enforcement and, most importantly, we are protected by God.
Among the six clergy who spoke at the Inauguration, four made their comments "in Jesus' name." The article says that: "Graham, who has said God allowed Trump to win the presidential election, made brief remarks before reading from 1 Timothy 2. He pointed out that a rain shower fell just as the new president began his inaugural address." He is quoted as saying, "In the Bible, rain is a sign of God’s blessing.”

That passage he read in 1 Timothy 2 includes instruction to pray for leaders, and as Stuart Shepard of Family Policy Alliance pointed out on Friday's edition of The Meeting House, it also includes a reference to the message of the gospel - there is one mediator between God and man: Christ Jesus.

Prior to the President's address, Samuel Rodriguez of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference read from Matthew chapter 5.  The RNS story said:
Rodriguez read from Chapter 5 in the Gospel of Matthew, including the Beatitudes and the “city on a hill” passage so central to America’s founding ideal and so popular in U.S. politics.
And instead of the more traditional translation of the opening of the Beatitudes, “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” Rodriguez used a different take from the New Living Translation of the Bible: “God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him.”

Sunday, January 15, 2017

The 3 - January 15, 2017

In this week's edition of The 3, highlighting three stories of relevance to the Christian community, I spotlight a new emergency hospital that has been built in the Nineveh Plains region of Iraq, a historical Christian homeland.  Also, another state is on the books as protecting pre-born life after 20 weeks gestation, but its attorney general has said he won't defend it.  And, a consortium of Christian leaders have signed on to an important religious freedom document that exposes the danger of so-called SOGI laws to freedom of religious expression.

3 - Ministry opens hospital in war-torn area of Iraq

This week, in the city of Mosul in Iraq, a new Samaritan's Purse emergency field hospital was dedicated.  The leader of that relief organization, Franklin Graham, was on hand, and the Samaritan's Purse website reports that "The 50-bed trauma unit is located on the Plains of Nineveh and is designed to treat those injured in the battle between Iraqi and coalition forces and ISIS militants in Mosul."  According to the story, an estimated three thousand people per day are fleeing the region, and some have life-threatening injuries.

Graham, in the dedication ceremony, said: “It’s a privilege to be here,” adding, “As a Christian, I want all people to know about God’s love for them." He also said, “We could not do this without the help of the Iraqi government and the international agencies, and we are so thankful for the cooperation we have received.”

The United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, Lise Grande said, "We’ve reached out to a number of organizations, asking, begging them to step forward...Dr. Graham, Samaritan’s Purse answered that call. We can’t thank you enough." Grande added, “You built this hospital in record time. Most of all we want to thank you for saving people. Because Samaritan’s Purse is here, thousands—tens of thousands—of people will survive…”

The emergency field hospital was readied in less than a month, and is part of the effort the ministry has undertaken to help people in the region - it has also been involved in helping to provide food, blankets, and tarps.

2 - KY passes new abortion ban, AG says he won't defend it

It is encouraging to see states enact legislation that protects life in the womb.  And, while some states have taken the bold steps to pass laws that forbid abortion past the age at which an unborn child's heartbeat is detected, perhaps 6 or 7 weeks, a number of states have approved legislation that will ban abortion after the time at which the child in the womb can feel pain, thought to be at about 20 weeks.

Baptist Press reports that Kentucky is one of the latest states to pass such legislation.  Recently, the Legislature there met in a rare Saturday session to pass a series of what the article terms "high-priority bills, including two that would curb abortions."  Governor Matt Bevin signed the bills - one is the late-term abortion bill, which "bans the procedures after 20 weeks of pregnancy, except in cases in which the mother's life is in danger. Physicians who violate the measure could have their medical licenses revoked and could be sentenced to up to 5 years in prison."

Also, there was a new ultrasound bill passed and signed.  According to Baptist Press:
...physicians are required to display the images so women can see, though they have the option to avert their eyes if they don't want to see them. Physicians face a $100,000 fine for a first offense and a $250,000 fine for subsequent offenses.
However, the Attorney General of the state, Andy Beshear, says, according to another piece on the Baptist Press website, that he will not defend the law.  He is quoted from a statement: "This law is clearly unconstitutional based on our review of numerous federal appellate rulings..."

But, the Governor says he'll take matters into his own hands.  The article states:
Bevin chastised Beshear for "refusing to do his job" to defend a law that had the support of nearly 80 percent of the state's lawmakers, a portion of them Democrats, and that is widely favored by Kentucky voters.

"AG Beshear would rather pander to his liberal, pro-abortion base than defend the law of Kentucky," Bevin said. "I will, therefore, continue doing it for him by defending these pro-life bills. The citizens of Kentucky demand and deserve no less."
Beshear, by the way, is the son of Bevin's predecessor as governor.

And, there's news out of Virginia, where the Governor there has said that he will veto a proposed abortion ban.  According to National Review, Governor Terry McAuliffe said that a 20-week ban, proposed so far by a Republican member of the state's General Assembly would perhaps bring economic harm to the state, although, as the article says, it's "unclear" how a 20-week restriction would do that.  McAuliffe is quoted as saying: “I can’t sit back and have that sitting out the same time I am traveling the globe recruiting businesses to Virginia."

The article goes on to say:
The Virginia governor is traveling for one such recruiting trip this coming weekend, and thus believed it necessary to condemn the pro-life bill before his meetings. “If there’s something that would be damaging toward business, and to our image around the country and the globe, I’ll veto it, you bet I will.”
Some great statistics from this article:
...the most recent polls reveal that almost two-thirds of Americans favor a 20-week abortion ban, including nearly 80 percent of Millennials. And a poll from last summer showed that 78 percent of people favor limiting abortion in some capacity, in many cases to the first trimester only. If anything, the tide of public opinion is surely turning in favor of abortion limitations.
Those are from surveys from the polling company, inc./Woman Trend and the Knights of Columbus, respectively.   And, an interesting note: the polling company, inc./Woman Trend has been operated by former Trump campaign manager who was recently appointed as Counselor to the President, Kellyanne Conway, who is scheduled to speak at next Friday's March for Life.

1- Christian leaders agree, sign statement: SOGI laws contradict religious freedom

There has been direct conflict between these "sexual orientation, gender identity" laws that have been proposed and/or enacted by states and municipalities across America and the religious freedom rights of individuals who do not believe that the LGBT agenda should have a preferred place in American society.  This was affirmed by a new document initiated by the Colson Center for Christian Worldview.

According to its website:
More than 75 prominent religious and thought leaders have come together as charter signatories of "Preserve Freedom, Reject Coercion," a statement that affirms every American’s freedom to peacefully live their lives according to their beliefs and opposes government coercion or censorship of fellow citizens who have different views. These leaders are united by the idea that all laws must respect freedom and promote justice for every citizen, no matter who they are.
The document says that:
SOGI laws empower the government to use the force of law to silence or punish Americans who seek to exercise their God-given liberty to peacefully live and work consistent with their convictions. They also create special preference in law for categories based on morally significant choices that profoundly affect human relations and treat reasonable religious and philosophical beliefs as discriminatory. We therefore believe that proposed SOGI laws, including those narrowly crafted, threaten fundamental freedoms, and any ostensible protections for religious liberty appended to such laws are inherently inadequate and unstable.
Religion News Service reported that a meeting was slated for this past weekend.  The article stated: "Major players in the ongoing battle over religious freedom and LGBT rights will meet at Yale University this weekend to discuss conscience rights, LGBT protections and legislation needed to balance those competing interests."

The article mentions the Colson Center document, but also talks about the so-called "Fairness for All" movement. Robin Fretwell Wilson, director of the family law and policy program at the University of Illinois College of Law and one of the meeting’s organizers said, “We all think … the view that nondiscrimination protections must crowd out every other value is wrong, but we have different visions of the right."  And, there are some in the Christian community who are open to embracing some sort of middle ground.  According to the article:
The National Association of Evangelicals and the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities saw the value of exploring efforts to balance LGBT nondiscrimination measures and religious liberty.
Over the last 16 months, they’ve met with 200 Christians whose jobs potentially intersect with SOGI policies.
“The goal was to solicit input from and the wisdom of these leaders. We wanted to hear their thoughts and concerns and offer support,” said Shapri LoMaglio, CCCU’s vice president for government and external relations.
Ryan Anderson of the Heritage Foundation has met with leaders who embrace the "Fairness for All" perspective, and is calling for civil debate.  But, as the Religion News Service story says:
He disagrees with the logic of Fairness for All legislation, arguing that now is not the time to turn sexual orientation and gender identity into protected categories under the law.

Instead, policymakers should prioritize passing laws that ensure the rights of traditional marriage supporters, Anderson said.
“In the aftermath of the (same-sex marriage) decision, we don’t need additional laws protecting gay and lesbian Americans. We need laws that protect those who lost,” he said.
This is an approach that is consistent with what Dr. Ben Carson said in his confirmation hearing this past week to become the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, according to a recent LifeSiteNews.com story:
"Of course, I would enforce all the laws of the land,” Carson said. “Of course, I think all Americans should be protected by the law.”
He then added, “What I have said before is I don’t think anyone should get ‘extra rights.’”
Carson made the same point in a 2014 speech at CPAC, a major conservative conference, earning the ire of LGBT and gay “marriage” advocates the year before the June 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges Supreme Court ruling legalizing homosexual “marriage.”
“Of course gay people should have the same rights as everyone else,” he said at the time. “But they don't get extra rights. They don't get to redefine marriage.”

Friday, January 06, 2017

The 3 - January 8, 2017

In this week's edition of The 3, spotlighting three stories of relevance to the Christian community, there's news out of the entertainment world relative to the LGBT agenda and the practice of the Christian faith.  Also, the Alabama Supreme Court has issued a ruling stating that an unborn child is a human being.  Plus, an eleventh-hour ruling out of Texas preserved the freedom of conscience for health professionals who do not wish to perform gender transition surgery.

3 - LGBT agenda alert: Burrell booted for comments on Biblical view of homosexuality; Gaines speaks out on controversy

Gospel singer Kim Burrell was scheduled to make an appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show this past Thursday to perform a duet with Pharrell Williams on a song from the movie, Hidden Figures. That appearance was cancelled.  Why?

Well, according to CBN News, a video surfaced of Burrell speaking at the Love & Liberty Fellowship Church.  She said in her message that, "The perverted homosexual spirit, and the spirit of delusion and confusion, it has deceived many men and women."

On Facebook Live after the video was released, Burrell "referred to unspecified "enemies" for spreading only a portion of her speech." She is quoted as saying that she has never discriminated against gays and lesbians. She said, "I love you and God loves you...But God hates the sin."

Meanwhile the views of the church attended by Fixer Upper television stars Chip and Joanna Gaines were trotted out in a BuzzFeed article over a month ago.  According to Faithwire, in a blog post, Chip was more direct about the controversy than he had been in some previous tweets.  The article states that:
Chip wrote that he and his wife wouldn’t be baited, encouraged people to extend love to their ideological opponents and implored readers to reject the “lie” that disagreement is “the same thing as hate.”
He wrote, "This past year has been tough. In my lifetime, I can’t recall humanity being more divided,” adding, "Plenty of folks are sad and scared and angry and there are sound bites being fed to us that seem fueled by judgement, fear and even hatred.”

  2 - In a ruling AL Supreme Court justices uphold humanity of unborn children 

In a case before the Alabama Supreme Court called, Stinnett v. Kennedy, the high court, in a unanimous decision, said that the case can proceed, stating that unborn children are human beings and are entitled to legal protection, according to a press release found on the Liberty Counsel website. The case is a wrongful death lawsuit, and the Supreme Court found that a lower court made an error by "dismissing Alabama resident Kimberly Stinett’s claim alleging the wrongful death of her unborn baby and granting summary judgement in favor of Karla Kennedy, M.D., on lack-of-proof-causation grounds."

The Liberty Counsel release said that the high court "largely based its decision on an amendment in Alabama’s Homicide Act, which “changed the definition of a ‘person’ who could be a victim of homicide to include ‘an unborn child in utero at any stage of development, regardless of viability.”

In a concurring opinion, Associate Justice Tom Parker wrote, "Unborn children, whether they have reached the ability to survive outside their mother’s womb or not, are human beings and thus persons entitled to the protections of the law—both civil and criminal. Members of the judicial branch of Alabama should do all within their power to dutifully ensure that the laws of Alabama are applied equally to protect the most vulnerable members of our society, both born and unborn."

1 - Court halts government mandate for health care professionals to perform transgender surgeries 

A new government mandate was scheduled to go into effect on January 1st, but the intervention of a Texas court prevented the 362-page regulation from beginning.  The Daily Signal reports that:
The court ruling came after eight states, an association of almost 18,000 doctors, and a Catholic hospital system challenged a new federal regulation that requires doctors to perform gender transition procedures on children, even if the doctor believes the treatment could harm the child.
A website has been set up about the court case, TransgenderMandate.org, and provides some research on the issue.  Some of that research indicates, according to the story that "up to 94 percent of children with gender dysphoria will grow out of their dysphoria naturally and live healthy lives without the need for surgery or lifelong hormone regimens."

The Daily Signal story also pointed out that:
The government itself does not require its own military doctors to perform these procedures. It also does not require coverage of gender transition procedures in Medicare or Medicaid—even for adults—because the government medical experts that oversee those programs did not believe medical research demonstrates that gender reassignment surgery improves health outcomes, with some studies demonstrating that these procedures were in fact harmful.

Sunday, January 01, 2017

The 3 - January 1, 2017

In this week's edition of The 3, some details on faith leaders who will be part of the Inauguration of Donald Trump as President.  Also, there is concern over the U.N. resolution condemning construction of housing in the West Bank region of Jerusalem.  Plus, there continues to be hope for Christians in the Nineveh Plains region of Iraq - troops in Mosul killed almost 100 ISIS fighters on Christmas Day.

3 - Faith leaders to speak, pray at inauguration announced

The lineup of faith leaders who will be part of the Inauguration Ceremony for President-elect Donald Trump has been set, and Christian Headlines listed the six people who will "pray and give readings during Trump’s inauguration," according to Relevant Magazine.  They are "Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Rabbi Marvin Hier, Bishop Wayne T. Jackson, Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, Rev. Franklin Graham, and Pastor Paula White."  The story states that:
They each represent a different religious group. Dolan is a Catholic, Hier a Jewish rabbi, Jackson a spokesman for African-American Christians, Rodriguez the president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, Graham a well known Christian evangelist and head of humanitarian organization Samaritan’s Purse, and White a televangelist who has prayed over Trump a number of times during his campaign.
The article relates that Committee Chairman Tom Barrack said in a statement, according to ChristianNews.net. “Since the first inaugural ceremony, our leaders have paid tribute to the blessings of liberty that have been bestowed upon our country and its people,” “I am pleased to announce that a diverse set of faith leaders will offer readings and prayers at the swearing-in of President-elect Trump and honor the vital role religious faith plays in our multicultural, vibrant nation.”

The Christian Headlines story notes that, "A few of these individuals, particularly White and Graham, were instrumental in carrying Trump to victory on Election Day."  Graham noted on Facebook this past week:
It is a privilege to be asked to take part in the inauguration of the next President of the United States. I am very thankful that prayer and reading from God's Holy Word will be a part of this important ceremony as the world watches. We need God's blessing and favor on this nation and our new president, Donald J. Trump. I'm praying for that--will you?
2 - Christian leaders voice concern over U.N. Israel resolution

Recently, the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution that condemned Israel for constructing housing for its people in the region known as the West Bank.   Even though the resolution passed overwhelmingly, the United States abstained in the vote, rather than vote against the resolution.

According to CBN.com:
The resolution says Israel’s settlements (Jewish communities in biblical Judea and Samaria, including eastern Jerusalem) aka the West Bank, which they consider Palestinian territory, have “no legal validity” and demands a halt to “all Israeli settlement activity.”
The resolution says Israel's settlements on Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, have "no legal validity." It demands a halt to "all Israeli settlement activities," saying this "is essential for salvaging the two-state solution."
“The Obama administration not only failed to protect Israel against this gang-up at the UN, it colluded with it behind the scenes,” Netanyahu said.
Not unexpectedly, you have Christian leaders, who believe that standing with Israel is important, who have weighed in on the vote.  Southern Baptist Convention President Steve Gaines tweeted out: "I strongly disagree with President Obama & John Kerry in the way they've come against America's ally - Israel."  And, former SBC President Bryant Wright sent out a tweet, which said: "Obama-Kerry to Israel,"Don't worry-Be happy-we know what's best for you" The naivette of elite progressives to evil & anti-semitism is sick."  Wright also tweeted out a link to a Washington Post op-ed piece by Charles Krauthammer, with the headline, Obama's final, most shameful, legacy moment.

Gary Bauer of American Values, wrote on Facebook:
In an administration that has moved from one low to the next when it comes to foreign policy and our role in the world, Obama set a new low last weekend as Jews and Christians were preparing to celebrate their most holy days. If you are confused about how damaging last week's U.N. Security Council vote is, all you need to know is that decent people on the left and right are condemning it, while Hamas and Islamic Jihad are dancing in the streets.
In condemning the action, recent guest on The Meeting House on Faith Radio, Laurie Cardoza-Moore, President of Proclaiming Justice to the Nations and United Nations Special Envoy for the World Council of Independent Christian Churches, said, in part, in a press release:
But once again, the member states of the UN Security Council have proven their blind hatred of Jews and Israel and the double standard applied to Israel is unquestionable. To deny the Jews legal, archeological, historical and biblical rights to their entire ancient homeland is despicable.
CNN reports that:
Republicans are looking to bring up a non-binding House resolution condemning a recent United Nations security council vote that has caused intense blowback from Israel. That resolution pronounced Israeli settlements in the West Bank "had no legal validity, constituting a flagrant violation under international law and a major obstacle to the vision of two States living side-by-side in peace and security."
Congressional Republicans denounced the vote and the US move to abstain and are threatening additional action targeting the UN, such as suspending funding.
Some top Democrats on Capitol Hill have also criticized the Obama administration's handling of the matter and the resolution is likely to pass with significant bipartisan support.
1 - Battle for Mosul continues: almost 100 ISIS fighters killed on Christmas

For some months now, a group of forces, including an estimated "90,000 Iraqi, Kurdish Peshmerga, tribal militia and coalition forces have banded together in the battle to retake Mosul," according to a report on The Blaze, which said that 97 Islamic State militants were killed on Christmas Day by coalition troops, as reported by Iraq's Joint Military Command.

WORLD Magazine had reported back in October:
Ground operations to retake the city and Nineveh Plains commenced Oct. 16. As darkness spread over the vast plains—a 1,600-square-mile expanse that forms the historic Christian heartland of Iraq—coalition airstrikes combined with heavy shelling to soften ISIS (or Islamic State) targets. By daybreak Kurdish forces had advanced more than 6 miles along the 600-mile front line they had staked against ISIS since August 2014.
That WORLD story added, "For the approximately 200,000 Iraqi Christians driven from this area that summer, the prospect of returning home is real again."

A story on the British website, The Telegraph, opened by saying "Mosul’s Christians are celebrating their third Christmas in exile, but this year there is new hope that the beleaguered community will soon be able to return home for the first time in two and a half years." The article reported that on Christmas Eve, "displaced Christians" were scheduled to "hold a torch-lit procession through Erbil, the capital of the nearby Kurdistan Region," and Christmas morning, a mass was scheduled at the Mar Youhanna church in Qaraqosh, a city that had been liberated toward the beginning of the offensive to retake Mosul.

Monday, December 26, 2016

The 3 - December 25, 2016

This week's edition of The 3, focusing in on three stories of relevance impacting the Christian community, includes the story of a Turkish pastor who is being held in prison and an effort to free him.  Also, two congressional committees have referred Planned Parenthood and some of those aligned with it for criminal prosecution.  And, an attempt to repeal North Carolina's so-called "bathroom law" failed in a special legislative session.

3 - Christian organization involved in appeal for release of missionary in Turkey

Andrew Brunson is an American pastor who had led a congregation in Turkey for 23 years prior to being detained in early October - he was sent to prison in early December, according to a story on the Christianity Today website, which states that Brunson was "jailed on erroneous allegations amid a crackdown on evangelicals in Turkey."  Also, the story says that "several fellow expatriate pastors have been deported."

Jay Sekulow, chief counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), which now represents Brunson’s family, is quoted as saying, “As we approach Christmas—a season of hope and promise—we know that people around the world will stand with Pastor Andrew—will be Pastor Andrew’s voice—supporting his fight for freedom, and will join us in urging Turkey to release him immediately."

Brunson was put in prison because of allegations of being tied to the Gülen movement, whose followers are blamed by the Turkish government of a July 15 coup attempt.  After that failed coup, the government has attempted to prosecute those supporting the movement. According to the CT story, the Christian group Middle Eastern Concern reports that more than 40,000 people, "including opposition party politicians, military personnel, journalists, and teachers, have been arrested since July."   Multiple pastors have been accused of being "a threat to national security.”

2 - Congressional committees direct criminal charges to be filed against Planned Parenthood 

This month, two Congressional committees have recommended that criminal charges be filed against the nation's largest abortion provider, Planned Parenthood.  According to LifeSiteNews.com, on Tuesday, December 13, the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, announced that "several Planned Parenthood affiliates, fetal tissue companies, and the Planned Parenthood Federation of America" were referred to the FBI and Department of Justice for investigation and possible prosecution. The recommendation was part of a "massive" report on its findings.

This follows an announcement on Thursday, December 1 that, according to LifeSiteNews, the House Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives, "announced that following their investigation into the abortion giant and its fetal body parts partners, the Panel made nine criminal and regulatory referrals. These were against Planned Parenthood, other abortion businesses, universities, and fetal tissue companies."

Lila Rose, President of Live Action, is quoted in the article as saying, "The evidence is overwhelming, from multiple findings of illegal profiting from the sale of body parts to violations of privacy laws so that certain vulnerable women could be targeted for their babies’ organs. Planned Parenthood must be prosecuted, and the over half a billion dollars in taxpayer subsidies that are propping up this absolutely corrupt and potentially criminal enterprise must be cut off immediately."

David Daleiden of the Center for Medical Progress wrote: "...The Committee’s report shows Planned Parenthood and their baby body parts business partners are totally unaccountable and must be prosecuted to the full extent of the law, and Planned Parenthood’s barbaric abortion empire must no longer be subsidized by taxpayer funds."

1 - North Carolina lawmakers leave transgender bathroom bill, HB 2, in place

The battle continued this past week over the state of North Carolina's law that requires all individuals to use government restroom facilities corresponding to their biological gender.  Earlier in the week, after a second attempt, the city of Charlotte rescinded its transgender rights ordinance that had been passed, setting off the Legislature's response in the form of what is known as HB 2.

Outgoing Governor Pat McCrory called a special session, and it looked as if some sort of deal had been reached that if Charlotte were to withdraw its ordinance, the state would drop HB2.  But, things rapidly fell apart once the Legislature convened, according to the North Carolina Family Policy Council, which reported on its website:
The NC General Assembly adjourned its fifth special session of the year this evening without repealing House Bill 2. After four days of rumors that a deal had been reached between leaders on both sides of the aisle and that the City of Charlotte would roll back the provisions that started the entire HB2 roller coaster, no agreement was reached.
The stalemate followed an intense day of discussion, debates and deliberations from which state lawmakers could find no ultimate resolution, leaving HB2 intact.
NC Family President John L. Rustin said during meetings prior to today’s session, it appeared there was little to no hope that HB2 would not be struck down. “We are grateful to all the good people of North Carolina who spoke out on this issue this week and who prayed for their legislators throughout the day. We applaud the members of the NC General Assembly who continued to stand strong in defense of safety, privacy and dignity of all of our citizens.”
State Senate leader Phil Berger, according to the Charlotte Observer, had proposed a bill "which would have coupled HB2’s repeal with a months-long moratorium on city ordinances like the one Charlotte passed and repealed..." That bill was voted down by the Senate, and the special session was adjourned. Incoming governor Roy Cooper had encouraged Democrats to vote against the bill, saying that "Republican leaders 'broke the deal' to fully repeal HB2 in return for Charlotte’s action."  The Observer story implied that trust had been broken with legislative leaders:
Asked if he hadn’t agreed to repeal HB2 if Charlotte rescinded the ordinance, Berger cited the fact that Charlotte took two votes.
“We were expecting Charlotte to repeal it and when they failed to do so, the deal was gone,” he said. “The moratorium was not there until we saw what they had done.”
But, as the Observer pointed out:
Many Republican lawmakers still support HB2 as a stand for traditional values and protection of women and children from predators. Conservative groups prodded them to stand firm.
“No economic, political or ideological pressure can convince me that what is wrong is right,” Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Forest said in a statement before the session. “It will always be wrong for men to have access to women’s showers and bathrooms. If HB2 is repealed, there will be nothing on the books to prevent another city or county to take us down this path again.”

Sunday, December 18, 2016

The 3 - December 18, 2016

In this week's edition of The 3, with three stories of relevance to the Christian community, there is some news relative to President Obama's signing of a bill designed to protect religious freedom internationally.  Also, a Texas judge has sided with a school nurse's aide who displayed a poster about the true meaning of Christmas from a famous television show.  And, while Ohio's governor signed a pro-life bill this week, there are some that do not feel he went far enough in protecting life, vetoing a more restrictive bill against abortion.

3 - International Religious Freedom Act signed by the President

On Friday, President Obama signed the Frank R. Wolf International Religious Freedom Act, which had been approved by the U.S. House the preceding Tuesday, just three days after the Senate approved an amended version of the bill, according to a report on the Christianity Today website.   The amended bill had been approved by the House and Senate without opposition.

The bill is named for the Frank R. Wolf, a former Congressman from Virginia who championed the cause of religious freedom.  The bill, according to the Christianity Today story, would promote religious liberty, by, among other things:

  • Requiring the ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom to report directly to the secretary of State;
  • Establishing an "entities of particular concern" category—a companion to the "countries of particular concern" classification used for nearly 20 years by the State Department—for non-government actors, such as the Islamic State (IS) and the Nigerian terrorist organization Boko Haram.
  • Instituting a "designated persons list" for individuals who violate religious freedom and authorizing the president to issue sanctions against those who participate in persecution.

This newly passed and signed bill updates a 1998 bill establishing a religious freedom office in the State Department, as well as an independent panel, called the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF). Wolf sponsored that bill.

Paul Coleman, deputy director of Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) International, is quoted as saying that the bill "demonstrates that the US is serious about the importance of religious freedom both for those who are suffering and for all those who love freedom in general." Bill sponsor Rep. Chris Smith noted, "From China and Vietnam to Syria and Nigeria, we are witnessing a tragic, global crisis in religious persecution, violence and terrorism, with dire consequences for religious believers and for US national security." He added, "Ancient Christian communities in Iraq and Syria are on the verge of extinction and other religious minorities in the Middle East face a constant assault from the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and Syria."

2 - Judge orders Charlie Brown Christmas poster does not have to be removed

A Texas judge has ruled in favor of - Linus from A Charlie Brown Christmas - in a recent row involving the state's Killeen Independent School District. Well, in a sense. Todd Starnes reported on his website that the judge issued a temporary restraining order against the district, which had backed a principal's decision that a door-length poster that was created by Dedra Shannon, an aide in Patterson Middle School’s nurses office, had to come down.

The poster featured Linus, the famous Christmas tree from the iconic television program, and Linus' famous words: "For unto you is born this day in the city of David a savior which is Christ the Lord. That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown."

Starnes reported that the school district had said, "...employees are not permitted to impose their personal beliefs on students.” The judge did say that the poster did have to include these words: “Ms. Shannon’s holiday message,” according to a report by the Killeen Daily Herald News.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton contended that the position of the school district violated the Texas "Merry Christmas" law, which was passed in 2013. Starnes says that law "stipulates that no school official in Texas can silence a Biblical reference to Christmas." Paxton did not mince words in a statement, in which he said: “Religious discrimination towards Christians has become a holiday tradition of sorts among certain groups,” adding, “I am glad to see that the court broke through the Left’s rhetorical fog and recognized that a commitment to diversity means protecting everyone’s individual religious expression.”

1 - OH Governor Kasich signs one pro-life bill, vetoes stronger ban on abortion

Ohio Governor John Kasich apparently had the choice to sign one or two pro-life bills recently, and he chose to join a host of other states in restricting abortion to under 20 weeks, rather than the approximately 6 weeks gestation provided for in the other.

According to LifeNews.com, Kasich made this statement: “I agree with Ohio Right to Life and other leading, pro-life advocates that SB 127 (a 20-week ban) is the best, most legally sound and sustainable approach to protecting the sanctity of human life..."

Ohio Right to Life thanked the governor and stated, "Ohio Right to Life supports Governor Kasich’s decision to bypass the heartbeat legislative approach at this time. While it must have been difficult, the current make-up of a radically pro-abortion Supreme Court required the Governor to exercise great restraint. Further, filling the current vacancy on the Court by our next President will still leave the court with a pro-abortion majority...”

But, Dr. James Dobson of Family Talk took the governor to task for not signing the more stringent bill.  He is quoted on his website as saying:
I want to congratulate the Ohio legislature for passing the 'Heartbeat Bill' and I commend their commitment to protecting the constitutional rights of the unborn.
Now, I join with millions of Evangelicals and Catholics in condemning Gov. John Kasich's veto of the bill. This was a cowardly and shameful action. Signing the bill would have been the constitutionally correct thing to do; it would have also been morally correct to do. Governor Kasich has sent a message to voters in Ohio–and across the nation–that the Governor isn't as committed to life as he professes to be.
Dobson called on the Speaker of the House in Ohio to immediately call for a vote to override the governor's veto of the "Heartbeat Bill."  LifeSiteNews.com reports that a coalition of pro-life organizations in the state are echoing that call for a veto override.