On this week's edition of The 3, highlighting three stories of relevance to the Christian community, there is good news, but guardedly so, out of China about a Christian activist who was recently released from prison. Also, a Federal appeals court has found the prayer practice of a group of North Carolina county commissioners unconstitutional. Plus, even the revision of that state's privacy law isn't enough for some who are pursuing the gay agenda; and Texas legislators are considering a privacy bill of their own.
3 - China releases Christian activist
A Christian activist in China who has been in prison for four years has been released, but his supporters are concerned he will continue to live under the watchful eye of the Chinese government. The Christian Post website reported that: "A leading lawyer and activist, Xu Zhiyong, who is a Christian, was released by the Chinese authorities Saturday as he completed a four-year prison sentence."
Xu was convicted in 2013 of "gathering a crowd to disturb public order." The Post report said:
Xu had refused to defend himself in court, as he said the trial had been rigged. Foreign diplomats and journalists were not allowed to attend his trial.
At the end of his trial, Xu gave a speech, in which he also talked about his Christian faith.
"Freedom, justice, and love, these are our core values and what guides us in action," he said in the speech. "You may find my ideas too far-out, too unrealistic, but I believe in the power of faith, and in the power of the truth, compassion and beauty that exists in the depths of the human soul, just as I believe human civilization is advancing mightily like a tide."Xu is 44 years old, and the article says that those who support him "fear that the authorities will keep him under close watch or effective house arrest, even as some social media posts said security guards and plain-clothed officers barred people from visiting him at his home after his release."
Bob Fu of China Aid had told The Christian Post that "the top leadership is increasingly worried about the rapid growth of Christian faith and their public presence, and their social influence. It is a political fear for the Communist Party, as the number of Christians in the country far outnumber the members of the Party."
2 - Federal appeals court rules against county's prayer policy
It wasn't too long ago when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that prayer prior to town meetings in Greece, New York were constitutional. However, the area of prayer before public meetings has come into question again, and a ruling by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals may mean that the issue will be back before the high court.
According to the WORLD website, the appeals court declared that the Rowan County, NC board of commissioners was engaging in a prayer practice that was “unconstitutionally coercive.” Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson wrote in the majority opinion, which included nine other judges: “The prayer practice served to identify the government with Christianity and risked conveying to citizens of minority faiths a message of exclusion..." Five judges dissented. Earlier, a three-judge panel from the 4th Circuit had, according to WORLD, ruled "in favor of the county, as long as the commissioners didn’t pressure audience members to participate." But, the plaintiffs had requested a hearing in front of the entire court.
The distinction between this case and the Greece case? The WORLD report said: "The U.S. Supreme Court has previously ruled in favor of clergy-led public prayer at government meetings, but the Rowan County case raises the issue of prayer offered by public servants. Only the commissioners in Rowan County lead pre-meeting prayers."
1 - Private matters: Challenges to revised privacy law in NC, Texas Legislature deals with privacy bill
The bill in North Carolina that provided for individuals in government buildings to use the restroom facilities corresponding to their biological gender instead of their so-called "gender identity," was revised earlier this year, presumably to get major sports events coming back to the state. But, while the rewrite was devastating in the arena of privacy, apparently, it didn't go far enough in satisfying the proponents of the LGBT agenda in the state.
The Charlotte Observer reported:
The American Civil Liberties Union and Lambda Legal, an LGBT rights law firm, filed documents in federal court on Friday seeking to amend a lawsuit filed last year against HB2 to center its claims on the law adopted in March to replace it.
The documents contend the law replacing HB2 “discriminates against transgender individuals with respect to one of life’s most basic and essential bodily functions – using the restroom – and, until December 2020, blocks local governments from protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people against discrimination in employment and public accommodations.”The revised bill contained a moratorium on local "nondiscrimination" ordinances through the year 2020.
Meanwhile, Texas lawmakers have been considering a privacy bill of their own. Family Policy Alliance reports that:
Earlier this year, the Texas Senate passed the Texas Privacy Act that guarded Texans’ privacy in areas such as showers, locker rooms and restrooms. But Speaker Joe Straus blocked the bill from even receiving a vote in the Texas House.The legislature is in special session, and this bill is back under consideration. As FPA states, "With Texas only holding legislative sessions in odd-numbered years, it’s paramount that this commonsense legislation is passed now." The website has an action center for citizens to voice their point of view on this important matter.