This week's edition of "The 3" highlights stories from literally around the world, including conflict between a significant church in Beijing and the Chinese government, good news from a Federal appeals court regarding a significant prayer occasion, and a significant vote on taxpayer funding of abortion in Congress this week.
3 - Chinese pastor, church members arrested in Beijing
The tension continues to grow between the Chinese government and members of a rather large church in Beijing. It all began, it seems, when the Shouwang Church, an unregistered church that has some 1000 members, was told that it could no longer meet in an indoor facility it had been using. It convened in an outdoor meeting last weekend, and over 150 church members were arrested. Here's the report from Baptist Press. This weekend, there were more arrests for the senior pastor and other members of the church, as the Shouwang congregation had announced plans to meet outdoors in a public plaza again.
The Christian Post had this report.
The church has maintained that its reason for holding the outdoor meetings is not political in nature. The government had apparently restricted the church from finding a permanent location. The church is facing this round of arrests because it is an unregistered church, therefore it is not viewed as "legal" by the government. Many Christians in China do not believe that they should register their churches, because they feel that Jesus, not the government, is the head of the church. There has been concern expressed by the U.S. State Department about an increased crackdown on dissidents, including those affiliated with unregistered churches. This emerging series of incidents has attracted international media attention, and has exposed at least one case of how the Chinese government, in fact, does not uphold freedom of religion, despite its claims that it does.
2 - Federal appeals court says National Day of Prayer is constitutional
Last year, a Federal district judge, Barbara Crabb, in Wisconsin had ruled that the Congressional directive to the President to declare a National Day of Prayer was unconstitutional, based on the so-called Establishment Clause found in the First Amendment. This week, a three-judge panel of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed that decision and sent it back to the original court for dismissal.
The Christian Examiner had this report.
Historically, Presidents have declared national days of prayer. There is a rich tradition in the United States for people to come together in prayer, and the National Day of Prayer is an expression of the rich Christian heritage that is found throughout our history. The day became an annual event in 1952, and this year's event, with the theme, "A Mighty Fortress is Our God", will be observed on May 5, 2011. State capitols, city halls, county courthouses, and a host of churches and civic buildings will play host to prayer gatherings, as people of faith are encouraged to call upon the Lord on behalf of our nation, our governmental officials, as well as other leaders and people of influence across our land.
1 - Congress votes on de-funding Planned Parenthood; House, Senate split
The issue of taxpayer funding of abortion had emerged to be a central issue in the debate over the Federal budget for the current fiscal year. Lawmakers, facing a government shutdown, agreed to a compromise that would cut some $39 billion in spending before the fiscal year ends in September. One of the cuts that many members of Congress had wanted to enact was the funding of the nation's largest abortion provider, Planned Parenthood. The House, in fact, had already passed legislation to de-fund the organization, but the Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid, had stated firmly that there would not be a vote on the issue in the Senate. Well, as a result of the budget compromise, there was an agreement to allow a vote in the Senate, which took place this past Thursday. Going into the vote, it was generally thought that the measure to restrict taxpayer funds from Planned Parenthood would fail, but it did serve the purpose of forcing Senators to go on record with their opposition to de-funding. The final vote: 58-42 to continue to send taxpayer dollars to this organization.
Here's the report from CitizenLink.
As surveys show that Americans are increasingly pro-life and as pro-abortion lawmakers suffered losses in the 2010 elections, nevertheless there are Senators that are committed to funding abortion through this flawed organization. Planned Parenthood has been exposed recently as not telling the truth about its providing mammograms (Pro-life organization Live Action showed it does not), as aiding and abetting those who would participate in trafficking underage girls, and as an organization that does not follow the law in reporting instances of abuse. In an era where Americans are apparently calling for reduced Federal spending, it is disturbing that you have such a large number of lawmakers who would want to spend tax dollars on an organization that participates in such abhorrent practices as abortion and these other activities that have been exposed.