Sunday, June 17, 2018

The 3 - June 17, 2018

In this week's edition of The 3, highlighting three stories of relevance for the Christian community, a Bible-based organization has issued new guidelines calling for employees to follow...the Bible in certain areas.  Also, the U.S. Justice Department has issued a policy designed to protect churches and religious organizations, providing a level playing field in areas concerning land and facilities use.  And, a ruling from Canada's highest court has clouded the future for a Christian university that has a new law school in the works.

3 - Bible organization announces guidelines for employees to adhere to the Bible regarding marriage

I have a lot of respect for the work of the American Bible Society, and recently, the organization issued employee guidelines that actually directs those who work for it to - believe the Bible regarding marriage.  A CBN News story relates:
The new policy asks employees to conduct themselves according to biblical principles, including refraining from extra-marital sex and honoring God through marriage between one man and one woman.
"I will seek to refrain from sexual activity outside of the marriage covenant prescribed and exemplified in the Bible: 'a man will leave his father and mother and unite with his wife, and the two will become one,' symbolizing the relationship between Christ and His Church," the statement reads.
And, the story points out, "The document also asks employees to refrain from 'malicious speech, stealing, cheating others,' and drug abuse."

The article quotes a Religion News Service, article that says the "nine of the company's 200 employees have resigned," presumably because they disagreed with the new principles.

So, even though the Society will no doubt be branded as intolerant, American Bible Society President and CEO Roy Peterson thinks it made the right call, telling RNS, "We did this because we believe a staff made up of people with a deep and personal connection to the Bible will bring unity and clarity as we continue our third century of ministry."

2 - US Department of Justice takes step to protect religious organizations in matters of use of land and facilities

The Justice Department has announced a new religious freedom regulation that is designed to protect churches and other religious organizations in matters of land and facility usage.  The Alliance Defending Freedom stated on its website:
The U.S. Department of Justice announced Tuesday its new “Place to Worship Initiative,” which will focus on “protecting the ability of houses of worship and other religious institutions to build, expand, buy, or rent facilities—as provided by the land use provisions of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA).”
ADF Senior Counsel Erik Stanley, director of the ADF Center for Christian Ministries, is quoted as saying, “No city should use its zoning laws to engage in religious discrimination. Unfortunately, in the 18 years since Congress passed RLUIPA, local governments have done just that, blatantly disregarding the law,” adding, “For that reason, we commend the Department of Justice and the Trump administration for placing a much-needed focus on the freedoms churches and other religious groups have under this federal law.” As the site says, ADF has been involved in defending religious organizations to uphold their rights under the act.
1 - Canadian Supreme Court rules against law school requiring students to adhere to Christian sexual ethics

Trinity Western University in Canada has been making plans to open a law school, but it has faced opposition because of its "community covenant," which, according to a story on the WORLD Magazine website, "requires students and faculty to abstain from sex outside heterosexual marriage."

According to WORLD:
Leaders of the Law Society of British Columbia initially said the group would recognize the school’s graduates but reversed course after a majority of its members objected. Lawyers in Ontario took a similar stance, while societies in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, the Yukon, and Nova Scotia agreed to recognize the graduates.
The issue of whether or not regional law societies would accredit Trinity's school had gone to various regional appeals courts, which issued a variety of decisions.  So, the case went to the Canadian Supreme Court, which recently issued a 7-2 ruling against Trinity and in favor of the discretion of the regional societies.

The article linked to a story at the CBC website, which stated that the high court said "it's 'proportionate and reasonable' to limit religious rights in order to ensure open access for LGBT students. The story quotes Janet Epp Buckingham, described as "a TWU professor who helped develop the law school proposal," who "said she was saddened by the ruling." She is quoted as saying, "We feel that this is a loss for diversity in Canada," adding, "Canada has traditionally upheld values of diversity for a broad array of religious views. So we're very disappointed in the way the Supreme Court of Canada has ruled today."

Sunday, June 10, 2018

The 3 - June 10, 2018

In this week's edition of The 3, there are three stories related to religious liberty.  One is out of Arizona, where a state appeals court has ruled against Phoenix artists who had challenged a local ordinance that would have forced them to create art that contradicts their religious beliefs.  You also have the case of a corporate spokesperson who lost his job just because he stated his Biblically-consistent views on homosexuality.  And, the big news out the U.S. Supreme Court Monday was that a Colorado baker received a favorable ruling in a case that had resulted from his declining to bake a cake celebrating a same-sex relationship.

3 - Arizona appeals court rules against artists who challenged Phoenix ordinance forcing artistic expression that violates their beliefs

A Phoenix art studio had filed a challenge to a local ordinance that, according to the Alliance Defending Freedom website, would have forced artists to create expression that runs contrary to their deeply held beliefs.  The studio is called Brush and Nib, and its lawsuit, filed in 2016, "challenges Phoenix City Code Section 18.4(B), a non-discrimination ordinance which the city has construed to force artists like the owners of Brush & Nib to create objectionable art, even though they decide what art to create based on the art’s message, not the requester’s personal characteristics."  This is called a "pre-enforcement challenge."

The ADF website stated that the ordinance, "forces the studio’s two young female owners to use their artistic talents to promote same-sex ceremonies. The ordinance also forbids the studio...and its proprietors from publicly expressing their Christian belief that marriage is the union of one man and one woman or explaining why they hold to that time-honored view."

This past week, the Arizona Appeals Court, after a lower court judge had refused to suspend the ordinance, ruled against the artists' challenge.  According to an article on the ADF website, Senior Counsel Jonathan Scruggs, director of the ADF Center for Conscience Initiatives, said:
“Artists shouldn’t be forced under threat of fines and jail time to create artwork contrary to their core convictions. The court’s decision allows the government to compel two artists who happily serve everyone to convey a message about marriage they disagree with. This contradicts basic freedoms our nation has always cherished. In Monday’s Masterpiece Cakeshop decision, the Supreme Court reaffirmed that ‘religious and philosophical objections to gay marriage are protected views and in some instances protected forms of expression.’ Phoenix’s position contradicts this principle and violates our clients’ artistic and religious freedom. We intend to appeal the court’s decision.”
2 - Corporate spokesperson terminated due to expression of Biblical views on homosexuality

During the same week in which a baker's viewpoint was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, a spokesman for a large company who expressed his views on homosexuality was fired. Faithwire
reported on the termination of Russell Berger, corporate spokesperson for CrossFit.

Berger's comments came in response to a situation originating at a local CrossFit affiliate in Indianapolis.  The story says that several weeks ago...
...CrossFit Infiltrate’s manager and staff created a Pride workout event and proceeded to publicize it on the gym’s social media channels. Though the workout was scheduled for Thursday 7 June, it was abruptly canceled June 1 by Infiltrate’s owner Brandon Lowe. A statement regarding the reasons for the cancellation was emailed to gym members by manager Johnnie Martin.
The statement included these words: "Total health involves the body, the emotions, relationships, and the spirit. At the foundational detractor from health, as we believe God sets the parameters for, is pride."  Of course, this resulted in a backlash from the LGBT+ community. 

And, Berger, a then-researcher for the company, tweeted out his support for the actions of Infiltrate. The Faithwire report said:
In a series of now-deleted tweets, Berger declared that the “tactics of some in the LGBTQ movement toward dissent” is a clear and “existential threat to freedom of expression.”
Clearly, that didn’t go down well with his employer. Berger, whose Twitter bio lists him as CrossFit’s “Chief Knowledge Officer,” was summarily suspended for his comments pending further investigation. Speaking to Buzzfeed, Crossfit CEO Greg Glassman harangued Berger for his remarks, even labeling him a “zealot.”
Then, it was announced that Berger had been terminated.  Berger took to social media with more statements, according to the story:
“That my personal opinions don’t reflect the entirety of the CrossFit community is painfully obvious. Let’s not pretend this isn’t just an attempt to silence my personal views by pressuring my employer.”
Berger further clarified his position on homosexuality: “I believe that all humans, regardless of their sins, (and we are all sinners), are image bearers of God and worthy of dignity, respect, and value,” he tweeted. “That also means we should care enough about them to tell them the truth about sin.”
1 - Colorado cake baker who declined to provide cake for same-sex ceremony receives favorable ruling from U.S. Supreme Court

The U.S. Supreme Court announced it ruling in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case on Monday, and owner Jack Phillips, who declined to provide a cake for a ceremony celebrating a same-sex union, received a favorable ruling from the high court - a 7-2 ruling.  But, while this is a moment of celebration for Jack, based on experts' opinions, it is unclear how this could affect similar cases that have occurred in the past and may transpire in the future.

Family Research Council reported on the decision, saying that, according to the justices...
...Colorado's treatment of Masterpiece Cakes was "inconsistent with the state's obligation of religious neutrality." "The government, consistent with the Constitution's guarantee of free exercise, cannot impose regulations that are hostile to the religious beliefs of affected citizens and cannot act in a manner that passes judgment upon or presupposes the illegitimacy of religious beliefs and practices," Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote on behalf of the court." The Colorado Civil Rights Commission, in its obvious contempt for Jack's beliefs, "was neither tolerant nor respectful of his religious beliefs." The judgment, they concluded, "is reversed."
Regarding the incompleteness of the ruling, FRC states:
The time is coming -- and soon -- when the court will have to wade into the bigger clash between religious liberty and same-sex marriage. When it does, let's hope it agrees with the majority of Americans, who understand that -- regardless of what you think about marriage -- no one should be forced to violate revealed and established biblical truth. "Now that the decision has arrived, I can see the sun once again," Jack wrote in an emotional response today. How much longer until dozens of other Christians can see theirs?

Sunday, June 03, 2018

The 3 - June 3, 2018

In this most current edition of The 3, highlighting three stories of relevance to the Christian community, there is news out of California, where an appeals court issued a ruling that will apparently keep the state's assisted suicide law from going into effect.  Also, there's another high school graduation ceremony controversy, this time out of Illinois, where a graduate was told shortly before making a valedictory speech that his content was too religious.  Plus, Irish voters have turned back a constitutional amendment that was in effect, protecting the right to life of unborn babies.

3 - Appeals court rules against CA assisted suicide law 

In a special session of California's legislature convened in 2016 to address health care issues, a bill allowing assisted suicide in the state was passed.  In mid-May a state judge ruled that the new bill, called the End of Life Option Act, was not part of the authorized agenda for the session, so it was unconstitutional.

According to the Life Legal Defense Foundation website:
...Judge Daniel Ottolia held that the passage of the Act violated Section IV of the California Constitution and gave Attorney General Xavier Becerra five days to file a motion with a higher court to have his ruling stayed pending appeal.

On Wednesday, the Fourth District Court of Appeal denied the Attorney General’s motion for a stay, effectively striking down the “End of Life Option Act.”
The site stated:
Judge Ottolia found that the End of Life Option Act “does not fall within the scope of access to healthcare services” and “is not a matter of healthcare funding.” Moreover, the court ruled that, “The legislation decriminalizing assisted suicide cannot be deemed a matter incidental to the purpose of the emergency session.”
Life Legal Executive Director Alexandra Snyder is quoted as saying, “Life Legal has always maintained that the End of Life Act violates the Constitution and California’s long-standing public policy protecting its citizens from being ‘helped’ to commit suicide,” adding, “We are pleased that the court’s ruling will restore the protection that the Act removed from the ill and vulnerable.”
2 - Graduation speech nixed shortly before scheduled to be delivered due to religious content

Imagine that your son or daughter was the valedictorian, or in the case of an Illinois student, the co-valedictorian of the senior class.  Not only had the graduate worked heard to maintain a high GPA, but he or she had devoted time in preparation for the speech.  But, because the school district found fault with the message's religious content, the student was told either remove the content or not give the speech.  What an unfair position for the student, and as First Liberty Institute contends, unconstitutional action by the school district.

Todd Starnes reported on the case of Sam Blackledge, who, according to Starnes, "...was told just ten minutes before graduation that he would not be permitted to deliver his valedictory address because it was too religious."

First Liberty Institute attorney Jeremy Dys told Starnes, “School officials should remember that students retain their constitutional rights to freedom of expression from the schoolhouse gates, all the way through the graduation ceremony...” The Christian legal advocacy organization is representing Blackledge, who was a student a West Prairie High School in Illinois, according to First Liberty's website.

1 - Ireland repeals pro-life amendment

Residents of the nation of Ireland went to the polls recently to repeal the Eighth Amendment to the Irish Constitution, which WORLD Magazine states "granted unborn babies the same legal rights as their mothers." The magazine's website had reported that, "Two exit polls taken Friday indicate about 70 percent of voters opted to repeal the Eighth Amendment to the country’s constitution..."

The WORLD report says:
John McGuirk, a spokesman for Save the 8th, called the result a “tragedy of historic proportions.” The government, which supported the repeal effort, plans to allow abortion for babies up to 12 weeks gestation.
Pro-life organization, the Susan B. Anthony List, released a statement, which said, in part:
“The result of today’s referendum is a profound tragedy for the Irish people and the entire world,” said SBA List President Marjorie Dannenfelser. “While other Western nations including the United States acquiesced to the extreme abortion lobby, Ireland has been a shining beacon of hope for its strong defense of unborn children and their mothers. Irish pro-life advocates have correctly warned that repealing legal protections for the unborn opens the door to abortion on demand, just as Roe v. Wade did in the United States, which has some of the world’s most permissive abortion laws. We are one of only seven nations that allow abortion for any reason up to the moment of birth. We had dearly hoped the children of Ireland would be spared a similar fate.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

The 3 - May 27, 2018

On this week's edition of The 3, highlighting stories of relevance to the Christian community, there is concerning news about activity that is being allowed at a worldwide Scouting jamboree to be held next year.  Also, there were court ruling last week against student privacy - one involved a transgender student in Virginia; another affected students being allowed in the restrooms and locker rooms of members of the opposite sex.  And, there was a major decision related to a Southern Baptist seminary president this past week.

3 - New rules announced at Scout jamboree next year

The next World Jamboree, sponsored by the World Organization of the Scout Movement (WOSM), will be held next summer in West Virginia, and recently released its health and safety guidelines for the event, according to the website of the Florida Family Policy Council, which is headed by John Stemberger, board chair of the Christian-based scouting movment, Trail Life USA.

The guidelines state that condoms should be "readily and easily accessible," and that alcohol will be permitted in "confined areas."

The Florida Family Policy Council website points out:
This announcement comes on the heels of the BSA changing its membership policy earlier this month to allow girls to fully participate in local Boy Scout Troop programs and their official name change to remove the word “boy” to transform into the new genderless “Scouts BSA.”
Stemberger, who serves as President, released this statement:
“In light of the mandatory condom policy, it is not clear how far down the rabbit hole the Boy Scouts will continue to fall. With the addition of condoms and alcohol, the World Jamboree is starting to sound more like a 1960s Woodstock festival rather than a campout that parents would want to send their children to! All of this should be deeply disturbing to the churches that are chartering Boy Scout Troops. These policies present a clear youth protection problem that the BSA absolutely refuses to recognize. The fact that they are requiring that condoms be ‘readily accessible’ and are communicating this to everyone– including youth participants–shows that the BSA is both anticipating and facilitating sexual conduct between minors at this event. These policies are both outrageous and completely irresponsible.”
2 - Judges rule against student privacy

There were several recent court rulings that represented an erosion in privacy protections for students. A case that made it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, only to be sent back to a lower court, received a ruling, according to a USA Today story which reported that:
A federal judge said Tuesday that a transgender student at odds with a Virginia high school since 2015 should not have been forced to use a bathroom separate from the boys' restrooms, which he wanted to use.
In 2014, the Gloucester County School Board told Gavin Grimm he could not use the boys' restrooms at the school and would have to use a separate bathroom. Grimm identifies as a man and brought a lawsuit against the district.
According to a NBC News story from last year, after the Supreme Court had agreed to hear the case, "the Trump administration announced a change in policy on the transgender issue. The lower court had relied, in part, on an earlier version of that policy."  So, it was sent back, and the Federal district judge made the ruling, citing, in part, Title IX, which prevents gender discrimination.  However, it has been pointed out that gender identity and transgenderism were not exactly on the minds of Congress when that was implemented - in 1972!

And, in the same week, as the Alliance Defending Freedom reported, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit ruled "against student privacy" in the Boyertown Area School District on Pennsylvania.  ADF had reported that...
...During the 2016-17 school year—without informing parents or students—the Boyertown Area School District secretly opened its high school locker rooms, showers, and restrooms to students of the opposite sex, which violated many students’ bodily privacy rights.
This was challenged by students and parents in the district. ADF Legal Counsel Christiana Holcomb stated:
“The Supreme Court has already spoken: The real differences between men and women mean that privacy must be protected where it really counts, and that certainly includes high school locker rooms and restrooms. This decision is out of step with longstanding legal protection for privacy. We will continue advocating for these young students.”
1 - Seminary trustees reassign President

What is probably the end of merely the first chapter of a story that has had a devastating effect on the Southern Baptist Convention concluded in the past week as the long-time President of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary was removed from that position and reassigned as President Emeritus by the Seminary's Board of Trustees at a lengthy meeting that was requested by Paige Patterson.

Baptist Press reported on the recent developments and what led up to Patterson's removal.  It stated:
Southwestern's trustees convened their meeting in response to controversy surrounding Patterson since late April over statements he made years ago on domestic violence and a teenage girl's physical appearance.
The article also said that:
Patterson issued a statement May 10, in which he apologized for a "failure to be as thoughtful ... as I should have been" in describing domestic violence and the physical attractiveness of women in sermon illustrations.
Since the years-old video and audio clips surfaced, thousands of Southern Baptists have signed open letters both supporting and opposing Patterson.
The next chapter is likely to unfold at the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention in Dallas.  Patterson has been scheduled to present the keynote sermon there.  The Patterson issue and the role of women in the churches of the convention will no doubt be topics of discussion and there may be action taken on the convention floor, perhaps in the form of a resolution.  Also, there is a hotly contested election for Convention President, with North Carolina pastor J.D. Greear and North Greenville University administrator Ken Hemphill as the candidates - they have been amicable toward one another, jointly asking for prayer for the election a few weeks ago; but supporters of each candidate have been rather vocal online.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

The 3 - May 20, 2018

Each week, I post references to three stories potentially impacting the Christian community.  One of the stories involves a college graduate who decided to include religious content in her graduation speech after intervention by a Christian legal advocacy group.  Also, a new California law allowing assisted suicide has been struck down by a state judge there.  Plus, the Trump Administration has announced the intent to lower the amount of taxpayer money going to health care facilities that provide abortion.

3 - Faith content remains in graduation speech

This is that time of year when it seems almost annually you hear about a student who was not allowed to deliver religious content in a graduation speech.  A recent example occurred at Colorado Mesa University, according to a story on the ChristianHeadlines.com website.

Graduate Karissa Erickson wanted to make reference to Jesus and the Bible in her speech.  The story states:
Relevant Magazine reports that student Karissa Erickson gave the speech last Friday at her school’s graduation ceremony. Although the university has a rule prohibiting religious content in school-related speeches, Erickson, with the help of Alliance Defending Freedom, appealed this rule and won.
(Here is a link to the Relevant story.)

The Christian Headlines piece says that, "...upon hearing of Erickson’s case, the ADF sent a letter to university officials, seeking to appeal the rule."

The story goes on to state:
The school decided to grant Erickson’s request, as expressed through ADF’s letter, although some school officials still said Erickson could face “repercussion” if she chose to keep the references to Jesus and the Bible in her speech.
2 - Assisted suicide overturned by California judge

A California district judge struck down a law called the End of Life Option Act, which had been passed by lawmakers during a special session that had been called by the governor to address other health care issues.  According to the Christian Medical and Dental Associations website:
Life Legal Defense Foundation attorneys who represent the American Academy of Medical Ethics, (www.ethicalhealthcare.org) CMDA's state public policy arm, in the lawsuit appeared in court yesterday to argue that the Act is not related or even incidental to the stated purpose of the special session.
Riverside Superior Court Judge Daniel Ottolia agreed, ruling on May 15 that “the End of Life Option Act, which decriminalizes physician-assisted suicide, does not fall within the scope of access to healthcare services,” and that it “is not a matter of health care funding.”
Dr. David Stevens, CEO of the CMDA, which has 19,000 members, according to its site, is quoted as saying: "Just as assisted suicide contravenes the Hippocratic oath, the judge found that the California legislature contravened the state constitution," adding, "Assisted suicide is not healthcare, it has no role in the healing arts of medicine, and it is dangerous for patients, medicine and society."

1 - Administration cuts funding to Planned Parenthood

The Trump Administration this past week announced its intention to remove dollars that were allotted for so-called "family planning" services from going to Planned Parenthood and other clinics that include abortion in the services they perform.  A report on The Washington Times website stated:
The proposed rule change in Title X, a $260 million federal program for contraception and “family planning,” will interpret the 1970 law as requiring absolute separation between contraception and abortion activities, effectively making Planned Parenthood ineligible.
“The proposal would require a bright line of physical as well as financial separation between Title X programs and any program (or facility) where abortion is performed, supported, or referred for as a method of family planning,” a Trump administration official said in an email to the Weekly Standard.
This is an incremental step to defunding Planned Parenthood, as the Times points out: "Even apart from that, much of the hundreds of millions in annual federal money Planned Parenthood gets comes from Medicaid, which would not be affected by the rule change. Cutting it off would require legislation."

In voicing his support for this proposal, Jim Daly, President of Focus on the Family, wrote:
HHS’s announcement that it will be bringing back a Reagan-era regulation dealing with family planning funds and abortion responds to the cry of millions of Americans who want their government to support life, not death. Six in ten Americans oppose taxpayer funding of abortion.
Title X is for family planning services – and abortion is not family planning.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

The 3 - May 13, 2018

In this week's edition of The 3, highlighting three stories of relevance to the Christian community, there are two stories relative to Christian denominations: the United Methodist Church's struggle on matters related to homosexuality, and a recent controversy in the Southern Baptist Convention relative to treatment of women.  Also, three North Korea prisoners came back to the U.S. recently, and there are several spiritual dynamics.

3 - United Methodist Church prepares for conference on sexuality, Bishops recommend removing phrase declaring homosexuality to be sinful

At the 2016 General Conference of the United Methodist Church, it was determined that matters related to sexuality, with a central emphasis on homosexuality and its effects on the church, would be tabled until a specially-called conference.  That has now been set, and according to a Religion News Service article on the ChristianHeadlines.com website, bishops at the conference, "...announced the creation of a 32-member commission that would make recommendations to settle questions of ordination and marriage at a special session of the General Conference to be in held in February in St. Louis."

The commission has recommended three plans: The One Church Plan, the Traditionalist Plan, and the Connectional Conference Plan.  The Christian Headlines article stated: "The Council of Bishops recommended the One Church Plan, on Friday (May 4), after nearly a week of meetings in Chicago, according to a council press release."

So, what is in the plans?  The website of the Institute on Religion and Democracy,
JuicyEcumenism.com, stated:
...the Council of Bishops will forward three separate plans as possible options to the 2019 General Conference as part of its final report:
  • a Traditionalist Plan, which has previously been described as maintaining our present sexual-morality standards, increasing enforcement measures, and allowing gracious exit ramps for congregations and others unwilling to follow our standards;
  • a so-called One Church Plan, which has previously been described in terms of removing the UMC’s traditionalist teachings and policies on marriage and sex, and officially authorizing same-sex “weddings” and homosexually active pastors, throughout our denomination; and
  • a Connectional Conference Plan, which has previously been described as replacing the five jurisdictions into which the UMC is currently geographically divided within the United States with two or more nationwide jurisdictions that would each have its own theology and policies related to marriage, while somehow remaining part of the same denomination.
Again, the bishops have recommended the One Church Plan. The IRD article stated: "Such a plan, more accurately labeled the Liberalization Plan, is completely irreconcilable with Scripture, unfaithful 2,000 years of consistent global Christian tradition, and very pastorally harmful, most especially to self-identified LGBTQ individuals and their loved ones."

The Wesleyan Covenant Association issued a statement this past week, in which it expressed gratitude that three plans would be presented.  It stated, in part:
We understand a majority of the council is recommending the adoption of a “local option” plan that would liberalize our sexual ethics, teachings on marriage, and ordination standards. Therefore, we are particularly grateful a significant and important minority of the council insisted on the inclusion of a traditionalist model.
To give some perspective on this association and its purpose, here is another passage from the statement:
At its inception the Wesleyan Covenant Association clearly stated in its Chicago Statement that: “A plan that requires traditionalists to compromise their principles and understanding of Scripture, including any form of the ‘local option’ around ordination and marriage, will not be acceptable to the members of the Wesleyan Covenant Association, stands little chance of passing General Conference, would not definitively resolve our conflict, and would, in fact, lead to the fracturing of the church.”
Nevertheless, the tone of its statement indicated the Association was hopeful about the outcome of this event, coming up in February 2019.

2 - So. Baptists debate status of Seminary president in advance of its National Convention

Meanwhile, the Southern Baptist Convention is set to meet in Dallas next month, and over the past few weeks, the Convention has garnered negative headlines regarding comments made in the past by one of the long-time leaders of the Convention, President of the denomination's Southwestern seminary, Paige Patterson.  The comments centered around Dr. Patterson's views on how abuse should be handled in a marital relationship.  Plus, a video surfaced on a blog of Patterson making a joke that was perceived to be in ill taste and misogynistic.

Patterson has made several statements; the most recent, according to the Baptist Press website, was an apology to those he had offended.  It contained the words:
...I wish to apologize to every woman who has been wounded by anything I have said that was inappropriate or that lacked clarity. We live in a world of hurt and sorrow, and the last thing that I need to do is add to anyone's heartache. Please forgive the failure to be as thoughtful and careful in my extemporaneous expression as I should have been."

Patterson added, "I would also like to reiterate the simple truth that I utterly reject any form of abuse in demeaning or threatening talk, in physical blows, or in forced sexual acts. There is no excuse for anyone to use intemperate language or to attempt to injure another person. The Spirit of Christ is one of comfort, kindness, encouragement, truth, and grace; and that is what I desire my voice always to be.
There have been several open letters that have been posted online; the one receiving the most attention coming from women who had expressed their concern.  In social media, there has been spirited discussion about whether or not Patterson should resign his position or be removed, as well as whether or not he should preach the highlighted convention sermon in Dallas.  The seminary's Board of Trustees will meet next week to discuss the situation, at the request of Patterson, according to Baptist Press.

Meanwhile, outgoing convention president Steve Gaines has weighed in, and in a statement referenced in another Baptist Press article, mentioned that he had spoken to Patterson and expressed his disagreement with him in these matters. Gaines also issued an apology to SBC women, saying, in part: "On behalf of the SBC, I ask for the forgiveness of all women who have been hurt by these comments and the issue of ill treatment of women within churches in particular." He encouraged Southern Baptists to pray for the Trustees meeting on May 22.  He also encouraged them to do four things:
--Pray for the SBC. Ultimately, our struggle is not with people, but with Satan and demonic spirits (cf. Ephesians 6:12). We must stop fighting one another, and start fighting the devil on our knees.

-- Fast and pray 21 days for our SBC meeting in Dallas. I call all Southern Baptists to participate in a 21-day fast beginning Tuesday, May 22 through Monday, June 11. That will enable us to fast for 21 days immediately prior to the SBC meeting that begins on Tuesday, June 12. Some can do a regular fast (liquids but no food). Most anyone can do some sort of partial fast (i.e. eliminate certain foods, or eliminate a meal or two per day).

-- Speak positively and constructively. Every word we speak, in private or public conversation, even on social media, should be Christlike and filled with grace. If anyone reviles you, do not respond in kind. Far better to be wronged than to participate in an ungodly exchange of words before a lost world that is listening and watching.

-- Pray for our SBC trustees. They are accountable to the Lord and to our SBC churches, not to the employees of the SBC entities. Let them do their work as we pray for them.
He also acknowledged his commitment to "racial diversity in the various levels of SBC leadership."

1 - No. Korea prisoners brought home, concerns persist about NoKo human rights record

Three men who had been held as prisoners in North Korea were released during the past week.  The President and Vice-President both met the men, who were accompanied by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, when they returned in the wee hours of the morning.

The Faithwire.com site reported on a spiritual aspect of the homecoming: "As Pence shook hands with the three Americans who had flown back to the U.S. with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, they handed him a note. Contained within was a stunning piece of scripture."  The Scripture passage was the first three verses of Psalm 126 in the English Standard Version:
(1) “When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
we were like those who dream.
2 Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
and our tongue with shouts of joy;
then they said among the nations,
“The Lord has done great things for them.”
3 The Lord has done great things for us;
we are glad...”
The Vice-President tweeted, "It was an amazing moment I’ll never forget… when 3 Americans stepped onto the tarmac at Joint Base Andrews & gave me a signed personal note with Psalm 126 on the back...”

The Open Doors USA website reported:
The three Americans–all of Korean descent–reportedly include two Christians. Kim Dong-chul, arrested in 2016, is a pastor in his early 60s while Kim Hak-song, who previously described himself as a Christian missionary was jailed in October 2017. The third man, Kim Sang-duk, also known as Tony Kim, was 55 when he was arrested in 2017. Reportedly, a senior U.S. official said their release was a condition to the historic meeting between Trump and North Korea dictator Kim Jong-un. The United States has repeatedly demanded the release of the three American citizens who were held on charges of committing espionage or unidentified “hostile acts” against North Korea. No other Americans are believed to be held prisoner in North Korea.
The site also stated:
While we celebrate the release of the three men from North Korean custody, Open Doors CEO David Curry points out that these recent positive developments are far from the end of freedom work in North Korea. Instead, they should mark the beginning as we are driven to pray for and advocate for the estimated 50,000 North Korean Christians held in this prison system where abuses and conditions have been described as “as bad or even worse” than Auschwitz, the infamous World War II Nazi concentration camp. For the last 17 straight years, North Korea has been #1 on Open Doors World Watch List as the world’s most dangerous country for Christians.
Curry also is quoted as saying, "...we must continue to work toward religious freedoms for the estimated 300,000 North Korean Christians who must practice their faith under threat of harassment, imprisonment and even death."

Sunday, May 06, 2018

The 3 - May 6, 2018

This week's edition of The 3 contains information regarding the rebranding of the Boy Scouts of America to omit the word, "Boy."  Also, two more states have passed legislation to protect faith-based adoption agencies from being forced to violate their religious beliefs concerning the types of homes in which children are placed.  And, another National Day of Prayer executive order was issued by the President; this time, to establish an office to guarantee a level playing field for faith-based organizations in their provision of services.

3 - "Boy" removed from Boy Scouts of America

This week, it was reported that the Boy Scouts of America would drop the use of the word, "Boy," according to USA Today, opting to use the name, Scouts BSA, come next February.

Florida Family Policy Council issued a press release, which stated:
The decision comes after the BSA decided to admit openly gay identified boys and adults, transgendered boys and most recently girls into the historically male organization. The new name will be “Scouts BSA.” New logos now include images of both a boy and a girl.
In 2013, immediately after the BSA voted to admit boys acting out as homosexual, the Florida Family Policy Council was instrumental in leading the launch of Trail Life USA, a national Christian scouting movement.
John Stemberger is President of the Florida Family Policy Council and Chairman of the Board of Trail Life USA.  In a statement, he said:
“It’s simply stunning that a leading youth organization which parents have entrusted the protection of their children with for over a century has now opted to again appease LGBT activists rather than follow clear, common-sense best practices for child protection and do what’s truly in the best interest of the boys..."
He added, "...Having fully joined the sexual revolution, the BSA has become a merely a youth group with neckerchiefs further promoting moral and gender confusion in society.”

2 - 2 states vote to protect faith-based adoption agencies

Because of those people and groups that would want to force faith-based adoption agencies to place children in households that would reflect opposition to their deeply-held beliefs, legal protection is needed.  States such as Alabama have already passed legislation that would allow such agencies to set their own policies for the types of homes in which they would place children.

Family Policy Alliance reported that in one day, two more states have passed similar legislation.  Its website states:
Late last night, the Kansas Legislature passed the Adoption Protection Act, making Kansas the ninth state to protect the right of faith-based adoption agencies to continue their good work. Kansas followed Oklahoma, which also passed a similar measure yesterday.
The story continued: "...unlike states such as Massachusetts and Illinois that have already actively pushed out faith-based adoption providers, Kansas and Oklahoma joined the growing trend to protect faith-based agencies and the children they serve."

Eric Teetsel, President of Family Policy Alliance of Kansas, is quoted as saying, "While other states shut down faith-based providers by establishing a radical, left-wing sexual litmus test, Kansas has made clear: everyone is welcome here.”

1 - New executive order issued on National Day of Prayer establishes new faith-based initiative

Again, the occasion of the National Day of Prayer brought faith leaders to the White House Rose Garden to witness the signing of another executive order to protect religious freedom; this time, the President announced a new initiative, an office. The White House website quoted President Trump:
The faith initiative will help design new policies that recognize the vital role of faith in our families, our communities, and our great country. This office will also help ensure that faith-based organizations have equal access to government funding and the equal right to exercise their deeply held beliefs.
We take this step because we know that, in solving the many, many problems and our great challenges, faith is more powerful than government, and nothing is more powerful than God.
CBN News provided a look into the language of the order.  It reported:
The order calls for the executive branch to ensure "conscience protections" that grants people and institutions free reign "to practice their faith without fear of discrimination or retaliation by the federal government."
And, "It also directs the Treasury Department not to target churches or religious groups for speaking about political issues..."

One of the President's evangelical advisory board members, Johnnie Moore, is quoted as saying, "Ordering every department of the federal government to work on faith-based partnerships - not just those with faith offices - represents a widespread expansion of a program that has historically done very effective work and now can do even greater work..."  The story relates that, "He says he'd like to see the White House faith-based effort focus on issues like prison reform, mental health issues, strengthening families, promoting education and meeting humanitarian needs."

Evangelist Greg Laurie stated, "I've always believed that America is better when it's faithful, together. Anything any administration can do to demonstrate a positive partnership between our faith communities and government, the better off our country will be and so I herald this important initiative that empowers people of faith in America..."

Sunday, April 29, 2018

The 3 - April 29, 2018

In this week's edition of The 3, spotlighting three stories from the Christian community, you'll find out about one African nation, in which hundreds of churches have been shut down, at least temporarily.  Also, evangelicals are among those stepping up to address prison reform.  Plus, a toddler in U.K. has lost his life after his parents fought to keep him from being removed from life support.

3 - Rwandan government closes hundreds of churches

It is certainly a valid role of government to set regulations for buildings and to conduct timely inspections.  But, when a country closes down around 700 buildings, all with the same purpose, I would imagine that it would raise maybe more than a few eyebrows.  According to the BBC, the government in Rwanda has done just that.  Its report states: "About 700 churches have been closed down in Rwanda for failing to comply with building regulations and for noise pollution."  The report adds, "A government official told the BBC that some of the more than 700 buildings shut down have already reopened after they were approved by inspectors."  (One building was a mosque.)

The BBC report also says:
Some are massive, attracting thousands of worshippers each Sunday, but others consist of tiny structures built without planning permission.
Church leaders have at times been criticised for using loud public address systems to attract worshippers.
Oh, and according to the article, in this predominantly Christian African nation, "According to a proposed new law, all preachers must have theological training before opening a church."

A Christianity Today story quotes President Paul Kagame:
Kagame said his country doesn’t need so many houses of worship, explaining that such a high number is only fit for bigger, more developed economies that have the means to sustain them.
Many church leaders disagree, and six Pentecostal pastors were arrested for organizing protests. Rwandan authorities maintain the churches were in such poor physical condition that they threatened the lives of churchgoers.
2 - "Second Chance Month" concludes, church leaders push prison reform

Prison Fellowship, the ministry founded by the late Chuck Colson, declared the month of April to be "Second Chance Month." Its website stated:
Just as God forgives our sins and offers us a second chance, the Bible shows us that we can offer a second chance to those who have paid their debt to society. People with a past can still have a bright future, and their families and communities stand to benefit from their contributions.
The website goes on to say:
President Trump officially recognized April 2018 as Second Chance Month, along with nine other jurisdictions and more than 150 partner organizations around the country. Prison Fellowship and its partners are working to reduce barriers keeping formerly incarcerated Americans from successfully rejoining society...
The site also says that PF and its partners are "raising awareness of the importance of second chances...," and it mentioned a number of methods through which that would be done.

Also, Prison Fellowship is standing behind prison reform legislation that is scheduled for a Congressional vote.  The Christian Post stated that:
Hundreds of Christian leaders have signed onto a letter sent Wednesday to Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and other congressional leaders voicing support for the Prison Reform and Redemption Act of 2017, also known as H.R. 3356.
The bill would expand programs that focus on their individual problems, such as drug rehabilitation, treatment for sexual addiction, job training, anger management or others. The legislation would also expand risk assessment to determine the best programs for individual prisoners.
Evangelical leaders signing the letter include Franklin Graham, James Dobson, Ronnie Floyd, Jack Graham, Tony Perkins, and Harry Jackson.

A vote on the bill has been delayed, a delay which PF deems to be unacceptable - its senior vice president of advocacy and public policy, Craig DeRoche, is quoted as saying, "The delay in voting on the Prison Reform and Redemption Act in the House of Representatives is a disappointment to Prison Fellowship and the hundreds of thousands of prisoners and families we serve in our programs..."

There are those that say the legislation does not go far enough - by not including sentencing reform. The Post said:
DeRoche, who also supports sentencing reforms, asserted. "Delaying, or even killing these important reforms disregards the hope, dignity, value and potential of the people incarcerated today and will only serve the practical outcome of making America less safe by continuing the current recidivism rate."
Meanwhile, CBN News reported that a number of "evangelical leaders" were scheduled to meet at the White House last Friday to discuss prison reform, including some from the "Reconciled Church Movement," which includes Jackson.  The article states that:
This meeting is a series of listening sessions between the administration, led by advisor Jared Kushner and civil and religious leaders about ways to reform the criminal justice system.
CBN also stated, regarding the prison bill, that it would "use faith-based organizations to help in the efforts."

The Christian Post highlighted the need for such legislation:
Bureau of Justice Statistics studies have found that about two-thirds of released prisoners in the U.S. were rearrested within three years after release.
1 - Alfie Evans, after UK court refusal on medical treatment, passes away

In a series of events that present a chilling scenario for people who consider themselves to be pro-life, another child in the United Kingdom was denied his right to life at the hands of overzealous judges.

LifeSiteNews.com reported late Friday night in the States that 23-month-old Alfie Evans had died. The report said:
Despite last-minute interventions, including the Italian government’s gift of citizenship to the infant, the child died four days after doctors at the Alder Hey NHS (National Health Service) Foundation ignored his parents’ wishes and removed him from a ventilator.
The hospital had determined that due to Alfie's condition, which was said to have been a "fatal neurodegenerative disorder," that it was in his best interest to discontinue further treatment. The article says that, "On February 20, 2018, Mr Justice Heydon of the UK Supreme Court ruled that it was in Alfie’s 'best interests' to discontinue treatment, to be removed from his life support, and to receive palliative care at Alder Hey."

After numerous appeals before a variety of courts, including the UK High Court, life support was removed last Monday.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

The 3 - April 22, 2018

This week's edition of The 3, highlighting three stories of relevance to the Christian community, includes a bill that was signed into law by the President less than two weeks ago that is designed to reduce human trafficking online.  Also, there's a story out of China, where that nation is in the process of banning the sale of Bibles.  And, an Army chaplain who did not include a same-sex couple in a marriage retreat he was conducting has been recommended for disciplinary action, even though he followed Army regulations, complied with his endorsing agency's teachings, and accommodated the soldier in the same-sex relationship.

3 - Anti-sex trafficking law passed by Congress, signed by the President

People of faith have been speaking out against what is termed, "human trafficking," and as John Stonestreet pointed out recently on his commentary, The Point, which is heard daily on Faith Radio:
On April 11, President Trump signed into law the FOSTA act. That’s a partial acronym for “Allow States and Victims to Fight Sex Trafficking” Act.
FOSTA seeks to shut down online sex trafficking.
Stonestreet pointed out that there had already been an impact, according to a Washington Post article, which reported that content devoted to sex had been removed and advertising rejected; he related...
Such advertising has led to the trafficking of victims as young as 14. The bill’s signing came shortly after several executives of one website were arrested for facilitating prostitution.
Liberty Counsel had called attention to a site that had been shut down:
The top online human trafficking site, Backpage.com, was seized by the federal government two weeks after the U.S. House and Senate passed a bill to stop online human sex trafficking.
Its press release pointed out, following the Senate vote, that Craigslist had taken down its "personals" section and other sites had removed content related to prostitution.

2 - China institutes Bible bans while U.S. state seeks to ban Bible-centered books

If you wish to purchase a Bible in China, the government has made it harder - according to WORLD Magazine...
Starting in late March, major online retailers including JD.com, Dangdang, and Amazon.cn stopped offering Bibles for sale, although children’s Bibles, theological books, and Bible concordances remained. Technically, Bibles in China are allowed to be sold only in government-sanctioned churches, yet the authorities never enforced that rule strictly, and Bibles could easily be found online as well as in Christian bookstores.
And, the WORLD article included a report that a Beijing Christian bookstore was inspected by a "government official" and told that books with "foreign ISBN numbers could no longer be sold, according to Hong Kong’s Inkstone news website."

The article points out that the Chinese government "had released a white paper claiming the Chinese Communist Party exercises authority over religion in order to keep 'Western' religions like Christianity from being 'controlled and utilized by colonialists and imperialists.'"

These actions come around the same time as California legislators were in the midst of attempting to pass legislation that would ban the sale of content in the state, including by online retailers, as well, that presented instruction on how people can experience freedom by dealing Biblically with same-sex attraction.  The bill has already passed one chamber, the Assembly, and faces action in the Senate.

1 - Army chaplain faces discipline for marriage views

There is a story out of the military dealing with religious freedom that has gained quite a bit of attention over the past few days. According to the legal advocacy organization, First Liberty, a chaplain who has been serving with the Army for 25 years, was asked to include a same-sex couple in a marriage retreat that he was conducting.  Because of the teachings of his endorsing agency, the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, he made arrangements for the couple to be included in another retreat taught by another chaplain.  This was not good enough for the soldier who had wanted to attend the retreat - he filed a complaint, the Army investigated, and recommended the chaplain, Scott Squires, for disciplinary action.

He and his attorneys with First Liberty insist the chaplain was following Army regulations. Squires is quoted on the organization's website as saying: “I was shocked the investigator concluded that I should be reprimanded for doing something I’m required to do under Army regulations and my endorser’s rules,” adding, “I hope the Army sees that I was simply following Army regulations and the tenets of my church.”

First Liberty points out that:
Under federal law and Department of Defense regulations, the military may not take adverse action against a chaplain who acts in accordance with his or her religious tenets. First Liberty sent a letter to the U.S. Army urging it to reverse the investigator’s decision and the recommendation that Squires be disciplined for discrimination.
The Family Research Council website includes these comments:
As FRC's own Lt. General Jerry Boykin has said, "If the military wants a chaplain corps, then they have to be prepared for chaplains to be chaplains. A chaplain isn't worth anything if he isn't allowed to minister and counsel according to his faith. If the Army won't allow him to be a chaplain, then he becomes nothing more than a social worker."
The website continues:
If anyone should be free to exercise their faith, shouldn't it be chaplains? It's time for the Army to refresh its memory on a little thing called the First Amendment and reread the president's executive order on religious liberty. Both documents ought to be all the proof they need that Chaplain Squires is guilty of nothing but doing his job. And, by all accounts, doing it well.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

The 3 - April 15, 2018

This week on The 3, focusing in on three stories of relevance to the Christian community, the attempt to shut down free speech was in evidence this week at a California university, as there were threats to "disrupt" a speech by a pro-life leader.  Also, students exercised their free speech rights in a pro-life walkout at schools across the country, with seemingly little support by school officials.  And, a leading U.S. Senator confronted the founder of Facebook about its bias toward certain points of view - namely, conservative and Christian content.

3 - Pro-life speaker makes presentation at CA university, despite threat of disruption

There was concern over a speech scheduled for Cal State-Fullerton this past week featuring Kristan Hawkins, President of Students for Life of America.  The Stream reported that: "Antifa is planning to disrupt April speeches," scheduled by Hawkins.  The organization referred to her as a “Christian-fascist” who " spews 'anti-women poison.'"

The site reported:
The Antifa group Refuse Fascism, particularly its Orange County, San Diego, Bay Area and Los Angeles chapters in California, scheduled protests for April 10 and April 11, reported Campus Reform.
“The anti-choice agenda being pushed by Trump/Pence and their fascist movement is nothing less than preparing for the ground for a real-life Handmaid’s Tale, with women completely enslaved and subordinated to a patriarchal order,” insists Refuse Fascism.
The Students for Life Pacific Southwest Regional Coordinator Camille Rodriguez told Campus Reform: “The protest consists of people telling women they’re anti-themselves,” adding, “I’m intrigued to hear what else they have to say!”

Students for Life spokeswoman Kristi Hamrick told The Daily Caller News Foundation that:“[Hawkins] clearly advocates for female empowerment and respect for human beings, from conception to natural death,” adding, “The Handmaid’s Tale is a work of fiction, but in reality, women deserve support so that they never have to choose between their education and their child. Our society should be strong enough to support conversations on college campuses about how best to address the human rights issues of our day.”

The Daily Titan, the student newspaper at the school reported that over 40 people attended and that...
...An organized protest by Refuse Fascism Orange County prompted event coordinators to switch the event’s location from McCarthy Hall to the Titan Student Union.

Hawkins arrived to a round of applause from the audience after her introduction and went straight into the topic.

“I should never have to pay somebody to commit a violent act against another human being in order for me to have freedom. Abortion is the opposite of empowerment,” Hawkins said.
2 - Students participate in pro-life walkout to tepid support from school officials

This was also the week for the Pro-Life Walkout. WORLD Magazine reported that:
The event was initiated by Brandon Gillespie, a student at Rocklin High School near Sacramento, Calif. One of Gillespie’s teachers was placed on a two-day, paid administrative leave in March over a class discussion about whether school administrators would show equal deference to various student walkouts. Pro-Life Walkout student organizers at Rocklin asked their principal and the Rocklin Unified School District for the same accommodations as were given to students for the March 14 National School Walkout to protest gun violence—which included no scheduled tests and the use of the school’s amphitheater and sound system—but on Wednesday morning, the district sent a letter to the students saying they would not make those accommodations, according to Alexandra Snyder, executive director of the California-based Life Legal Defense Foundation.
WORLD had reported that the Foundation had sent the principal "a letter on Monday, requesting equal treatment for Gillespie at Wednesday’s pro-life walkout."  Allison K. Aranda, senior staff counsel, stated, “RHS may wish to review its policies regarding expressive activity like student walkouts, but Brandon Gillespie is going to conduct his activity in the same manner as the previous walkout and expects to be treated in the exact same manner as the students who participated in the gun walkout..." Another WORLD story cited the involvement of Students for Life of America, noting:
Students for Life of America (SFLA) said it received numerous reports of poor administrative support for Wednesday’s pro-life student walkouts at schools across the country. Though students have not reported being disciplined at school for participating in the walkouts, many said their principals and teachers discouraged the demonstrations and threatened consequences in advance.
According to Townhall.com,"The walkout boasted 191 high schools and 81 colleges participating across the country." The piece said that, "According to Students for Life president Kristan Hawkins, more than 300 students or student groups participated in the event."

1 - Facebook founder faces Congressional hearing, called out for censorship of certain viewpoints

The testimony on Capitol Hill by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg included a key point of confrontation with Sen. Ted Cruz.  According to LifeSiteNews.com:
Cruz began by asking whether Facebook considers itself a neutral forum, to which Zuckerberg said Facebook views itself as “a platform for all ideas." Cruz followed up by noting that online services are not held liable for their content so long as they are a “neutral public forum.”
He then asked again whether Facebook considers itself a neutral public forum, or if it engages in political speech.
Zuckerberg answered that Facebook’s “goal” was “certainly not to engage in political speech.” Pressing further, Cruz told him that “a great many Americans” were “deeply concerned” that Facebook was engaged in a “pervasive pattern of bias and political censorship."
Zuckerberg described that as a "fair" concern, considering that Facebook was headquartered in what he called the "extremely left-leaning" Silicon Valley.  He then said that he tried to "root out" bias.

The story goes on to say that Cruz...
...cited several examples of Facebook suppressing conservative views from its trending news stories, such as stories on the Conservative Political Action Conference, the Lois Lerner IRS scandal, and others. He also highlighted Facebook shutting down a Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day page, blocking more than two dozen Catholic pages, and classifying conservative video bloggers Diamond and Silk as “unsafe for the community.”
At NRB.org, the website for National Religious Broadcasters, Jerry Johnson, President and CEO, is quoted as saying: “I am grateful a number of Senators and Representatives used their limited time at this week’s hearings to press Mr. Zuckerberg on clear examples of viewpoint censorship,” adding, “Why does religious and conservative content seem to fall in the cross-hairs? Is it algorithmic or human discrimination? What is being done to correct this problem in either case? We need more answers, and we need more hearings with all the big players.”  NRB has launched Internet Freedom Watch, which was formed "to draw attention to the censorship of Christian and conservative speech by companies such as Facebook, Google, Twitter, and Apple."

Sunday, April 08, 2018

The 3 - April 8, 2018

In this week's edition of The 3, there is good news about a major store chain that has decided to no longer place an offensive magazine at its checkout lines.  Also, an Air Force Colonel will be back on the job after the Air Force reversed punitive action against him for not affirm same-sex marriage.  And, a Georgia church has been "disfellowshipped" from the local Southern Baptist association due to racism.

3 - Walmart announces it will remove suggestive magazine from checkout lines

The National Center on Sexual Exploitation, formerly known as Morality in Media, announced in a news release that Walmart will no longer be displaying Cosmopolitan magazine in the checkout lines in thousands of stores.  The release stated:
The National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE) has instigated a significant policy change at Walmart as part of our continued work to change corporate policies that facilitate sexual exploitation. After collaborative dialogue with NCOSE, Walmart will remove Cosmopolitan magazine from checkout lines at 5,000 stores across the country.
Dawn Hawkins, NCOSE Executive Director, is quoted as saying: “This is what real change looks like in our #MeToo culture, and NCOSE is proud to work with a major corporation like Walmart to combat sexually exploitative influences in our society. Women, men, and children are bombarded daily with sexually objectifying and explicit materials, not only online, but in the checkout line at the store..."

Victoria Hearst, granddaughter of William Randolph Hearst, was pleased with the announcement.  The New York Post reported:
Hearst has been battling for years against Cosmo, the popular monthly magazine published by the company founded by her grandfather, the late William Randolph Hearst.
The born-again Christian feels that having Cosmo at checkout lines without any shield over its sexy cover photos is too racy for kids. Hearst also thanked Walmart for moving Cosmo to a different area in its stores.
“Thank you Walmart Corporation, as a company that honors family values for moving Cosmopolitan magazine from the cashier racks in your stores to the magazine section,” the heiress, who founded Praise Him Ministries, said in the statement.
2 - Air Force will not punish colonel for his religious stand

There is victory in the case of an Air Force colonel who stood on his faith beliefs when asked to affirm a same-sex marriage.  According to the First Liberty website, Col. Leland Bohannon...
...was asked to sign an optional spouse appreciation certificate for a retiring Airman. However, doing so would violate his religious convictions regarding same sex marriage. Doing so, he believed, would force him to publicly endorse a relationship and violate his religious beliefs. So, he asked a two-star general—a much higher-ranking officer—to sign the optional certificate as a way to show appreciation to the Airman without violating Col. Bohannon’s religious conscience.
The Airman, even though he could have - and I would say, should have - responded with appreciation for the general's endorsement, filed a complaint against Col. Bohannon!  First Liberty stated that the stakes were high...
The blowback from the complaint nearly ruined Col. Bohannon’s accomplished military career. Everything Col. Bohannon sacrificed – all his years of exceptional service to our country – were on the verge of being destroyed.
The Air Force found that Col. Bohannon had violated regulations, and he was suspended.  In its appeal, First Liberty contended that "Forcing Col Bohannon to sign a spouse certificate when his religious beliefs prohibit him from doing so violates federal law and DOD regulations."

The website reported:
The Secretary of the Air Force announced that it reversed its unfavorable decision against decorated Air Force Colonel Leland Bohannon, clearing his name and fully restoring his service record.
In less than six months, First Liberty’s legal action – as well as correspondence from Members of Congress – prompted the U.S. Air Force to recognize Col. Bohannon’s right to express his sincerely held religious beliefs.
1 - South Georgia Baptist association removes church from fellowship over racial concerns

In a week where there was much consideration of the contributions of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the state of race relations in America and in the Church, one Southern Baptist association, the Mallary Association, in Southwest Georgia, took a bold step.  According to Georgia's Christian Index:
Mallary Baptist Association disfellowshipped Raleigh White Baptist Church on grounds of racism.
After two years of intervention between the church and New Seasons Church by the Association and the Georgia Baptist Mission Board, the Association’s Executive Committee voted unanimously to remove the church from its membership roll. The vote ends a 75-year relationship with the Anglo congregation since it was founded and joined the Association in 1943.
According to the article:
The story began in June 2015 when Raleigh White pastor Ronnie Kinsaul, seeing the church’s steady decline in a transitional neighborhood, sought an African American church planter to partner with the congregation. That materialized in the form of Georgia Baptist church planter Marcus Glass and his small-yet-growing congregation named New Seasons Church, which was meeting elsewhere.
But, after about six months, the relationship started to decline. New Seasons began to grow and "use more of the church's facilities...," plus, there were disagreements and, "Sources say a number of Raleigh White’s members eventually no longer shared their pastor’s vision of the future." The pastor is no longer there.

Confusion over a time change to accommodate Raleigh White's homecoming caused further tension, and just a few weeks ago, the Association, according to the article, decided it had had enough - after going through a process, this past week, the Association's Executive Committee voted to disfellowship the church.  The Association is attempting to find a place for New Seasons to meet; this past Sunday it met in a different location, according to its Facebook page.  The church was sponsored by two churches in the area, including Albany's Sherwood Baptist Church.

Monday, April 02, 2018

The 3 - April 1, 2018

This week on The 3, highlighting three stories of relevance for the Christian community: a Christian ministry received flak on an HBO show regarding its belief in traditional marriage.  Also, the Administration has issued a policy on transgender people serving in the U.S. Military.  And, a number of evangelical leaders have issued a statement against the recent omnibus spending bill that continued to fund Planned Parenthood.

3 - Vice-President daughter's and wife's appearance at Focus on the Family draws comedian's rant

This past Monday, Vice-President Pence's wife Karen and daughter Charlotte appeared at Focus on the Family for a book signing.  Charlotte has written and Karen has illustrated a book from the viewpoint of the Pence's pet rabbit, Marlon Bundo.

The book and the appearance at Focus drew the attention and a resulting rant from comedian John Oliver, host of Last Week Tonight on HBO.  According to ChristianHeadlines.com:
According to The Christian Post, Oliver mocked the book, titled Marlon Bundo’s Day in the Life of the Vice President, which was created by Pence’s daughter Charlotte and is based on the Pence’s real-life pet rabbit. Although the book is not political in nature, Oliver used it to mock the Vice President’s views on abortion and gay marriage.
Oliver changed the book’s title and created a scenario in which Pence, portrayed as a stink bug, tries to stop two gay rabbits from getting married.
Responding to Oliver’s attack, Focus on the Family President Jim Daly wrote, "Social media is abuzz today concerning HBO's John Oliver's Sunday night attack on Vice President Mike Pence and Focus on the Family. The 'satirical' late-night talk show host's screed was not just vicious in tone, but also vulgar and vile in every sense of the word and way.”
At his blog site, Daly also invited Oliver to attend the book signing.  You can read more in my blog post on the subject over at The Front Room.

2 - Administration announces plan for transgender service in military

Even since last summer, when President Trump announced his intent to reinstate the ban that was removed the previous year on transgender individuals serving in the U.S. Military, there has been all sorts of controversy, including a number of court cases attempting to prevent the President and the Defense Department from changing the policy.

Recently, the Administration issued a memorandum that, according to a press release from Liberty Counsel, disqualifies...
...“transgender” individuals from serving in the military, stating that the defense secretary and the homeland security secretary should “exercise their authority to implement any appropriate policies concerning military service by transgender individuals.”
The memorandum said individuals with a history of gender dysphoria, defined as “those who may require substantial medical treatment, including through medical drugs or surgery,” are disqualified from military service “except under certain limited circumstances.” Those who are currently in the United States military may remain in the ranks, but the Pentagon could require them to serve according to their gender at birth.
One of the concerns of opponents of allowing transgender individuals to serve is that it would adversely affect the effectiveness of the military.  Liberty Counsel reports:
In a memo to the president, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis cited “substantial risks” about military personnel who seek to change or who question their gender identity. He found that individuals with a history or diagnosis of gender dysphoria presented a risk to military effectiveness and “could undermine readiness, disrupt unit cohesion, and impose an unreasonable burden on the military that is not conducive to military effectiveness and lethality.”
1 - Omnibus spending bill continues to fund Planned Parenthood, evangelical leaders protest

It is commonly believed and reported that certain evangelical leaders will support President Trump no matter what he does.  Now, they generally fail to explain what they expect those who have complimented the President on his policies to do, but the perception is created that you have evangelical Christians who turn a blind eye to anything that Trump does that may not line up with Biblical principles.

Well, a number of such leaders have called the President and Congress out for the recent omnibus spending bill that a majority of lawmakers passed and the President reluctantly signed.  According to CBNNews.com, "...a group of evangelical leaders issued a statement criticizing the White House and Republican lawmakers for passing an 'immoral' spending bill." The report said that the statement was originated by Johnnie Moore, who is the de facto spokesman for the evangelical advisory group for the President and was retweeted by others, including Eric Metaxas.  The article related that the statement said...
...the budget "constitutes an immoral betrayal by the leadership of the Republican party."

It criticized the $1.3 trillion budget for significantly adding to the national debt, providing funding for Planned Parenthood and failing to protect "Dreamers," people brought to the United States illegally as children.
The statement acknowledged the importance of keeping the government open for the sake of the military and national security but the leaders who signed it don't think it was worth the cost of approving an "immoral budget."
Greg Laurie of Harvest Crusades tweeted out the statement, and added:
It is hard to believe that this spending bill was just passed by Congress and signed by the President. $500 million to Planned Parenthood? Below is a statement I signed along with other Evangelicals expressing my disagreement.
CBN News reports that the statement said:
"Next time the administration should send a different message - 'look me in the eyes; this is no longer business-as-usual.'" 

Sunday, March 25, 2018

The 3 - March 25, 2018

This week on The 3, there's news out of Mississippi, where the nation's earliest ban on abortion has been placed on hold by a Federal judge.  Also, a pro-life Democrat in Illinois has survived a primary challenge that was fueled by the progressive/liberal wing of his party.  Plus, the U.S. Supreme Court heard an important case regarding the rights of pro-life pregnancy resource centers to not be forced by the government to communicate a message that is inconsistent with their purpose.

3 - MS pro-life law put on hold by Federal judge

Just days ago, the governor of Mississippi, Phil Bryant, signed into law a bill, passed by the Legislature, that would ban abortion in the state at 15 weeks' gestation.  After being passed by a majority of lawmakers, one Federal judge has taken it upon himself to block it.

The Clarion-Ledger reported that the judge, Carlton Reeves, issued a temporary restraining order.  The story states:
In his ruling Tuesday, Reeves said the restraining order would be in effect for 10 days. He asked for "expedited briefings" on whether the court should issue a "preliminary injunction and whether that relief should be consolidated with a trial on the merits."
The article goes on to say that "attorney Rob McDuff had filed a hearing request for a temporary restraining order on behalf of Women's Health Organization."  That is the state's only abortion clinic.

McDuff said that ban was "unconstitutional."  The attorney was contending that an abortion at 15 weeks was scheduled at the clinic on Tuesday afternoon, and if it did not transpire then, the woman could not have an abortion, because at the time of the next appointment, she would have passed the 16-week limit that the clinic has.

2 - Pro-life Democrat wins primary challenges

In a race between moderate and liberal factions of the Democratic party, which had issued overtures that pro-life candidates and office-holders were no longer welcomed, pro-life Illinois Congressman Dan Lipinski won the state's party primary.  National Review reported that the campaign of his challenger, Marie Newman...
...was buoyed in particular by abortion-rights groups such as Planned Parenthood and NARAL, both of which have grown increasingly frustrated with Lipinski’s consistently pro-life voting record, especially as the rest of his party has grown more willing to support unlimited abortion-on-demand. Newman also received vocal support from progressive Democrats, including Senators Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D., N.Y.), along with Illinois representatives Jan Schakowsky and Luis Gutierrez.
The article stated that the outcome was "a win for the notion that Democratic politicians can be pro-life and survive within a party that’s swiftly becoming more radical on the issue."  It goes on to say:
Still, he remains one of only a handful of Democrats in Congress willing to vote for anti-abortion legislation such as the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act or the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act. So while the efforts of pro-life group Susan B. Anthony List — whose volunteers knocked on more than 25,000 doors for Lipinski in the third district over this past weekend — were surely worthwhile, in the big-picture abortion debate, it’s a very small win, indeed.
1 - Supreme Court hears arguments on CA law forcing pro-life centers to notify about abortion 

Pro-life pregnancy resource centers across California were alarmed when the so-called "Reproductive FACT Act" was passed by legislators there.  The Family Policy Alliance described the bill as...
...requiring that life-supporting pregnancy centers provide women and families a referral to state-sponsored abortion clinics. Pro-life pregnancy centers would be required to post large signs on their walls offering “free or low-cost access” to county-sponsored abortion clinics.
The Alliance stated, "It is not only outrageous – but also unthinkable based on our First Amendment – that pro-life organizations would be forced by the state to promote values that directly oppose their very reason for being."

The bill was challenged, and this week, it was heard in oral arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court, and many of the justices did not seem to be sympathetic to the state's claims, according to the Los Angeles Times, which reported that "...most of the justices took sharp issue with all or parts of the California law. They said it was unfairly targeted at the faith-based centers. Doctors and for-profit clinics were exempted from the law."  The article stated:
"If it has been gerrymandered, that's a serious issue," said Justice Elena Kagan. Agreeing, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. said the law "has a lot of crazy exceptions. … What you're left with is a very strange pattern, and, gee, it turns out just about the only clinics that are covered by this are pro-life clinics."
Justice Kennedy, according to the report, "described the required notice as 'mandating speech' that 'alters the content of the message.'"  Justice Gorsuch said that the state has "other means to provide messages. … It's pretty unusual to force a private speaker to do that for you under the 1st Amendment..."

So, while the outcome can never be assured until the decision is handed down later this year, there was reason for optimism before the high court.  First Liberty Institute filed a friend-of-the-court brief, and Judicial Fellow Lea Patterson provided some analysis on The Meeting House.  You can access that conversation here.