Monday, December 27, 2010

The 3 - December 27, 2010

Merry Christmas! This week's edition of "The 3" highlights one of the positives that came out of the "lame duck" session of Congress, regarding a defeat of taxpayer-funded abortion at military facilities. Also, the FCC voted this past week on regulation that would extend its reach into the Internet. Plus, a look at some different aspects of the celebration of Christmas worldwide.

3 – Lame duck Congress keeps taxpayer-funded abortion out of military hospitals

The much-maligned Defense Authorization Bill, which would fund the military for the coming year, had several objectionable attachments as it made its way into the U.S. Senate – for one thing, it contained a repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy which many Senators found to be unacceptable. And, it contained a provision, called the Burris Amendment, which would allow military hospitals at home and abroad to perform abortions – at taxpayer expense. The DADT repeal was stripped out of the bill and eventually became stand-alone legislation that was ultimately approved. And, in the final version of the bill, the Burris Amendment was also eliminated, guaranteeing that our tax dollars would not fund abortion.

This delighted pro-life organizations, such as the Susan B. Anthony List, which issued a press release on the victory. It was prominently mentioned in this piece from The Christian Post.

There are those in Congress that have long stood strong against preventing an increase in abortions generally and against the used of tax dollars to go to this abhorrent practice. It seems like too often that lawmakers in Washington are playing defense against legislation that would add to the number of abortions. Now, with dozens of pro-life lawmakers entering Congress who are motivated to act on behalf of the unborn, perhaps authentically pro-life legislation that could actually reduce the number of abortions in America can advance in the next session of Congress.

2 – FCC votes to attempt to regulate Internet

The Internet represents to millions of Americans a free flow of information and opinion. There have been few efforts to limit the content that is posted and available on the information superhighway – until now. This past Tuesday, the Federal Communications Commission, by a 3-2 vote, under the guise of “net neutrality”, approved a sweeping new initiative that could result ultimately in the FCC regulating the use of the Internet. Rules approved this week are designed to prevent large Internet companies from controlling access, but once the Commission is allowed to extend its reach into the previously untouched world of the Internet, there are some who fear that freedom of speech could ultimately be at risk.

The activities of the FCC are governed by Congress, and activity is already underway to turn back this attempt to regulate the Internet. Sen. Jim DeMint is planning to introduce legislation that would make plain to the FCC that it does not have authority over the Internet. Here is a report from The Daily Caller. To some, this jurisdiction (or lack thereof) was defined in a court ruling issued out of D.C. And a host of lawmakers of both parties wrote a letter to FCC Chair Julius Genechowski, stating their disapproval for FCC governance of the Internet.

The implications for Christians and Christian groups are enormous – if some sort of content regulation emerges, and religious speech is somehow found to be unacceptable, then the reach of this tremendous tools could be stifled.

1 – Christmas celebrated around the world

This past Saturday was Christmas Day, and marked the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. Generally, Christians regard this day not only as a time to give gifts and gather with family, but also to observe the significance of our Savior’s birth and to celebrate in a variety of ways at church – Christmas Eve services, special musical and dramatic presentations, and other Christ-centered activities. Even though, according to a recent LifeWay Research poll, many do not celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday, nevertheless it has spiritual significance to a large number of people. And, regarding those who don’t attach meaning to Christmas that is consistent with the birth of Jesus, it gives Christians an opportunity to reach out and share the reasons why we do celebrate Jesus’ birth. Here is an interesting story from USA Today.

Our local church offered a full array of services on the day after Christmas. However, that was not true for some high-profile churches, such as North Point Community Church in Atlanta, where Andy Stanley is the pastor – North Point did not hold any activities or services the day of Christmas. Some churches offered a reduced menu of services. Here is The Christian Post’s take on the “day after Christmas” dilemma.

And, around the world, Christians were celebrating in a variety of ways. Here are 2 more items from The Christian Post. Officials in the city where Jesus was born report a noted increase in tourism during this Christmas season. In Iraq, where Christians are feeling quite threatened these days, the believers there were laying low and having quiet celebrations of our Savior’s birth.

Christmas gives us the opportunity to think on the birth of Christ and its significance. I trust that during the New Year, you will seek Him wholeheartedly and allow Him to work mightily in your life.

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)

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The 3 - December 12, 2010

Plenty to talk about with this edition of my week-in-review feature, "The 3", including: the battle for tax cuts in Congress and the move to fold Internet gambling into a compromise bill, the Nobel Peace Prize award and its potential to call attention to the great human rights and religious rights struggles there, and the continued pressure in Congress to repeal the military's policy on openly gay members.

3 - Tax cut bill continues to grow; Reid attempts to attach Internet gaming language

Just after the President announced his deal with Republicans to extend tax cuts to all Americans, regardless of income, in exchange for an extension of unemployment benefits and other considerations, additions were continuing to be made in order to gain the votes necessary to prevent a filibuster and ensure final passage.

The ever-burgeoning bill has drawn fire from lawmakers on the left and the right. From the left, because it includes tax cuts for even the wealthiest of Americans, who proponents characterize as the job creators in the nation. From the right, because the price tag continues to rise as promises are made to lawmakers so that they will support the bill. In order to satisfy Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, apparently the bill must include language that authorizes gambling on the Internet. Reid, who was supported heavily in his re-election bid by the gambling industry, is now attempting to repay that support by including a rider that would essentially bring a casino into every home in America. Chad Hills is a dependable voice in pointing out the social and spiritual costs of gambling, and here is his analysis at CitizenLink.

So, what is it going to take to get this bill passed? In attempting to prevent Americans from receiving a large tax bill come January, lawmakers are throwing in the kitchen sink to make sure that those opposed to extending the current tax rates do not derail the legislation. And, that apparently could include the expansion of gambling!!

As some caution, to increase the size of the deficit by crafting what amounts to a stimulus/spending bill is not wise. Did Republican leaders have to approve extra spending in order to extend tax cuts for all? The evidence is not clear, but there are some that believe that those that ran on the premise of smaller government are now being forced to go along with an increase in the size of the operation.

2 - Nobel Peace prize awarded against backdrop of new Chinese crackdown on unregistered house churches

In Oslo on Friday, the Nobel Peace Prize was given to Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, who was not present at the ceremony because he is currently jailed by the government in China as part of his long struggle in support of human rights in the country, which is known for its restrictions on a variety of freedoms, including free speech and free association.

Perhaps the awarding of this prize will help to increase awareness for the Chinese government's policies with regard to fundamental human rights. Even though the Chinese constitution apparently calls for freedom of religion, that type of freedom, with respect to Christianity, only applies to the churches that are sanctioned by the government - the registered churches. Unregistered house churches face persecution, house church leaders live under the threat of arrest, and a recent development is bringing perhaps a greater threat level to those who worship in these churches.

According to the advocacy organization China Aid, the Chinese Politburo has authorized sweeping new directives that are targeting leaders and members of house churches. Here is China Aid's press release on the subject.

China Aid head Bob Fu was on hand in Oslo for the presentation of the Nobel Peace Prize, and had these comments:

So, it's important to pray for those who attend house churches in China. This new directive labels the house church movement a "cult", which, as China Aid points out, shows a lack of understanding of religious matters and characterizes as a threat the presence of a group of people that want to dialogue with the government and live in peace. An interesting dynamic is that, according to author Dr. David Aikman, a growing number of Christians are strategically placed in government, business, and other areas of Chinese life - representing a powerful force in Chinese society. Perhaps the government is miscalculating the effect of the house churches attendees in Chinese life.

1 - "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" falls again in U.S. Senate vote

Another week, another vote to attempt to overturn the military's current ban on open homosexuality, called the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT) Policy. A 57-40 vote earlier in the week prevented a Defense Authorization Bill from coming to the floor of the U.S. Senate.

This comes after the release of the study by the Pentagon that shows support for overturning the policy is not necessarily as pronounced as some leadership would have you believe. Edward Lee Pitts of WORLD Magazine, a recent guest on my radio show, highlighted some statistics that show that, for instance, only 9 percent of those surveyed think a ban would have a mostly positive effect on the military and that 60 percent of active combat forces in the Marines and Army believe there would be a negative effect. Here is Lee's article on the topic.

Time is running out on passing this legislation - the new makeup of Congress suggests that support would be less likely after the first of the year. Plus, Senate Republicans have said they would vote on no other legislation until after the tax cut issue is settled. Furthermore, stand-alone legislation on repealing the ban would have to pass both chambers. But, supporters of a repeal are steadfastly and passionately trying to push this bill through, to the point of concentrating on this issue at the expense of pressing economic issues.

Newsweek announces new faces of Christian activism

Voyage of the Dawn Treader opens, studio reaches out to faith community

San Diego churches gives out 10,000 toys, 60,000 pounds of food

Saturday, December 04, 2010

The 3 - December 5, 2010

This week's edition of "The 3", my week-in-review feature, includes an instance of a taxpayer-funded art that was removed this week from the Smithsonian, the response to a study involving gays in the military, and an iPhone app from a Christian organization that was removed because it allegedly was offensive.

3 - Smithsonian pulls display viewed as offensive to Christians

It seems that the world of modern art needs to learn a bit about religious sensitivity. We have had a string of incidents involving taxpayer-funded art that has in fact portrayed Jesus and/or Christianity in a negative light. I think that this highlights that the gatekeepers of culture (as they are regarded in their own estimation) do not have a clue with regard to some of the sacred, traditional values that have existed in and driven our nation for hundreds of years. And, as we will see later, in the #1 story, these enlightened ones don't seem to think twice sometimes when trying to remove expressions of these principles from the public discourse.

Now, the situation at the Smithsonian is especially ingredious not only because of the objectionable content, but also because this is a public, government-funded institution. The backstory: there is an exhibit there that was apparently intended to show the blight on society that is the AIDS virus - well, in attempting to illustrate this, one of the artists displayed a video that included Jesus on a crucifix covered in ants. There were some other offensive expressions, as well, including "art" that was described as "homoerotic". The video including the disturbing images of Jesus was removed, along with a bit of a disclaimer by the museum's director.

Here's the story from

This follows on the heels of the reopened debate with regard to taxpayer funding of National Public Radio, which fired commentator Juan Williams for honest remarks that he made that were characterized as being negative toward Islam, but has turned its head the other way when some Christians or Christianity have been denigrated. Those with oversight over these taxpayer-funded organizations have to look at the fact that certain material can be offensive and therefore reserve Federal dollars from going to projects that do not represent the deeply-held values of large groups of Americans.

2 - Study on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" released, Christian and pro-family groups challenge findings

The debate regarding allowing homosexuals to serve openly in the military continues to rage on Capitol Hill, as Senate leadership is attempting to bring the matter for a vote soon, and some military leaders, such as the Secretary of Defense, are pushing for a repeal of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy while others, including the the Commandant of the Marine Corps and Chief of Staff of the Army, are calling for the ban on open homosexuality in the military to remain in place. Others in military leadership might favor a repeal, but say now is not the time for a change.

A study released earlier this week shows a number of areas of concern on troop cohesion and effectiveness. Those who commissioned the study say that any negative impact of lifting the ban would be short-lived, but fail to define for how long the negative impact would last. A closer look at the statistics show that many, especially those are actively involved in combat, have seen a negative impact from having known homosexuals serving together with them already, with many believing that a reversal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" would have a negative impact. There is an apparent disconnect between the raw data and the way that the data has been reported, and the negative impact is far greater than those communicating the survey results would have the public believe.

A number of Christian and pro-family organizations have spoken out on the matter and are urging Congress to leave the ban in place. CitizenLink offered this analysis based on the survey results.

The Family Research Council has been very active this week in attempting to paint a clearer, truer picture of how the repeal of DADT would affect the military, even offering the result of a survey that they commissioned. More information can be found here.

Up-to-date information on the issue of open homosexuality in the military can be found on the new website,

1 - Manhattan Declaration app removed from IPhone store

The Manhattan Declaration is a document designed to represent a unified viewpoint of Christians in 3 critical areas: the sanctity of life, the sanctity of marriage, and religious freedom. The Declaration has garnered over 480,000 signatures since it was announced late last year, and has become a valuable tool in communicating a basic Biblical worldview on these key issues. It was drafted by 3 well-respected Christian voices: Chuck Colson of Prison Fellowship, Dr. Robert George of Princeton University, and Dr. Timothy George of Beeson Divinity School.

In October of this year, an app for the Apple iPhone was released for the Manhattan Declaration, enabling users to read the declaration, to take a survey, and to search for more information. Recently, it was discovered that Apple had removed the app from its store.

When asked about the removal, Apple responded by saying that it had been determined that the Manhattan Declaration was offensive to "large groups of people". Well, perhaps those large groups refer to the website, which gathered just under 8,000 signatures on a petition to remove the app. Never mind that the Declaration had almost a half-million signatories. The leadership of the Manhattan Declaration has written an open letter to Apple CEO Steve Jobs, and now is asking people to sign an online petition in support of the app - go to to learn more.

And, here's the point that the self-proclaimed, enlightened gatekeepers of the culture don't get - when you attempt to not offend a small group of people who are determined to be irritants, you may find yourselves offending an even larger group. This principle seems to occur time and again when attempting to restrict religious speech - more specifically, Christian speech - in the culture.

We see the same principle at work in the so-called "war on Christmas" - in attempting to not offend small groups who some retailers or government leaders think might be offended by religious expression (such as the greeting of "Merry Christmas"), you end up offending larger groups. That may explain why companies like Best Buy and Dick's Sporting Goods began this Christmas season without references to Christmas, but changed their tunes after realizing that offending Christians was bad for business. (Not that appeasing Christians should be seen as a business decision, but in the retail world, the bottom line rules above all.)

Unfortunately, as Christians, I believe we have lost ground in the arena of public religious expression because intimidated leadership has backed down in the face of a small, but vocal minority. Our willingness and courage to speak up in the face of hostility to our faith can hopefully lift up Jesus and make a statement to a world that needs to know Him.

A closing note: a new Rasmussen poll shows that 7 out of 10 of those surveyed prefer "Merry Christmas" to "Happy Holidays". Here are the findings, as reported by Liberty Counsel.

Honorable Mention:

Noah's Ark replica to be built at Creation Museum in KY

Football player flagged for expressing faith