Sunday, November 06, 2011

The 3 - November 6, 2011

A wide variety of topics on this week's edition of "The 3", my week-in-review feature. Churches across America are joining with various organizations to bring awareness to the plight of orphans and the opportunities to help meet their needs through support and even adoption. Also, as so many are gearing up for National Collection Week for Operation Christmas Child, beginning next Monday, November 14th, a rather disturbing series of events has emerged at the Air Force Academy. And, in the top slot, religious liberties became a topic before the U.S. Supreme Court, where the justices let stand a lower court ruling against privately-funded roadside crosses on state property.

3 - Churches commemorate "Orphan Sunday"

It was an effort that was inspired in the African nation of Zambia and has now spread to the United States and other parts of the world - an effort to increase the awareness, among Christians, of the plight of orphans. It's called "Orphan Sunday", marked by a special emphasis in churches in some 45 states and a special Sunday evening webcast.

The Christian Post shared this story.

"Orphan Sunday" was originated as the result of an American visitor's observation in a church service in Zambia, where the pastor passionately called the congregation to care for orphans in the local community, which had been ravaged by AIDS and poverty. Even though members of the church faced deep needs, they stepped forward to contribute to a special offering to care for orphans.

According to Christianity Today, "Orphan Sunday" has become a catalyst for what the publication calls a “burgeoning orphan care movement", quoting event organizers, who also cite the most recent "State of Giving Report" from the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA), in which three of the top four categories for increased giving over the past two years have been directly related to adoption and/or orphan care.

"Orphan Sunday" is co-sponsored by the Christian Alliance for Orphans and Cry of the Orphan. A number of Christian organizations, such as Focus on the Family and Steven Curtis Chapman's effort, Show Hope, are involved in the observance. Across the nation, Christian families are embracing the call of Scripture, according to James 1:27 to "look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." (NIV)

2 - Operation Christmas Child out at Air Force Academy, turned over to chaplains

This is that wonderful time of year as churches are encouraging their members to participate in the tremendously effective effort to reach out to needy children around the world, Operation Christmas Child, a project of Samaritan's Purse, an international relief organization headed by Franklin Graham. Samaritan's Purse has built a track record of being very efficient and prompt in its response to disasters all around the world.

Well, it seems that some of the leadership at the U.S. Air Force Academy, seeing the quality work that is being done through this annual shoebox effort, encouraged their students to participate, or at least made them aware of the opportunity. But, true to form, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation filed a complaint, saying that the Academy leadership crossed the line. The Academy backed down and issued an apology. The responsibility for administering Operation Christmas Child on the campus now rests with the chaplains, and in a sense, that's OK, because the amount of publicity this story is receiving may result in an even greater response that it would have been.

Todd Starnes of Fox News issued this report.

Here's how the local newspaper, The Colorado Springs Gazette, treated the story.

This year, Operation Christmas Child is expecting to reach 8 million children around the world. Apparently, the Foundation had a beef with the fact that a Christian message is included within the shoeboxes. On The Meeting House program on Friday, November 4th, Stuart Shepard of CitizenLink, an affiliate of Focus on the Family, based in Colorado Springs, discussed the way the so-called "Establishment Clause" of the First Amendment has basically been twisted to be interpreted as an "acknowledgement". In fact, check out the audio from Stuart.

Is it so outlandish for a Christian charity to presenting its Christian principles in the work that it does? The Air Force Academy was not "establishing" anything by announcing the opportunity or even encouraging this effort. But, there has become such a stigma with a government entity being associated with anything religious. So even the mere presence of a gospel message, inserted in the shoeboxes during the distribution process, not by the cadets themselves, becomes, as the head of the organization said, "arrogance"? Can people not think for themselves, or does it take an organization like the MRLF to help filter religious information that they find inappropriate or in conflict with their own religious views? And, yes, those who attempt to silence Christians in the name of religious tolerance are, in effect, establishing their own religion - the religion of secular humanism - and are denying the free exercise rights of Christians and those who choose to support them, which, you know, can include government-related organizations.

1 - Supreme Court rejects appeal, Utah roadside crosses must come down
"Today the [Supreme] Court rejects an opportunity to provide clarity to an establishment clause jurisprudence in shambles..."A sharply divided Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit has declared unconstitutional a private association's efforts to memorialize slain police officers with white roadside crosses, holding that the crosses convey to a reasonable observer that the state of Utah is endorsing Christianity. The 10th Circuit's opinion is one of the latest in a long line of 'religious display' decisions that, because of this court's nebulous establishment clause analyses, turn on little more than 'judicial predilections."
Those are the words of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarance Thomas, calling for a review of the application of the so-called "Establishment Clause", in light of the hodgepodge of court rulings involving religious expression. The 10th Circuit decision served to prohibit the display of the Utah roadside crosses by a private organization, and the Supreme Court decided not to review it.

Here is's analysis of Thomas' dissent and some insight into religious liberty cases.

The phenomenon of different types of rulings from different appeals courts can be seen in the issue of student-led prayer, which has flared up again in Alabama in two different school districts, where complaints have been filed seeking to eliminate prayers on the P.A. systems prior to high school football games. Appeals court decisions in the Santa Fe case out of Texas, and even the Chandler case out Alabama, indicate that prayers prior to football games, even it student-led and student-initiated are not constitutional, if the taxpayer-funded P.A. system is used. Eric Johnston of the Southeast Law Institute discussed the issue in a recent appearance on The Meeting House.

In fact, the high Court has rendered differing decisions on displays of the 10 Commandments in separate cases. You have to wonder if the application of the Utah decision regarding roadside crosses could also affect the display of crosses in cemeteries nationwide, such as the hallowed ground of Arlington outside Washington. Again, we're facing a redefinition of "establishment" to mean "acknowledgement". And this is the thinking of those who are attempting to remove the words "under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance and to choose another national motto, rather than "In God We Trust" - that motto, by the way, was upheld this week by practically the entire U.S. House of Representatives by a vote of 396-9. Because there is such as strong influence of the secular humanism agenda that has been embraced in so many corners of our government, including the courts, there has been an erosion of the religious liberties of students and others who would want to speak about their faith publicly in events that are sponsored by these entities. And, school districts, for instance, that are cash-strapped, do not have the budgets to defend themselves against the small number of complainers, so they capitulate. In order to have some definitive answers, it takes governmental officials who have the courage, the resources, and the public support, to stand up against this erosion.

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