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.

Monday, March 19, 2018

The 3 - March 18, 2018

This week's edition of The 3 features a story of a funeral home in Michigan that received a negative ruling from a Federal appeals court as the result of its firing of a male employee, who was not allowed to dress in women's clothes.  Also, an American pastor is continuing to be held in prison in Turkey and there are possible new, negative developments in the case.  And, a television host has apologized to the Vice-President and the audience for derogatory comments aimed at Christians.

3 - Court rules funeral home must allow male employee to dress as a woman

A three-judge panel of the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled against a Michigan funeral home that did not allow a male employee to dress as a female.  WND.com reported that the court overturned a lower court ruling in favor of the funeral home based on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

The story states that former employee Anthony Stephens, according to one of the judges, was fired “on the basis of her transgender or transitioning status and her refusal to conform to sex-based stereotypes.”

The article says:
Stephens “presented as a man” during the course of his employment at the home operated by Thomas Rost, a Christian for more than 65 years. His business has a mission statement saying the “highest priority is to honor God in all that we do as a company and as individuals.”
He does not discriminate in his hiring.
But Stephens would not comply with a company dress code for males working at the funeral home.
But a company dress code requires male employees to wear suits and ties, and females must wear skirts and business jackets.
WND.com reports:
The district court ruled only the unlawful termination claim was at issue, and that argument then was rejected, because transgenderism is not a protected class under Title VII.
One of the three judges, Karen Moore indicated that she believed...
...when Congress adopted the Title IX non-discrimination law in 1972, members intended it to include not only a persons’ “physiology” but also their “self-assigned ‘gender identity.'”
Gary McCaleb of the Alliance Defending Freedom is quoted as saying, “Court opinions should interpret legal terms according to their plain meaning when Congress passed the law,” adding, “This opinion instead re-writes federal law and is directly contrary to decisions from other federal appellate courts. We are consulting with our client to consider their options for appeal.”

2 - Turkey considering life sentence for American pastor

The odd case of an American who has been pastoring in Turkey for 23 years continues, and there are indications that the Turkish government wants to sentence Andrew Brunson to life in prison.  According to the WORLD Magazine website, "The indictment reportedly charges Brunson with being a member of and leading a terror organization."  This results from the coup attempt that occurred in 2016 - Brunson has been in prison since October of that year.

The article states:
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) condemned the indictment, urging the Trump administration to redouble its efforts to secure Brunson’s freedom. “No stone should be left unturned in our efforts on behalf of this unjustly imprisoned American,” USCIRF Vice Chairwomen Sandra Jolley and Kristina Arriaga said in a statement.
The commission is calling for sanctions "against those involved in this miscarriage of justice."

And, World Watch Monitor reported earlier this week:
The daughter of jailed US pastor Andrew Brunson appealed to the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva last week to help secure her father’s release from prison in Turkey, where he has been jailed for the past 17 months.
Declaring that her father had been “falsely imprisoned for far too long”, his married daughter Jacqueline noted that Brunson “has still not been formally charged with any crime”, as shown in a video posted by the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ).
WORLD reports that Turkish President Erdogan wants to trade Brunson for a Turkish cleric, Fethullah Gulen, who is living in the U.S. and has been thought to be involved in that failed coup.  That's the same Gulen who is involved in establishing a number of charter schools in America.

1 - ABC host apologizes to Vice-President, audience

An apology can be a powerful expression, and when it's a television star who insulted millions of Christians who believe in communication with God or Jesus, it certainly makes a strong statement.

This past Tuesday, co-host of The View, Joy Behar, after being urged by Vice-President Pence in a private conversation to apologize for offensive comments, stated, according to FoxNews.com, “I think Vice President Pence is right. I was raised to respect everyone’s religious faith and I fell short of that,” adding, “I sincerely apologize for what I said.”

As the story stated:
Behar’s controversial comments resulted in the Media Research Center launching a campaign to hold Behar accountable for spewing “anti-Christian bigotry” after she said that communicating with Jesus is a “mental illness” during a Feb. 13 episode of “The View” when discussing Pence’s faith.
On Hannity Monday night on the Fox News Channel, the Vice-President had said, “I give Joy Behar a lot of credit. She picked up the phone. She called me. She was very sincere, and she apologized and one of the things my faith teaches me is grace; forgive as you've been forgiven,” adding, “I'm still encouraging her, to use the forum of that program or some other public forum, to apologize to tens of millions of Americans who were equally offended.”

The Media Research Council campaign, which resulted in 43,000 calls to "ABC and their advertisers," has now ended.  However, the other View co-host involved in the derogatory comments, Sunny Hostin, has not apologized, to my knowledge. Her participation was pointed out by a guest on my show recently. She said, according to The Hill:
“I don’t know that I want my vice president, um — speaking in tongues and having Jesus speak to him,” co-host Sunny Hostin said of Pence.
That's when Behar said: “It’s one thing to talk to Jesus. It’s another thing when Jesus talk to you...That's called mental illness, if I'm not correct. Hearing voices.”

Sunday, March 11, 2018

The 3 - March 11, 2018

Two of this week's stories in The 3 deal with religious expression on college campuses, with a Georgia university facing legal challenges due to its preferential treatment for some organizations and a Michigan university has reinstated a Christian campus group.  And, the Mississippi Legislature has passed a 15-week abortion ban.

3 - Attorneys protest tiered system at Georgia university, speech restrictions

According to its website, Alliance Defending Freedom has filed two lawsuits against the Atlanta-area Kennesaw State University. Last month, the legal organization sued the school on behalf of student organization, Ratio Christi, to "challenge policies that officials used to relegate a pro-life display to a 'speech zone' that makes up less than 0.08 percent of the 405-acre campus."

Now, ADF is at it again, filing suit on behalf of Young Americans for Freedom at KSU and its president, "challenging policies that give university officials complete discretion to impose 'security fees' in any amount they decide on any event they deem 'controversial.'"  The school had imposed such fees on YAF for an event featuring a conservative speaker earlier this month.

At the heart of this new lawsuit is a tiered system on recognizing student-related organizations. The website states:
The tiers function as a sort of caste system for preferential treatment on campus, including which of areas of the campus green officials will allow a requesting student organization to use and how much access a group has to funding for activities.
The article goes on to say:
The four classifications for registered student organizations at KSU, from the lowest level of privilege to the highest, are “recognized” (where the university has placed YAF), “affiliated” (where the university has placed many Christian student groups), “sponsored” (which includes the Kennesaw Pride Alliance and the African-American Student Alliance), and “chartered” (which includes the International Students Association and the LGBTQ Student Programs). The higher the classification, the more access a group has to the best areas of the campus green and to student funding. No faith-based groups are higher than the “affiliated” tier, and no overtly political groups are higher than the “recognized” tier.
ADF Legal Counsel Travis Barham is quoted as saying, “Kennesaw State’s byzantine speech policies allow officials to place student organizations into an arbitrary caste system of superiors and inferiors, and to assess security fees that numerous courts in other cases have routinely declared unconstitutional.”

2 - Christian student organization returns to Michigan campus

There's good news for a Christian student organization at Wayne State University in Michigan, according to a Christianity Today story, which stated:
Last year, InterVarsity lost its recognition as a student group at Wayne State, the third-largest school in Michigan, over requirements that its leaders affirm the organization’s Christian beliefs. The school viewed the belief requirement as a violation of its nondiscrimination policy.
With the assistance of the Becket Fund, InterVarsity had sued the school, claiming "religious discrimination." And, two days later, the school "ultimately re-certified the student ministry..."

Cristina Garza, a former president and current member of the Wayne State chapter, is quoted as saying, “We hope the school will make this change permanent, so no other students have to go through what we’ve been through over the last six months.”

The article points out:
InterVarsity is all too familiar with the fight for campus access, having lost then regained its place on 19 Cal State campuses in 2014 and 2015 due to the schools’ “all comers” policy, which requires school-sanctioned groups to open membership eligibility to all students and leadership positions to all members. Such a policy also led to InterVarsity getting forced off Vanderbilt University’s campus a few years before.
The story notes that the Becket Fund "also helped a Christian group regain its status at the University of Iowa earlier this year...:"
Business Leaders in Christ lost its place on campus over a “sexual morality” requirement in its faith statement, which kept a gay student from taking on a leadership role in the organization. Back in January, a judge ordered that the group be reinstated, though litigation is pending.
1 - Mississippi lawmakers approve bill banning abortion at 15 weeks

The state of Mississippi is down to one abortion clinic, and its Legislature has passed a bill that would ban abortions at 15 weeks, according to the Jackson Clarion-Ledger, which reported that the House had concurred with a Senate-passed version of the bill by a 75-34 vote.

Earlier, according to another Clarion-Ledger article, the Senate on Tuesday had passed the legislation 35-14.  Governor Phil Bryant has been supportive of the bill, stating, "I have repeatedly said, I want Mississippi to be the safest place in America for an unborn child," adding, "House Bill 1510 will help us achieve that goal, and I encourage the House to pass it and look forward to signing it."

The Lt. Governor, Tate Reeves, is quoted as saying, "Mississippians are committed to protecting the lives of unborn children, and this law will be a major step in accomplishing that goal," adding, "I am committed to making Mississippi the safest place in America for an unborn child."

The owner of that lone clinic in Mississippi, whose Birmingham clinic had been shut down due to health violations, told the newspaper that she would plan to file lawsuit against the legislation.

Sunday, March 04, 2018

The 3 - March 4, 2018

This week's edition of The 3, highlighting three current and relevant stories to the Christian community, features the story of a Christian minister, politician, and talk-show host that spent less than a day on a board affiliated with the music industry.  Also, Christian communicators gathered in Nashville for NRB, and its leader announced a return to its roots in the area of censorship, which has become a growing concern on social media.  And, the earthly body of the great evangelist Billy Graham was laid to rest in Charlotte this past Friday.

3 - Huckabee resigns from CMA board after backlash

Mike Huckabee is a speaker, author, television host, former governor of Arkansas, an ordained Christian minister - and a musician.  So, it should come as no surprise that he would be selected to be on the board of the Country Music Association Foundation (CMAF), which has education as its "sole issue," according to the Family Research Council, which reports that Huckabee's term was, to say the least, rather short - less than 24 hours, in fact.  According to FRC, there were some in the industry that were opposed to his selection to this education-oriented organization:
Jason Owen and his husband -- both LGBT activists whose Monument Records and Sandbox Entertainment represents some of the genre's biggest stars -- called the selection of Huckabee a "grossly offensive decision. Owen, who counts Midland, Little Big Town, Kacey Musgraves, Dan + Shay, Faith Hill, and others among his clients, claimed Huckabee's involvement would harm the very kids the foundation was created to help. "Not to mention," Owen went on, "how harmful and damaging his deep involvement with the NRA is. What a shameful choice." Others, like Sugarland's manager Whitney Pastorek, accused Huckabee (and the 53 percent of Americans with natural marriage beliefs like his) of "bigotry, racism, and sexism." With breathtaking prejudice, she insists, "While Governor Huckabee's tenure in Arkansas may have resulted in valuable education reform over a decade ago, I find his choice to spend the past 10 years profiting off messages of exclusion and hatred (not to mention the gun lobby) to be disqualifying.
FRC reports that Huckabee wrote a letter to the CMA announcing his resignation (which was published by the Tennessean) saying:
"If the industry doesn't want people of faith or who hold conservative and traditional political views to buy tickets and music, they should be forthcoming and say it. Surely neither the artists nor the business people of the industry want that."
"Until recently, the arts was the one place America could set aside political, geographical, racial, religious, and economic barriers and come together. If the arts community becomes part of the polarization instead of bridging communities and people over the power of civil norms as reflected in the arts, then we as a civilization may not be long for this earth."
2 - Christian communicators gather, NRB announces anti-censorship initiative

Recently, Christian communicators from around the world gathered at the Gaylord Opryland hotel in Nashville for the 2018 National Religious Broadcasters International Christian Media Convention.  High-profile Christian speakers, educational sessions, and more were part of the lineup.

There was an appearance from Vice-President Mike Pence during one of the opening sessions. Other notable speakers included Rick Warren, Greg Laurie, Kay Arthur, and David Jeremiah. The convention's website reported on its paying tribute to the late Billy Graham, and NRB provided convention-goers a chance to see and learn more about the forthcoming film, I Can Only Imagine.

And, according to its website, NRB.org, President and CEO Jerry Johnson shared information on an initiative that was launched late last year.  The website says:
Speaking at NRB’s 75th annual meeting, Johnson said Internet Freedom Watch is the organization’s effort to curtail discrimination against Christian and conservative content on the internet. NRB unveiled the initiative at a December news conference in Washington, D.C., in which the association called attention to censorship by tech companies such as Facebook, Twitter, Google, and Apple.
“[I]f conservative and Christian content is taken off of social media, digital media, the Gospel will be muzzled, the Word of God will be muzzled,” Johnson told the audience in the evening session at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center.
It is the NRB’s job to protect First Amendment freedoms, and the association of Christian communicators “is uniquely positioned” to do so, he said before quoting part of the U.S. Constitution’s initial amendment.
The First Amendment’s “first three elements – religion, speech and press – that’s NRB,” he said. “This is our world, and I want to say to you: If not you, who? If not this, what? If not now – when we are being demonetized, blocked, taken off, and censored – if not now, when will NRB stand for First Amendment principles?”
The article stated that "Internet Freedom Watch marks a return to the reason for NRB’s founding in the 1940s," according to Johnson. The article said that, "The initiative 'is returning to our roots,' Johnson said, citing the NRB’s effort for radio 75 years ago in which it said, 'We’re not going to take a back seat. We want a level playing field. We want a place in the public square. Let’s go to D.C. Let’s go to the Congress. Let’s go to the FCC. And in a few years, Christian broadcasters were back on Christian radio once again.'"

1 - Billy Graham's body, but not his ministry, laid to rest

It was called "Billy Graham's final crusade" - his funeral service at the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte that was held this past Friday, which was attended by almost 2000 people under a tent "reminiscent" to that used in the famous 1949 Los Angeles crusade, according to the website, BillyGraham.org, which stated:
“Today, he’s in Heaven,” his oldest son Franklin Graham said. “On the 21st of February, he was escorted by God’s angels to the throne of God. And I can only imagine what it was like when my father stepped into Heaven, and there was the Lord Jesus Christ to say, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.'”
The website reported that all five children of Billy Graham spoke at the service, including his other son, Ned, plus daughters Gigi, Anne, and Ruth.  Other speakers included Billy Kim of the Far East Broadcasting Company in Korea and Mr. Graham's pastor, Don Wilton.

Michael W. Smith, Linda McCrary-Fisher, and the Gaither Vocal Band were among those providing music.

The article on the website stated:
From start to finish, Billy Graham’s final Crusade lifted up the name of Jesus Christ. And that is the one thing Mr. Graham would have wanted. In fact, he insisted on it.
The heart of Friday’s service may have been summarized best by Robert Cunville, the humble Indian evangelist who helps continue Billy Graham’s global ministry to this day. Cunville thanked God for Billy Graham in a passionate prayer that surely rose above the top of the tent and cut through the cloudless, blue sky.
“We know that it was You, You who brought the countless souls to the foot of the cross,” he prayed. “For this is what your servant would say: ‘Oh, God, not me. Not me, but God did it.'”

Saturday, February 24, 2018

The 3 - February 25, 2018

This week's edition of The 3 spotlights the death of legendary of evangelist Billy Graham, including some words of tribute from his son, Franklin.  Also, people have been sharing their faith in Christ with those attending the Winter Olympics in South Korea.  And, a teenager in Pakistan is at the center of protests due to allegations related to that country's blasphemy laws.

3 - Pakistani teen arrested under blasphemy laws

Pakistan's blasphemy laws are front and center again in a disturbing story, according to Morning Star News.  An 18-year-old, Patras Masih, was taken into custody.  The report states:
Patras Masih was accused of posting a blasphemous image on a group Facebook page from his phone on Jan. 16, but his father said his son’s cell phone has been in a repair shop since December.
His son told him that a friend had posted a sacrilegious photograph on a Facebook group from his ID a month ago, and that he had no intention of hurting religious sentiments, he said. Under Pakistan’s widely condemned blasphemy laws, intent must be shown for conviction.
His father, Indreyas Masih, stated: “My son is illiterate and works as sweeper at a private bank,” adding, “He has never been involved in any religious dispute with any Muslim in the village. I’m unable to understand why he has been trapped in this case.”

Patras was taken into custody in the midst of strong protests by Muslims in the region. The Morning Star report said that, "Hundreds of Christian families fled their homes in a village near Lahore, Pakistan," and that,"The protesters threatened to burn down the homes of at least 700 poor Christian families, area residents said."  Police dispersed a crowd blocking a main highway by assuring protesters that Patras had been arrested. A local police official is quoted as saying, "“We have deployed some 400 police personnel in Dher village to protect the local Christian community,” adding, “The situation was brought under control late on Monday night when we informed the protest leaders that the accused boy has been arrested and charged with blasphemy.”

2 - Thousands converge on Olympics to share faith

On Thursday's edition of The Meeting House on Faith Radio, I featured a conversation with evangelist Terry Veazey, in South Korea ministering with the International Sports Chaplains organization.  The evangelistic outreaches surrounding the games were featuring in a Religion News Service article appearing on the ChristianHeadlines.com website.  The article estimated some 2,000 missionaries were on hand during the Games - from a variety of faiths.

The article relates:
There is no reliable count of missionaries at Olympics past. But the number of local missionaries here far exceeds previous games, said Marty Youngblood, leader of the Georgia Baptist Convention mission team, who is at his fifth Olympics this year.
South Korea, which is 29 percent Christian, and among whom Protestants predominate, enjoys high levels of religious tolerance. Buddha’s birthday and Christmas are both national holidays.
The report also says:
Myungsu No, a campus minister in Seoul, says his students from the Baptist Student Union use pin trading — a pastime at this and previous Olympics — to spread the gospel. While athletes and spectators trade pins that typically depict a certain country, sport or team, mission groups give away a “More Than Gold” lapel pin, borrowing the slogan a consortium of missionary groups adopted in the 1990s to brand their Olympic outreach.
Veazey had told me that his team was also involved in pin trading.  The story at the ChristianHeadlines.com site also said:
The first weekend of the Olympics, mission groups passed out Christian literature in the Olympic park unimpeded.

Then Olympic park officials posted signs informing visitors that passing out religious material in the park was banned, and any materials found would be confiscated.

Youngblood, of the Georgia Baptist Convention, said he is not concerned. His missionaries are also using the pin trading and only give pamphlets to those who want to learn more.
1 - The world responds to the death of Billy Graham

World-renowned evangelist Billy Graham went home to be with the Lord on Wednesday of this past week.  He was 99 years of age.  Tributes were shared from throughout the world.   Over the weekend, a motorcade carried the earthly body of Mr. Graham from the Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove near Asheville to the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, where the body will lie in repose Monday and Tuesday.

The body will lie in state at the U.S. Capitol Rotunda on Wednesday and Thursday and will be brought back to Charlotte for a funeral service on Friday.

During these times of public viewing, the body will be in a pinewood casket, according to the BillyGraham.org website, that was "crafted in 2006 by inmates at the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola, Louisiana, is lined with a mattress pad. On top rests a simple wooden cross the prisoners nailed into place."  The story says:
The plain wooden caskets caught Franklin Graham’s eye during a 2005 preaching engagement at Angola. That’s when he saw the inmates hard at work crafting them, and he soon learned why. The initiative began when then-warden Burl Cain discovered many of the poorer inmates were being buried in cardboard boxes.
As a result, Cain had the inmates construct plywood caskets for themselves and others who couldn’t afford one. In addition to making the caskets, the prisoners—many of them former hardened criminals who are now committed Christians—also pray over them.
Billy Graham's son, Franklin Graham, wrote a tribute to his father that appeared on the USA Today website, as well as on the BillyGraham.org website, entitled, Billy Graham's New Home.  He wrote:
Since 1947, some 215 million people at more than 400 crusades, simulcasts and evangelistic rallies heard my father tell them, “The Bible says, ‘For God so loved the world that He gave his only Son, that whosoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life’” (John 3:16). Today, he is experiencing what he devoted a lifetime to telling others they could experience if they placed their trust in Jesus Christ.
Franklin recounted a time in his life when he was struggling and not walking with God and how his father had challenged him to surrender his life to Christ, which ultimately Franklin did.  He now heads the ministry that bears his father's name.  Franklin writes that following the Flushing Meadows crusade in New York in 2005, his father wrote a piece at the end of a book that contained the text of the three sermons he preached there.  Franklin writes, "...the purpose of Billy Graham’s life is captured in a single paragraph found at the end of a little book a number of years ago."
“No matter what your problem is,” he wrote, “if you and I could sit down and talk, I would want to tell you one great truth: God loves you, and He can make a difference in your life if you will let Him.
“God loves you so much that He sent His Son into the world to die for your sins. When we open our hearts to Christ, He forgives our sins and comes to live within us by His Holy Spirit. He also gives us strength for the present and hope for the future. This is the message of the Gospel—and this is the message you have read in this book.”
Franklin Graham stated, "If my father could speak or write to us today, he would say the same thing. It was what he lived and breathed—until his very last breath."  

The DeMoss publicity agency reports that, "More than 22 million people have made a commitment to Jesus Christ through a Billy Graham or Billy Graham Evangelistic Association outreach effort."

Sunday, February 18, 2018

The 3 - February 18, 2018

This week on The 3, there is the story of a well-known Christian speaker whose invitation to speak at a public university in Oklahoma was withdrawn, then reinstated.  Also, a Michigan church is under fire for offering Biblical hope to young people confused about their gender identity.  Finally, the Vice-President has responded to negative comments about his practice of Christianity on a recent network television show.

3 - Ham back on the menu at a Oklahoma university

Earlier this month, the University of Central Oklahoma reversed a decision to have Ken Ham, the President of Answers in Genesis, speak on its Edmund, OK campus.  The Answers in Genesis website stated:
UCO has reneged on a contract it signed that allowed Ken to give a talk on March 5. Ken’s presentation in the school’s Constitution Hall, titled “Genesis and the State of the Culture,” was objectionable to a campus LGBT group, which put heavy pressure on the UCO Student Association (UCOSA) to cancel Ken’s speaking engagement. In his proposed talk at UCO , Ken would have discussed the two different worldviews and their starting points when interpreting scientific evidence, as he did in his classic evolution/creation debate with Bill Nye “the Science Guy” four years ago.
That was published on Tuesday, February 6.  Just days after that announcement, the school announced it has reversed course again.  The AiG website said last Thursday, February 15:
Today, UCO President Don Betz has invited the AiG president to give his talk, “Genesis and the State of the Culture,” on the Edmond campus.
Ham said, "UCO officials have definitely heard from many concerned state legislators, several local residents, and alumni about the denial of our right to free speech."  He added, "Furthermore, by moving my talk from the evening to the afternoon, we now have the opportunity to reach even more UCO students during the school day. UCO is a commuter campus, and many of its students might not have been able to attend in the evening."  Ham also stated, "I’m thankful for the many Oklahomans who stood up for our constitutionally guaranteed rights to free speech and the free exercise of religion."

The website, NewsOK.com did report that:
In his letter on Thursday, Betz said UCO will conduct a presentation on the First Amendment on the morning of Ham's presentation on March 5. The First Amendment session will be at 10 a.m. and Ham will speak at 3 p.m.
Betz said UCO will present a discussion on the contemporary processes of scientific inquiry and evolution on March 6, along with a panel discussion on freedom of expression and freedom of speech "as appropriate to UCO as a teaching and learning institution.
So, Ken speaks, but it does seem the school might be a bit too devoted to try to "balance" out Ham's Biblical views by having these other presentations.  Wonder if UCO would invite someone with a Christian worldview perspective if the university were allowing an atheist lecture.  Or, perhaps to invite a creationist to counter a speaker's Darwinist perspective? Probably not.

2 - Michigan church under fire from lawmakers for Biblical sexuality conference

If a young person is struggling with his or her gender identity, what better place than a church where that person can go to get help, right?  Obviously, that's not the attitude by some in Michigan, where lawmakers have demanded an investigation over what is being called "conversion therapy."

The News Herald states:
A Downriver pastor whose church has come under fire for sponsoring conversion therapy workshops is asking state legislators to withdraw demands for an investigation into his church.
In a news conference held Thursday afternoon in Lansing, Pastor Jeremy Schossau joined other pastors in urging State Reps. Adam Zemke (D-Ann Arbor) and Darrin Camilleri (D-Brownstown Twp.) to withdraw their demands for an investigation into Schossau’s church for offering a workshop that provides biblical answers on identity and sexuality.
The church is called Metro City Church, and the website article stated that it would be holding "a six-session program titled 'Unashamed Identity Workshop.'" The article says:
Hosted by the church, in partnership with Forge Ministries, the workshop is for those born as girls, between the ages of 12 and 16, who are struggling with thoughts that they’re transsexual, bisexual, gay or any other orientation.
Protestors have shown up at the church, which has been receiving threats.  The News Herald article also says:
Randy Wilson, Family Research Council’s national field director for Watchman on the Wall, said during the news conference that he views the church as increasingly coming under attack.
“I want to thank Pastor Jeremy Schossau for his leadership,” Wilson said. “Metro City Church is a place that is governed by the precepts and principles of God’s word and is compelled by the love of God.”
Schossau said people have always gone to their spiritual leaders for advice.
“Pastors have always done this and we will continue to do this,” he said. “And, we don’t need the government to tell us what we can and cannot say. And, we do not need the government to tell us what kind of advice we need to give, or a license to give that advice.”
At the Family Research Council website, the pastor is quoted as saying: "This is all coming from a tolerant loving community? An open-minded community that seeks to be understood and wants to understand others?" He added, "That is crazy."

FRC has posted a "petition demanding that Rep. Camilleri and Rep. Zemke withdraw their call for an investigation and respect the church's freedom to teach what the Bible says about sexuality."

1 - Vice-President responds to negative comments about his Christianity

To put the recent squaring off between the ABC television program The View and the Vice-President of the United States into perspective, I want to go back to a story at the Huffington Post website featuring a video from the Oprah Winfrey Network.  The featured topic of the article was Omarosa Manigault Newman, formerly of the Donald Trump TV show, Celebrity Apprentice, former a White House staff member, and a contestant most recently on Celebrity Big Brother. The article says:
As Omarosa’s fame grew, so did her opportunities, allowing her to travel the world doing missionary work. One of her stops, West Africa, is where her life changed.
“I found myself alone in an orphanage… There was a child there, and she had HIV/AIDS and she was dying,” Omarosa recalls. “And it was at that moment, looking into the face and the eyes of this dying child that I received my call to ministry.”
How does she know she received a call to ministry?  I would say that such a call would indicate a clear direction of the Holy Spirit.  After all, as she says, referring to her critics, "They underestimate the power of God’s ability to transform a person’s life...In the blink of an eye, God can come into your situation and turn your life around.”

Now, fast forward to her comments on Celebrity Big Brother a few days ago, and I quote from a Todd Starnes article on FoxNews.com:
"As bad as you think Trump is, you would be worried about Pence --- everyone that is wishing for impeachment might want to reconsider their life," Omarosa said in a clip from "Celebrity Big Brother."
"I am Christian. I love Jesus, but he thinks Jesus tells him to say things," Omarosa told her fellow contestants.
Starnes writes, "Well, that bit of news was more than Behar and the other gals on 'The View' could stomach."  Co-host Joy Behar said, "It’s one thing to talk to Jesus. It’s another thing when Jesus talks to you." That’s called mental illness, if I’m not correct, hearing voices..."

What?  So, there is a stream of thought that God doesn't speak to or direct His people by His Spirit.  I have a hunch we're not talking audible voices here.

Well, Behar did backtrack a bit, according to Starnes, saying, "I think Mike Pence, say what you want about him and his religiosity. I don’t think he’s mentally ill. Even though he is saying he hears voices I don’t think he’s that crazy..."

On C-SPAN, Pence stated: “To have ABC maintain a broadcast forum that compared Christianity to mental illness is just wrong,” adding, “It is simply wrong for ABC to have a television program that expresses that kind of religious intolerance.”

Starnes also wrote:
Pence said on C-SPAN that his faith is the most important thing in his life.
“My faith sustains me in all that I do,” he said.
The vice president said “The View” hosts insulted the “vast majority of the American people who cherish faith.”
“It demonstrates how out of touch some in the mainstream media are with the faith and values of the American people that you could have a major network like ABC permit a forum for invective against religion like that,” he said.
Now, Brent Bozell of the Media Research Center has written a letter to the President of ABC News, which appears on the Newsbusters website.  He also took View co-host Sunny Hostin to task, saying that she had called the Vice-President's Christianity "dangerous."  He cited other examples of ABC programming that exhibited a bias against Christians.  Bozell stated:
But now you, Mr. Goldston, have the opportunity to right this wrong. Apologize on behalf of ABC. Require Ms. Hostin and Ms. Behar as individuals to apologize. Bigotry against any group is hateful and ugly. Unfortunately, anti-Christian bigotry seems to be the last acceptable bigotry. A simple unqualified apology will go so far. Our country is so divided right now, why make things worse? By apologizing you have everything to gain and nothing to lose.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

The 3 - February 11, 2018

The most recent edition of The 3, featuring three relevant stories to the Christian community, contains the story of an island nation that has reversed its legalization of same-sex "marriage."  Also, a baker in California who did not wish to provide a cake for a same-sex wedding received a positive court ruling from a state court recently.  And, the Ohio Supreme Court has upheld the state's law requiring abortion clinics to have transfer agreements with local hospitals in case of emergencies.

3 - No more legalized same-sex marriage in Bermuda

That holy grail of political correctness and tolerance, same-sex marriage, may be beginning to tarnish.  Last week, I commented on a recent survey that showed that the comfort level for non-LGBT people around those identifying as LGBT has waned a little bit.

Now, according to Liberty Counsel, an island nation that once legalized same-sex marriage has now reversed course.  The legal advocacy organization's website states:
The governor of Bermuda signed a law that reverses an earlier ruling and the nation will no longer recognize marriage between two people of the same sex. The law, known as the “Domestic Partnership Act 2017,” passed the legislature by a 2-1 margin in both the Bermuda House and Senate. It will allow domestic partnerships for same and opposite sex couples, but will no longer permit same-sex couples to be married. The Bermuda Supreme Court in May 2017 issued an opinion in favor of same-sex “marriage,” but that opinion was met by opposition.
Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel, said, “The people of Bermuda recognize the folly of redefining marriages and reversed the ruling of their Supreme Court..."

2 - California baker receives positive court ruling in case of gay wedding cake

The track record of artistic business owners going to court to defend their right to refuse to provide services for a same-sex wedding or ceremony has not been very encouraging, and currently, the U.S. Supreme Court is considering the case of a Colorado baker who, based on his religious convictions, declined to provide a cake for a same-sex wedding celebration.

So, it is somewhat surprising that a judge in California has ruled in a favor of a baker in that state who was in a position to do what Jack Phillips did in Colorado and Aaron and Melissa Klein did in Oregon. According to a Baptist Press story:
Tastries Bakery owner Cathy Miller's freedom of speech "outweighs" the state of California's interest in ensuring a freely accessible marketplace, Judge David R. Lampe said in his decision in the Superior Court of California in Kern County, one of the state's 58 trial courts.
According to the article:
Lampe, in his decision, wrote that both freedom of speech and a nondiscriminatory marketplace are laudable and necessary but said the facts of the case favor Miller. The state's complaint, based on the Unruh Act, which prohibits discrimination based on both religion and sexual orientation, lacks the merit to succeed, Lampe said.
Baptist Press stated that the judge wrote, "The State asks this court to compel Miller to use her talents to design and create a cake she has not yet conceived with the knowledge that her work will be displayed in celebration of a marital union her religion forbids," adding, "For this court to force such compliance would do violence to the essentials of Free Speech guaranteed under the First Amendment..." 

The story says that, "The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing had sought a preliminary injunction to force Miller to either bake wedding cakes for homosexual couples or stop selling wedding cakes..."

1 - Ohio Supreme Court upholds state law requiring abortion clinics to have transfer agreement with local hospital

There's good news on the pro-life front from the state of Ohio, where the state Supreme Court ruled against two abortion clinics who wished to be exempted from a state law that required clinics to have a transfer agreement in place with an area hospital within 30 miles driving distance, in case of a complication from the procedure.

The Dayton Daily News reported on the story:
In a 5-2 ruling, the court determined that Capital Care Network of Toledo violated the rule, and that the Ohio Department of Health was within its rights to revoke the clinic’s operating license.
“Now that this issue is settled, Ohio Right to Life expects that this abortion clinic in Toledo will be closed immediately by the Ohio Department of Health,” Ohio Right to Life President Mike Gonidakis said in a written statement.
In the second case, according to the article, "Preterm Cleveland, Inc. versus Kasich, the court ruled in a 5-2 decision that the clinic did not have standing to challenge the state’s decision to embed abortion restrictions into the state budget bill adopted in 2013. "  As the story pointed out, the clinic failed to show that it had "suffered harm."

The article gave some background on the regulations:
The 2013 state budget bill included restrictions that require abortion clinics to have written transfer agreements with local, private hospitals, and that doctors determine if there is a detectable fetal heartbeat — and inform the woman — before performing an abortion.
Staff counsel for Americans United for Life, Rachel Busick, joined me on The Meeting House on Friday to share insight and analysis.  You can listen to or download the interview here.

Sunday, February 04, 2018

The 3 - February 4, 2018

This week in The 3, spotlighting three stories of relevance to the Christian community, there are over a dozen house church leaders in China who are apparently in the custody of the government there.  Also, there was a brave faith statement made by an abused former gymnast.  And, the U.S. Senate failed to approve a bill that would protect unborn children at 20 weeks from being aborted.

3 - Chinese house church leaders apparently in government custody

The organization ChinaAid reports that 14 house church leaders in China have apparently been apprehended and imprisoned, according to a press release on the Christian Newswire website. Bob Fu, the President of ChinaAid, is quoted as saying, "This massive, enforced disappearance of 14 peaceful church leaders shows the Communist Party has no regard to rule of law and its citizens' religious freedom rights. The Chinese government should be absolutely held accountable for this incident and immediately disclose the whereabouts to the families and their churches."

These house church leaders have "vanished" from the Zhejiang province, where, according to the press release, "Christians have faced harsh persecution and discrimination in the past few years, as the province has been the focal point of a cross demolition movement and a follow-up surveillance camera installation movement."

As of last Thursday, there had been no announcement of what the charges are.

2 - Christian perspective on display in Nassar trial

John Stonestreet said in a recent Breakpoint testimony, "It was the most amazing courtroom testimony I’ve ever heard. And if you haven’t heard it yourself, you need to."

He was speaking of the words spoken in court by Rachael Denhollander, a former gymnast who was abused by a physician named Larry Nassar. Stonestreet said, "A year and a half ago, Rachael bravely filed a police complaint that has ultimately led to his conviction on sexual assault charges and a prison sentence of 40 to 175 years."

I quoted from an article from Esther O'Reilly of The Stream in a recent Front Room commentary - the article quoted these words from Denhollander as she issued a statement against her abuser, the final courtroom statement.  Rachael said to Nassar:
Should you ever reach the point of truly facing what you have done, the guilt will be crushing. And that is what makes the gospel of Christ so sweet. Because it extends grace and hope and mercy where none should be found. And it will be there for you.
I pray you experience the soul-crushing weight of guilt, so you may someday experience true repentance and true forgiveness from God, which you need far more than forgiveness from me — though I extend that to you as well.
Christianity Today article from which I quoted featured a Q&A with Rachael about her involvement in speaking out on behalf of sexual abuse victims in the Church.  She had mentioned in her victim impact statement that she had "lost her church," and she elaborated:
The reason I lost my church was not specifically because I spoke up. It was because we were advocating for other victims of sexual assault within the evangelical community, crimes which had been perpetrated by people in the church and whose abuse had been enabled, very clearly, by prominent leaders in the evangelical community. That is not a message that evangelical leaders want to hear, because it would cost to speak out about the community. It would cost to take a stand against these very prominent leaders, despite the fact that the situation we were dealing with is widely recognized as one of the worst, if not the worst, instances of evangelical cover-up of sexual abuse. Because I had taken that position, and because we were not in agreement with our church’s support of this organization and these leaders, it cost us dearly.
Rachael Denhollander represents someone who has delivered a powerful, thought-provoking message and set a strong example for the Church, challenging Christian believers to seek to minister effectively to those who have been abused.

1 - 20-week abortion ban defeated in Senate

The Charlotte Lozier Institute, which is affiliated with the Susan B. Anthony List, shares these observations about the development of an unborn child at 20 weeks after fertilization:
Babies as young as 20 weeks post-fertilization can survive and thrive with appropriate care and treatment...
Unborn babies are treated as patients by fetal surgeons, and receive pain medication...
Unborn babies can feel pain by 20 weeks post-fertilization or earlier.
Despite this medical evidence that has shown that a child at 20 weeks can feel pain in the womb, 46 U.S. Senators voted against a bill that would prevent a child at that stage of development from being aborted.  51 voted in favor, but that fell short of the 60 necessary to move the bill forward.

Penny Young Nance, President and CEO of Concerned Women for America, stated:
“The United States calls itself a champion of human rights but is one of only seven nations to allow abortion after 20 weeks when it has been proven that babies feel extreme pain. Today, we continue to align ourselves with countries such as China, North Korea, and Vietnam."
As Penny acknowledged on a recent Meeting House program, Alabama Senator Doug Jones voted against the bill.  On the CWA website, she said:
“Senators like Doug Jones (D-Alabama), Heidi Heitkamp (D-North Dakota), and Claire McCaskell (D-Missouri), who represent states where voters overwhelmingly support life, will have much to answer for in their next election. 
“Today, these senators had a chance to stand for life. They chose to vote against life. They had a chance to defend the dignity of both children and their mothers. Instead, they voted without regard for the most vulnerable among us."

Sunday, January 28, 2018

The 3 - January 28, 2018

This week's edition of The 3, spotlighting three stories of relevance to the Christian community, includes an update on the situation in Bolivia involving limitations on religious freedom.  Also, scores of Christians have lost their lives at the hands of militants in Nigeria.  And, a Bible study on Capitol Hill has attracted the attention of a large atheist group.

3 - UPDATE: Bolivian President supports halting of constitution changes 

Last week, I shared a story about changes to the law in Bolivia greatly limiting religious liberty to the extent of making it illegal to evangelize.  There is good news emerging from that South American country, according to ChristianityToday.com, the same source I used last week.

According to the website:
President Evo Morales Ayma announced that he will tell the South American nation’s Legislative Assembly to repeal the entire penal code in the wake of recent changes that, among other tweaks, introduced severe restrictions on religious freedom.
Last Sunday was proclaimed to be a day of prayer and fasting in response to the new regulations. The article states that one group, the Religious Liberty Commission of the World Evangelical Alliance, "sent out a prayer alert encouraging readers to ask God that Morales’s government would withdraw the new penal code provision and 'protect and promote religious freedoms in Bolivia.'"

In a tweet, Morales said:
“We are going to listen to the proposals of all the sectors that observe the code. The National Government will never approve norms against the Bolivian people.”
2 - Significant death toll in religious violence in Nigerian province

Over 80 Christians have been killed since the beginning of the new year in one region of the nation of Nigeria, according to ChristianHeadlines.com, which has a report from International Christian Concern.  These deaths took place in Benue State, and according to the article:
These attacks took place less than two months after the state of Benue enacted an anti-open grazing bill, which prevents the Fulani from nomadically moving their cattle throughout all of Nigeria. Benue passed this law in an attempt to end the violence that has been plaguing its people, but it has failed thus far.
The Fulani is a group of militants, primarily Muslim in nature, according to Britannica.com.  The Christian Headlines story stated: "even those who were not from the area, but who were just trying to help others escape, were at the mercy of the Fulani attackers."

The article says:
ICC's Regional Manager, Nathan Johnson, stated, "This ongoing crisis is devastating the Christian communities of Nigeria. They are unfairly being targeted for their land and faith. The government must do more to ensure the community's safety, property, and welfare. They must put an end to the Fulani scourge and hold those in charge of these attacks accountable."
1 - Capitol Bible study attracting attention of atheist group

It has been reported that a number of Cabinet secretaries meet for prayer and Bible study.  Apparently, this study is hosted by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which is led by Dr. Ben Carson.  CBNNews.com reports that, "Cabinet secretaries who attend the Capitol Ministries Bible Study include Attorney General Jeff Sessions, CIA Director Mike Pompeo, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, HUD Secretary Ben Carson and Energy Secretary Rick Perry."

Not surprisingly, the atheist group, the Freedom from Religion Foundation, is not fond of this gathering, and has teamed with Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington to sue HUD, according to CBN.  Its report says:
The group has issued Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to agencies led by Cabinet secretaries who attend the Bible study to see if government resources are being used or if agency staffers feel "coerced into organizing or even participating in the religious event," according to a press release.
Study leader Ralph Drollinger says that a lawsuit is not necessary.  CBN News reports:
Drollinger responded on Facebook, saying, "Rather than sue, the FFRF can simply go to www.capmin.org and check out copies of the Bible studies I write and teach the Cabinet, Senate and House members every week. There's nothing secret to this – and all related Bible study expenses are paid by Capitol Ministries, a 501(c)3 organization."