Sunday, August 12, 2018

The 3 - August 12, 2018

On this week's edition of The 3, exploring three stories of relevance to the Christian community, a former high school football coach in Washington state has found some support by a legendary college coach and other high-profile people.  Also, a well-known evangelist has had billboards advertising an upcoming crusade in California removed.  And, a Midwestern university has taken strong action against a number of campus organizations, including faith-based groups.

3 - Legendary college football coach stands with high school coach who lost job for praying

Joe Kennedy is the former assistant high school football coach in Bremerton, Washington who, for years, would walk to midfield to pray following games - that is, until the school district stepped in to restrict him from doing so.  Even after he was told not to do it, he believed that he had a constitutional right to pray in the way he did, and he was terminated.

He has gone to court and has been rejected by a Federal district and appeals court - so he has his eyes set on the highest court in the land, according to Tallahassee.com, which reported on former Florida State head football coach Bobby Bowden becoming involved in the case by filing a friend-of-the-court brief in support of Kennedy.  The newspaper's website stated:
The former Florida State football coach has joined members of Congress, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and 12 attorneys general in their effort to have the U.S Supreme Court hear the case of a former high school football coach suspended for praying on the field.

Multiple amicus briefs – including Bowden’s – were filed this week on behalf of Joe Kennedy to the nation's highest court. There is no guarantee the Supreme Court will accept the case that has attracted national attention.
The article also said:
According to his amicus brief on Kennedy’s behalf, Bowden said he believed "no coach should have to set down their faith when they pick up a whistle."
The brief further explained, "In coach Bowden's view, the Circuit Court's opinion jeopardizes an observant coach's ability to impart these life lessons and otherwise strips them of their spiritual identity while in the presence of their student-athletes by categorically eliminating at the public schoolhouse gate their First Amendment rights to engage in any form of religious expression."
2 - Crusade ads removed from Southern California mall

This coming weekend, thousands will converge on Angel Stadium in Los Angeles for the Harvest Southern California Crusade, featuring evangelist Greg Laurie.  But, one attempt to promote the crusade has been eliminated, according to ToddStarnes.com.  Starnes reported that;
Billboards depicting evangelist Greg Laurie holding a Bible were removed from a popular outdoor mall in Southern California after numerous complaints and at least one “serious threat.”
The management of Fashion Island declined to say why they took down the billboards, but the contract between Harvest Crusade and the shopping mall includes a clause about the right not to display any materials that could be construed as “vulgar or offensive.”
The billboards were promoting the upcoming SoCal Harvest gathering – expected to draw tens of thousands of people to Angel Stadium, CBN News first reported.
Todd also reported:
After the initial complaint, the Christian organization revised the advertisements to include only the word “Harvest” with the dates of the event.
Harvest executive director John Collins is quoted as saying, "Then they came back and said they just wanted the ads completely removed and they refunded us..."  Starnes also reported that:
Collins told CBN News. “It’s sad that our culture is at this degree of intolerance…There’s such intolerance against Christianity that we aren’t allowed to state that or to publicly advertise this event. That’s amazing.”
On his blog, Laurie wrote:
We enjoyed working with the Irvine Company and displaying our banners in their amazing malls. I hope to work with them again in the future.
Everybody needs to just relax a little bit. I see images on billboards and displays in stores that I find offensive all the time. I do not complain or boycott. I just think as Christians we ought to have “equal time” and a voice in the marketplace.
1 - IA Christian student group rejects LGBT leadership

The University of Iowa is currently conducting a purge of student organizations that it seems to believe is discriminating against other students. ChristianHeadlines.com ran a story about the Christian organization, Business Leaders in Christ, which, according to the article...
...says it has the right as a religious group to require members to affirm a statement of faith. The controversy began in 2016 when the group refused a leadership position to a gay student because he did not affirm its beliefs.
The article goes on to say:
“The University is discriminating against [us] because of our religious beliefs, while allowing other student groups to form around their shared values and beliefs,” Jacob Estell of Business Leaders in Christ told The College Fix. “We have not changed our mind or caved in to the University’s wishes.”
According to Christian Headlines, "The university stripped the group of its official status, but the group sued and won in court earlier this year. That lawsuit is still pending."  Earlier, the Gazette, based in Cedar Rapids, had reported that:
The University of Iowa has deregistered another 38 student groups after a federal judge found it unequally enforced its human rights policy by kicking off campus a student organization that had barred an openly gay member from becoming a leader.
At least 22 of the newly deregistered groups are organized around religion, culture or ideology.
It looks as if the Business Leaders in Christ lawsuit set off a disturbing series of events, according that publication:
Although merits of the case have yet to be decided, with a jury trial scheduled for March 2019, a U.S. District Court judge agreed BLinC was singled out and ordered the university let the group remain on campus until the legal dispute is resolved.
Before the judge’s ruling, UI attorneys said the school did not proactively enforce compliance with its policy but rather responded only to complaints.
After the ruling, the university in late January and early February reviewed hundreds of its student organizations’ governing documents and found 356 were out of compliance by failing to have the full and correct human rights clause in their constitutions.
That large group has been whittled down to the 38 that have been dismissed from campus, with some Greek organizations having until September 4 to comply.

Sunday, August 05, 2018

The 3 - August 5, 2018

This week's edition of The 3, my weekly blog post dealing with three stories of relevance impacting the Christian community, I spotlight a ruling against prayer at the beginning of school board meetings in a district in California.  Also, a women who had encountered a man in the ladies' locker room at a Michigan health club has received a favorable court ruling.  Plus, the U.S. Attorney General has announced a task force to support religious liberty.

3 - 9th Circuit strikes down prayer at beginning of governmental meetings

There does seem to be more confusion about the issue of prayer before public meetings of government bodies. It could have been concluded that the 2014 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in the case involving the town of Greece, New York, may have settled it, but more appeals court rulings have muddied the waters.

Advocates for Faith and Freedom reports on a case it has been involved in, regarding the Chino Valley Unified School District in California.  It states in a recent press release:
...the Ninth Circuit Federal Court of Appeals ruled that the Chino Valley Unified School District board policy that allows invocations before the start of school board meetings is a violation of the Establishment Clause. The Fifth Circuit Federal Court of Appeals came to a different conclusion in 2017 in American Humanist Association v. McCarty.
Robert Tyler of Tyler & Burch, LLP and legal counsel for the district, is quoted as saying, “This requires the Board to censor or otherwise remove individuals who attempt to say a prayer, or anything that might resemble a prayer, during the public comment period,” adding, “Such an overbroad injunction is a clear violation of the right of private citizens to address their local representatives in public meetings and is dangerous to the First Amendment.”

The press release also says:
In 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld ceremonial prayer at city council meetings in Town of Greece v Galloway. In that decision, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy noted the historical significance of such invocations. “Ceremonial prayer is but a recognition that, since this Nation was founded and until the present day, many Americans deem that their own existence must be understood by precepts far beyond the authority of government…,” Kennedy wrote.
During the previous session of the high court, it refused to hear a case out of North Carolina, in which the 4th Circuit had ruled against prayer before government meetings. UPI.com reported:
The Supreme Court's decision not to hear the case leaves in place a lower court's 2017 decision that Rowan County, N.C., commissioners' practice of leading mostly Christian prayers before public meetings and inviting the public to join violates mandated separation of church and state in the First Amendment.
And, earlier this year, the 6th Circuit, in a ruling involving the entire court, according to The Christian Post, ruled "...in favor of a Michigan county's invocation policy for monthly public meetings that allow commissioners to give prayers." The article stated:
In a decision released by the full court on Wednesday, a majority of the Sixth Circuit concluded that Jackson County Board of Commissioners' invocation policy was constitutional.
So, you seem to have different decisions coming up of multiple circuits on similar cases; that could mean the high court will accept one or perhaps more of these in the future.

2 - Court rules in favor of woman in gym dispute

A Michigan woman who had filed a lawsuit against Planet Fitness because of an "unwritten" policy allowing men who identify as women to use the women's locker room received a positive ruling from the Michigan Supreme Court recently.

Liberty Counsel reported:
Yvette Cormier's lawsuit against Planet Fitness was filed in Midland County in 2015 after her membership was canceled because she warned fellow gym members over several days about seeing a biological man, who claims to be “transgender,” in the women’s locker room. Planet Fitness told her that it allows people to use the locker room that matches their “identity.” Midland County Circuit Court Judge Michael J. Beale dismissed the lawsuit in 2016. Cormier then appealed the decision to the Michigan Court of Appeals. The appeals court affirmed Beale's ruling in June of 2016, but Cormier then took her case to the Michigan Supreme Court, which reversed and sided with Cormier.
Liberty Counsel has an interest in this case, certainly: as it states on its website:
Liberty Counsel represents “Mrs. H” whose membership was canceled at Planet Fitness in Leesburg, Florida, because she objected to a man in the women’s locker room.
Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel, stated: “This is a safety issue for women who understandably do not want to share a locker room with men. This is also discrimination based on sex and violation of state law. Planet Fitness cannot have secret policies and expect to get away with it..."

1 - Sessions announces Religious Liberty Task Force

The U.S. Department of Justice has sent a strong message to people of faith in America: we hear you and we will defend your First Amendment rights to freedom of religion.  This past week, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the formation of a Religious Liberty Task Force.

The National Religious Broadcasters website reported:
Attorney General Jeff Sessions this week announced, “The Task Force will help the Department fully implement our religious liberty guidance by ensuring that all Justice Department components are upholding that guidance in the cases they bring and defend, the arguments they make in court, the policies and regulations they adopt, and how we conduct our operations. That includes making sure that our employees know their duties to accommodate people of faith.”
This announcement follows previous action, as the website points out: "Per the direction of President Donald Trump in his May 2017 executive order signed on the National Day of Prayer, the DOJ last year issued an extensive guidance for all federal agencies on religious freedom."

Jerry A. Johnson, President and CEO of NRB, stated: “Just one week after the State Department’s historic ministerial, the creation of this new DOJ task force is yet another powerful testament to the seriousness of the Trump administration as it seeks to defend religious freedom,” adding, “I am encouraged by top leaders working to right wrongs against people of faith here in the U.S. and abroad. While such action is common sense to many Americans, it sadly is not to many ‘progressive’ elites.”

I spoke with Jeremy Dys, Deputy General Counsel of First Liberty Institute, about the formation of this task force, as well as two recent incidents involving religious freedom in the military.  You can listen to or download that conversation here.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

The 3 - July 29, 2018

In this week's edition of The 3, highlighting three stories of relevance to the Christian community, there is a development at a Wyoming Air Force Base involving a POW/MIA table, in which a Bible is being replaced.  Also, a group of pro-life sidewalk counselors received a court victory recently.  And, world leaders gathered in Washington in a meeting centered around the topic of worldwide religious freedom.

3 - Bible replaced at table of honor at Air Force Base

A Bible that been displayed at F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming as part of a ceremonial remembrance table has been replaced, according to Todd Starnes' website.  Starnes writes:
The ceremonial remembrance table is a tradition that was started after the Vietnam War, according to the Naval History and Heritage Command Communication and Outreach Division.
The table traditionally includes a Holy Bible to represent “faith in a higher power and the pledge to our country, founded as one nation under God.”
Ultimately, it seems another "book of faith" will be used.  Starnes quoted from base commander Col. Stacy Huser, who, in a statement, said:
"One of our focus areas … is increasing the sense of belonging for all our Airmen; a large part of that effort is ensuring the religious and non-religious feel included and cared for. This concern being brought to our attention only helps us work toward meeting the needs of all Airmen. The 90th Missile Wing is scheduled to replace the Bible on the POW/MIA table with a ‘book of faith’ containing spiritual writings and prayers from the five DoD (Department of Defense) Chaplain appointed faith groups and a sixth set of blank pages to represent those who find solace by other means.”
Starnes reports that Bibles have been removed from POW/MIA tables at "Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals from Ohio to Texas to New York." Leading the charge, as he points out, is the so-called Military Religious Freedom Foundation, which Starnes says is a "militant organization that has fought against Nativity scenes, Bible studies and any outward expressions of the Christian faith on U.S. military installations."

2 - Sidewalk counselors in New York win court victory

Throughout America, there are courageous individuals who stand in front of abortion clinics and offer Christ-centered viewpoints on the decision that those who enter are about to make. A group of such counselors in New York, according to the Thomas More Law Center, were the targets of a Federal lawsuit filed by then-Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

The Law Center's website reports on the AG's press conference, at which he announced the suit against 13 sidewalk counselors and stated that this is “not a nation where you can choose your point of view.”

On Monday (July 23), the TMLC announced a victory in court for the counselors, stating:
In a 103-page opinion issued last Friday evening, U.S. District Judge Carol Bagley Amon rebuked the efforts of the New York Attorney General’s Office to silence sidewalk counselors who regularly assembled outside of Choices Women’s Medical Center (“Choices”), a Queens abortion clinic, to plead for the lives of the unborn.
Attorney Tyler Brooks made these comments: “A radical state attorney general abandoned his duty to enforce the law fairly in favor of pursuing an ideological campaign intended to silence pro-life Christians. The federal court, however, has seen through the State of New York’s efforts and made clear that the free speech of Christians will not be censored simply because some people on the left do not like it.”

The article said that the Attorney General's office...
...alleged that the thirteen sidewalk counselors violated federal, state and New York City laws prohibiting the obstruction of abortion facilities, and harassment and intimidation of women who were seeking abortions. It petitioned the federal court to create a sixteen-foot buffer zone around Choices abortion premises and levy fines, attorney fees and compensatory damages against the Defendants.
1 - State Department hosts event on religious freedom

A special event occurred this past week in the nation's capital - it was called the Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom, convened by the U.S. State Department and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.  The National Religious Broadcasters website stated that "more than 80 foreign delegations, as well as NRB and other religious and civil society leaders from around the world, gathered in Washington, D.C., at the invitation of U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for a Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom."

The story pointed to an op-ed in USA Today, in which he wrote: “Countries that champion individual freedoms are often the most secure, economically vibrant, and prosperous in the world. Religious freedom is an indispensable building block of free societies.”  According to the NRB website, Pompeo also said in his speech on Thursday: “When religious freedom flourishes, a country flourishes.”

The NRB story also reported:
The Secretary of State also announced new funding and programs to advance the cause of religious freedom around the world. In particular, he highlighted a new Potomac Declaration and Potomac Plan of Action. “These documents reassert the United States’ unwavering commitment to promoting and defending religious freedom. They recommend concrete ways the international community and governments can do more to protect religious freedom and vulnerable religious communities,” Pompeo said.
Other speakers included Vice President Mike Pence and U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback.

In a letter, Dr. Jerry A. Johnson, president & CEO of NRB, told Secretary Pompeo: “Religious liberty is a source of strength and stability for societies, and the focus that President Donald Trump and his administration have placed on this core principle sends a powerful message within our nation and to governments abroad.”

CBN News reported that documents emerging from the Ministerial state:
  • People ought to be able to change their beliefs, to convert to a new religion.
  • Religious communities ought to be able to do things like print, import and distribute literature. 
  • Religious speech should not be suppressed under the guise of national security.
  • Nations have no right to pick and choose which religions will be tolerated in their countries.
  • Blasphemy laws should be repealed.
  • Nations should not require people to register their religious beliefs with the state.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

The 3 - July 22, 2018

In this week's edition of The 3, highlighting three stories of relevance to the Christian community, there is news of a guide released by the gay advocacy group, the Human Rights Campaign, which is designed to make accommodation for LGBT individuals and their identity and behavior in local churches.  Also, an American pastor continues to languish in a Turkish prison after his third court hearing.  And, a Federal judge has ruled against Planned Parenthood in its bid to receive funding from Title X grants.

3 - Gay advocacy group releases guide for integration into evangelical Church

Recently, the pro-LGBT advocacy group, the Human Rights Campaign released a "guide" that purports to accept gay practice and identity in the Church.  According to the Christian Post:
Last week, the Washington-based Human Rights Campaign released "Coming Home to Evangelicalism and to Self," a 32-page guide containing resources, advice, and testimonials for evangelical Christians who are "on the journey toward living fully in their sexual orientation, gender identity and expression and in their faith and its traditions," according to its website.
The guide features personal stories and practical suggestions from what they call a "wide variety of evangelical voices" in order "to spark new ideas, new dialogue and new courage," citing recent surveys and polling data showing rising support for same-sex marriage among younger generations.
The voices featured all favor more liberal LGBT iterations of the Christian faith, among them Brandan Robertson, Mercer University ethicist David Gushee, and author Matthew Vines.
The article referenced Robert Gagnon's Facebook page, in which he said:
"If 'Coming Home to Evangelicalism and Self' means denying Jesus' teaching on a marital binary and destroying what Scripture treats everywhere as the foundation of God's standard for sexual ethics, then, yes, 'come home' Evangelicals to a world and self-made in your own image rather than God's."
Gagnon, according to his Facebook page, was recently removed from Facebook temporarily due to a post on the upcoming Revoice conference, which attempts to blend affirmation of LGBT identity with Biblical teaching.  He was reinstated.  In that post, he stated seven "consequential concerns."  One of which is:
2. The adoption of terminology for self-identity that cannot be sanctified and inevitably brings in the whole "LGBTQ" baggage ("sexual minority," "gay," "transgender"). This terminology is normally associated with self-affirmation rather than sin and switches the obligation of the church from a call for repentance and restoration to a call for inclusion and diversity that celebrates what should be mortified. The fact that evangelical proponents of the "sexual minority" language are unwilling to use it of those with a pedophilic or polyamorist orientation should tell us all something.
In a piece on the PJ Media website, Tyler O'Neil, an Assistant Editor for the website, who has written for the Christian Post, Breakpoint, and others, in commenting on the HRC guide, says:
Christians must be careful to preserve the teachings of Jesus while extending His grace to those who struggle with these issues. God calls Christians to love LGBT people, but not to affirm LGBT identity, and HRC's "guidance" undermines that crucial mission.
O'Neil also states:
The HRC guide is peddling a falsehood in saying LGBT people can "remain faithful both to God and to their understanding of themselves." No true disciple of Jesus can remain true to his or her psyche — that must go. This is part of what Paul meant when he said, "If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come" (2 Corinthians 5:17).
Repentance from all sin is a fundamental aspect of this transformation. Jesus constantly calls on His followers to repent. Even in the famous John 8 passage where Jesus offers forgiveness to a woman caught in adultery, he urges her to "go, and from now on sin no more" (John 8:11).
Not only does the HRC report conveniently leave out the call to repent, but it also peddles the idea that people are somehow "worthy" in their own right to receive God's grace.
2 - American pastor will stay in prison in Turkey after hearing

American pastor Andrew Brunson, who has been in a Turkish prison charged with terrorism and espionage, has now faced three hearings in front of a court there, and will face another in October, according to WORLD MagazineWORLD reports:
Brunson lived in Turkey for 23 years and pastored Izmir Resurrection Church. He faces up to 35 years in prison if found guilty. The case was adjourned until Oct. 12.
Turkish judges previously denied his requests for release on April 16 and May 7. In the courtroom, Brunson said the court had no concrete evidence as he denied the testimony of two witnesses who claimed he supported Kurdish militants. “The disciples of Jesus suffered in his name, now it is my turn,” he said, Reuters reported. “I am an innocent man on all these charges.”
The report states that outside the courtroom, a U.S. official said, “Our government remains deeply concerned about his status," and denied that there was any evidence that Brunson had "committed any offense," according to the article.

The day of the latest hearing, President Trump tweeted out: "A total disgrace that Turkey will not release a respected U.S. Pastor, Andrew Brunson, from prison. He has been held hostage far too long."  he President stated that President Erdogan, "should do something to free this wonderful Christian husband & father. He has done nothing wrong, and his family needs him!"

1 - Judge rules in favor of Administration's attempt to cut off one of Planned Parenthood's funding streams

Earlier this year, the Trump Administration had issued new rules governing Title X grants, which, according to LifeNews.com, "fund family planning programs across the country." The article stated, "In February, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services introduced a new grant application that prioritizes sexual risk avoidance strategies, including abstinence. That decision would leave abortion businesses like Planned Parenthood out of the funding equation."

The report said that Planned Parenthood had filed a lawsuit against the new rules, even though no funding has been denied as of yet.  Life News states:
A federal judge has ruled in favor of the Trump Administration and its impending decision to defund the Planned Parenthood abortion business from the Nations Title X family planning program. The Planned Parenthood abortion company has multiple federal funding streams, but cutting off the taxpayer dollars it gets from Title X would zap its second largest source of federal funding.
The article quotes from Students for Life of America President Kristan Hawkins, who said: "Planned Parenthood and abortion vendors seem terrified that people will discover just how easy it will be to live a healthy life without them,” and added, “People make many medical choices that don’t include Planned Parenthood, and the Trump Administration is to be commended for attempting to redirect Title X dollars away from abortion vendors. … The greed of the abortion lobby is on display as once again they go to court to force taxpayers to fund their enterprise.”

Saturday, July 14, 2018

The 3 - July 15, 2018

In my weekly post, highlighting three stories of relevance to the Christian community, I will be sharing information about some opposition in the United Kingdom to an upcoming Franklin Graham evangelistic event.  Also, a number of church groups were adversely affected by recent unrest in Haiti.  And, Christians are weighing in on the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court.

3 - Franklin Graham's upcoming event in U.K. dealt promotional blow

Franklin Graham is scheduled to visit the United Kingdom for a Festival of Hope in September in the city of Blackpool.  The task of spreading the word about the evangelistic event just got a bit tougher, according to the Faithwire website, which reports that:
As a result of increasing pressure from LGBT groups, the local governing authorities have decided to remove promotions for the event, which were placed on the side of the town’s buses.
Managing director of Blackpool Transport, Jane Cole, is quoted as saying, "Blackpool Transport is a proud ongoing supporter of the Pride and LGBT+ communities and in no way did we intend to cause any distress or upset,” adding, “All buses carrying the advert will remain off the road until they have been removed.”

The article reported on a radio interview with Franklin Graham on Premier UK, during which he said, “I’m not coming to preach hate, I’m here to preach about a savior, Jesus Christ who can make a difference in our lives if we put our faith and trust in Him,” adding, “We’re not here to preach against anyone, we’re here to talk about God.”  Franklin Graham noted that his father, the late Billy Graham, had received opposition when he went to preach the gospel in the UK.

2 - Church missions groups return from Haiti in wake of protests 

Recently, sections of the island nation of Haiti were plunged into protest as the result of a government proposal to raise the gasoline tax.  This adversely affected individuals and organizations intent on doing ministry there, according to WORLD Magazine, which stated: "A number of U.S. church mission groups stranded in Haiti amid violent protests have returned home as the capital city slowly returns to normalcy."

Groups affected include:

- Cornerstone United Methodist Church in Bear, DE, which had a group of 15 teenagers and five adults return home last Wednesday night.

Also...

- Kensington Church in Troy, MI., posted on its Facebook page Thursday morning that all its missions teams, including a group of high school students, had come back.

- Vermontville Baptist Church in Michigan, according to the story, "canceled a planned mission trip for its members after the U.S. State Department issued a travel advisory for Haiti." The church's pastor, Joseph Benedict, told Grand Rapids TV station WOOD-TV: "We decided that it would be in our best interest to maybe try and find a different place to go or at least keep ourselves out of harm’s way,” adding, “We know that God has a special plan for us. That is secure. But how are we going to get to that point? And that’s why we daily walk with Christ: to figure that out.”

- Plus, on its Facebook page, Montgomery's Frazer Church stated: "...Our missionary families are safe back home and Beryl has been downgraded to a tropical storm...Continue always to pray for Haiti and its many challenges as well as the missionaries there." The post expressed appreciation for prayers.

1 - Christian groups embrace Trump Supreme Court nominee

On Monday night, President Trump announced his nomination of Brett Kavanaugh of the D.C. Circuit Court to replace retiring justice Anthony Kennedy on the U.S. Supreme Court.  According to Bruce Hausknecht, Judicial Analyst for Focus on the Family, writing on the ministry's website, Kavanaugh has "...An originalist and textualist judicial philosophy. He does not believe – and his judicial record backs this up - in legislating from the bench." Hausknecht went on to say, "What we know so far about his 12-year judicial record appears to back up his White House nomination speech. On issues of religious freedom and life and free speech, among others, his court opinions and dissents portray a judge who deeply values our God-given rights guaranteed by the Constitution."

Hausknecht was a recent guest on The Meeting House on Faith Radio.  So was Rachel Alexander, Senior Editor of The Stream.  She visited with me prior to the announcement.  Here's what she wrote about Kavanaugh before he was nominated:
He served in several positions under George W. Bush, including legal counsel. He played a lead role under Kenneth Starr drafting the 1998 Starr Report, which recommended impeaching President Bill Clinton.
In Priests for Life v. HHS, Kavanagh opined that Obamacare’s requirement that Catholic religious organizations provide free contraceptives violated the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Kavanagh dissented from an opinion that required the government to obtain an abortion for an illegal immigrant teen in U.S. custody. He clerked for Anthony Kennedy.
A number of evangelical leaders and organizations have expressed support of Kavanaugh. The National Religious Broadcasters website reported that in an e-mail to the NRB membership, President and CEO Jerry Johnson stated, "As I said in my statement, filling this vacancy may be a generational opportunity to secure a strong majority on the Supreme Court committed to the Constitution, especially our First Amendment liberties..."

The NRB article added:
In light of the importance of the seat, Johnson urged NRB members to do the following:
1. Pray. “Scripture repeatedly teaches us that we are obligated to pray for governing authorities,” Johnson noted. “Please pray for the Senate as it considers this nomination, and pray for God to strengthen Judge Kavanaugh in the midst of the confirmation process, which is likely to be very difficult.”
2. Personally engage their two Senators, urging support for the confirmation of Judge Kavanaugh. “Write letters, send emails, and call their offices to make your voice heard,” Johnson said.
3. Use their platforms — broadcasting, print, digital, social, etc. — to urge their audiences to become engaged in this confirmation battle. “The involvement of your audiences could make the difference in the confirmation of Judge Kavanaugh,” Johnson stated.

Saturday, July 07, 2018

The 3 - July 8, 2018

This week's edition of The 3, featuring three stories of relevance to the Christian community, the clock continues to tick on the bill in California that could chill free speech for those who want to speak truth regarding God's will for sexuality; lawmakers are now in their month-long summer vacation.  Also, there has been a court ruling from Canada in favor of a three people in a polyamorous relationship who have been allowed to legally adopt a child.  And, laws emphasizing our national motto have taken root in a half dozen states.

3 - More time to oppose California speech bill

The California State Senate is now in its summer vacation; that means it will be just about another month before that bill, AB2943, which has already passed the lower chamber, could come up for a vote.  According to the advocacy group, SaveCalifornia.com, on its website: "...On July 2, this unconstitutional bill was sent to the Senate floor without a hearing and without any amendments...On June 12, this anti-freedom, anti-choice bill passed the Senate Judiciary Committee ..."

The website states that: "...AB 2943 would, for all practical purposes, prohibit California adults from choosing to obtain professional, expert counseling to help them overcome their unwanted homosexual desires or gender confusion."

The site also says:
As Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) explains:
At its core, AB 2943 outlaws speech, whether offered by a licensed counselor, a best-selling author, or even a minister or religious leader. It targets a specific message—that an adult who is experiencing unwanted same-sex attraction or gender identity confusion can find help to address those issues—for censorship.
SaveCalifornia.com, the Campaign for Children and Families, has published action steps regarding communication with legislators in the state.  The recess ends on August 6.

2 - Canada recognizes three parents in polyamorous relationship

The potential effect of the redefinition of marriage on child adoption can be clearly seen in a court ruling from Canada.  According to Christian Headlines.com:
Three adults living in a polyamorous relationship can be the legal parents of a child, according to a ruling by a Canadian judge in what is believed to be the first ruling of its kind in the nation.

The case involves two men living with a woman, who is the mother of the child born in 2017, according to the CBC. It was a Newfoundland and Labrador court.
The judge is quoted as saying, "Society is continuously changing and family structures are changing along with it,” adding, “This must be recognized as a reality and not as a detriment to the best interests of the child.”

The piece quotes from ChristianNews.net, which includes comments from Answers in Genesis founder Ken Ham, who said: “Yes, it’s a detriment to the child because there’s only one definition of a true family when God created this institution with one man one woman (Genesis 1&2)..."  He went on to say, “The ‘best interests of the child’ are when they’re taught the truth God created them, they’re made in God’s image and very special, and they have a sin nature so God provided a free gift of salvation for them in God’s Son Jesus who died and rose from the dead.”

1 - Multiple states pass laws to display "In God We Trust"

In 1956, Congress approved a resolution designating, "In God We Trust," as our national motto.  And, there is a move throughout the country for state legislatures to affirm that motto by having it prominently displayed in public schools.  According to the ReligionNews.com website, that move is being led by the Congressional Prayer Caucus Foundation, an "offshoot" of the Congressional Prayer Caucus.  The site says:
This year, five state legislatures passed laws mandating that every public school prominently display the U.S. motto, “In God We Trust.” The addition of Arkansas, which passed such a law in 2017, brings to six the number of states with public school mandates, including Alabama, Florida, Arizona, Louisiana and Tennessee.
Those laws, mostly sponsored by legislative prayer caucuses in about 30 states, were inspired by the foundation’s 2017 manual known as Project Blitz, a 116-page guide for state legislators listing 20 model bills of which “In God We Trust” is the first.
The story quoted Tennessee state Rep. Susan Lynn, who, according to the article, "sponsored the bill that passed in that state in March..." She said, in a quote from the newspaper, the Tennesseean, included in the Religion News article: "Our national motto and founding documents are the cornerstone of freedom and we should teach our children about these things..."  The Religion News story also says:
Project Blitz writers acknowledge that “In God We Trust” bills may seem symbolic, but they serve a larger purpose, which is to lay the foundation for future efforts.

Sunday, July 01, 2018

The 3 - July 1, 2018

In this week's edition of The 3, highlighting three stories of relevance to the Christian community, there is news out of Iowa, where the state Supreme Court has voided a pro-life law.  Also, hundreds are dead in an attack on Christians in Nigeria.  And, the U.S. Supreme Court had a flurry of activity during its final days - some highlights ahead, including rulings impacting religious liberty.

3 - Iowa Supreme Court strikes down abortion law

Last year, legislators in Iowa passed a 72-hour waiting period before a woman could have an abortion.  The state's Supreme Court struck that down in the past week, according to the Des Moines Register, which reports that:
The landmark 5-2 decision tossed out a 72-hour waiting period requirement, which legislators passed in 2017. Experts said the justices' decision could dim the chances for a 2018 "fetal heartbeat" law, which would ban most abortions after six weeks of pregnancy.
Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Cady, writing the majority opinion, stated, "We conclude the statute enacted by our legislature, while intended as a reasonable regulation, violates both the due process and equal protection clauses of the Iowa Constitution because its restrictions on women are not narrowly tailored to serve a compelling interest of the state..."

The Register article also said:
Chuck Hurley, vice president of the conservative group the Family Leader, told reporters he was shocked to read the majority opinion in the case. He said that despite the setback, conservatives would push forward with defending the 2018 fetal heartbeat law. “This makes the heartbeat bill — the heartbeat law — and litigation even more important,” he said.
2 - 200 dead in Nigerian attack

The persecution of Christians continues to be pronounced in the African nation of Nigeria, and a Morning Star News article appearing at ChristianHeadlines.com reinforces this notion, reporting that:
Muslim Fulani herdsmen with machetes and firearms slaughtered more than 200 people in 10 predominantly Christian communities near Jos, Nigeria on Saturday and Sunday (June 23-24) in what a cattlemen’s spokesman admitted was likely retaliation for stealing cows.
The article says that:
Istifanus Gyang, a member of Nigeria’s National Assembly, on Monday (June 25) issued a statement in Jos decrying the attacks, which took place in the areas he represents in Plateau state, describing it as “…painful holocaust, ethnic cleansing and genocidal killing of my people under the watch of a government that has abdicated its primary constitutional responsibility of safeguarding lives of law-abiding citizens.”
It appears as if the Christians in particular areas are being blamed for the theft of cattle.  The article quotes a cattle breeders' organization spokesman:
“Fulani herdsmen have lost about 300 cows in the last few weeks – 94 cows were rustled by armed Berom youths in Fan village, another 36 cows were killed by Berom youths. In addition to that, 174 cattle were rustled.”
The story continues:
Area Christians question how villagers untrained to handle cattle could have “rustled” the high number of cows that Ciroma claims, especially with military check-points mounted throughout the state that would make it difficult to move such a quantity of livestock.
1 - High court rules on free speech, religious freedom

There was plenty of news out of the U.S. Supreme Court during the preceding week, including the announcement that Justice Anthony Kennedy would be retiring at the end of July.  President Trump has already said that he would be making the choice of a replacement soon, indicating he would be announcing that new prospective justice on July 9.

In addition, the high court upheld the President's so-called "travel ban" on accepting potential refugees from countries that research indicates are most likely to have terror connections.

And, the Christian Educators Association International is celebrating a ruling that said, according to its website: "that unionized public sector workers do not have to join, or pay agency fees, to unions. This ruling has significant implications for many public school teachers from faith backgrounds who have long struggled with the legal requirement to support unions that often contribute money to causes to which they object."

David Schmus, CEAI Executive Director, is quoted as saying, “Justice delayed was not justice denied for our teachers, who are now free to direct their hard-earned pay according to the dictates of conscience,” adding, “For years many teachers, including me, have been legally required to financially support unions as a condition of their employment, knowing that their money was going to Planned Parenthood or similar causes—no more.”

There was also a ruling concerning California's law that would have forced pro-life pregnancy resource centers to direct clients where they could get an abortion - the high court overturned that law.  Alliance Defending Freedom represented National Institute of Family and Life Advocates. ADF President, CEO, and General Counsel Michael Farris, stated: “In this case, the government used its power to force pro-life pregnancy centers to provide free advertising for abortion. The Supreme Court said that the government can’t do that, and that it must respect pro-life beliefs.”

And, at the end of the session, there was a ruling on prayer in the home: First Liberty represented a client, Mary Ann Sause, who had been ordered not to pray in her own home.  The organization's website stated:
Attorneys for Sause had asked the Supreme Court to reverse the appellate court’s ruling that the police officers, who in 2013 entered Sause’s home to investigate an alleged minor noise complaint, harassed her, and ordered Sause, a devout Catholic, to stop praying in her home were entitled to qualified immunity. The Supreme Court’s decision sends a clear signal that citizens are entitled to religious liberty in their own home.
The court ruled in Sause's favor.  In another prayer case out of North Carolina, the high court decided not to hear a case out of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in which the full court held that the commissioners in Rowan County were in error when they allowed prayer at public meetings.  Alliance Defending Freedom said on its website that it was involved in the North Carolina case as well as "the 2014 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Town of Greece v. Galloway that upheld prayer at public meetings, which both a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit in the Rowan County case and a recent decision by the 6th Circuit in a different case cited as critical precedent for their decisions in favor of legislator-led prayer policies. The full 4th Circuit, however, later reversed the 4th Circuit panel’s decision, creating a split between the circuits."

So, now the focus about the Supreme Court for the next few months will be on the replacement for Anthony Kennedy, who was not a reliable vote on abortion and gay marriage, but who was fairly strong on religious liberty issues.  He was regarded a "swing" vote on the court, and it is speculated that whoever is nominated as his replacement will be a solid conservative, a "strict constructionist" regarding the Constitution.  The Hill reports that the President has indicated that he has narrowed his list to "about five," including two women, from a list of 25 potential nominees he had released during the campaign.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

The 3 - June 24, 2018

In this week's edition of The 3, spotlighting three stories of relevance to the Christian community, the promotion of "Freedom Sunday" at a Dallas church resulted in its freedom to speak its message being limited.  Also, a church in Maryland has been banned from using its own facility for the purpose of worship services.  And, the Oregon couple whose bakery was shut down due to their declining to provide a cake celebrating a same-sex union, received another court defeat.

3 - Church billboards taken down

This past Sunday, First Baptist Church of Dallas, TX presented its "Freedom Sunday" event, with Senior Pastor Dr. Robert Jeffress preaching on the topic, America is a Christian Nation.  This event was being promoted on billboards around the area, until the billboard company ordered them to be taken down.

According to a press release from Dr. Jeffress and First Baptist Dallas, the pastor said, “the message will present the historical evidence for the bedrock of faith upon which America was founded.” The press release continued:
Students of history will recognize these words “America is a Christian Nation” did not originate with Jeffress but came from the words of both John Jay, the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court; and Justice David Josiah Brewer, who explicitly described America as a Christian nation in a Supreme Court ruling.
The website, Lifezette, reported:
The advertising company, OutFront Media, seems to have been urged to action (at least in part) by a sardonic opinion piece published in The Dallas Morning News, titled “First Baptist Pastor Robert Jeffress’ Gospel of Division Does Not Represent My Dallas.”
The mayor of the city was quoted in the article, stating:
"I don't mind someone being proud of the Christian tradition in America — it's obviously there," adding, "But one of the strengths of Dallas is our faith-based community, [and] it's the strength that makes us a city of love versus a city of hate."
And a group of atheists were planning a protest at First Baptist on Sunday morning, according to another press release from the pastor and the church, which stated:
The irony of the protest is not lost on Dr. Robert Jeffress, senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas: “Last December, American Atheists placed billboards in Dallas attacking Christmas and advising people to ‘Just Skip church’ and ‘It’s all fake news.’ We, of course, didn’t organize demonstrations against the billboards, put pressure on the billboard company for them to be taken down, or denounce them for their divisive and mean-spirited words because, unlike those on the Left, we actually believe in free speech.”
When asked how he felt about the demonstrators, Dr. Jeffress said, “We welcome skeptics and cynics, so of course we’re glad they’re coming. I just hope they’ll have the courage to drop their logos and egos long enough to actually listen to the overwhelming evidence that I’ll be presenting in my sermon, ‘America is a Christian Nation.’” He added with a smile, “But they better get here early—we’re expecting a big crowd.”
2 - City prevented from holding worship in its own coffee shop

A church in Maryland has been prevented from holding a worship service in its own facility.  A Faithwire.com story reported:
Redemption Community Church opened a coffee shop in the town of Laurel, with the aim of serving the local community coffee for six days a week and presenting the Gospel on Sunday.
Ragamuffins Coffee House is located in a very poor neighborhood and seeks to meet the needs of those who are struggling, offering them a welcoming and warm community — and great coffee.
But, according to the story, "...city officials told them to cease ministry operations and leave immediately. According to the Alliance Defending Freedom, the religious freedom legal group representing the church, city officials adopted new zoning codes with the express intention of stopping Redemption Community Church from operating in the city’s downtown area."

ADF explained, "The law forces houses of worship to submit to an expensive, time-consuming, and uncertain special exception process that is not imposed on secular organizations..." It noted, "Almost immediately after the church purchased the property, the city changed its zoning code to remove houses of worship on less than one acre as permitted uses in the zone and allow them only if a special exception permit application was individually approved..." The city threatened to fine the church $250 per day. The Faithwire story noted the recent initiative announced by the Department of Justice that protects churches from, as the article states, "government interference," with respect to land and facility usage.

1 - OR Supreme Court rejects appeal from cake bakers

Aaron and Melissa Klein have had a years-long history of being told "no" by the legal system after they said "yes" to upholding their religious beliefs by rejecting a request to bake a cake celebrating a same-sex marriage.  The Kleins faced a heavy fine of $135,000 for their action and their appeals through the courts have been repeatedly rejected.

The latest case in point occurred this past week. First Liberty, which represents the couple, reported in a press release:
...the Oregon Supreme Court denied review in the case of Aaron and Melissa Klein, owners of Sweetcakes by Melissa. The following statement in response to the court’s decision may be attributed to Kelly Shackelford, President and CEO for First Liberty Institute:
No one in America should be forced by the government to choose between their faith and their livelihood. But that’s exactly what happened to our clients, bakers Aaron and Melissa Klein. We look forward to making our case to the Supreme Court of the United States.
Perhaps it is the Kleins' case, or that of a florist in Washington who declined to provide flowers for a same-sex wedding ceremony, that could cause the high court to make a definitive ruling on the religious freedom rights of artists who do not wish to participate in providing their art for an event that violates their deeply held beliefs.  The Masterpiece Cakeshop decision was a step in the right direction, but experts agree that it was incomplete.  Meanwhile, Jack Phillips, the owner of Masterpiece, is experiencing an uptick in business, according to ChristianHeadlines.com.  The article states:
Phillips said he has received an outpouring of support as the case went before the Supreme Court and that his business has increased, although he initially lost 40 percent of his business.
"We have had so many people coming by to support us as the case has gone on, and there has been an outpouring of love and support since the decision came down. The state's targeting of my beliefs cost me 40 percent of my business and forced me from 10 employees down to four. But we're so happy to be busy doing what we do best at our shop," Phillips told The Christian Post in an email.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

The 3 - June 17, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1 - Canadian Supreme Court rules against law school requiring students to adhere to Christian sexual ethics

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

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

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

Sunday, June 10, 2018

The 3 - June 10, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, June 03, 2018

The 3 - June 3, 2018

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

3 - Appeals court rules against CA assisted suicide law 

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

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

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

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

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

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

1 - Ireland repeals pro-life amendment

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

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

Sunday, May 27, 2018

The 3 - May 27, 2018

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

3 - New rules announced at Scout jamboree next year

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

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

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

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

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

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

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