Sunday, October 13, 2019

The 3 - October 13, 2019

This week's edition of The 3, with three stories of relevance to the Christian community, highlights the Supreme Court's hearing this week on cases involving the expansion of civil rights law to include protections based on sexual orientation or gender identity.  Also, LGBTQ rights was the subject of a townhall sponsored by a cable news network, which included some statements which present concern to people of faith who are opposed to singling out LGBTQ individuals for certain rights.  And, a Florida city's ordinance against therapy for those who are struggling with same-sex attraction was struck down by a judge.

U.S. Supreme Court hears important case on expansion of civil rights law to gender identity and sexual orientation

The Alliance Defending Freedom calls the case that was heard by the U.S. Supreme Court last week an attempt by the ACLU to "rewrite federal law."  ADF is involved in one of three cases that have been combined before the high court, for which oral arguments were heard.  The summary of the case, according to the ADF website:
It all started when a male funeral director approached Tom in 2013 and explained that the funeral director would begin dressing and presenting as a woman while interacting with grieving families at work.
This funeral director had worked at Harris Funeral Homes for nearly six years and had agreed to follow the dress code since the time of hire. Tom took time to pray and consider the interests of the funeral director, his other employees, and the families that Harris Funeral Homes serves. Ultimately, Tom decided he could not agree to the funeral director’s plan.
The funeral director then filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which launched a lawsuit against Tom and Harris Funeral Homes for sex discrimination – claiming that “sex” includes “gender identity” in federal law.
Another Alliance Defending Freedom article states, "If the Supreme Court rules in favor of Harris Funeral Homes, the court would make it clear that unelected officials cannot redefine the law – only Congress has that power."  A loss at the high court "would have widespread consequences for everyone:"

ADF says, "It could undermine equal opportunities for women...," opening the doors for men claiming to be women "to take women’s athletic awards and scholarships." It would also put in jeopardy "the dignity and privacy of women — forcing organizations to open women’s shelters, locker rooms, and restrooms to men who believe themselves to be women..."  Plus, there are more implications outlined by ADF.

An analysis of the oral arguments from Kate Anderson, Senior Counsel at ADF on The Meeting House can be found here.

LGBTQ extremism on display at town hall for Democrat Presidential candidates

An article on The Federalist website gave a direct summary about the CNN town halls on Thursday night regarding positions on LGBTQ issues. It says:
Nine times last night the same basic half hour played itself out over and over again. As former Vice President Joe Biden pointed out early on, there weren’t many differences exposed, with the possible exception of former Congressman Beto O’Rourke promising to end tax breaks for churches, mosques, and synagogues. Instead, what we saw was a ritualistic exercise meant to make every candidate, and moderator, for that matter, accept incredibly progressive shibboleths regarding LGBT issues.
It called the evening's activities a "purity test" on these issues.  A Daily Caller article gave some examples.

Cory Booker:
“So for me, I cannot allow as a leader that people are going to use religion as a justification for discrimination,” Booker said. “I can respect your religious freedom, but also protect people from discrimination and as I said in an earlier answer.”
Elizabeth Warren decried what she called "hatefulness," saying, "The hatefulness frankly always really shocked me, especially for people of faith because I think the whole foundation is the worth of every single human being..."

About Pete Buttigieg, who is a gay man who is married to another man, who loves to lecture religious people from his faith perspective, the article said:
Buttigieg said Christians who use their religious beliefs against LGBTQ people make “God smaller.”
“It, to me, is an insult not only to us as LGBTQ people, but I think it’s an insult to faith to believe that it could be used to hurt people in that way,” Buttigieg said.
He his so-called same-sex marriage brought him closer to God and said he wished Vice President Mike Pence, a favorite rhetorical target of his, "could understand that."

Another Daily Caller article said:
Democratic presidential candidate Kamala Harris entered the CNN LGBTQ forum by saying her pronouns are “She, her, and hers,” to which CNN’s Chris Cuomo quipped, “Mine, too.”
It was reported by The Federalist that Cuomo later apologized:
After his performance, moderator Chris Cuomo took to twitter to apologize for joking with Kamala Harris that his pronouns are also Her/She/Hers after Harris used that progressive salutation. After all, you can’t really have a religion, which progressivism has become, which out sin and confession. And this event was very much like a church service in which the sacraments were announced and piously taken as Gospel.
Other moderators were two gay men: Anderson Cooper and Don Lemon.

But, it was Beto O'Rourke who stirred the most ire among Christian leaders.  The article states...
...O’Rourke immediately responded “yes,” he would require religious institutions to lose their tax-exempt status for such an offense.
“There can be no reward, no benefit, no tax break for anyone or any institution, any organization in America that denies the full human rights and the full civil rights of every single one of us,” he said.
A Christian Post article quoted Denny Burk of Boyce College, who, according to the article, "In a thread on Twitter Thursday...said O’Rourke’s proposal was a 'draconian assault on the First Amendment' and warned that it could 'bankrupt many churches.'"  The article goes on to say:
“Beto O'Rourke calls for Christian churches to lose their tax-exempt status unless they endorse gay marriage. This draconian assault on the First Amendment is now the MAINSTREAM view within the Democratic Party,” Burk began. “This could bankrupt many churches and religious institutions because it would dissuade contributions. Many churches would lose their property as a result of being unable to pay property taxes —especially in big cities. This is truly draconian and unconstitutional.”
And, then there was a disturbing stunt involving two children.  The Federalist describes the moment:
On two occasions 9-year-old children who transitioned from female to male appeared with their mothers to ask questions of candidates. Having a child who believes they are trans ask questions about how the state and society should deal with the issue of children transition ensures no substantive discussion can be had, because no sane and sensitive person would challenge such a child.
The article had also said, "There was no serious discussion about pending court cases regarding biological male athletes dominating girls and women’s sports. No real discussion of how to handle who really belongs in women’s shelters. No serious debate about how young is too young for a child to transition, either socially or medically."

Court victory regarding Florida city's ban on counseling people struggling with same-sex attraction

One of the emerging issues regarding the LGBTQ agenda has to do with therapy to help people overcome unwanted same-sex attraction.  While there are some who want to mischaracterize such therapy and use terms like, "gay conversion therapy," or "reparative therapy," in an attempt to discredit the practice of helping someone to change his or her orientation, groups like Liberty Counsel are fighting against laws to ban the practice.

Recently, in a challenge to Tampa's ordinance banning therapy that would provide help to those who are desiring freedom from these harmful attractions, according to Liberty Counsel's website:
...federal Judge William F. Jung issued an order granting summary judgment to Liberty Counsel in its suit to invalidate the Tampa ordinance that prohibited licensed counselors from providing voluntary talk therapy to minors seeking help to reduce or eliminate their unwanted same-sex attractions, behaviors, or identity. Today’s ruling permanently strikes down the ordinance, which also imposed significant monetary fines on counselors who provide this voluntary counseling. Liberty Counsel represents marriage and family therapist Robert Vazzo and his minor clients, as well as the Christian ministry, New Hearts Outreach Tampa Bay.
Notice the words, "voluntary talk therapy."  Nothing insidious here, that would give ammunition to critics of the practice.  Unless one doesn't believe a person can change through the power of Christ.  That is, after all, at the heart of the gospel.  The Bible teaches that a person should seek to overcome temptations and sinful behaviors, not to accommodate them.

The website quotes from the ruling, which states: "There is no grant of authority by the Florida Legislature to municipalities to substantively regulate healthcare treatment and discipline.” It goes on to say: “Nothing is more intimate, more private, and more sensitive, than a growing young man or woman talking to a mental health therapist about sex, gender, preferences, and conflicting feelings. The Ordinance inserts the City’s code enforcers into the middle of this sensitive, intense and private moment. But this moment is already governed by Florida’s very broad rights of privacy, something the Ordinance ignores…"

Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel, is quoted as saying, "The city of Tampa has no authority to prohibit counselors from helping their clients achieve their goals. Regulating healthcare is above the pay grade of local municipalities. While striking down the ordinance, the court shredded the arguments used to justify these unconstitutional counseling bans. This ruling dooms every municipality in Florida and is the beginning of the end of more than 50 similar local laws around the country."

Sunday, October 06, 2019

The 3 - October 6, 2019

This week in The 3, featuring three stories of relevance to the Christian community, there was an amazing expression of Christ's love and forgiveness in a Dallas courtroom, which was lauded by many, but opposed by some, including an atheist organization which took issue with the judge's actions in sharing Scripture.  Also, the University of Iowa and some of its leaders are in trouble for violating the First Amendment rights of a campus student group.  And, the U.S. Supreme Court has announced it will be placing an abortion case on its agenda.

Beautiful picture of forgiveness in Dallas courtroom

It was the culmination of a tense season in Dallas - a white police officer shoots an African-American man in his apartment; she claimed she was mistaken and thought it was her apartment.  26-year-old Botham Jean was dead, and the former officer, Amber Guyger, was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Following the sentencing, Botham's 18-year-old brother Brandt took the stand.  According to the Family Research Council website, he said: "I know if you go to God and ask him, he will forgive you." He added, "I want the best for you, because I know that's exactly what Botham would want you to do. And the best would be to give your life to Christ." Brandt then asked if he could give Guyger a hug; the presiding judge, Tammy Kemp granted permission, and even, as the article relates, "can be seen wiping away tears in the background." It goes on to say:
In fact, Kemp was so moved by the younger brother's actions that after official proceedings had ended, she stepped off the bench and retrieved her personal Bible from her chambers. Handing the Bible to Guyger, Kemp said, "You haven't done so much that you can't be forgiven." She then read John 3:16, and said, "You haven't done as much as you think you have, and you can be forgiven. You did something bad in one moment in time. What you do now matters."
The FRC piece notes:
Dallas Police Chief U. Reneé Hall spoke for many after the trial when she said, "Botham Jean's brother's request to hug Amber Guyger and Judge Kemp's gift of her Bible to Amber represents a spirit of forgiveness, faith and trust. In this same spirit, we want to move forward in a positive direction with the community."
But not all were happy with this series of events.  In addition to those who felt the sentence for Guyger was too light and those that chose to analyze the occurrence through the lens of identity politics, the atheist organization, the Freedom from Religion Foundation, as FRC reports...
...poured cold water on the judge's display of kindness by filing a formal complaint with the Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct, alleging Judge Kemp "overstepped" her judicial authority by giving Guyer [sic] a Bible. According to the atheist group, by reading the Bible with the newly convicted defendant, Judge Kemp engaged in "inappropriate" and "unconstitutional" behavior.
As the Family Research Council points out: "because of the courageous and gracious response of the Jean family and Judge Kemp, the community in Dallas has begun to heal...In fact, through their faithful testimony, the world was able to see a beautiful display of Christ-centered compassion and forgiveness. Unfortunately, FFRF is trying to drown out this life-giving, positive message."

Judge issues ruling against University of Iowa for actions against Christian student groups

Earlier this year, according to Christianity Today, a Federal judge, Stephanie Rose, ruled that the University of Iowa has violated the First Amendment right of the student group, Business Leaders in Christ, when the school decided that the group could no longer have "registered status" because it would not allow a homosexual to serve in leadership.

Lightning has actually struck twice - the same Federal judge found the university violated the rights of another student group, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, when it took the same action.  The Christianity Today article states:
...federal judge Stephanie M. Rose determined that the university inconsistently applied its Human Rights Policy by exempting campus groups like fraternities, sororities, and some affirming faith-based groups while penalizing certain religious groups—including InterVarsity—that require its leaders to agree to its statement of faith.
And, university administrators will feel it in their wallets - they will have to pay the costs incurred in InterVarsity's defense in a trial that is set to start in January.  The article notes:
The University of Iowa issued a statement Monday saying it had revised its student organization policy to allow organizations to require their leaders “to agree to and support” the organization’s beliefs.
U.S. Supreme Court to hear Louisiana abortion case involving admitting privileges for abortionists

The U.S. Supreme Court will be hearing oral arguments this week in a collection of cases involving the employment of transgender individuals and whether or not issues of "gender" discrimination apply to such individuals.  And, late last week, the high court announced it will be considering a case from Louisiana regarding whether or not state law can require abortion "doctors" to have local hospital admitting privileges.

WORLD Magazine reports:
Opponents of the law say it could result in the closure of one or two of Louisiana’s three abortion facilities. The state argues abortionists haven’t tried hard enough to establish relationships with local hospitals and the law is necessary to protect women. The Supreme Court struck down a similar law in 2016, which was before Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh joined the court.
An earlier WORLD analysis related that a stay in the implementation of the law had been granted back in February, as "Chief Justice John Roberts joined the more liberal judges in halting the law, while Justices Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Clarence Thomas voted to allow it."

Samantha Gobba of WORLD wrote:
Benjamin Clapper, director of Louisiana Right to Life, told me the court could align with its 2016 decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, which overturned a Texas law requiring abortionists to have hospital admitting privileges, or it could allow the Louisiana law to stand. Supporters of the law and others like it say requiring abortionists to have hospital admitting privileges ensures women can get speedy medical care if a complication arises from an abortion. Critics argue it only serves to limit abortion access.
Keep your eyes on Chief Justice Roberts on this one - although he sided with the liberal bloc of justices to put the Louisiana law on hold, according to SCOTUS Blog, he voted with the dissenters in the Texas case; it was then-justice Kennedy who sided with the 4 liberal justices for a 5-3 decision, in which there was an open seat due to the death of Justice Scalia.  If Roberts is consistent with the previous decision, he could side with Alito, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and Thomas to uphold the Louisiana law.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

The 3 - September 29, 2019

This week's edition of The 3, featuring three stories of relevance to the Christian community, includes a speech on religious freedom given to the United Nations by the U.S. President.  Also, a faith-based adoption agency, which had been protected by law from having to place children with same-sex couples, received a positive court ruling.  And, a Christian organization at the Duke University campus has lost its standing because of its policy on sexuality.

U.S. President defends religious freedom at United Nations

While climate change stole the headlines at the United Nations General Assembly last week and the media put the spotlight on matters related to impeachment, the President began the week speaking loudly on religious freedom at the U.N.

ChristianHeadlines.com reports that Vice President Mike Pence stated that President Trump "was the first American president to hold a meeting at the U.N. on religious persecution."  The President said:
“The United States is founded on the principle that our rights do not come from government; they come from God,” adding, “This immortal truth is proclaimed in our Declaration of Independence and enshrined in the First Amendment to our Constitution’s Bill of Rights. Our Founders understood that no right is more fundamental to a peaceful, prosperous and virtuous society than the right to follow one's religious convictions." He said that the U.S...
"...calls upon the nations of the world to end religious persecution, to stop the crimes against people of faith, release prisoners of conscience, repeal laws restricting freedom of religion and belief [and] protect the vulnerable, the defenseless and the oppressed.”
Also, at the meeting, the President "announced $25 million in funding to protect religious freedom and religious sites around the world," in addition to asking "the world’s governments to join together to end religious persecution." He also, according to the article, "announced an initiative comprised of a "coalition of U.S. businesses for the protection of religious freedom.'"

Faith-based adoption agency in Michigan receives court boost

Religious freedom was a driving force in a lawsuit filed by a faith-based adoption agency called St. Vincent Church Catholic Charities, which, because of its belief in the sanctity of marriage, will not "assess and recommend" same-sex couples "as qualified to adopt or foster," as the Daily Citizen from Focus on the Family reports.  St. Vincent will provide adoption or foster care services to same-sex couples and even place children in those types of homes if the state or another agency deems them the couples are qualified.

In 2015, the state of Michigan, where St. Vincent is located, passed a law, according to the Daily Citizen, "guaranteeing the religious freedom of adoption and foster care agencies against government discrimination."  But when Attorney General Dana Nessel, a lesbian, won the office in 2018, she then entered into an arrangement with the ACLU to not enforce the law.

St. Vincent sued, and this past week, a Federal judge, Robert Jonker, put an attempt to pull St. Vincent's license on hold. The judge wrote, “Defendant Nessel is at the very heart of the case,” adding, "She referred to proponents of the 2015 law as ‘hate-mongers’ and said the only purpose of the 2015 law was ‘discriminatory animus.’ She described the 2015 law as ‘indefensible’ during her campaign. These statements raise a strong inference of a hostility toward a religious viewpoint.”  As the Daily Citizen points out, this is similar to the admonition of a Colorado Civil Rights board in the Masterpiece Cakeshop ruling, citing "religious hostility" toward baker Jack Phillips. 

Judge Jonker issued a preliminary injunction, meaning no action can be taken against St. Vincent before a trial is held, a trial in which the judge thinks the agency is likely to prevail.

Campus Christian organization at Duke fails to receive "official status"

The Christian organization Young Life has a rich history in ministering to students. ReligionNews.com, in a recent story, states:
Young Life, which is based in Colorado Springs, is a 78-year-old organization with a mission to introduce adolescents to Christianity and help them grow in their faith. It has chapters in middle schools, high schools and colleges in all 50 states and more than 90 countries around the world.
However, Young Life has run afoul of the gatekeepers of the Student Government Senate at Duke University, which has refused recognition of the ministry as an official student group.  Why?  Not a surprise; the story says, "...the student government objected to a clause in Young Life’s sexuality policy. After the student government was told the organization would not change its sexuality policy, it rejected the group."  What's the "objectionable policy?"  According to the article:
The Young Life policy states: “We do not in any way wish to exclude persons who engage in sexual misconduct or who practice a homosexual lifestyle from being recipients of ministry of God’s grace and mercy as expressed in Jesus Christ. We do, however, believe that such persons are not to serve as staff or volunteers in the mission and work of Young Life.”
The chapter "...appeared to violate a guideline that every Duke student group include a nondiscrimination statement in its constitution."  Upholding Biblical truth on sexuality is viewed as "discrimination," so Young Life is out, and the article speculates that, unlike public universities that have mishandled similar cases and violated First Amendment protections, because Duke is a private institution, it may not have the "same obligations."

Sunday, September 22, 2019

The 3 - September 22, 2019

In this week's edition of The 3, highlighting three stories of relevance to the Christian community, there is another court decision, this time out of Arizona, that upholds the religious freedom rights of creative professionals.  Also, New York City is reconsidering its prohibition on counseling that would help overcome same-sex attraction, as well as gender identity issues.  And, in China, there has been action taken by the government to replace the 10 Commandments with quotes from the President there.

AZ artists win decision from state's high court in religious freedom case

Joanna Duka and Breanna Koski are artists who run Brush and Nib Studio in Phoenix, Arizona, and according to the Alliance Defending Freedom website, they "specialize in creating custom artwork using hand painting, hand lettering, and calligraphy to celebrate weddings and other events." They were concerned that a Phoenix ordinance would make them "celebrate and promote same-sex marriage in violation of their beliefs, even when they decide what art they create based on the art’s message, not the requester’s personal characteristics."

And, as ADF states, "The ordinance also bans them from publicly communicating what custom artwork they can and cannot create consistent with their faith." Their refusal to create art that violates their beliefs could have actually resulted in jail time, fines, and probation. Duka and Koski filed a lawsuit against the city, and on Monday, September 16, the Arizona Supreme Court ruled...
...that the city of Phoenix cannot use a criminal law to force two artists to design and create custom wedding invitations expressing messages that conflict with their core beliefs. Such coercion, the court held, would violate the fundamental principle that "an individual has autonomy over his or her speech and thus may not be forced to speak a message he or she does not wish to say."
ADF Senior Counsel Jonathan Scruggs said, "Joanna and Breanna will now be able to create custom wedding invitations and to communicate about their beliefs without fear of government punishment, as any artist should be free to do. This isn’t just a victory for them. It’s a victory for everyone.”

New York considers repeal of ban on counseling to overcome same-sex attraction

The New York City Council, in 2017, passed a law that would prohibit counseling to overcome unwanted same-sex attraction and issues concerning gender identity, according to a piece on the Liberty Counsel website. The legal advocacy organization, on its website, states: "The citywide ordinance is unprecedented in that it applies to adults who are voluntarily seeking counsel. The constitutionality of the ban is being challenged by a lawsuit. If the challenge reaches the Supreme Court, the City Council fears an 'unfavorable outcome' for the counseling ban that could block similar laws across the country..."

Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel, is quoted as saying: “The law is a gross intrusion into the fundamental rights of counselors and clients. Every person should have access to the counselor of his or her choice. No government has the authority to prohibit a form of counseling simply because it does not like the religious or moral beliefs of a particular counselor or client..."  Staver believes that it is "only a matter of time" until one of these bans is "struck down" by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The website notes that "Liberty Counsel is currently challenging counseling bans in Florida, Maryland, New Jersey, and California."

Chinese officials taking steps to replace 10 Commandments with quotes from President

The Chinese Communist Party, in some areas of China, is taking steps to place its own restrictive stamp on the practice of Christianity, even in the government-sanctioned "Three-Self" churches. The Christian Post reports that:
Churches across China’s central province of Henan have been forced to replace the Ten Commandments with President Xi Jinping’s quotes amid pressure from the government.
That's according to the publication, Bitter Winter, which, according to the Post article, "reports that the Ten Commandments have been removed from nearly every Three-Self church and meeting venue in a county of Luoyang city and replaced with the president’s quotes as part of the Chinese Communist Party’s efforts to 'sinicize' Christianity."  The article quotes from a pastor, who told Bitter Winter that:
“The government’s first step is to prohibit religious couplets. Then it dismantles crosses and starts to implement the ‘four requirements’ by ordering the national flag and ‘core socialist values’ to be placed in churches,” the pastor said. “Surveillance cameras to monitor believers and religious activities are then installed. The last step is to replace the Ten Commandments with Xi Jinping’s speeches.”

Sunday, September 15, 2019

The 3 - September 15, 2019

This week's edition of The 3 focuses on a pastor in Myanmar who had faced criminal charges as the result of sharing concerns about religious persecution with the President while in America at the recent religious freedom ministerial.  Also, there's more fallout to report about the endorsement of Bring Your Bible to School Day by NFL quarterback Drew Brees.  Plus, in a sickening discovery, the remains of over 2,000 aborted babies were found at the Illinois home of an abortionist who died recently.

Pastor who pleaded with Trump gets reprieve

A pastor in Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, has had charges against him dropped in a case involving comments he made to President Trump while in the U.S. attending the recent religious freedom ministerial, according to The Christian Post.  Rev. Hkalam Samson, president of the Kachin Baptist Convention (KBC), in a session that was streamed online, stated:
“I’m ... from Baptist Convention from Northern Burma. And then, as Christians in Myanmar, we are very been oppressed and tortured by the Myanmar military government,” Samson said.
“And then, we don’t have chance, many, for religious freedom. And also, ethnic armed groups fight against the central military government. So, please, American government focus on ethnic people and the ethnic leader to get general democracy and federalism.”
Samson also thanked the Administration for sanctions that had been issued against leaders in Myanmar, the result of, as the Post states, "human rights abuses committed against the Rohingya Muslim community in the Rakhine state in 2017."

After Samson's comments, Lt. Col. Than Htike of the northern command of Myanmar had filed a criminal complaint against him, but it was withdrawn last week. The judge in the case, Than Tun, said, “Lieutenant Colonel Than Htike, who had filed the case, submitted a request to settle and withdraw the case on Sept. 9...So the court has allowed the settlement in accordance with legal procedure[s]… Dr. Hkalam Samson has been acquitted.”

The Post article also relates:
State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus said in a statement that the criminal complaint against Samson “seeks to unduly limit his freedom of expression and potentially could disrupt his critical work on behalf of tens of thousands of internally displaced people.”
The article reports that Samson stated, “Growing international [pressure] probably led to the decision.” But, a spokesman for Myanmar's military said the complaint was not withdrawn due to U.S. pressure.

Former teammate calls out Brees critics

The reaction to the endorsement of Drew Brees of a Focus on the Family initiative, Bring Your Bible to School Day, continued for a second week, which began with a Saints' Monday night victory over Houston, with Focus President Jim Daly in attendance; Focus had encouraged fans to bring their Bible to the Saints' home stadium, the Superdome, for the game.

And, a former New Orleans teammate of Brees, Benjamin Watson, had some choice words to say about the quarterback's critics. ChristianHeadlines.com reports that Watson said on Fox and Friends that an article criticizing Brees "...was misleading and a mischaracterization of Focus on the Family and of Drew. It was slanderous,” adding, "And so my response was to stop lying with those sorts of labels.”  The article continued:
It is a lie, Watson said, to label Focus on the Family “as anti-gay, anti-non discrimination.”
“It's a shame in this country right now, where if you adhere to certain biblical beliefs that we all have a right to choose what religion we adhere to, you're labeled as anti,” he added. “What Focus on the Family does is uphold marriage. Family is the basic building block of society. [Focus on the Family] upholds those things, and they're labeled [as] anti by other people. And there's an agenda there. And that's what really upset me.”
John Stonestreet, in a Breakpoint commentary, stated:
...as one blogger noted recently, any movement that spends years trying to shut down a Denver bakery and discredit a chicken sandwich restaurant is a movement that has, long ago, run out of real injustices to fight. This second-degree-of-separation guilt-by-association campaign against Brees indicates that the gatekeepers of the LGBTQ movement have moved on, and are now demanding that everything, and I mean everything—from football to business to education to politics to Stranger Things—has to be about this.
As Focus on the Family Jim Daly demonstrated so well in his response to this nonsense, Christians should resist the demand to frame every issue of life and culture around LGBTQ issues. There’s so much more to life than this.
Over two thousand bodies of aborted babies found at IN abortionist's home

Ulrick Klopfer is a former abortionist who died on September 3. His medical license had been revoked back in 2016, according to CBNNews.com, which reported that Klopfer "...had practiced abortions in South Bend, Indiana, but had a home in Will County, Illinois." Family members "going through his possessions at that Will County home" discovered the remains of unborn babies. Investigators discovered the bodies of 2,246 aborted babies.

Jeanne Mancini, President of March for Life, stated:
“This tragic case bears a strong resemblance to that of Kermit Gosnell, who was convicted of murdering born alive infants slated for abortion. Like Gosnell, Ulrich Klopfer had a long and troubling history of ‘willful, intentional and detrimental’ noncompliance with state regulations and his disregard for those regulations intended to protect women and minor girls was appalling."
According to Mancini, Klopfer had even performed an abortion on a 10-year-old and sent her back into an abusive situation.

Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser said:
“This devastating discovery proves Kermit Gosnell’s ‘House of Horrors’ was not an outlier and shows the U.S. Supreme Court ruled correctly in upholding Indiana’s law, signed by then-Governor Mike Pence, requiring the humane and dignified disposition of human fetal remains."  
She expressed the desire that "this atrocity will awaken hearts and consciences across the nation to the brutal reality of abortion."

Sunday, September 08, 2019

The 3 - September 8, 2019

This week's edition of The 3 offers a solution to the problematic "Drag Queen Story" events at local libraries, based on what one Texas town did.  Also, a NFL quarterback endorsed an initiative from a Christian organization encouraging young people to bring Bibles to school, and felt compelled to issue a response to his critics for doing so.  And, the politics of abortion will continue to be a big issue in the 2020 Presidential race, and in the past week, two candidates made sweeping statements about a so-called woman's right to terminate the life of her unborn baby.

Texas city stands against Drag Queen Story Time event

The wave of Drag Queen Story hours, in which men dressed as women read stories to children, mainly at local libraries, children who have been brought by their parents, who are seemingly not offended by what has been called a "grooming" exercise for liberalized and dangerous views on sexuality, according to a Christian Post article.

The article reports that counselor Jon Uhler says "he believes Drag Queen Story Hour events constitute 'the greatest grooming program ever devised' and predators 'are laughing all the way to the bank.'"

The Post also says:
But Uhler does not believe marching and picketing Drag Queen Story Hour events is effective because by the time they are scheduled it's almost always too late. Instead, parents should go to the events and tape what goes on with their phones or hidden cameras and then expose it.
"The only way this is going to be stopped is if the public sees that every single time, at every single one of these, really perverse things are going on. So you let their own actions speak for themselves," Uhler said.
In Texas, a City Council has taken a bold step to try to put a halt to these events.  According to
The Daily Signal:
The City Council of Leander, Texas, 22 miles northwest of Austin, voted 5-2 at its Aug. 15 meeting to stop renting out meeting rooms at the library to the public.

“We brought in $1,800 in rental fees and we spent $20,000 in security,” Leander Mayor Troy Hill said, apparently referring to the drag queen event. “That’s not good math to me.”
Elizabeth Castle, a policy adviser for Texas Values, is quoted in the article. She says: "I’ve done some research and … their day job, without going further into, you know, anything personal, if you just Google them you can find out that they work at adult nightclubs," adding, “And so those people shouldn’t be reading to children.” Castle also stated, “These drag queens are told to read stories, you know, about gender transitioning and about sexual orientation to young kids as young as infant age...," and that, the city "wants to protect their children, and for the most part they seem to be against the ‘Drag Queen Story Hours.’”

NFL quarterback encourages students to take Bible to school, receives criticism

A high-profile NFL quarterback, arguably one of the best to play the professional game, endorsing students taking their Bibles to school, has received an unwarranted amount of criticism for this recommendation.  Bring Your Bible to School Day is an initiative of Focus on the Family.  Its President, Jim Daly, wrote:
New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees was forced to respond to criticism late yesterday for recording a 22-second video promoting our organization’s annual “Bring Your Bible to School Day”, which occurs this coming October 3rd.
Specifically, Brees was put on the defensive for doing the video because Bring Your Bible to School Day is associated with Focus on the Family. Critics were aghast that he would lend his name to the event, citing our ministry’s belief in biblical marriage and support of counseling for those with unwanted same-sex attraction.
Daly added:
In reporting on the episode, the Washington Post pejoratively labeled us as an “anti-LGBT religious group.”
Is there no longer any realm where I can disagree with someone on the definition of marriage and human sexuality and still be considered a decent person?
By both the Post’s and other critic’s standards, anybody who holds to the historical teachings of biblical sexuality is now labeled a bully and bigot, someone who holds others in personal contempt.
Daly also said that, "Like Scripture teaches and Drew Brees referenced, we believe we’re called to love God with all our heart and with all our soul and with all our mind. We’re also commanded to love our neighbors, whether they identify as heterosexual, homosexual or something else." He related that, "Tolerance is a two-way street."  

Daly also said that:
Drew Brees is the latest individual to be caught up in the middle of a growing intolerance toward those of us with a conservative Christian worldview. Whether it’s Second Lady Karen Pence being attacked for teaching art at a Christian school, the New York Times asking for stories about “#exposechristianschools,” public high school students in Pennsylvania battling a “Bible ban” on their campus, or Chick-fil-A being banned from airports due to their biblical beliefs, people of conservative Christian faith are being unfairly targeted.
This latest turn reminds us why it’s vital to empower the next generation with the understanding that they don’t have to hide their faith or compartmentalize it to the “private” sphere.
Democratic candidates offer strong support for abortion up until birth

It is obvious that the 2020 crop of Democrat party candidates have traveled quite a distance from the mantra of "safe, legal, and rare" regarding abortion.  Now, within the past week, you have had one candidate emphasize abortion as a means of population control and another saying that life does not begin until a baby is outside the womb, and attempted to twist Scripture to do it.

Take for instance, one of the frontrunners in the race, Bernie Sanders.  The Susan B. Anthony List, referring to a Daily Wire article, took Sanders to task.  The senator said, in response to a question on reducing a growth in population, that women in the U.S.: "...have a right to control their own bodies and make reproductive decisions."  He added...
"And the Mexico City agreement — which denies American aid to those organizations around the world that allow women to have abortions or even get involved in birth control — to me is totally absurd," Sanders continued. "So I think, especially in poor countries around the world where women do not necessarily want to have large numbers of babies and where they can have the opportunity through birth control to control the number of kids they have, it's something I very strongly support."
SBA List President Marjorie Dannenfelser stated, "This takes Democratic abortion extremism to a new low. Every Democratic candidate for president should immediately be asked where they stand on eugenic population control, especially frontrunner Joe Biden in light of his past comments condoning the Chinese government’s oppressive One-Child policy..."

Abortion as population control is the position of Bernie Sanders. South Bend, IN, mayor Pete Buttegieg should have no problem with that, and he seems resolute in lecturing Christians about what they should believe.  The Susan B. Anthony List highlighted the mayor's recent comments on The Breakfast Club show, referencing a Daily Caller article, which stated:
Buttigieg discussed how the Bible talks about life beginning with breath, and suggested this would be one way to determine when life began in relation to abortion debates.
He said, "...there’s a lot of parts of the Bible that talk about how life begins with breath, and so even that is something that we can interpret differently.”

Buttigieg added, "I think, no matter what you think about the kind of cosmic question of how life begins, most Americans can get on board with the idea of, alright, I might draw the line here, you might draw the line there, but the most important thing is the person who should be drawing the line is the woman making the decision..."

Again, from SBA List's Dannenfelser, just a day after strong comments about Sanders: "Just when it seemed that the Democrats’ extremism had hit rock bottom, Pete Buttigieg has taken the party to a new low in justifying abortion on demand and even infanticide through the moment a child takes her first breath. Buttigieg should be ashamed of his inhumane remarks..."  About both men, the pro-life leader expressed her view that both are too extreme to be President.

Tuesday, September 03, 2019

The 3 - September 1, 2019

In this week's edition of The 3, offering three stories of relevance to the Christian community, there is news of a court victory by filmmakers who want to get into the wedding industry, but are concerned about a state law that would force them to make videos of same-sex weddings.  Also, the Trump Administration is standing with a nurse who was forced to participate in an abortion despite her religious objections.  And, a Bible translator and his wife are the victims of an attack in the African nation of Cameroon; he died and his wife lost an arm.

Christian wedding videographers win court challenge in MN

Carl and Angel Larsen are filmmakers based in St. Cloud, MN; they want to enter the wedding industry, but there is a problem: a non-discrimination law passed by the state that could force them to make wedding videos that violate their deeply held beliefs, i.e., they would be forced to produce videos of same-sex wedding ceremonies, according to the Alliance Defending Freedom website,

The Larsens filed what is known as a "pre-enforcement challenge" lawsuit against the law.  The ADF website states:
After the district court ruled in favor of Minnesota’s motion to dismiss the Larsens’ lawsuit, ADF attorneys appealed to the 8th Circuit, which received several friend-of-the-court briefs, including one filed by 10 states, supporting the artistic freedom of the Minnesota filmmakers. The Larsens are challenging portions of Minnesota Statutes Chapter 363A on the grounds that the public accommodation law illegally controls artistic expression—violating their freedom to choose which messages they will express, and refrain from expressing, through their films.
The 8th Circuit ruled in favor of the Larsens on appeal, and, according to ADF, "reinstated the free speech and free exercise of religion claims of the lawsuit...The court also ordered the district court to consider whether the Larsens are entitled to a preliminary injunction barring enforcement of the law against them. According to the site, the court stated, "...Because the First Amendment allows the Larsens to choose when to speak and what to say, we reverse the dismissal of two of their claims and remand with instructions to consider whether they are entitled to a preliminary injunction….”

On this Friday's edition of The Meeting House, Jake Warner, Legal Counsel for ADF, will discuss the particulars and implications of this case.

Pro-life nurse claims VT hospital forced her to participate in abortion

The University of Vermont Medical Center receives Federal funding, therefore, it is subject to Federal law, including the Church Amendment, which, according to a FoxNews.com story, which is intended to prevent health care professionals from having to participate in abortion, an activity that would violate their deeply held beliefs.

The Fox website states that: "The Trump administration is pursuing action against the University of Vermont Medical Center (UVMC), which receives federal funds, after a nurse says her supervisors forced her to participate in an abortion against her will."  According to Jordan Sekulow of the American Center for Law and Justice, Sekulow stated that, "The Trump administration, President Trump, and Secretary Azar at HHS, is the first administration to actually enforce it against these hospitals, to actually enforce conscience protections so that nurses and doctors and medical professionals aren't forced to perform abortions against their religious or deeply held beliefs..."  He said the Church Amendment was passed in 1973.

ACLJ represents a nurse who "filed a conscience and religious discrimination complaint against UVMC" last year, claiming the hospital broke the law. The hospital is doubling down, claiming its "robust, formal protections that safeguard both our employees' religious, ethical and cultural beliefs, and our patients' rights to access safe and legal abortion."  The medical center's trustee board chair is a former Planned Parenthood regional CEO, and the hospital began to perform elective abortions in 2017 when that individual assumed that position.

Bible translator attacked, killed; wife injured in Cameroon incident

In Africa, the nation of Cameroon borders Nigeria to the east.  There have been reports of attacks on Christians by members of the Fulani militants in Nigeria, and a recent incident in Cameroon is quite disturbing. Mission Network News reports that:
...a Bible translator participating in the Wycliffe Bible Translators movement was killed in his home during an attack by the Fulani herdsmen. The attack took place in Wum, a village located in the Northwest of the country.

The attackers used a machete to dismember Angus Abraham Fung. The Christian Post reports Fung’s wife, Eveline, had her arm cut off. However, she and another person who was staying in their home did manage to escape. Per the report, Eveline is currently receiving a blood transfusion.
Wum is in a region where you have people who are attempting to gain independence, an area consisting of English-speaking residents.

According to Efi Tembon of Oasis Network for Community Transformation, quoted in the MNN article, “One of the big issues there is that the government, with a more international pressure getting [put on the] Cameron government, they have been trying to provoke a religious war to just create chaos. Create division between the local people..." The piece goes on to say:
Tembon believes the Christian community is an easy target for these attacks. There are also suspicions that individuals within the Cameroon government are utilizing the Fulani herdsmen for attacks on locals, particularly those fighting for independence or associated with the movement.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

The 3 - August 25, 2019

This week's edition of The 3, highlighting three stories of relevance to the Christian community, includes Christian persecution developments in two countries - in China, where a pastor has been released from prison, and in Mexico, where a pastor was shot and killed after a church service.  Plus, Planned Parenthood has announced it will withdraw from a Federal program which would not allow it to refer for abortion, if it wished to receive taxpayer funds.

Chinese pastor released, other church members, including senior pastor, facing continued imprisonment

Last December, around 100 members of the Early Rain Covenant Church in Sichuan, China were arrested.  One of the pastors of the church, Li Yingqiang, according to Faithwire, was recently released - he had been charged with “stirring up trouble and “running an illegal business.”

The article did point out that:
The church’s lead pastor, Wang Yi, remains incarcerated. Yi openly has openly criticized President Xi Jinping, even preaching a sermon openly calling him to repent of his sins.
Early Rain Covenant Church is not on the required registry of state-sanctioned churches and is thus deemed illegal by authorities. Millions of Christians risk their lives to meet in these so-called “underground” places of worship on a weekly basis.

More recently, Early Rain issued a statement which claimed that authorities are trying to suppress Pastor Yi’s legal team in a bid to keep him locked up.
Pastor Li, just prior to be arrested, according to the article, had said, according to Asia News: “Persecution is a price worth paying for the Lord. We would rather live through it than to hide our faith and we hope more Chinese churches will speak up and stand with us.”

Mexican pastor shot to death after church service

The Christian Post has a disturbing account of the persecution of Christians in Mexico; recently, according to the story:
According to international watchdog group Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Pastor Alfrery Líctor Cruz Canseco was sitting in his car outside Fraternidad Cristiana church in the town of Tlalixtac de Cabrera in Oaxaca state when he was shot at point-blank range.

Cruz Canseco died while he was being transported to a local hospital.
CSW offers some insight into the climate surrounding Protestant, as well as Catholic, groups in Mexico.  The Post states: "CSW warns that the expansion of criminal groups in Mexico as well as a 'climate of impunity' when it comes to crimes they commit has led to an increase in violence against Protestant and Catholic leaders because they are viewed as a threat to criminal groups." CSW reports, according to the story, that "10 religious leaders were killed in Mexico in 2018."

Planned Parenthood refuses to participate in government rule

There is a major development regarding the Trump Administration's "Protect Life Rule," which provides federal funds for health care facilities under what is called Title X, but those facilities cannot refer for abortion.  Planned Parenthood, which attempts to portray itself as a champion of women's health care but is the nation's largest abortion provider, has told the Administration, "no thanks."

Christian Headlines reports that since the 9th Circuit did not strike down the rule, Planned Parenthood has withdrawn from the program, walking away from $60 million that would have come its way - if it simply would not refer for abortion. The article says, "Planned Parenthood...called it 'an unethical and dangerous gag rule' that 'forced' the organization out of Title X."

The story stated that Title X "provides low-income people with cancer screenings, pregnancy tests and contraceptives." The Department of Health and Human Services noted that "the statute written by Congress prohibits funding programs where abortion is a method of family planning.” And, as Christian Headlines adds:
HHS also pushed back against Planned Parenthood’s claim that HHS was harming low-income people. HHS said there are 4,000 Title X service sites across the nation, with Planned Parenthood “representing fewer than 400.”

Sunday, August 18, 2019

The 3 - August 18, 2019

This week's edition of The 3 features two stories related to action in Federal district courts: one involves a ruling involving bathroom usage in favor of a former high school student who is female, but identifies as a male.  Another deals with inequities of funding of campus organizations at a California college.  Plus, the Administration has announced a new policy on protecting religious freedom of contractors who do business with the Federal government.

Appeals Court rules in favor of transgender female in bathroom flap

Gavin Grimm is a female; she identifies as male, and wanted to use the boy's restroom at her school.  The school district said "no," and Grimm filed a lawsuit - in 2015.  According to
The Christian Post, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled in favor of Grimm because of "a 2015 Obama administration guidance encouraging all public schools to allow transgender students to use facilities consistent with their gender identity."

But, in 2017, as the article points out, "The Obama-era bathroom guidance was rescinded under the Trump administration..."  The U.S. Supreme Court sent the case back to the lower appeals court, and it was relayed to the district level.

So, the case went back up the chain, and recently, a Federal district judge ruled in favor of the now-graduated Grimm.  The article says:
Judge Arenda Wright Allen, an appointee of President Barack Obama, contended in her court order that the school district violated the 14th Amendment and Title IX of education civil rights law by not allowing the biologically female student into boys' bathrooms and by refusing to change school transcripts to reflect the student's gender identity.
This is clearly another attempt to redefine sex, according to the Title IX civil rights provisions, to mean "sexual orientation" or "gender identity," granting special consideration to those identify as a gender other than their biological one.

Department of Labor announces religious freedom protections

A new rule from the Trump administration protects the religious freedom rights of Federal contractors, according to Liberty Counsel, which states on its website that, "The proposed rule by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs ensures that conscience and religious freedom are given the broadest protection permitted by law."

According to Liberty Counsel, "The proposal also reaffirms employers’ obligations not to discriminate on the basis of race, sex, or other protected bases and does not exempt or excuse a contractor from complying with any other requirements."

Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel, responded by saying, "I commend the Trump administration and the Department of Labor for not discriminating against religious employers and organizations that can provide the same high-quality services as allowed by other federal contractors..."  

California university directed to address discrepancy on funding for student groups

California State University-San Marcos funds a variety of the 100 student groups on campus through mandatory student fees.  The Alliance Defending Freedom reports on its website that during the 2016-17 school years that the Gender Equity Center and the LGBQTA Pride Center received almost $300,000 for "speech and expressive activities." That's just over one-fifth of the fees that had been received. The other groups: a combined total of just over $38,000.

That same school year, "Students for Life applied for a $500 'Leadership Funding' grant to host pro-life speaker and University of North Carolina–Wilmington Professor Mike Adams to provide an alternative view" to the clear promotion of a homosexual agenda. It was denied, and Students for Life filed a lawsuit.

Recently, the university's policy was struck down by a Federal district court, referring to the school's activities as "back room deliberations."  ADF Senior Counsel Caleb Dalton stated: 
“The university spared no expense to fund the advocacy of its preferred student groups but denied funding for speakers from Students for Life. But yesterday, the district court correctly declared, ‘These “back room deliberations” are exactly the [sic] type of considerations the First Amendment is designed to prevent. Nothing prevents these officials from encouraging some views while suppressing others through cosponsorship funding.’ We’re grateful the district court has rejected this unfair and discriminatory policy as unconstitutional.”

Monday, August 12, 2019

The 3 - August 11, 2019

This week's edition of The 3, features another three stories of relevance to the Christian community, including topic areas of pro-life, transgender pronouns, and the censorship of Christian content - step 3, the restorations.  Stories include the Kentucky governors signing of 4 pro-life bills, a student's right to free speech concerning transgender pronouns upheld, and a channel restored to the large tech firm's news app.

Not 1, not 2, but 4 pro-life bills signed by KY governor

Governor Matt Bevin of Kentucky has developed a reputation as a Christian, pro-life, pro-family leader who is devoted to religious freedom.  This past week, he signed multiple pro-life bills into law in his state, according to the 14 News website.  The article lists the four new laws:
  • Senate Bill 9 is known as the heartbeat bill. It bans abortion after detection of a fetal heartbeat.
  • Senate Bill 50 requires doctors present information to patients about the reversal of medication abortions.
  • House Bill 5 bans abortions based on sex, race, or perceived disability.
  • House Bill 148 states if Roe v. Wade is overturned abortions will be banned in Kentucky.
The governor is quoted as saying: “People of western Kentucky are very strongly and appropriately on the side of life," adding, "Meant a lot to me to be out here to celebrate with these bill sponsors and the people who sent them to Frankfort.” He signed the bills in Owensboro at the Daviess County Courthouse.  He also shared a broad view about the importance of support for pro-life legislation: "This issue, frankly, isn’t about faith...It’s about science. It’s about medicine. It’s about morality. It’s about who among us even remotely can think we can justify the taking of an innocent life when we know for a fact that’s exactly what it is.”

School corrects punishment for student in pronoun flap

Another of the troublesome aspects of the furtherance of the transgender agenda has to do with the use of pronouns, instances that have been seen in a variety of settings, including schools, where students wish to be called by the pronoun corresponding to the gender they identify as, rather than their biological gender.

Liberty Counsel reports on the situation involving a student in an Ohio school in which a sixth-grader was "punished by an assistant principal in an Ohio school district for using the male pronoun 'he' in reference to a male student..." (That student was apparently identifying as female.)  The student was also reportedly punished "for respectfully stating his opinion that 'he is a boy, not a girl...'" in a discussion with other students. The student was told that he would be facing "consequences" and was not allowed to participate in PE that day.

The report states:
After Liberty Counsel intervened, the school district claimed the PE class removal was not “formal disciplinary action” and said no record of it exists, but conceded that neither Liberty Counsel’s student client nor others would be subject to discipline for expressing “respectful disagreement on any topic,” nor for using accurate “pronouns in referring to students,” and that teachers would not “coerce any student to use a particular pronoun.” “John’s” parents were satisfied with this result.
Liberty Counsel Founder and President Mat Staver said that, "Schools cannot force students to lie about objective reality..."

Another correction: Christian conservative website back on Apple News

It seems like an almost weekly occurrence when you have Christian content or content consistent with a Christian perspective blocked by large tech firms. Sometimes, there is a reversal.

Last week, the channel of LifeSite was removed from Apple News after having originally been selected to be posted.  Apple has reversed its course.  The LifeSiteNews.com website reported, "the Apple News team informed LifeSite that they have 're-evaluated' our channel. LifeSite's channel and articles are once again available on the Apple News app."

The article published on Tuesday, August 6, stated:
Since last week, over 57,000 people have signed a petition demanding that Apple re-enable LifeSite's channel. Approximately 1000 of those signatories also opted to send a physical postcard to Apple's heardquarters, demanding LifeSite's channel be re-instated.
And, when you go to the LifeSite web site, you will see a listing of "Must-Reads," including a story originally published on Newsbusters, that highlight's YouTube's banning of a conversative teenager named Soph.  The article said that BlazeTV host Lauren Chen had featured a clip from...
...Soph's video "Pride and Prejudice" which got her banned. In the video she commented on the nature of LGBT politics: "When you attack the concept of gay pride for what they're doing to children" the left will respond by attacking the critic as someone who hates all gay people, she explained. "It's morality laundering, they put the indefensible together with the legitimate so that you can't scrutinize it without being called a homophobe."

Monday, August 05, 2019

The 3 - August 4, 2019

In this week's edition of The 3, highlighting three stories of relevance to the Christian community, there are more instances of Christian websites that are facing opposition: one in the face of removal from a platform, another facing criticism.  Also, evangelicals in Bolivia are beginning to feel empowered by recent government activity.  And, after a long ordeal, a California professor who was removed due to his views on same-sex attraction has won a court victory.

Christian sites face opposition

While sites such as Facebook continue to allow inflammatory rhetoric to be distributed on its site, the website continues to go after people like Todd Starnes or Elizabeth Johnston, who post beliefs that are consistent with their Christian worldview.

And, Facebook is not alone...just recently, LifeSiteNews, after reaching an agreement with Apple News to place content on its site, Apple News then decided to remove LifeSite, which states:
A little over one week ago, Apple approved LifeSiteNews’ application to publish our news on their Apple News platform.

Today, without warning, Apple News abruptly reversed course, telling LifeSite that they had deleted our channel and all of our content from their platform.
The story continues:
Apple claimed that LifeSite’s channel “didn't comply with our Apple News guidelines.” Specifically, they stated that LifeSite’s “[c]hannel content shows intolerance towards a specific group.”
But, Apple News did not identify the "specific group" toward which LifeSite was being intolerant. LifeSiteNews Editor-in-Chief John-Henry Westen said, “...at a time when there is growing evidence that tech juggernauts are engaging in concerted censorship against even mainstream conservative viewpoints, Apple’s decision – made unilaterally, and without opportunity to appeal – is frightening.”

And, for some reason, the fact-checking website known as Snopes has an obsession, seemingly, with the Christian satire site, the Babylon Bee.  Recently, according to Newsbusters, the Bee satirized the recent skirmish at a Publix grocery store in the Atlanta area, in which a state representative initially alleged that another customer told her to go back where she came from, an accusation that he denied.  Newsbusters reports that the Bee:
...inserted the eternally gracious staff at Chick-fil-A into the scene for laughs: “Georgia Lawmaker Claims Chick-Fil-A Employee Told Her To Go Back To Her Country, Later Clarifies He Actually Said ‘My Pleasure.’”
Snopes launched its attack, complaining "We're not sure if fanning the flames of controversy and muddying the details of a news story classify an article as 'satire.'"
The article points out that "Ellie Gardey at the Daily Caller forced Snopes to revise their 'fact check' and add actual facts," which included the representative's attempt to revise her story.  Babylon Bee founder Adam Ford was offended; the Newbusters article stated:
The shameless clickbait-specialists of Snopes slammed the Bee for "an apparent attempt to maximize the online indignation." This spurred a long Twitter thread by Babylon Bee founder Adam Ford. He was offended: "What a subjective and malicious statement! This is a 'fact check'?"
Ford also disliked this claim: "The Babylon Bee has managed to fool readers with its brand of satire in the past." Snopes said "dozens" of idiots on social media believe these satirical posts are real. Ford replied "Doesn't that wording really make it sound as though the Bee is TRYING to fool readers? Like we INTEND to, and sometimes succeed?"
Bolivian evangelicals flex muscle

The South American nation of Bolivia had become a secular nation back in 2009, but the Protestants there believed that they did not receive the proper recognition, according to ReligionNews.com, which reports that, "Protestant denominations have spent the past decade mobilizing their growing numbers of followers, finally forcing a religious freedom law that codifies their tax status and, perhaps more importantly, giving them standing in Bolivian society."

Munir Chiquie, president of the National Association of Evangelicals of Bolivia, also referred to as ANDEB, is quoted as saying, “For the first time, the religious entities have a legal identity, with the rights to self-determination and independence from the State..."

The law came in the aftermath of the government's attempt to enact a new penal code, Article 88, which was "aimed at combating terrorism and trafficking," but "Christians charged that Article 88’s language was so expansive and vaguely written that it could result in the persecution of clergy for evangelizing."  Just two months after its implementation, President Evo Morales "moved to have it revoked."  Christians and government officials began to talk with each other, and this year, a new religious freedom law was signed that, according to the article, "imposes regulations on religious organizations, including a requirement to report their activities to the government annually, but in return no taxes are levied on them. And the very fact of being monitored gives them a legitimacy in the eyes of the government that Protestant churches have never enjoyed."  Protestants now make up 17% of the country's population, up from just over 7-1/2 percent in 1985.

But not all are happy in the religious community. According to the article, in the general election in October, "Morales is being opposed in his pursuit of a fourth term by Víctor Hugo Cárdenas, whose running mate, Humberto Peinado, is pastor of the Church of the Christian Family in Santa Cruz. Both men have criticized the religious freedom law."

California professor wins court victory

Recently, a professor who had been lauded twice over his career at Moreno Valley College in California as "Faculty of the Year," recognized by students, has won a court victory after being removed from his position because of his views on same-sex attraction.

Pacific Justice Institute reported on the case involving Professor Eric Thompson:
In 2014, several students and colleagues complained that Thompson was harming students by exposing them to the view that same-sex attraction might stem from environmental factors rather than a person’s biology. The community college subsequently investigated Thompson three times and, although the investigations concluded that no violation of District Policy or Administrative Procedure occurred, labeled Thompson’s actions “unprofessional.” After multiple hearings, the college put Thompson on paid leave in 2016 and fired him in 2017 for conducting “dangerous” and “immoral” discussions.
A PJI attorney represented Thompson in an arbitration period, which resulted in the termination being reversed and a judge upheld that decision in the face of the school district's petition to overturn the arbitrator's decision.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

The 3 - July 28, 2019

This week's edition of The 3, with three stories of relevance to the Christian community, involves two stories out of South Carolina - one with a rather happy ending involving a memorial to police officers that contained the name, "Lord," and another that is related to graduation speech, specifically religious content.  And, the U.S. House passed a resolution recently, by a wide margin, that shows support to Israel.

Flap over police memorial in SC city: city officials restore monument and the name, "Lord"

A statement from the South Carolina city said it well: "This was a tough week in Tega Cay." That is from a Fox Carolina report.  That "tough week" was the result of a series of unforced errors by the city in response to a Fallen Officer’s Memorial, which was situated outside the city’s police department.

Inscribed on the monument was the Police Officers' Prayer, and according to Fox Carolina, the city had "initially painted over the word 'Lord,' which appeared in several places on the monument, because city leaders were fearful of a lawsuit after a resident complained."

Then, a statement released to The Herald by the city on Thursday stated: “At this time, we have removed the monument while we continue to seek a solution that expresses our unwavering support and gratitude to those who risk their lives every day for ours...We will continue to welcome feedback from our residents and seek further guidance from our legal team until we can find a viable solution for all concerned.”

All of this came about as the result of this, as the Herald reported: "A Tega Cay resident protested at the July 15 city council meeting."

The city released a statement on Friday, saying, according to Fox Carolina:
After careful consideration and much conversation with people on both sides of the discussion, City Council has made the decision that the Police Officer's Prayer will be restored to its original condition and returned to the Fallen Officers’ Memorial located at the new police station. We want to thank everyone for voicing your opinion, as it’s not always easy to do so on such a sensitive subject.
SC school district forces graduation prayer restrictions

More news out of South Carolina this week, where a judge has placed restrictions on graduation speech in the Greenville school district, according to the Greenville News website.  The site says:
Graduation ceremonies at Greenville County Schools will no longer be allowed to include official student-led prayer or language that asks the audience to stand or bow after the U.S. District Court of South Carolina ruled in favor of a humanist group in a longstanding lawsuit.
The judge in the case, U.S. District Judge Bruce Hendricks, said, according to the newspaper, that, "Schools will not be allowed to play religious music and students cannot submit prayers for review by school officials prior to the event, as has been done in recent years, but students who choose to pray during time allotted for student remarks may still do so provided it’s done without the knowledge or guidance of school officials, without asking the audience to participate and without pre-planning as part of the program."

The lawsuit was brought by the American Humanist Association. Beth Brotherton of Greenville County Schools said, "We are pleased that the Court has upheld the fundamental issue of the case and supported our position that students selected to speak at graduations based upon religiously neutral criteria have the right to share their personal stories, even if those include a religious message,” adding, “We are also pleased that the Court refused to grant AHA’s request to prevent all remotely religious messaging or prayer at School District events.” But, AHA was doing a victory lap, with spokesperson Monica Miller saying, "We are thrilled that the court is finally putting an end to flagrant school-sponsored prayers and Christian hymns at public school graduation ceremonies..."

U.S. House overwhelmingly votes for pro-Israel, anti-BDS resolution

The U.S. House of Representatives demonstrated support for Israel in a resolution that passed last week by a large margin, according to ChristianHeadlines.com, which described the resolution as "calling Israel a 'key ally' and criticizing a prominent movement to boycott the Jewish state."

The bill passed 398-17; 16 opposing votes came from Democrats, including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, and Rashida Tlaib, three of the four members of  the "Squad;" the other member, Ayanna Pressley, voted in favor of the resolution.

The article states...
...the pro-Israel resolution that passed the House explicitly criticizes the BDS movement. That resolution calls Israel a “democratic, Jewish State” that is a “key ally and strategic partner of the United States.”

“The Global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement (BDS Movement) targeting Israel is a campaign that does not favor a two-state solution and that seeks to exclude the State of Israel and the Israeli people from the economic, cultural, and academic life of the rest of the world,” the pro-Israel resolution says. “... [T]he BDS Movement does not recognize, and many of its supporters explicitly deny, the right of the Jewish people to national self-determination.”
Meanwhile,  according to Christian Headlines, Rep. Omar had announced her own resolution, “affirming that all Americans have the right to participate in boycotts in pursuit of civil and human rights.” The story says that, "Omar’s resolution doesn’t mention Israel, but she told reporters it was the intended target. The resolution does, however, mention boycotts of Nazi Germany and South African apartheid as positive examples from U.S. history." According to The Hill, Pressley is a co-sponsor of that resolution.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

The 3 - July 21, 2019

This week's edition of The 3, with three stories of relevance to the Christian community, there is news that has emerged from a special conference this week on religious freedom, the formation of a new alliance from a variety of nations to address that topic.  Also, school children in a British city will no longer be allowed to congregate at a public library, due to their inclusion of Christian songs in a group meeting.  And, the chaplain of the U.S. House offered a prayer this week incorporating elements of spiritual warfare following a tumultuous week.

Secretary of State announces International Religious Freedom Alliance

This past week, the U.S. State Department sponsored its second Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom. ReligionNews.com reported on the events, stating that there were "two days of meetings where survivors shared their stories of persecution and some of the almost 900 religious leaders and activists in attendance made plans to foster interfaith understanding."

The article also said:
Before a gathering of representatives of 106 countries, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced plans to create the International Religious Freedom Alliance.
During the event that spanned three days, according to the article, "speakers hailed religious freedom victories that had occurred since the first ministerial a year ago. That included the release of Pastor Andrew Brunson, an American evangelical detained in Turkey for two years." Brunson prayed at a Thursday luncheon for "heads of delegations," and said, "I bless you in the name of my king, Jesus Christ."

About this new alliance, Pompeo said, “We hope that this new vehicle — the first-ever international body devoted to this specific topic – will build on efforts to date and bring like-minded countries together to confront challenges of international religious freedom,” adding, “It will provide a space for the work that we do here to flourish throughout the year.”

Other speakers included Vice-President Mike Pence, who declared, “The United States stands with all victims of religious persecution and the American people have them in our hearts — and in our prayers...”

British library bans church group from assembling

In Great Britain, a children's group that has been prevented from meeting at the public library, as it has done for the past eight years.

According to ChristianHeadlines.com:
The volunteers at Noah's Ark playgroup says it had been meeting at the Burgess Hill Library in the British county of West Sussex for eight years – they had never encountered any issues until now.
Despite the group serving the local community for free, library officials demanded that they move elsewhere after some parents complained that they were unhappy with the Christian message contained within the songs.
The article quoted from the Mid Sussex Times, which had reported on a statement from a "spokesperson from the West Sussex County Council," who said: “Rhyme time sessions are held every week in all West Sussex libraries and are open to everyone including families of any faith or no faith. In Burgess Hill, a partnership was formed with a local faith group some years ago before rhyme time sessions were offered across all libraries.”

The Christian Headlines piece said that, "Many of the regular attendees were absolutely outraged at the decision to cancel the group." A spokesperson for The King’s Church Mid-Sussex said that the church was “sad that our involvement in Baby Rhyme Time is coming to an end after eight years," but that "we respect the decision of West Sussex Library services and we will continue to do all that we can to serve them and our local community.”

Meanwhile, Liberty Counsel reported on the recent American Library Association annual conference, attended by some 21,000 people, stating that it "provided librarians from across the country with strategies for bringing LGBT propaganda, pornography, and “drag queen story times” for children into primarily taxpayer-funded public libraries while avoiding parents’ knowledge. The report says that the ALA "also provides librarians 'crisis communication plans' to 'shield themselves' from events or materials they provide using public resources that generate a public backlash, such as the 'drag queen story hours.'"

U.S. House chaplain prays against "spirits of darkness"

It was certainly a contentious week in the U.S. House of Representatives, as lawmakers passed a resolution denouncing the President for his criticism of 4 members of the House, and an attempt to impeach Mr. Trump was turned back.  No doubt, those events contributed to the content of a prayer by U.S. House Chaplain Patrick Conroy as he opened up the session on Thursday.

FoxNews.com reports that Conroy started out by declaring, “This has been a difficult and contentious week in which darker spirits seem to have been at play in the people’s House..." The story continues:
Then, in a dramatic moment, Conroy raised both hands and said, "In Your most holy name, I cast out all spirits of darkness from this chamber. Spirits not from You. I cast out the spirit of discouragement which deadens the hope of those who are of goodwill...
The Chaplain closed with these words:
May your spirit of wisdom and patience descend upon all so that any spirit of darkness might have no place in our midst. Rather, let Your spirit of comity, of brother-and-sisterhood, and love of our nation, and all colleagues in this chamber, empower our better angels to be at play in the common work to be done, for the benefit of all Your people. May all that is done within the people's House be for Your greater honor and glory. Amen."
This can be a reminder to pray for public officials and to recognize that there is a spiritual dimension to the work that they do.