Sunday, December 19, 2010

The 3 - December 19, 2010

This week's edition of "The 3" includes a continued emphasis on Christians in Iraq, many of whom are fleeing in the face of persecution. Also, there was action on the nation's new health care reform law in the courts. And, the top story involves a Senate vote over the weekend on the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy.

3 - United Nations agency responds to flight of Christians from Iraq

The plight of Christians in Iraq has been a troubling development ever since the U.S.-led invasion of that nation, and now, since the attack and subsequent hostage crisis in a Baghdad church in October, when over 50 people lost their lives, Christians in that nation are deciding that perhaps they have had enough. Looking to an overtaxed Iraqi government to provide security has been an exercise in futility, and Christians continue to face harassment and violence at the hands of Muslim extremists.

Fortunately, this situation has not gone unnoticed in the international community. This past Tuesday, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, in advance of the U.N. Security Council meeting on Wednesday, urged the U.S. to step up its efforts to protect Christians in Iraq. The situation was acknowledged by Vice President Biden as he addressed the Security Council on Wednesday. Open Doors USA, an organization that speaks out against the persecution of Christians, has joined with other faith organizations to call attention to the situation involving Iraqi Christians. Here is a recent press release from ODUSA.

The U.N. High Commission for Refugees has reported that thousands of Iraqi Christians have fled the central section of the country and are seeking refuge in other areas. Here is the story from The Christian Post.

Mindy Belz, Editor of WORLD Magazine, joined me on The Meeting House radio show recently to discuss developments regarding Christians in Iraq. She has been following the storylines closely, and filed this piece for WORLD.

Certainly, there are many areas of the world where Christians are victims of violence and harassment. What makes the conditions in Iraq particularly troubling is that the U.S. has been attempting to help establish a functioning, democratic government, which would hopefully embrace religious freedom. The protection of this group of people might be considered low on the priority list, in light of all the missions that our military is being assigned to do. Plus, the Iraqi government is continuing the struggle to establish itself and to bring order. Unfortunately, the answer for thousands is to flee their homeland, and it's important that other countries are open to accepting Iraqi Christians who fear for the lives and livelihood and desire to start a new life elsewhere.

2 - VA Judge rules health care law unconstitutional, FL judge considers same subject

Since the final passage of health care reform legislation in March 2010, Christians have been speaking out about various aspects of the new law. Some have zeroed in on taxpayer funding of abortion that is contained within the language. Others see the legislation as a step to rationing, denying medical care to those that might be the most in need of it, which has a definite moral component, especially for senior citizens and those with health challenges and special needs. Many think the law is another example of government not living within its means.

So, the law has many implications within the Christian community. And, many are watching with great anticipation as various lawsuits have been filed in courts across the land. One organization, Liberty Counsel, a Christian legal advocacy group, had filed a suit on behalf of Liberty University, protesting the mandate for employers to provide health insurance for their employees. A Federal district judge in Virginia ruled against Liberty U., and the case has been appealed to a Federal appeals court. Liberty Counsel and other Christian organizations this week lauded a ruling by another Virginia judge in another case, filed by Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli. That judge did declare the mandate for individuals to buy health insurance unconstitutional. Here is Liberty Counsel's press release on the case.

And, this week, in a Federal courtroom in Pensacola, Florida, another Federal judge heard a case filed by 20 state attorneys general involving the employee and individual mandates in health care reform legislation. This judge had earlier allowed the case to proceed, and heard oral arguments this week.

So, now you have 3 rulings - 2 upholding at least some aspect of health care reform as constitutional, and 1 that does not. Plus, you have the pending case in Florida. Undoubtedly, all these cases are heading to the U.S. Supreme Court, where the justices (or at least the majority of them - there have been calls for Elena Kagan to recuse herself, but so far has not indicated she would do so) will make the final decision on whether or not the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution allows Congress to force citizens to buy a certain product - in this case, health insurance.

1 - Congress repeals "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"

As feared, the so-called "lame duck" session of Congress has allowed lawmakers, many of whom were voted out in November, to return to Washington to join with the leadership to attempt to pass legislation that will be difficult to pass once the new Congress is convened in January. One huge agenda item has been a proposed repeal of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy that has been in place since President Clinton attempted to remove a prohibition on open homosexuals serving in our military. So, after two failed attempts to attach a repeal of DADT to a Defense Authorization Bill in the Senate, the supporters drafted and introduced stand-alone legislation, that passed both the House and Senate this week, to repeal the policy. Tony Perkins, President of the Family Research Council, made these comments following the 65-31 Senate vote.

Now, the bill does have a provision that military leaders must decide that the new policy will not adversely effect military effectiveness, and there will be a 60-day waiting period to draft new rules. A number of military leaders have publicly stated that the reversal of current policy would be detrimental to cohesion and readiness, and in the study that was released by the Defense Department about a proposed repeal, combat troops especially expressed concern. Here is an excellent analysis of the survey by Carrie Gordon Earll of CitizenLink.

So, during the next couple of months, there will be much pressure brought to bear on military leaders regarding implementation of this new policy regarding gays in the armed services. Perhaps in the dialogue, common sense measures can be taken that would limit the influence of homosexuals who would want to try to push their lifestyles on others. Hopefully, precautions could be taken to address potential health risks as well as the alleviate the possibility of large numbers of soldiers leaving the military, which was indicated by the survey. And, chaplains will no doubt have to struggle with religious freedom issues, as Christian chaplains will be faced with sharing a Biblical perspective on a behavior that is a violation of Scripture, but could be sanctioned by our military leadership. You would hope that military leadership would not reflect the agenda-driven actions of the members of Congress that supported what many Christians view as an ill-advised policy shift.

Honorable Mention:

Bank told not to display religious symbols of Christmas by Fed, course then reversed

Red Cross in Britain bans references to Christmas

Some good news for faith-based organizations with new tax law (from ECFA)

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