3 - Texas nativity scene becomes another high-profile site of conflict over Christmas
Last week on The Meeting House, I reported about a nativity display in Ellwood City, Pennsylvania which was part of a smorgasbord of holiday symbols - in addition to the manger scene, there were symbols of Kwanzaa and Hanukkah, a snowman, a Christmas tree (or is that a "holiday" tree?), and, of course, the big guy - Santa Claus. The town as a whole seemed to be happy, I guess, except for the atheists that wanted to put up one of their "no god" banners, which the mayor nixed.
Now, in Henderson County, Texas, a manger scene has become not only a symbol of our Savior's birth, but of religious freedom, as local clergy are saying that they will resist the efforts of the Freedom from Religion Foundation. The FFRF has said this religious display is unconstitutional, despite the fact it is surrounded by other Christmas-related symbols, such as Frosty the Snowman and some carolers. Here is the story from The Christian Examiner.
30-year-old Nathan Lorick, Pastor of First Baptist Church of Malakoff is quoted by the TEXAN as saying, "What are Christians going to do about this?...It's time for the silent majority to wake up, speak up and stand up." He is concerned at the ever-increasing secularization of America, noting that Christian symbols and speech are no longer a significant part of the fabric of the culture and often are marginalized or vilified.
A majority of Henderson County commissioners said they opposed moving the nativity scene based on the FFRF complaint, according to the Malakoff News, reporting on a perspective shared by County Judge Richard Sanders. The county does not own the nativity scene nor the secular decorations, but allows a local group known as Light Up Athens to set them out on the courthouse lawn in Athens.Lorick also questioned how one local resident and an organization on the other side of the country can turn his county on its head — a county, Lorick said, that is predominantly evangelical. He feels a "moral, parental and spiritual responsibility" to stand against those who literally would take Christian expression out of the public square.
Indications are that church leaders and county officials will be standing strong against this attempt to remove religious expression from the public square. The celebration of Christmas is an acknowledgement of the religion upon which many of our laws and traditions have been formed, and a limitation or removal of its celebration is a denial of the importance of our heritage and of the free speech rights of Christians, who have faced repeated attempts to diminish the impact of our faith.
2 - Texas governor pledges to end what he calls President Obama's "war on religion"
While Texas Governor Rick Perry continues to languish in the polls leading up to the Iowa caucuses next month, a video his campaign has released has brought a wave of positive - and negative - response. It's called "Stand", and Perry reinforces his Christian beliefs and includes these comments:
"I'm not ashamed to admit that I'm a Christian, but you don't need to be in the pew every Sunday to know there's something wrong in this country when gays can serve openly in the military but our kids can't openly celebrate Christmas or pray in school." He goes on to say, "As President, I'll end Obama's war on religion. And I'll fight against liberal attacks on our religious heritage." Here's the story from the Family Research Council.
Well, this ad has been panned by the pundits, and affirmed by many of the faithful - millions of hits on the Internet mean the message is being seen...and evaluated. In fact, one of the evaluators is Tony Perkins, who cited a number of examples from the Obama Administration's record where religious liberties, and especially Judeo-Christian freedoms, are being challenged:
- Navy officials ban Bibles and religious materials from Walter Reed Military Medical Center as part of new patient guidelines for wounded warriors (9/2011)
- The Pentagon releases new regulations, forcing chaplains to perform same-sex "weddings" despite their religious objections (9/2011)
- Secretary Hillary Clinton demonizes other countries' religious beliefs as an obstacle to radical homosexual rights (12/2011)
- The Department of Veterans Affairs censors references to God and Jesus during prayers at Houston National Cemetery (6/2011)
- Officials at Health and Human Services denied funding for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' successful program for sex trafficking victims because of the church's teaching on human life (11/2011)
- The Marine Corps consider tearing down a Camp Pendleton cross meant to honor fallen heroes (11/2011)
- Air Force officials strip religious curriculum from a 20-year-old course on "just war theory" (9/2011)
- HHS unveils new health care rules that ignore basic conscience protections for medical workers with faith-based objections to abortion and contraception (8/2011)
- Administration officials refuse to intervene in the closing of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (12/2011)
- President Obama lobbies for the passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which tramples on the faith of employers in hiring, firing, and promotion decisions (10/2011)
- The Air Force Academy turns its back on needy children because a charity has religious ties (11/2011)
And, these were just in the last 6 months! Fox News analyst Todd Starnes came up with his own list of areas where faith is being challenged by the White House and/or its allies...in addition to some that were included on Perkins' list, you find:
As a candidate, he declared in an email to CBN News that “whatever we once were, we’re no longer just a Christian nation.”
This is the same administration that invited Lady Gaga into the White House for an anti-bullying conference but banned Franklin Graham from the Pentagon’s National Day of Prayer observances.
It was during Obama’s Administration that Christian school children were ordered to stop praying outside the Supreme Court building because they were violating the law. Instead, those American boys and girls were forced to pray for the elected officials while standing in a gutter.
It was President Obama who dropped the words “by their Creator” when reciting a key excerpt from the Declaration of Independence to the Congressional Hispanic Caucus – not once, but twice.
It was the Obama Administration that opposed the commemoration of a prayer by Franklin Roosevelt at the site of the World War II Memorial on the Washington Mall, arguing that it would “dilute” the memorial’s central message.
And it was the Obama White House that asked Georgetown University to cover up all religious signs and symbols prior to a presidential address.
These incidents really do, I believe, demonstrate a pattern in which religious expression, especially that which is consistent with a Christian perspective, is being restricted or even eliminated by Federal officials aligned with the Obama Administration. There is a lack of understanding by many of those in public office about the deep spiritual foundations of our nation, and in the effort to be tolerant, politically correct, or not "establishing a religion", there are those that would choose to ignore the preponderance of evidence about the role of faith generally, and specifically the Christian faith, in America's history. It's important that people of faith continue to educate and continue to stand strong against these attempts to limit the freedom of religious expression guaranteed in our Constitution.
Pro-lifers were engaged in some muted rejoicing this week...even though the Plan B, "morning after" pill, which basically causes an abortion, is widely available, even to minors - and available without a prescription to women over the age of 17, and they were concerned that the Food and Drug Administration had approved the sale of it to young ladies under 18 over-the-counter. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius overruled the FDA's decision, noting in a letter that very young girls — 11- and 12-year-olds — are now reaching puberty, but “it is commonly understood that there are significant cognitive and behavioral differences between older adolescent girls and the youngest girls of reproductive age, which I believe are relevant.”
According to CitizenLink, former Concerned Women for American President Wendy Wright, who is now acting interim director of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute in New York City, who has debated abortion activists many times about the problem of making Plan B widely available to girls, said:
“This has got to be one of the biggest surprises of my life!...Is it political? This decision isn’t courting one side or another. It’s just reflecting the facts about this drug. (Sebelius’s) letter reflects a parent’s concern, and a very mainstream understanding that kids so young need a parent’s and doctor’s intervention. I’m extremely surprised and extremely pleased that she is showing this kind of concern for minor girls, because it reflects the view of many parents.”Again, it is gratifying that such a decision was made, one life-affirming decision from an Administration that has been characterized as the most pro-abortion in history, with a HHS Secretary who, as governor of Kansas, was quite supportive of abortion-on-demand. But, with solid scientific evidence on her side, this moral decision protects young girls and protects unborn human life.