Friday, July 12, 2019

The 3 - July 14, 2019

In this week's edition of The 3, with three stories of relevance to the Christian community, there is news out of Oklahoma, where a ban on a particular abortion procedure has been upheld by a judge. Also, Veterans' Administration facilities will have new rules on religious displays, thanks to a new policy announced by the VA secretary.  And, over a hundred churches in Egypt have been officially legalized there, bringing the total to over a thousand since a new law was enacted in 2016.

OK ban on abortion procedure OK'ed by Federal judge 

In 2015, the state of Oklahoma passed a new law called the Oklahoma Unborn Child Protection from Dismemberment Abortion Act. This bill was intended to ban dilation and extraction abortions, described in a story at The Washington Times as a common but controversial procedure typically used in pregnancies after 14 weeks.

The Center for Reproductive Rights, filed the lawsuit on behalf of the Tulsa Women’s Clinic and just last week, Oklahoma County District Judge Cindy Truong allowed the law to stand. The article said that the procedure is "typically used in pregnancies after 14 weeks." In a statement, Attorney General Mike Hunter stated, “Dismemberment abortions are barbaric, brutal and subject unborn children to more cruelty that we allow for death row inmates,” adding, “It is unconscionable to think that we would allow this practice to continue.”

The law now goes into effect, but it is unsure how long - the Oklahoma Supreme Court, as the Times states, "has blocked various anti-abortion measures in the past few years, including in April when it blocked a law that restricted access to drug-induced abortions in a 7-1 decision."

New Bible distribution rules put in place at VA hospitals

The Department of Veterans Affairs has announced new regulations regarding religious expression in the aftermath of the Peace Cross ruling in June from the U.S. Supreme Court.  A Christianity Today article said that, "The VA said the case 'reaffirmed the important role religion plays in the lives of many Americans and its consistency with Constitutional principles.'"

The article states:
The revised policies “allow the inclusion in appropriate circumstances of religious content in publicly accessible displays at VA facilities.”
They also permit patients to request and be provided with sacred texts, symbols and religious literature during treatment at facilities or visits to VA chapels. And they allow the VA “to accept donations of religious literature, cards and symbols at its facilities and distribute them to VA patrons under appropriate circumstances or to a patron who requests them.”
VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said, "We want to make sure that all of our Veterans and their families feel welcome at VA, no matter their religious beliefs. Protecting religious liberty is a key part of how we accomplish that goal." Mike Berry of First Liberty, which had contacted Wilkie about allowing Bibles to be part of POW/MIA remembrance displays, said, "This new VA policy is a welcome breath of fresh air...The Supreme Court recently upheld the constitutionality of religious displays with historic roots such as those commonly found in VA facilities. We commend the VA for taking this necessary and positive action.”

Over a hundred churches recognized as legal in Egypt

In 2016 in Egypt, a law had passed that promised that churches in the nation would have a smoother process to be approved by the government, and now that law may be starting to bear fruit, based on a a CBN.com story, which says that, "Since the law passed, some 1,021 have been granted permits by the committee, according to International Christian Concern."

That includes the "legalization of 127 churches which were previously being run in an illegal capacity."  The article also says:
While the committee still has many churches to legalize, this is a promising start for a country in which Coptic Christians have faced fierce levels of violence and persecution for decades.
According to Persecution watchdog Open Doors USA, the country's Christians still face daily persecution from groups within the Islamic-majority population, as well as mistreatment from the government itself.
The Islamic culture "fuels discrimination and creates an environment causing the state to be reluctant to respect and enforce the fundamental rights of Christians," Open Doors explains on its Egypt fact page.
The CBN article notes that prior to the passage of that 2016 law, "it was notoriously difficult to approve state approval and, therefore, congregations could find themselves at risk of prosecution."  Perhaps there is now some measure of relief.

Sunday, July 07, 2019

The 3 - July 7, 2019

This week's edition of The 3 includes the action of a denomination in removing a church and its pastor which had embraced homosexuality, in opposition to church teaching.  Also, the Blandensburg "Peace Cross" case has resulted in the U.S. Supreme Court sending a Pensacola case involving a veterans' memorial in the shape of a cross back to a lower court.  And, a British student has received positive court action in the U.K. after being removed from school due to social media content opposing homosexuality.

Evangelical Covenant Church removes MN church and pastor relative to same-sex marriage beliefs

It seems as if denomination after denomination is dealing, to some degree, with the issue of homosexuality.  It's not just the so-called "mainline" denominations, either.  Recently, Southern Baptists and the Presbyterian Church in America, in their annual gatherings, passed statements regarding the topic.

And, now, you have this dramatic move from the Evangelical Covenant Church, which, according to ReligionNews.com, recently "voted to remove a congregation from its roster over its position on LGBTQ inclusion." This was the first such occurrence in the 134 years the denomination has been in existence. The story states:
The vote to expel the First Covenant Church, a prominent and historic Minneapolis congregation, for being “out of harmony on human sexuality,” took place at the denomination’s annual meeting in Omaha on Friday (June 27).
The Minneapolis church has never performed a gay marriage, though a lesbian couple had an off-site wedding performed by its music director in 2014, which produced a series of conversations about its future over the past few years.
The denomination also expelled from its roster the Rev. Dan Collison, the church’s pastor.
The actions come after First Covenant said it would treat LGBTQ members as equals, allow married gay clergy and would be open to hosting same-sex marriages.
According to the article, the denomination's position is "that heterosexual marriage, faithfulness within marriage and abstinence outside of marriage constitute the Christian standard."

U.S. Supreme Court sends Pensacola cross case back to appeals court to reconsider

Now that the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of a large veterans' memorial in Maryland in the shape of a cross, there will no doubt be implications for religious displays all across the country.

Case in point: a memorial in a Pensacola park that was ordered to be removed by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.  As Liberty Counsel reports on its website, the high court...
...ordered a lower court to reconsider its earlier ruling that a World War II-era memorial cross in Pensacola must be removed. In Kondrat’yev v. City of Pensacola, a federal appeals court had ruled that the 78-year-old cross must come down, with two of the three judges saying that the outcome was “wrong” but that their “hands were tied” because of the so-called “Lemon Test.”
Referring to the Maryland decision, the website states:
In its 7-2 decision last week, the High Court made it clear that the so-called “Lemon Test” was not useful for cases involving ceremonial, celebratory or commemorative monuments that include religious imagery. Instead, the justices adopted a “strong presumption of constitutionality” for longstanding monuments. The ruling recognized that “a government that roams the land, tearing down monuments with religious symbolism and scrubbing away any reference to the divine will strike many as aggressively hostile to religion” which the Constitution does not require. The Supreme Court said that although “the Cross is undoubtedly a Christian symbol. . . the Cross does not offend the Constitution.”
British student expelled for views against homosexuality wins court victory

Felix Ngole was a student in Great Britain at the University of Sheffield until 2016, when he posted opinions opposing same-sex marriage on Facebook.  An article at the ChristianHeadlines.com website traces the timeline:
In 2017, after mounting a legal battle against his dismissal and arguing that his human rights had been violated, the UK’s High Court ruled in favor of the University.
Now, in a momentous decision, the Court of Appeals has overturned the previous ruling and slapped down the university for its discriminatory action, urging them to reconsider Ngole’s case.
What did Felix do that was so egregious? According to the article: "Ngole shared Bible verses which supported the traditional view that marriage is God-ordained and should be exclusively between one man and one woman. He also asserted that 'the Bible and God identify homosexuality as a sin,' according to the BBC.

In the story, "Christian Concern, the UK-based advocacy group helping Ngole with his case," is quoted, saying,“The mere expression of religious views about sin does not necessarily connote discrimination..."  The Christian Concern website states, "the Court of Appeal held that it was the university that was ‘lacking insight’ in not understanding a Christian viewpoint."  The site also says:
The Court ruled that: “The mere expression of views on theological grounds (e.g. that 'homosexuality is a sin') does not necessarily connote that the person expressing such views will discriminate on such grounds.” It was further recognised that Felix had never been shown to act in a discriminatory fashion.
The outcome of this case will have significant implications not only for Christian freedom of speech, but in relation to all free speech. For example, comments made by people on social media (often many years ago) have recently been arbitrarily used to silence viewpoints that people dislike or disagree with.

Saturday, July 06, 2019

The 3 - June 30, 2019

This week's edition of The 3 includes more madness from California, where politicians are attempting to tell church leaders what to do regarding homosexuality.  Also, a Federal appeals court has ruled that a Trump Administration policy barring undocumented teens receiving abortions is unconstitutional.  And, a Spokane pastor's attempt to observe a Drag Queen Story Hour has resulted in his arrest.

California lawmakers pass resolution calling on church leaders to reject Scripture on LGBTQ

The continued advancement of the LGBTQ agenda is quite apparent in the state of California, where the state Assembly attempted to assert its will over community leaders, including church leaders.
WORLD Magazine reports that:
The California State Assembly passed a resolution on Monday calling on religious leaders and others with “moral influence” to affirm homosexuality and transgenderism. The resolution asks counselors, pastors, churches, educators, schools, legislators, and others to avoid supporting traditional and Biblical views of sexuality, which the measure claims can cause suicide and depression.
Over 25 Christian leaders, according to WORLD, "signed a letter condemning the resolution, which they said violates religious freedom." One phrase they wrote stated that: “...politicians have no right to tell clergy what is moral, dictate the content of their sermons, or instruct them in religious counseling.”

One chaplain from a Christian university, however, took the other side, according to California Family Council, whose president, Jonathan Keller, signed the letter.   However, Peter Mannoia of Asuza Pacific University and former head of the National Association of Evangelicals, wrote a letter of support and testified before a committee.  The Council's site stated:
During Mannoia’s testimony in favor of ACR 99, before the judiciary committee, he reiterated his relationship with Jesus Christ as “my friend and guide” and his commitment to live “under the authority of God’s word.” But again Mannoia didn’t explain how he could believe this while supporting a resolution condemning Christian efforts to help those with unwanted same-sex attraction or gender confusion.
Appeals court allows for abortions for undocumented teenagers

The immigration issue and the issue of abortion have met together, and a Federal court has ruled in favor of abortion for undocumented teenagers.  TheHill.com reports that "The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals...ruled against the Trump administration’s policy of blocking undocumented pregnant teenagers in federal custody from obtaining abortions."

The judges stated that they “are unanimous in rejecting the government’s position that its denial of abortion access can be squared with Supreme Court precedent.”  The three-judge panel ruled 2-1 against the Administration.  They stated that the ruling applies to teens in "federal custody," and that those undocumented teenagers who are 18 years of age and up can obtain abortions.

The judges rejected the Administration argument, according to the article, "that the teenagers could have sought to be deported voluntarily in order to obtain an abortion, and that an unaccompanied pregnant minor could be released to a sponsor and then have the procedure."

Pastor arrested during Drag Queen Story Hour in Spokane

These inexplicably popular Drag Queen Story Hours are popping up in cities all across America, and in Spokane, a public library had an increased police presence, complete with snipers, according to ToddStarnes.com, referring to a report in the Spokesman Review.

Onto the scene walked a Baptist preacher, Afshin Yaghtin, who is pastor of New Covenant Baptist Church in Spokane.

Starnes relates that:
Several hundred critics of the drag queen event were protesting outside — frustrated that the taxpayer funded library was being used to indoctrinated [sic] small children.
Pacific Justice Institute says the pastor tried to enter the library to observe the event but was barred by police.
Brad Dacus of PJI stated, “He did not carry signs or preach and he did not consider himself to be a protester..." Yet, after he, as Starnes put it, "asserted his First Amendment rights," he was arrested and taken to jail.

While the protesters were separated, supporters were allowed to stay on public property, according to Dacus, who said: "This arrest in Spokane is one of the clearest examples yet of viewpoint discrimination, and we will be vigorously contesting the charges,” adding, “We must be able to peacefully disagree and voice our concerns in public places without fear of arrest and prosecution based on viewpoint.”

Sunday, June 23, 2019

The 3 - June 23, 2019

This week on The 3, identifying three news stories of relevance to the Christian community, two cases involving religious freedom received positive rulings from the U.S. Supreme Court: a large veterans' memorial in the shape of a cross was ruled to be constitutional, and a state court ruling against two Oregon bakers was overturned and sent back to the state court system.  Plus, a classic Christian worship song has been sung frequently in recent protests in Hong Kong.

Peace Cross can stand, U.S. Supreme Court rules

Earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court held oral arguments in a case involving a large veterans' memorial in Bladensburg, Maryland that is in the shape of a cross.  A lower court, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, had ruled the display unconstitutional, according to First Liberty, representing the American Legion in the case.

The appeal went before the court, and First Liberty's website states:
...in a 7-2 decision, the Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States preserved the nearly 100-year old Bladensburg WWI Veterans Memorial, along with memorials like it bearing religious symbols across the country. Most importantly, in The American Legion v. American Humanist Association, the Justices reaffirmed that the First Amendment allows people to use religious symbols and images in public.
Kelly Shackelford, President, CEO, and Chief Counsel to First Liberty, is quoted as saying, "This is a landmark victory for religious freedom. The days of illegitimately weaponizing the Establishment Clause and attacking religious symbols in public are over..." The website says, "...the Court returned to a commonsense reading of the Establishment Clause that guards against the establishment of an official religion, while permitting the public acknowledgment of religion in public."

Worship song makes impact in Hong Kong protests

If you are familiar with some of the Maranatha! Music worship songs, then Sing Hallelujah to the Lord may be a song that you have heard or perhaps even sung.  Now, it has become an anthem for protesters in Hong Kong, who have taken to the streets in opposition that would make it easier to extradite charged criminals to mainland China.

FoxNews.com reported on the presence of the song, stating in an article in the past week:
For the past week, "Sing Hallelujah to the Lord" has been heard almost non-stop at the main protest site in front of the city's Legislative Council, and at marches and tense stand-offs with police, Reuters reported.

Although only 10 percent of the population is Christian, church groups quickly rallied after being alarmed by reports of police brutality to make a safe haven for protesters as the government said it had to crack down on "organized riots."
The article stated, "Hong Kong's Beijing-backed government leader, Carrie Lam, who is Catholic herself, apologized in face of the opposition, postponing the introduction of the extradition bill. Some protesters hoped the Christian anthem would help sway her."  As Fox points out, "Critics say the extradition bill would undermine Hong Kong's independent judiciary and rule of law, guaranteed by a "one country, two systems," formula under the former British colony returned to Chinese rule in 1997."

Oregon bakers get reprieve from U.S. Supreme Court

It was a week of doubly positive news for First Liberty, which was involved in the Bladensburg cross case and has been representing Oregon bakers Aaron and Melissa Klein, who had declined to provide a cake for a same-sex wedding ceremony and eventually were find $135,000.  The Oregon Court of Appeals had ruled against the couple, and the decision was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

According to the First Liberty website...
...the Supreme Court of the United States announced that it reversed a decision the state of Oregon that forced bakers Aaron and Melissa Klein out of business by penalizing them $135,000 for refusing to create a government-approved message. The case was sent back to the Oregon courts for further review in light of its Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission.
The site said that in the Masterpiece case, "the Justices reminded government officials that they cannot be hostile to the free exercise of the religious beliefs of its citizens."

Sunday, June 16, 2019

The 3 - June 16, 2019

On this week's edition of The 3, with three stories of relevance impacting the Christian community, a major pro-life organization has been removed from a large social media site.  Also, several states have passed new abortion laws that liberalize the practice.  And, an important Texas religious freedom bill is now law.

Pro-life organization removed from Pinterest

The organization Live Action, founded by Lila Rose, has a following of over 3.3 million in social media, and according to the Live Action website, its content has now been removed from the photo-sharing website Pinterest.

The site says that a video from "an undercover investigation conducted by Project Veritas, a watchdog group founded and run by James O’Keefe...features an anonymous whistleblower who is an employee of Pinterest, claiming to have discovered inside communications confirming that a top official at Pinterest intentionally added LiveAction.org to the blocked list of pornography websites in February of 2019."

The site relates that the "whistleblower," identified as Eric Cochran, has been fired.

This past Tuesday, according to Live Action, "Pinterest suddenly and inexplicably permanently suspended Live Action’s account, saying the account 'may have immediate and detrimental effects on a Pinner’s health or on public safety.'"

Rose stated:
What exactly is Pinterest attempting to block? Inspirational messages to pregnant mothers, ultrasound images showing the science of prenatal development, medically accurate information on the abortion procedure, and images saying women deserve better than abortion industry leader Planned Parenthood. Pinterest has targeted Live Action, I believe because our message is so effective at educating millions about the humanity of the preborn child and the injustice of abortion. Pinterest says that their mission is to “help empower people to discover things that they love,” but despite the fact that millions of people love babies and the pro-life cause, they are secretly censoring our life-affirming messages.
There is an online petition available at LiveAction.org.

More states approve extreme abortion bills

For several months after the outrageous actions of the New York state legislature and governor to legalize abortion during all nine months of pregnancy, state after state began to pass stronger pro-life legislation, including a number of "heartbeat" bills, as well as the criminalization of abortion in Alabama.

Now, unfortunately, the pendulum has been swinging in the opposite direction.  The Susan B. Anthony List website reports that the Governor of Illinois, J.B. Pritzker, has signed a bill that not only allows abortion at any time of pregnancy, but repeals previously passed legislation, such as a ban on partial birth abortion.  The website indicates that the law will: eliminate any licensing requirements for abortion clinics and conscience protections for people in the health care field, and establish a "legal framework to abolish Illinois’ parental notification law."

SBA List also reports that Maine's Governor, Janet Mills, has "signed legislation into law that expands taxpayer funding of abortion in MaineCare and forces private insurers to pay for abortions, at an estimated cost to taxpayers of more than $1.3 million through FY 2023. Earlier this week Mills signed legislation to allow physician assistants and other non-doctors to perform abortions."

Also, LifeNews.com reports that Vermont's Republican Governor, Phil Scott, has signed a bill legalizing abortion during the entirety of pregnancy there. Mary Hahn Beerworth, executive director of Vermont Right to Life, stated, "By putting his signature on H. 57, Governor Phil Scott endorses unlimited, unregulated abortion throughout all nine months of pregnancy,” adding, “His signature signals his preference for protecting the business of abortion over other life-affirming options in Vermont statute.”  The article says:
State House Bill 57 recognizes abortion as a “fundamental human right” and ensure that the government does not deny, restrict or infringe upon a woman’s “right” to abort her unborn baby. It also removes protections for pregnant victims of violence and medical malpractice.
Important Texas religious freedom bill now law

An important religious freedom bill out of Texas has been signed into law by Governor Greg Abbott.
ChristianHeadlines.com reported that the bill, "will protect businesses from being discriminated against by government entities because of their 'membership in, affiliation with, or contribution, donation, or other support provided to a religious organization.'"

The bill was introduced and passed after San Antonio's City Council twice voted against allowing Chick-fil-A to open in the city's international airport, due to its association with religious organizations and the religious beliefs of its CEO, described erroneously as "anti-LGBTQ." The state Attorney General and the federal Department of Transportation are reportedly looking into the legality of these actions.

In the article, Hiram Sasser, General Counsel for First Liberty, is quoted as saying: "The city's decision to ban Chick-fil-A was blatant, illegal religious discrimination. We want to know just how deep the religious animosity runs within San Antonio's city government..."

The article also stated:
State Rep. Matt Schaefer (R-TX) voiced that the bill was necessary to protect people of faith. "Should any city council be able to refuse me as a vendor in their city simply because I make donations to my church, which holds a biblical view of marriage?" he questioned.

Sunday, June 09, 2019

The 3 - June 9, 2019

In this week's edition of The 3, featuring three stories of relevance to the Christian community, there is a promising development regarding research on tissue from embryos who have been aborted.  And, the Washington Supreme Court, has ruled against a florist there for a second time as a result of her declining to provide flowers for a same-sex wedding ceremony.  And, one Virginia pastor prayed for the President when he visited the church recently, which did not go over well with some in the congregation.

Administration reduces fetal tissue research

The issue of research using embryos actually became a defining moment in the Presidency of George W. Bush, as he announced a limited ban on the practice of using embryos for the purpose of research, which takes a human life.  Now, in the Trump Administration, the Department of Health and Human Services has made an important announcement on the subject.

According to the Liberty Counsel website on Wednesday, June 5:
President Donald Trump’s administration announced today that it will no longer allow federal funding for medical research conducted within the National Institutes of Health (NIH) which involves the use of human fetal tissue of aborted babies. The NIH is an organization within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The NIH estimates it spent $103 million taxpayer dollars purchasing and experimenting on human fetal tissue in fiscal year 2018.
Furthermore, $100 million devoted to fetal tissue research has been taken away from the University of California-San Francisco that, as Liberty Counsel puts it, "uses fetal tissue to test new HIV treatments." The site also says that, "Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said it is conducting a comprehensive review of all research involving fetal tissue."

Washington florist dealt another blow in state Supreme Court

Barronelle Stutzman is a florist in Washington state who, a number of years ago, declined to provide flowers for gay couple to celebrate a same-sex wedding.  The state's Attorney General got involved, saying that Barronelle had discriminated against this couple, and ultimately, the state's Supreme Court ruled against her.

The case ended up back at the Washington Supreme Court because the U.S. Supreme Court instructed the state's high court to reevaluate its decision in light of the Masterpiece Cakeshop case. Alliance Defending Freedom included a piece on its website on these recent developments.  It stated:
Without even holding an oral argument, the state court came back with the same result, repeating verbatim much of what it said in its original decision rather than reconsidering the case as the U.S. Supreme Court directed.
The website's analysis continued:
Washington’s highest court read the Masterpiece Cakeshop decision as narrowly as possible, saying that the U.S. Supreme Court’s condemnation of government hostility toward religion applies only to adjudicatory bodies and no other branch of government. As ADF attorneys explain, other U.S. Supreme Court decisions say the exact opposite. In fact, Stutzman’s argument that the state attorney general showed hostility toward religion is what caused the U.S. Supreme Court to send the case back in the first place.
Stutzman could still face stiff financial penalties, according to ADF.  The organization's John Bursch said, "We look forward to taking Barronelle’s case back to the U.S. Supreme Court.”

Prayer for President causes concern

Last Sunday, June 2, had been designated by over 250 Christian leaders as a special Day of Prayer for President Trump.  The effort was led by Franklin Graham, and one particular Virginia church had the opportunity to pray for the President in person.

That church was McLean Bible Church, and the President came to the church near the conclusion of an early afternoon service.  Pastor David Platt, formerly of Birmingham's Church at Brook Hills and the Southern Baptist International Mission Board, led the congregation in prayer, a prayer that was widely lauded.

According to ToddStarnes.com, not all were pleased with the pastoral prayer.  Starnes reports:
However, some in the congregation were reportedly offended by the notion that a preacher would dare to soil the “sanctity” of the church house by praying for a fellow sinner.
Platt wrote on the church's website, “My aim was in no way to endorse the president, his policies, or his party, but to obey God’s command to pray for our president and other leaders to govern in the way this passage portrays..."  He outlined how the Presidential visit unfolded and the reasoning for his prayer.  Starnes pointed out, "Politico incorrectly reported Pastor Platt apologized for the prayer. They later corrected the story."

Starnes lamented:
It’s unthinkable that any Bible-believing Christian would take offense at someone being prayed for simply because of their politics or their spiritual condition.
He wrote, "You may think that President Trump is the worst sinner in America...Well, that’s all the more reason to pray for the president."

Sunday, June 02, 2019

The 3 - June 2, 2019

This week's edition of The 3, with three stories of relevance to the Christian community, highlights three stories relative to the issue of the sanctity of life.  In Missouri, just after the governor bill signed pro-life legislation, a state judge allowed the state's last abortion clinic to stay in business, even though its license was due to expire on Friday.  Also, an Indiana pro-life bill reached the U.S. Supreme Court, which upheld part of it, but did not rule on another, prompting strong words from one particular justice.  And, Louisiana has become the latest state to pass pro-life legislation: a heartbeat bill signed into law by a Democrat governor.

Judge allows last abortion clinic in MO to operate

The state of Missouri has been at the center of the abortion issue recently.  For one thing, the governor of the state signed into a law a bill that bans abortion in the state at the eight-week stage of development.  CBN News reported last week that Republican Governor Mike Parson...
...signed a bill Friday banning abortions on or beyond the eighth week of pregnancy, with no exceptions for rape or incest.

Under the Missouri law that comes into force Aug. 28, doctors who violate the eight-week cutoff could face five to 15 years in prison. Women who terminate their pregnancies cannot be prosecuted.
Planned Parenthood has filed a lawsuit, asking a circuit court judge to grant a restraining order against the state. The court will hear arguments on Wednesday. The organization wants the state to renew its license.
The license for the lone clinic remaining in Missouri was set to expire this past Friday, May 31. USA Today reported that:
St. Louis Circuit Judge Michael Stelzer ruled Friday, just hours before the Planned Parenthood clinic's license to perform abortions was set to expire. He issued a temporary restraining order prohibiting Missouri from allowing the license to lapse.
State officials refused to renew the facility's license, which was set to expire Friday, demanding interviews with staff doctors for an investigation into “a large number of possible deficiencies."
Missouri was on the verge of being the first state in the union since Roe vs. Wade to have zero abortion clinics, according to the article.  Now, a local judge has stepped in and has allowed abortions to continue there.

Supreme Court strikes down part of IN pro-life law, justice takes occasion to decry abortion

The U.S. Supreme Court took mixed action regarding a 2016 law in the state of Indiana, upholding one portion of the legislation, but declining to hear another.  ChristianHeadlines.com reported that:
The U.S. Supreme Court Tuesday ruled that states can require the remains of aborted unborn babies to be buried or cremated, upholding part of a 2016 Indiana law that was signed by then-Gov. Mike Pence.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court declined to take up a case involving another part of the law banning abortions based on race, sex or disability.

The U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals had ruled both parts of the law were unconstitutional.
Family Research Council explored some of the comments by Justice Clarence Thomas regarding the high court's refusal to take up the second portion of the law.  It stated:
To Justice Thomas's horror, the court essentially gave its consent to Hoosiers targeting their babies for certain traits or characteristics. "In other contexts," he wrote, "the Court has been zealous in vindicating the rights of people even potentially subjected to race, sex, and disability discrimination." But by refusing to uphold this law, he went on, the court may as well be "constitutionaliz[ing] the views of the 20th-century eugenics movement," which -- Thomas explains -- were the vision of Planned Parenthood's founder, Margaret Sanger.
In the footnotes to the ruling, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg took issue with Thomas and made the ghastly declaration, "A woman who exercises her constitutionally protected right to terminate a pregnancy is not a 'mother,'" according to the article. FRC went on to say:
Thomas fired back in his own footnote that Justice Ginsburg "makes little sense."
"It is not a 'waste' of our resources to summarily reverse an incorrect decision that created a Circuit split." It's time, he said to "confront the constitutionality of these laws... [W]e cannot avoid them forever." The court invented a right to abortion, he argued. Now it's "dutybound to address its scope."
Thomas says, "it's time." Alabama lawmakers basically said that recently as well; other states have crafted new pro-life laws, and there is hope that at least one of them will get before the high court. FRC points out that: "There are at least 20 abortion cases in the Supreme Court pipeline..."

Pro-life bill in LA sponsored by Democrat legislator signed by Democrat governor

Meanwhile, another state has passed stronger restrictions on abortion, and a unique feature of this bill is that it was sponsored by a Democrat lawmaker in one chamber of the state's legislature and a Democrat governor promised to sign it.

According to LifeSiteNews.com:
On Wednesday, the Louisiana House voted 79-23 to give final approval to legislation that forbids aborting any baby with a detectable heartbeat, except to “prevent the death of a pregnant woman or to prevent a serious risk of the substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function of the pregnant woman,” or if the baby “has a profound and irremediable congenital or chromosomal anomaly that is incompatible with sustaining life after birth.”
There are no exceptions for rape and incest in this bill.  It has been signed by Governor John Bel Edwards.  The article continues:
...Edwards confirmed he would sign the bill in a statement, declaring he “ran for governor as a pro-life candidate after serving as a pro-life legislator for eight years” and has “been true to my word and my beliefs on this issue.”
He added, "As I prepare to sign this bill, I call on the overwhelming bipartisan majority of legislators who voted for it to join me in continuing to build a better Louisiana that cares for the least among us and provides more opportunity for everyone.”

Rep. Valarie Hodges, R-Denham Springs carried Senate Bill 184 in the House, which was written by Sen. John Milkovich, a Democrat from Shreveport.

“I just want to say I’m proud to stand with this legislation and the state of Louisiana. We’re very pro-life,” Hodges said.
Another provision of the bill, according to LifeSiteNews, is that it would not go into effect until Mississippi's heartbeat bill is upheld in Federal court.  That bill faces a hurdle, in that it is being considered by the same Federal judge who has placed the state's 15-week ban on hold.  The Clarion-Ledger reported on May 24:
U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves on Friday issued a strongly worded preliminary injunction blocking Mississippi's "heartbeat" abortion law, that would have banned abortions as early as six weeks into a pregnancy, when a fetal heartbeat is detected.
Reeves' order will combine the lawsuit against Mississippi's fetal heartbeat ban with an ongoing one against the state's previous 15-week abortion ban.
"Here we go again," Reeves wrote. "Mississippi has passed another law banning abortions prior to viability. The latest interpretation (Mississippi's new law) bans abortions in Mississippi after a fetal heartbeat is detected, which is as early as 6 weeks."

Sunday, May 26, 2019

The 3 - May 26, 2019

On this week's edition of The 3, spotlighting three stories of relevance to the Christian community, there is news about a gay wedding featured in a children's TV show and what one state's group of PBS stations did in response.  Also, a county has voted not only to reject a protest letter and continue to display crosses on its courthouse, but the crosses are now lit.  And, a university has settled with a Christian student group in a flap over leadership.

Children's TV show features gay wedding, one state public television network says "no"

Not even the world of PBS children's programming is safe from the furtherance of the LGBT agenda.  ChristianHeadlines.com reported that:
The popular PBS Kids series Arthur broke new ground Monday by inserting a same-sex wedding into the plot, as Arthur and his friends learn their male teacher, Mr. Ratburn, is marrying a man.
PBS is standing behind the decision to include a gay wedding into the show. The article quotes Maria Vera Whelan of PBS, who is quoted in a press release: "PBS Kids programs are designed to reflect the diversity of communities across the nation...” She added, “We believe it is important to represent the wide array of adults in the lives of children who look to PBS Kids every day.”
But at least one network of PBS television stations chose not to air the episode. The Montgomery Advertiser website reported, regarding Alabama Public Television, that:
Programming Director Mike McKenzie told NBC News that PBS alerted stations in advance of "possible viewer concerns about the content of the program" and after viewing the episode themselves, multiple APT staffers decided to broadcast a rerun in its place.

"The vast majority of parents will not have heard about the content, whether they agree with it or not," McKenzie said in a statement to NBC News and AL.com. "Because of this, we felt it would be a violation of trust to broadcast the episode."
TX county votes to keep courthouse crosses and...lights them up

A battle for religious freedom has reached a small city in in east Texas named Coldspring, in San Jacinto County.  LifeSiteNews.com reports that the so-called Freedom from Religion Foundation sent a letter to a local judge, claiming four crosses on the county courthouse are unconstitutional, according to the Click2Houston website.

Recently, according to the story, "the County Commissioners Court voted unanimously to keep the crosses after a three-hour public comment period attended by more than 600 people in the town of a population below 900. In addition, the town has started to illuminate the crosses, Breitbart reported."

The story states that Texas First Assistant Attorney General Jeff Mateer wrote a letter to county leaders: “You should know that you can reject FFRF’s demand to impose its anti-religion bias against San Jacinto County (...) on occasion FFRF will file a lawsuit to try to force government to purge all acknowledgment of religion. If that occurs, we look forward to supporting your lawful decision to retain the crosses.”

Colorado university settles with Christian group about leadership

A campus student group at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, has entered into a settlement with the school because of its erroneous attempt to require that Ratio Christi select leaders who are not Christian, according to the Alliance Defending Freedom website, which states:
The University of Colorado, Colorado Springs has agreed to make policy changes to settle a lawsuit that Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys filed in November on behalf of a student group after UCCS officials refused to grant it registered status. As part of the settlement, the university agreed to grant Ratio Christi registered status, pay over $20,500 in damages and attorneys’ fees, and update its policies to ensure that a student club may require its leadership to promote the purposes of the club and hold beliefs consistent with the group’s mission.
Ratio Christi is described as a "Christian apologetics organization." 

ADF Senior Counsel Travis Barham commended the school for revising its policy and stated, "Thankfully, the university quickly fixed its policy by adding provisions that respect students’ rights to free association, no longer forcing Christian students to let atheists or other non-Christians to lead their Bible studies in order to become a registered club.”

Monday, May 20, 2019

The 3 - May 19, 2019

This week's edition of The 3 includes strong pro-life legislation passed by the Alabama Legislature and signed by the Governor.  And, a bill that claims to promote equality but actually does the opposite and presents a threat to religious freedom has passed the U.S. House.  And, the Texas Senate has passed a bill intended to prevent religious discrimination.

Alabama Legislature passes pro-life bill, signed by governor, awaits court challenge

On Wednesday, Alabama Governor Kay Ivey signed into law the Human Life Protection Act, which criminalizes abortion in almost all circumstances within the state.  The bill, as passed by the Alabama Senate on Tuesday night, contains no exceptions for rape and incest - bill sponsors describe it as a bill that underscores "personhood," in direct contrast to Roe v. Wade, which does not affirm the personhood of the unborn child.

The bill will go into the Federal court system, where the precedent of Roe will cause it to be ruled unconstitutional, and proponents designed the law to present a direct challenge to the U.S. Supreme Court.  There has been plenty of commentary from proponents and opposition.

The center-left website The Atlantic provided analysis of the Alabama bill, as well as Georgia's heartbeat bill that was signed by Gov. Kemp recently.  The article, by Emma Green, who writes on religious issues for the site, stated:
Conservative legislators see themselves as champions of medical science and human rights. In the preamble to their new bill, Alabama legislators write that “medical science has increasingly recognized the humanity of the unborn child,” and point to a number of technological advancements in the past four decades that allow greater understanding of fetal development. They cite the principle laid out in the Declaration of Independence that “all men are created equal”; they claim that their efforts are in the same spirit as the anti-slavery movement, the women’s-suffrage movement, the Nuremberg war-crimes trials, and the civil-rights movement.
The preamble also mentions "the Holocaust, Joseph Stalin’s Soviet gulags, the Rwandan genocide, and other slaughters, arguing that the number of lives taken in those horrific crimes are small compared with the alleged '50 million babies [that] have been aborted in the United States since the Roe decision in 1973.'"

While precedent, as the article points out, is a "powerful legal principle," the high court struck down a precedent.  The article says:
In a decision unrelated to abortion this week, in which the conservative majority overturned a precedent related to states suing other states, Justice Stephen Breyer wrote in his dissent, “Today’s decision can only cause one to wonder which cases the court will overrule next.”
Breyer even makes mention of the abortion-related Casey decision, which, according to the Atlantic, "established specific parameters for the abortion rights laid out in Roe."  I call attention to this article because it could provide some clarity, from a more liberal perspective, to share with those who disagree with the Alabama law and gives some insight into its intent.

U.S. House passes so-called "Equality Act"

On Friday, the U.S. House of Representative passed sweeping civil rights legislation that provides protection from alleged discrimination against people based on "sexual orientation" and "gender identity."  It's called the "Equality Act," but it is certainly misnamed; the Family Research Council states, in no uncertain terms:
Apparently, the party of legal infanticide wasn't radical enough. Now, Speaker Nancy Pelsoi [sic] (D-Calif.) is going for broke. She doesn't just want to treat infants like garbage, but women, freedom, parents, science, employers, and religious organizations too. When 228 members of her party cast their "yes" votes for H.R. 5, they weren't only saying yes to the most extreme piece of LGBT legislation in history -- they were saying no to girls' sports, parents' authority, religious liberty, women's rights, privacy, and the free market.
That paragraph contained a reference to the House's refusal to pass legislation that would protect infants who survive abortion attempts.

A piece on the Alliance Defending Freedom website features a number of revealing quotes about the insidious nature of this legislation.  Here is one example, which deals with the religious freedom issue:
Star Parker, president of the Center for Urban Renewal and Education (CURE), points out that religious freedom goes out the window if the Equality Act is signed into law:
It explicitly defines itself as overriding the Religious Freedom Restoration Act that can protect people, such as Christian baker Jack Phillips, from being forced to do commerce that violates their Christian convictions.
There will be no more legal protections for Christians in commerce or in any other circumstance to enable them to avoid complicity with behavior that for them is sin.
Look it up; the bill actually says this: "The Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 ...shall not provide a claim concerning, or a defense to a claim under, a covered title, or provide a basis for challenging the application or enforcement of a covered title.”

The ADF piece concludes by saying: "Every person should be treated with dignity and respect. And our laws should protect the constitutionally guaranteed freedoms of every citizen, no matter who they are. Unfortunately, coercive SOGI laws like the Equality Act undermine both fairness and freedom for everyone."  Alabama Senator Doug Jones is a co-sponsor of the bill in the U.S. Senate, according to Congress.gov.

Texas Senate approves important religious liberty bill

While the U.S. House was taking a step to reduce religious freedom, the Texas Senate passed an important religious liberty bill. DallasNews.com reported on a bill, sponsored by Sen. Bryan Hughes, which would "prevent any government entity from taking 'adverse actions' against an individual or business for their 'membership in, affiliation with, or contribution, donation or other support to a religious organization.'"

The bill has been nicknamed the "Save Chick-fil-A Bill," which is headed back to the House in the Lone Star State, where it stalled out, due to the efforts of the gay caucus in that chamber, according to the article.  But, it states:
Supporters say the bill would protect the rights of businesses like fast food chain Chick-fil-A, which the San Antonio City Council booted from the local airport after its nonprofit foundation made donations to Christian organizations like the Salvation Army and Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
The bill passed 19-12, and the sponsor stated, "I challenge anyone to find one word of discrimination in this bill. This bill clearly and simply provides that if you affiliate with or make a donation to a religious organization, you cannot be punished by your government," adding, "This protects everyone's right to religious freedom."  Will lightning strike twice in the Texas House, or will there be a concerted effort to overcome the efforts of gay-friendly legislators in order to pass religious liberty protections?

Meanwhile, Attorney General Ken Paxton is investigating the San Antonio situation to see if state laws were broken.  And, Christian legal advocacy organization First Liberty has called for a Federal investigation, having sent a letter to Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao.

UPDATE: The DallasNews.com website reports that the Texas House has passed an amended version of the bill, with a 79-62 vote.  Since it was amended, it will return to the Senate for final approval.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

The 3 - May 12, 2019

This week's edition of The 3, featuring three stories of relevance to the Christian community, includes the story of freedom of a Pakistani mom who has now left the country after her death sentence was overturned.  Also, a Pennsylvania lawmaker was the catalyst for criticism and a rally at a Planned Parenthood clinic recently.  And, a Southern governor resisted pressure and signed a piece of pro-life legislation.

Pakistani mom freed by high court now in Canada

It has certainly been a long journey for Asia Bibi, a Pakistani wife and mother who was arrested and sentenced to death for alleged blasphemy. After the nation's Supreme Court struck down the sentence, she went into hiding, awaiting another destination.

That new home has been located and she is there. WORLD Magazine reports that:
Bibi’s lawyer, Saif-ul Malook, said she arrived Tuesday in Ottawa, Canada, where her two daughters have lived since December.
“Asia Bibi is now free, and we wish her and her family all the best following their reunification,” the U.S. State Department said in a statement.
As the article points out, the original incident occurred in 2009.  The high court threw out her death sentence in October and re-affirmed its decision in February of this year.

Pennsylvania lawmaker berates pro-life protestors, pro-life leaders respond with rally

The pro-life movement has been startled by the amazingly rude treatment of protesters outside a Philadelphia Planned Parenthood clinic. The provocation was made by a State Representative, Brian Sims, who, according to ChristianHeadlines.com, was "harassing pro-life teenagers and women praying outside of a Planned Parenthood."  And, his actions were shown on video.

In response, pro-life leaders gathered in Philadelphia on Friday morning, according to the article, which states:
Lila Rose – the founder and CEO of pro-life organization Live Action – opened the rally by calling for the protection of human lives and the resignation of Representative Sims.

She said, “We are here because we love life. Because we believe in the dignity and the right to live for every human being. Because we love and we respect every human life. And because the pro-life community will not back down to any harassment or bullying or hate.”
Former Planned Parenthood director Abby Johnson and others spoke to the crowd.  Estimates emerged that some 1,000 people showed up on the streets of the city to stand for life and against the rude treatment of pro-lifers by the elected official.

Georgia governor defies Hollywood, signs pro-life bill

There has been a flurry of activity across America in the pro-life space, as state after state has been strengthening its abortion restrictions.  Alabama is considering a tough, new law that would criminalize abortion and present a direct challenge to the language of Roe v. Wade, that says the unborn child is not a person.  So, the bill is designed to present the personhood argument.

Other states have passed what are called "heartbeat" bills, which ban abortion after the time a heartbeat is detected.  Facing some opposition from the entertainment industry, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp signed that state's "heartbeat" bill into law this week.

The AJC.com website states:
In signing the bill in Georgia, Kemp kept a promise he made during his 2018 campaign.
“All life has value, all life matters and all life is worthy of protection,” Kemp said. “I’m signing this bill to ensure all Georgians have the opportunity to live, grow, learn and prosper in the great state of Georgia.”
The article points out that:
Governors in Kentucky, Mississippi and Ohio all have signed similar “heartbeat bills.” A federal judge has already issued a preliminary injunction against the Kentucky law, and similar laws enacted in recent years in Iowa and North Dakota have also been struck down in the courts.

Sunday, May 05, 2019

The 3 - May 5, 2019

This week's edition of The 3 includes new action from the Trump Administration protecting the conscience rights of those in the health care field.  And, a basketball coach in New Mexico has stepped down after players wore t-shirts containing a Scripture verse in warmups.  Plus, the governor of Arizona is holding fast to his Easter message in the face of opposition.

Trump Administration preserve conscience rights for health care employees

The National Day of Prayer, which is commemorated on the first Thursday of May, for the last three years under the Trump Administration, has provided an opportunity to address religious freedom.  This year was no exception, as the Department of Health and Human Services issued new regulations intended to protect the conscience rights of those in the health care field.

The Susan B. Anthony List, in a press release, stated that, it "praised the Trump administration for finalizing new regulations to strengthen enforcement of federal laws protecting the conscience rights of health care personnel and other entities who do not want to participate in abortion. The regulations clarify what recourse is available to victims of discrimination under the law and what penalties the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Office of Civil Rights may enforce for violations."

SBA List President Marjorie Dannenfelser stated, "Last year the Conscience and Religious Freedom Division of the Office of Civil Rights was established at HHS to investigate and address conscience violations," and said these regulations "go even further to put teeth back in the law..." She added, "As some states attempt to expand abortion on demand through birth, with no conscience protections whatsoever, these regulations underscore the Trump administration’s seriousness about standing up for pro-life health care workers and institutions."

T-shirt conflict leads to coach stepping down

A story on the ChristianHeadlines.com documents unfortunate developments surrounding the Animas High School basketball team in New Mexico, which wore t-shirts in pre-game warmups at a game in February that said, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."  This elicited a response of animus by the so-called Freedom from Religion Foundation, which sent a threatening letter to the school district.

The superintendent reported to the FFRF that the matter had been handled.  She said that the coach of the team had resigned.  According to Christian Headlines, the superintendent, Loren Cushman, wrote: “I attended the game in question,” adding, “When I observed the players wearing the t-shirts during pregame warmup, I immediately questioned the coach and athletic director.” She told the organization that, according to the article, a "local religious group" provided the shirts.  And, she gave instructions this was not to take place again.  The coach apparently was also taking part in a Bible study sponsored by a local group and even led the study from time to time.

The piece quoted Todd Starnes of Fox News, who wrote: "It’s a mighty sad day in America when a high school basketball coach is deemed unfit because he is a follower of Jesus..." The article also states:
Shawn Akers, dean of Liberty University’s Helms School of Government from 2010 to 2018, says the Constitution’s First Amendment has been misconstrued to mean something the Founders never intended. “All of the Founders,” he said. “looked to … Judeo-Christian morality.’
Arizona Governor faces backlash over Easter message

The governor of Arizona, Doug Ducey, is facing opposition over an Easter message posted on Facebook, according to FoxNews.com.  The message, which contained "a cross, a Bible verse, and the phrase, 'He is risen,'" was charged to be unconstitutional by the group, Secular Communities for Arizona, who called for the post to be taken down.

Ducey isn't backing down.  He is quoted as saying:
“We won’t be removing this post. Ever. Nor will we be removing our posts for Christmas, Hanukkah, Rosh Hashanah, Palm Sunday, Passover or any other religious holiday,” he tweeted. “We support the First Amendment, and are happy to provide copies of the Constitution to anyone who hasn’t read it.”
The article points out, "Many congratulated Ducey for not backing down amid the pressure, though some Facebook users sided with the secular group and criticized the governor on his original post."

Sunday, April 28, 2019

The 3 - April 28, 2019

In this week's edition of The 3, with three stories of relevance to the Christian community, there is good news out of the United Methodist Church, as the judicial body of the denomination has upheld the majority of the Traditional Plan approved at a special General Conference two months ago.  Also, the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to take three cases that involve attempts to redefine the word "sex" in civil rights law to mean gender identity.  And, the landscape of Christian foster care is changing, as government officials are attempting to force agencies to place children in LGBT households; two recent actions have gone against Christian agencies.

United Methodist council paves way for most of Traditional Plan to move forward

Even though the United Methodist Church, in a special General Conference in February, affirmed a plan that would continue to describe homosexuality as "incompatible with Christian teaching" and would prevent same-sex marriage and gay ordination in the Church, the actions of the Conference still had to pass through the denomination's Judicial Council.  According to ReligionNews.com, the Council ruled on Friday, April 26, reporting...
...Approved by delegates to a special session of the United Methodist Church’s General Conference in February, the Traditional Plan strengthens language in the denomination’s Book of Discipline that bars LGBTQ clergy and forbids same-sex marriage.
That rulebook currently states that “the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching” and that “self-avowed practicing homosexuals” cannot be ordained as ministers, appointed to serve or be married in the church.
The Traditional Plan, as upheld by a Judicial Council decision announced Friday (April 26), defines a “self-avowed practicing homosexual” as a person who is “living in a same-sex marriage, domestic partnership or civil union or is a person who publicly states she or he is a practicing homosexual.”
Not all of the plan was upheld, with seven out of seventeen petitions being ruled unconstitutional.  But, apparently the heart of the proposal remained intact.  Religion News also reports that, "In a separate ruling Friday, the Judicial Council upheld an 'exit plan' that allows churches to leave the denomination with their property over decisions made at the special session."

Mark Tooley of the Institute on Religion and Democracy sees this as a key element, writing: "The biggest news from the Judicial Council meeting was the affirmation of exits for dissenting congregations. Many liberals had initially assumed that traditionalists backed this legislation to facilitate their own departure. Only later did many realize it was actually aimed at dissident congregations." Tooley pointed out that, "Reaffirmation of most of the Traditional Plan was not surprising, since the Judicial Council has already reviewed it in October 2018 and during General Conference in February."

High court to review cases regarding gender identity and civil rights

For some time, there have been attempts to redefine language in civil rights law concerning, "sex," to actually mean "gender identity."  The U.S. Supreme Court has announced that it will weigh in on that issue.  The Alliance Defending Freedom website reports that the Court will take up three cases centered around that issue, including one of its clients.  It reports:
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit ruled that the federal government can force R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes and its owner, Thomas Rost, to allow a male employee who identifies as female to dress in women’s clothing when meeting with the deceased’s grieving family members and friends, in violation of the family business’s sex-specific dress code. In so doing, the court redefined “sex” in Title VII to conflict with the word’s well-understood meaning since the law’s enactment in 1964. Title VII is a federal law intended to ensure equal opportunities in employment, regardless of a person’s race, religion, national origin, or sex.
The appeals court overturned a lower district court ruling; the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission had challenged that ruling and filed suit against the funeral home.  Attorney John Bursch of ADF is quoted as saying, "Businesses have the right to rely on what the law is—not what government agencies want it to be—when they create and enforce employment policies. The funeral home wants to serve families mourning the loss of a loved one, but the EEOC has elevated its political goals above the interests of the grieving people that the funeral home serves.”

Government officials change face of Christian foster care placement

Christian foster care agencies have faced pressure to place children in families that are headed by gay couples, and recent action has not gone well for some agencies.  A ChristianityToday.com story reported on a case involved Bethany Christian Services, which, as the result of a new policy implemented by Michigan's attorney general, will begin to place children with same-sex couples in that state.  The article says:
When Michigan’s attorney general declared this month that foster agencies contracting with the government can no longer decline to work with LGBT families, Bethany opted to change its longstanding policy rather than lose the opportunity to help find homes for the thousands of vulnerable children who live there.
A spokesman stated, "We are disappointed with how this settlement agreement has been implemented by the state government. Nonetheless, Bethany will continue operations in Michigan, in compliance with our legal contract requirements,” adding, "We are focused on demonstrating the love of Jesus Christ by serving children in need, and we intend to continue doing so in Michigan.”

The policy is being challenged in court; the article quotes Lori Windham of Becket: "The Michigan Attorney General and the ACLU are trying to stop the state from working with faith-based adoption agencies,” adding, “The result of that will be tragic. Thousands of children will be kept from finding the loving homes they deserve.” Becket represents St. Vincent Catholic Charities, which was sued by the ACLU. 

Windham has another client in another state that is facing opposition, Catholic Social Services in Philadelphia. Christianity Today reports that "a federal appeals court ruled against the Catholic agency, which argued that the city’s decision to drop its foster care contract violated its religious freedom. By refusing to place children in its care—about 120 at a time—with LGBT couples, the agency’s policies violated LGBT protections under Philadelphia’s Fair Practices Ordinance, the court ruled."

The Christian Post also reported on the Philadelphia ruling, saying that, "the city government moved to force faith-based adoption and foster agencies with limitations on same-sex placement to change their policies to comply with the city’s nondiscrimination laws protecting on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity or halt their adoption and foster programs." Catholic Social Services refused to change its policy; the other, Bethany Christian Services of Greater Delaware Valley, did change, according to the Post

Sunday, April 21, 2019

The 3 - April 21, 2019

This week's edition of The 3 includes the attention that the Notre Dame Cathedral fire placed on church vandalism that has occurred in France last year.  Also, some students and alumni of a Christian university have registered protests over a Christian speaker; an evangelical Christian named Mike Pence.  And, an Australian rugby player has been disciplined for a social media post that, while  Biblically-based, may not have represented the best way to drive home his point.

Notre Dame fire calls attention to church destruction throughout France

Even though French officials have stated that the blaze at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris was accidental, likely due to construction occurring there, the fire at the historic landmark has called attention to attacks on churches throughout the nation.  The website of CBN News reported:
According to the German news site PI-News, every day in France, two churches are desecrated. They report 1,063 attacks on Christian churches or symbols like crucifixes, icons, and statues in France in 2018, marking a 17 percent increase from the year before.
The story related that the Church of St. Sulpice in Paris "was set on fire after a midday service on Sunday."  Other attacks included: "the St. Nicholas Catholic Church in Houilles found their statue of the Virgin Mary destroyed and the altar cross on the ground." Also, according to the story:
In February, at Saint-Alain Cathedral in Lavaur, congregants found their altar cloth burned and the church's crosses and statues of saints broken. And in the city of Nimes, individuals vandalized the church of Notre-Dame des Enfants (Our Lady of the Children) and smeared a cross with human excrement according to Newsweek.
CBN points out that:
The German media reports the growing anti-Christian sentiment is believed to be a result of increased Muslim migration. In 2016, after the arrival of close to a million Muslims in Germany, a local newspaper reported "not a day goes by" that attacks on religious statues did not happen in the town of Dülmen.
And the story is similar in France, according to the site: "A January 2017 study stated, 'Islamist extremist attacks on Christians' in France rose by 38 percent, going from 273 attacks in 2015 to 376 in 2016..."

VP faces opposition to commencement speech at Christian university 

You would think that a Christian university would not have an objection to a fellow professed Christian speaking at its graduation.  But, when that Christian is the Vice President of the United States, that has negative implications to students and alumni of Taylor University in Indiana, according to FoxNews.com.  It reports that:
Over 3,300 people have signed a change.org petition to get Pence's invitation to the mid-May commencement ceremony rescinded, claiming the "Trump-Pence Administration's policies" are "not consistent with the Christian ethic of love we hold dear."
Fox reports:
The Christian university has defended the decision. Paul Lowell Haines, the president of Taylor, praised the vice president as a "good friend to the University over many years," and "a Christian brother whose life and values have exemplified what we strive to instill in our graduates.”
A spokesman for the university, James Garringer, in a statement, said: "Taylor University is an intentional Christian community that strives to encourage positive, respectful and meaningful dialogue," and "We look forward to hosting the Vice President next month."

Australian rugby player suspended in light of faith-related comments

It's not necessarily the best way to have said it, but Australian rugby superstar Israel Folau made the case for the eternal destiny of those who practice sinful behavior.  According to The Guardian:
Last Thursday, Rugby Australia said it would sack the Wallabies superstar after a social media post in which he said hell awaits “drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists and idolaters”.
The governing body has said Folau committed a “high level” breach of the professional players’ code of conduct, and had ignored formal instruction not to make any social media post that “condemns, vilifies or discriminates against people on the basis of their sexuality”.
Folau is fighting back, though. The website reports that, "Wallabies star Israel Folau has notified Rugby Australia of his intention to contest a 'high level' code of conduct breach notice, with the matter set to head to a tribunal hearing."

But, this was apparently done on his Instagram page.  Australian blogger and commentator Miranda Devine has taken up Folau's case, tweeting out: "On the Today Show this morning defending Israel Folau’s right to express his Christian beliefs without being sacked and blackballed from playing footy anywhere." That would be Australia's Today show, which tweeted out that Devine said, "He is perfectly entitled to express his beliefs privately on Instagram."

Sunday, April 14, 2019

The 3 - April 14, 2019

This week's edition of The 3, highlighting three stories of relevance or interest to the Christian community includes a major pro-life victory in Ohio, where the legislature has passed and the governor has signed a heartbeat bill.  Also, a subcommittee in the U.S. Senate held a hearing recently on the topic of social media censorship.  And, three African-American churches in Louisiana are suffering due to the result of fires that destroyed their buildings.

Heartbeat bill in Ohio signed...finally!

There has been a significant amount of legislation that would restrict abortion that has been introduced into statehouses across America, and Planned Parenthood's own research arm has certainly been paying attention.  LifeNews.com reported recently:
According to the Guttmacher Institute, since the beginning of this year over 250 pro-life bills have been introduced in over 41 states. Almost 50% of those bills would ban abortion in “some or all circumstances,” says the organization. In fact, according to Planned Parenthood’s analysis, legislators in seven states have proposed bills that would completely ban abortion, while six states are considering or have passed “trigger bans” that would ban abortion if or when Roe v. Wade is repealed.
Alabama is currently considering a bill that would criminalize abortion in the state.

Late last week, there was news out of Ohio that after eight years of being stonewalled by the former governor, the new governor, Mike DeWine has signed a "heartbeat bill," according to the Columbus Dispatch.  It reported:
The new law — which will ban abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, typically around six weeks — will take effect July 11 absent a court ruling. Abortions would be allowed if the woman’s life is in danger, but it contains no exceptions for rape or incest.
“The essential function of government is to protect the most vulnerable among us, those who do not have a voice,” the governor said. “Government’s rule should be to protect life from the beginning to the end, to protect those who cannot protect themselves. ... The signing of this bill today is consistent with that respect for life.”
Attorney General Dave Yost is apparently committed to mounting a strong defense of the bill in the face of a likely court challenge.  He is quoted as saying, "Sometimes, the evolution of the law requires bold steps. In the last 46 years, the practice of medicine has changed. Science has changed. Even the point of viability has changed. Only the law has lagged behind. This law provides a stable, objective standard to guide the courts.”

Senate holds hearing on social media censorship

One of the issues of concern regarding the Internet and the expression of truth consistent with a Christian perspective on it is the ability of large companies to control the content.  And, last week, Senator Ted Cruz held a subcommittee hearing, which included representatives of Twitter and Facebook, as well as individuals who have faced content restrictions.

Newsbusters.com reports that the committee chair, Sen. Cruz had previously asked Facebook to submit their censorship guidelines. In the hearing, he said: “I will note that when Mr. Zuckerberg testified before the full committee, I submitted that question and a number of other questions to Facebook, and you at the time refused it. The company instead gave legal boilerplate and refused to answer the question.”

The report says:
During the hearing, Cruz started his questions by asking both representatives if their companies “considered themselves to be neutral public forums?” Twitter’s director of Public Policy, Carlos Monje, gave a long response but did not answer the question.
Cruz asked Monje about Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey’s stance on neutrality. He summed up by the Dorsey quote, “I don’t believe that we should optimize for neutrality” Monje pleaded ignorance. answering, “I have not seen that quote, sir.” When Cruz asked if he agreed with it, Monje gave another non-answer, saying “That is not how he is building the platform.”
OK, whatever.  Cruz said in the hearing that Google would be examined in a future hearing.  Testifying before the Subcommittee on the Constitution, according to ReligionNews.com, was Chuck Konzelman, co-director/producer/writer of the movie, Unplanned, which experienced manipulation of its Twitter feed, to the extent that a number of people reported they could not follow the movie's feed, which showed a dramatic decrease in followers.  PJ Media reported on developments during opening weekend:
The movie's Twitter account was briefly suspended on Saturday, mere hours after its release on Friday. On Sunday, the account seems to have mysteriously lost 99,000 of its 100,000 followers.

"Wow!!! 100K Followers," the Unplanned account tweeted on Sunday afternoon. "Thanks to everyone who has helped us to achieve this milestone. When [Twitter] suspended our account you came together as a strong voice. We are so very grateful for the enormous support you've show at the box office."
The estimates from this past weekend from Box Office Mojo showed Unplanned in the #11 position, with $1.8 million, and the total receipts are approaching $16 million.

Burning churches in Louisiana

Palm Sunday was observed around the world yesterday, and three African-American churches in Louisiana had to find alternative sites at which to gather for services, because their buildings were burned, according to NBCNews.com, which reported that, "With this Palm Sunday marking the beginning of Holy Week, worshippers at the three affected churches — St. Mary Baptist Church in Port Barre, the Greater Union Baptist Church and Mount Pleasant Baptist Church, both in Opelousas — have found other places to hold services."

A 21-year-old man has been arrested in these cases. The article stated that Holden Matthews "was charged with three counts of arson for allegedly setting fire to the three churches in St. Landry Parish over 10 days beginning March 26." It goes on to report that, "Officials said that Matthews, who is white and the son of a St. Landry Parish sheriff's deputy, appeared to be a fan of black metal music, a subgenre of heavy metal that has been associated with white nationalist ideology and church burnings in Norway."

The article also says that:
Federal investigators stressed at a news conference Thursday that they had not yet determined a motive for the burnings or whether the attacks constitute a hate crime.
Matthews was caught as the result of "surveillance video, cellphone tower data and the purchase of a gas can and other materials from a Walmart."

The burning of a church building is a horrific act that demonstrates religious, and in this case, perhaps racial bigotry and even hatred.  Christians can stand in solidarity in decrying violence against people and institutions which are aligned with their deeply held faith beliefs.