Saturday, August 27, 2011

The 3 - August 28, 2011

As we reflect on this last full week of August, "The 3" is back to look at an ministry opportunity for Christians reaching out with the love of Christ to help the victims of Hurricane Irene. Also, a Florida teacher who came under fire for a politically incorrect Facebook post was allowed to go back in the classroom. And, our top story involves a decision announced this week that directly affects the freedom of speech for Christian broadcasters.

3 - Christian relief agencies prepare to respond to Irene destruction

As Hurricane Irene made its slow trek up the East Coast of the United States, bringing high winds and widespread flooding, Christian relief agencies were prepared to swing into action. With damage, especially from flooding, expected to reach a large area, many will need that helping hand and word of encouragement.

Operation Blessing is headquartered in Virginia Beach, which is in an area that received a direct hit from the storm, and it pre-staged staff and equipment, according to this piece in Charisma News.

And, Southern Baptist disaster relief teams were planning to move into the affected areas, partnering with churches and ministry organizations throughout the entire coastal region, according to this report from Baptist Press.

We remember, as tomorrow is the 6th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, which devastated New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast, that one of the storylines of that disaster was the role that the church played in helping the region get back on its feet. And, no doubt, there will be many from North Carolina to Maine that will receive necessary assistance as the church reaches out with physical and spiritual support.

2 - Florida teacher reinstated after suspension resulting from Facebook post

I would imagine that the veteran teacher saw it as an opportunity to share his personal opinion and perhaps engage some of his students. Afterward, the words became grounds for his suspension and subsequent reinstatement.

His name is Jerry Buell, last year's "Teacher of the Year" at Mount Dora High School in Lake County, Florida. As he viewed news coverage of the state of New York's legalization of gay marriage, he was disappointed that the state had engaged in this affront to the traditional, Biblical definition of marriage. He also was repulsed by the sight of two "grooms" kissing. He posted his opinion on his personal Facebook page. A graduate of the school almost a decade ago reported the comments to school board officials, and Jerry Buell, an exemplary teacher, became another example of the way that some people in authority these days are intimidated by the gay agenda to the extent that they would punish someone, anyone, who dares to criticize the homosexual lifestyle.

Harry Mihet, Senior Litigation Counsel of legal advocacy organization Liberty Counsel, who agreed to represent Mr. Buell, shared some of the details and free speech issues of the situation in an interview on The Meeting House last week.

It was announced on Wednesday that Jerry Buell had been reinstated to his position effective immediately, for which there was celebration. But, another issue has emerged - according to Mihet, a "written directive" was placed in Buell's personnel folder, and some statements of his faith that Buell had placed on the school website and in his syllabus have allegedly been questioned - in fact, on the website, where Buell had written that he tries to "teach and lead my students as if Lake Co. Schools had hired Jesus Christ himself" have been removed. Here's a report from the Orlando Sentinel. So, while Jerry Buell has been allowed to go back into the classroom, there may be an issue concerning his freedom of expression that will be explored.

1 - Fairness Doctrine removed from FCC's regulations

At one time, the Federal Communications Commission, which regulates broadcast programming in America, had instituted what is known as the "Fairness Doctrine", requiring broadcasters to provide commentary presenting both sides of a controversial issue. Until this week, that provision had been part of the FCC's book of regulations. However, the Doctrine had been rescinded during the Reagan administration, in 1987.

The reversal of the Fairness Doctrine that year marks a significant event in broadcast content - after that point, you saw the rise of talk radio, with hosts that presented one particular viewpoint of the issues of the day. Conservative talk radio is believed to have grown because it reflected the perspective of a sizable portion of the population, and the genre was quite popular, driving listeners to the AM band and generating revenue - many broadcast outlets were able to sell commercial time during these programs as they became more popular. Christian radio also showed growth in its dedication to dealing with the issues of the day with a Biblical perspective. Broadcasters were no longer burdened with having to present multiple sides of an issue. And, as the Internet became more popular and there were an increasing number of cable television outlets, there was no shortage of variety regarding views on significant issues.

Following the election of President Obama, who was not particularly popular with a number of these types of outlets because of his policies (not his personality), there were some who were calling for the Fairness Doctrine to be reinstated. However, with the free speech concerns of many across the political spectrum, there was never enough traction in Congress for it to be reinstituted.

And, this week - it was officially removed from the FCC's regulatory book. Dr. Frank Wright, President of National Religious Broadcasters applauded the ruling, saying that:

We are delighted that FCC Chairman Genachowski has followed-through on his promise to fully eliminate this pernicious rule, which enabled the FCC to compel broadcasters to air opposing viewpoints on controversial issues that the government decided to be of public importance.
Here is the complete statement from NRB.
Now, it's important that broadcast free speech advocates are vigilant regarding attempts to implement the spirit of the Fairness Doctrine, under the guise of a concept called "localism", where advocacy groups could organize to intimidate stations to broadcast certain types of programming on a local level. These groups could also threaten protests over an outlet's license renewal if these "local" matters are not reflected in the programming. This would be an affront to nationally-syndicated programs that broadcast a conservative and/or Christian perspective. As Dr. Wright said,
There are many voices calling for increased scrutiny of broadcast programming under the guise of ‘localism,’ and we see such proposals as a Fairness Doctrine in different garb.
Stuart Shepard of CitizenLink and Family News in Focus joined me to discuss free speech issues, including the removal of the Fairness Doctrine from the official annals of the FCC.

Friday, August 19, 2011

The 3 - August 20, 2011

Welcome to this week's edition of "The 3" - featuring 3 stories of relevance to the Christian community. The role of faith in Presidential politics is a topic that will likely not go away over the next 15 months, and the spiritual dynamics have changed just a bit even over the past week. Also, another attempt to drive a wedge between corporate America and charitable organizations is underway. And, the top story involves one of those consequences of a state moving away from traditional marriage.

3 - Faith becomes subject of scrutiny in 2012 Presidential race

The trajectory that has been set in this Presidential campaign is that candidates, especially on the Republican side, will be challenged with respect to their faith. In 2008, Barack Obama's faith was scrutinized, especially with respect to his membership in Jeremiah Wright's church for 20 years, but as Obama distanced himself from the pastor, I don't recall that Obama's religious faith was that major of an issue. Now, there are many Americans that believe the President to be a Muslim, but again, he has made enough statements about his Christian faith, plus there are so many critical issues that have been facing the country over the past few months, that who Obama follows or prays to seems to be of little consequence overall.

That may or may not change in the 2012 campaign, but depending on who the Republican nominee becomes, faith may be a decisive issue with some Americans, especially with regard to how that faith perspective affects policy decisions. Already, we're getting a sense of how the media will spin the candidates' faith with respect to Michele Bachmann and new entry Rick Perry. I would imagine that Mitt Romney's Mormon beliefs will become a more prevalent topic of discussion, especially among evangelicals. (And, Romney apparently puts his money where his faith is, according to a new piece on the WORLD magazine website.)

Rick Perry's entry into the race does introduce a new spiritual dynamic - a member of an Austin Methodist church who attends a megachurch there, Perry made headlines by his involvement with a large prayer rally in Houston recently that drew some 30,000 people. There were attempts to paint Perry as some sort of religious extremist because of some of the views that are held by members of the speaker team, but his record and rhetoric show that his personal theology and policy positions might be in line with a majority of evangelicals. The spiritual balance of the race changed last weekend when former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, a professed evangelical, bowed out following his third-place finish in the Iowa straw poll.

But, the majority of the spiritual scrutiny recently has been focused on U.S. Representative Michele Bachmann. From earlier associations with a church denomination that has allegedly held some pointed negative positions on Catholicism (she has since withdrawn from that demonination) to questions about her views on submission in marriage, her husband's views on whether or not homosexuals can change to the recent "Meet the Press" salvo from David Gregory about whether or not she communicates with God, Bachmann is attempting to navigate the potential spiritual minefields while trying not to detract from her political capital. As the race continues, the religious beliefs of the 3 "top-tier" candidates - Bachmann, Perry, and Romney - will be a consistent storyline of the 2012 campaign. While Obama's faith is seen and portrayed in the media as virtually non-threatening, based on past history, the beliefs of the Republican trio may be characterized as toxic, which will be an unfortunate occurrence.

2 - strikes again - gay activists and charities in tug-of-war with corporations in the middle

Over the past few months, a small but potent group of activists has formed, who are intent on portraying in a negative light Christian and charitable organizations that do not share their views on homosexuality or traditional marriage. We have seen Apple pull two apps from its app store - one was the app for the Manhattan Declaration, affirming life, religious liberty, and...the big one for the strident activists - traditional marriage! The other app pulled was the one belonging to Exodus International, which has a strong track record of helping those who wish to exit the homosexual lifestyle to actually do so. Last week, through a petition posted on the website,, a small group of activists stirred up enough rancor to force Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz to withdraw from the speaker lineup for a satellite conference at Willow Creek Church, attempting to paint the church as intolerant.

This week, the public knowledge increased about another effort by activists to infect the business community against faith-based organizations. Another petition at claimed that corporations participating in the Charity Give Back Group supported charities that were so-called "hate groups" simply because they did not embrace the homosexual lifestyle and supported the Biblical view of marriage. This tug-of-war was highlighted in a piece in the Denver Post.
Through the CGBG, shoppers designate a percentage of their purchases through the retailers who participate to go to their choice of charities.

Representatives of the CGBG have gone on the offensive, meeting with corporate leaders and highlighting the work of the charities that are being supported with donations that shoppers make. They also stress that groups such as Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council are not "hate groups", and instead of trying to engage in rhetorical conflict, they are attempting to demonstrate the love of Christ and relate the stories of how people are being helped through these charities.

Kevin McCullough, radio, TV, and Internet journalist, came on The Meeting House recently to discuss this overall story and how the CGBG has made a quality decision to push back against those who would engage in mischaracterization:

What a refreshing response - instead of responding in kind, the CGBG leadership has chosen to emphasize love and charitable effectiveness. Simarlily, Bill Hybels did not take the conventional or expected path, responding with grace to Howard Schultz and his withdrawal from the Willow Creek Summit. So often, we as Christians are rightly or wrongly portrayed as being reactionary, but if we respond in love, with grace, communicating positively, creatively, and constructively, we demonstrate to the world the character of Christ.

1 - Judge says Illinois can ban adoptions through organization that refuses same-sex adoptions

How might the authorization of same-sex marriage or civil unions in states that have voted to legalize them affect the ability of gay couples to adopt children? Well, recent action in the state of Illinois might give some unfortunate clues - a state circuit court judge has said that the state had the right to discontinue its contract with Catholic Charities, which had provided a significant percentage of the state's adoption and foster care cases. The ACLU had claimed that Catholic Charities discriminated against same-sex couples.

But, attorneys for Catholic Charities claim they are the ones being discriminated against, and that the religious freedom components of the new civil unions law are not being upheld. Here's the story from The Christian Post.

CitizenLink published an excellent analysis of how statistics show that children thrive best in an environment where there is one mother and one father in a marriage relationship.
However, those that promote the so-called gay agenda are attempting to reinvent the family structure - in so doing, there is a tendency to create less-than-optimal situations that can be detrimental to the child, according to decades of research.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The 3 - August 13, 2011

It has been quite a newsworthy week - so many are grappling with the ups and downs of the stock market and perhaps making some financial adjustments, the identity of the new "supercommittee" to come up with ideas to reduce the national debt has been revealed, and Presidential politics is moving more into national awareness, with a debate in Iowa and the announcement of another Republican candidate. These all affect the Christian community, no doubt, and all could have been included in "The 3" this week. 2 of the stories I selected this week have their foundation in the church, such as the move of God through the notable Harvest Crusade in Southern California and the thought-provoking series of events at the Willow Creek summit. I also thought it would be important to highlight the latest developments in the implementation of the health care reform law, which has been a major discussion topic for many months now, and in some respects, has contributed, I believe, to some of the economic woes the nation has been experiencing. So, here goes...

3 - Harvest Crusade touching thousands in-person, online

For 22 years, Orange County, California pastor Greg Laurie has hosted the annual Harvest Crusade, and thousands flocked again this year to Angel Stadium outside Los Angeles, many of them standing in line to get a choice seat for the event, which opened up with music from the David*Crowder Band (which has announced its retirement at the end of this year) and Kutless. Opening night also included a testimony from Bethany Hamilton, upon whose story of courage and determination the movie, "Soul Surfer", was based.

These Harvest Crusades are an excellent depiction of passion for Christ, as well as compassion for the lost. On the first night, Pastor Laurie encouraged those attending to bring someone to the Crusade who does not know Christ.

Here's the treatment that one of the local media outlets, The Orange County Register, gave to the event.

This is one example of a long-standing evangelistic event that the Lord has used to bring scores of people to Himself. Now, with the online element, the Crusade has another effective avenue through which to communicate the message of Christ.

2 - Starbucks CEO rejects Willow Creek invitation

Each year, Willow Creek Church outside Chicago hosts its Leadership Summit, which is designed to teach leadership principles to Christians and non-Christians throughout the U.S. via satellite, as well as around the world. Not all speakers are professing Christians, but it is hoped that the information that is shared can be used by Christians in their respective spheres of influence. And, it does give an opportunity for those who don't know Christ to come into a church setting and gain valuable information.

This year, Pastor Bill Hybels and the leadership team of the conference invited the CEO of Starbucks, Howard Schultz, to address the event. Just days before he was scheduled to appear, it was announced that he would not be speaking. The reason was not immediately clear, but the information emerged that the reason Schultz would not speak was the direct result of a petition posted on, charging that Willow Creek practiced intolerance toward gay people. Between 700 and 800 people had signed the online petition, quite a stark contrast to the some 150,000 people who viewed the summit at the various host satellite sites. Nevertheless, Schultz withdrew, and was allowed to do so without penalty.

Now, Willow Creek was charged with intolerance due to its relationship with Exodus International, a Christian ministry that has an impressive success rate in helping people overcome unwanted same-sex attractions and to reject homosexuality. However, for whatever reason, Willow Creek had ceased its association with Exodus in 2009 - so the small group of protestors didn't have their facts straight in the first place.

And, Pastor Hybels encouraged those attending to show goodwill, continuing to support Starbucks and to write a kind note to the company letting them know that Schultz is welcome to attend and speak at the Summit at any time. Here, Hybels is showing the leadership of Starbucks that Willow and the Summit are not being closed-minded and intolerant, after all. Now, Pastor Hybels did include in his statement some brief insight into how the church stands on the issue - that Willow supports marriage as one man for one women, and encourages abstinence and purity for those outside of the marriage relationship. The church apparently offers programs for helping those struggling with same-sex attraction and homosexuality.

Here is just one of the multiple articles on the controversy, as reported by Christianity Today.

Apparently, Hybels and his team plan to confront those who started the petition. I do think it was notable that the Pastor lamented the tendency in society to throw stones first and ask questions later. With the abundance of means to share opinion and to incite action, its more important than ever that we as Christians are communicating truth in a manner that engages without provoking. We can be firm in our convictions without driving people away from the heart of the gospel message.

1 - Appeals court rules health care mandate unconstitutional

Opposition to and concern about the new national health care law, also known as ObamaCare, is building in a number of ways. Some states have passed legislation that would exempt them from implementation of the law, others have sought to prevent tax dollars from funding abortion in the new state health exchanges which are established by the law. Corporations, fearing the financial ramifications of providing health insurance for employees (including those who supported Obama in the 2008 campaign) have requested exemptions from some of the aspects of the new plan. And, 26 state attorneys general filed suit in Federal court, contending that the law is unconstitutional because it forces citizens to purchase health insurance.

A number of Christians and Christian groups have spoken out against the health care law for various reasons, including its provision for tax dollars to be used for abortion in the plan, the lack of conscience protection for health care professionals, the framework for rationing that would hurt senior citizens and people with special needs, as well as the law's provisions for growing the size of government.

On Friday, a three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the individual mandate was, in fact, unconstitutional. The ruling was 2-1. This was in response to an appeal of a lower court ruling finding that because the individual mandate was not severable from the remainder of the plan, the entire health care law was unconstitutional. The 6th Circuit had ruled that ObamaCare was constitutional, and we are still awaiting word from the 4th Circuit in two cases. Nevertheless, the health care law is headed for the U.S. Supreme Court, where it is unclear what the outcome may be.

Here is the report from CitizenLink.

This ruling is significant in that the case was originally filed by over half the states' attorneys general. There is a sense that the Federal government is intent on overreach, as seen in the passage of the health care law, the massive spending that the government continues to engage in, and the overabundance of regulations to which some attribute, at least in part, the chill on the growth of small businesses. I believe that when a governmental entity exceeds the provisions of Romans 13 regarding God's purpose for government, there are some serious implications, and we are seeing those manifest. It's so important that we are praying for our leaders!

Saturday, August 06, 2011

The 3 - August 6, 2011

This week on "The 3", a new survey was released on how homosexuality is portrayed on TV, even as 2 large corporations team up to present family-friendly programming. Also, the courts continue to be a battleground for the lives of the unborn, with some developments this week on new state pro-life laws. And, as the response to "The Response" in Houston continues to be generated, the meeting attracted thousands and prayers for America were offered.

3 - New survey tabs "gay-friendly" programming, another Family Movie Night offered by corporations

I know it's frustrating for Christians who are searching for family-friendly entertainment, perhaps even television program to watch as an entire family, or who are attempting to monitor current TV programs with respect to their appropriateness for their young children or teens to watch. Fortunately, Walmart and Proctor & Gamble recently offered another of their "Family Movie Nights" to provide an entertaining alternative to abundance of prime-time television programming that runs contrary to our deeply-held values. "Who is Simon Miller?" was a compelling, well-written spy drama that could appeal to people of all ages (with the exception of the very young, due to some of the small number of violent implications contained within it).

A number of Christian organizations have championed these Family Movie Nights, believing that in some small way the concept can a positive step to showing the television industry that there is a market for family-friendly prime-time programming. (I think it's ironic that Proctor and Gamble is receiving acclaim from Christian organizations, especially after so many, including no doubt a number of Christian people bought into the false notion that the former P&G logo was rooted in Satanic symbolism and the false rumor that P&G's president went on the Phil Donahue Show and said that a portion of the corporation's proceeds went to the Church of Satan.)
For more information, visit

By the way, a good resource concerning the suitability of television programming for the family is the Parents Television Council website at In fact, prime-time network programming is rated according to its family-friendliness. Interestingly enough, very few network shows listed there get a "green light", indicating the program is suitable for families.

It should come as no surprise that the organization, GLAAD (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) has found a number of broadcast and/or cable networks to be "excellent" or "good" regarding their inclusion of and treatment of gay characters. ABC Family, with 55 percent of its hours including gay characters or discussions about homosexuality, received an "excellent" rating in its Network Responsiblity Index, released this week. Other network ratings included:
Showtime - 37 percent
CW - 33*
TNT - 33
HBO - 31
Fox - 29*
AMC - 29
ABC - 23*
SyFy - 22
These all placed in the "good" category (* - denotes broadcast network). So, with the desensitization toward the gay lifestyle depicted in broadcast and cable television, it presents a challenge for Christian parents who do not wish for their children or themselves to be exposed to this material. For the Baptist Press report on this survey, click here.

2 - Pro-life legislation passed in record numbers in states, some face court challenges

State legislatures who passed pro-life legislation this year designed to reduce the number of abortions in their states are increasingly finding themselves in court. The good news is that, according to the Guttmacher Institute, which has been an arm of Planned Parenthood, some 80 laws restricting abortion have been passed in statehouses across America in 2011, up from the previous high of 34 back in 2005. However, some of these laws are being challenged in court, and that trend was highlighted in several states just this week:

a law allowing a woman to see an ultrasound image of her baby 24 hours prior to an abortion has been challenged, and Texas-based Liberty Institute filed a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of 2 Texas lawmakers who sponsored the legislation to defend the law against a lawsuit filed by the Center for Reproductive Rights.

North Carolina:
Planned Parenthood this week filed a lawsuit against the state of North Carolina, whose legislature recently overrode a gubernatorial veto of a bill that includes a 24-hour waiting period before a woman can have an abortion in the state and the opportunity for a women to see an ultrasound image of her unborn child.

Kansas: This week, the Attorney General of Kansas indicated he would appeal a Federal court ruling blocking the state's new law to prevent tax dollars from funding the nation's largest abortion provider, Planned Parenthood. A Federal judge on Monday said that Planned Parenthood operating in the state would suffer irreparable harm if the law were allowed to take effect. The law's supporters say that numerous organizations can provide the non-abortion women's services that are funded under Title X Federal grants to the state.

Indiana: this week, the Thomas More Law Society filed a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of the state of Indiana, which was taken to court as a result of a new law preventing taxpayer funds from being used for abortion. The state has filed an appeal of a Federal judge's decision preventing the law from taking effect.

These are just 4 instances where pro-abortion organizations are attempting to block action taken by state legislatures, who have offered common-sense, pro-life bills. Ultrasound bills become problematic for Planned Parenthood and their ilk, because they are powerful tools in order to show abortion-minded women the truth about the life that is growing within them. Bills to prevent tax dollars from going to abortion providers are indicative of the pro-life sentiment that has been apparent in polling data and in activity in statehouses across America.
1 - "The Response" calls Christians to pray for the nation

There were 8000 people who pre-registered for it, and there were those who wanted to see 1 of the people attending "The Response" stay home. But, a Federal lawsuit could not keep Texas Governor Rick Perry away from Reliant Stadium in Houston, where he had been chief organizer, along with local and national leaders, of the prayer meeting that was called in order to pray to God on behalf of our nation. That lawsuit was thrown out of court.

The Christian Post had this early report on "The Response".
Some media outlets are now saying that some 30,000 people attended the gathering. One estimate I saw puts the crowd as high as 50,000.

Dr. James and Shirley Dobson were the first speakers for the gathering, and notables such as Dr. Richard Land, Dr. Tony Evans, Jim Garlow, John Hagee, and others were at the podium throughout the day. The Governor spoke during the gathering's second hour, reading Scripture and praying for our nation, including President Obama, its challenges, and for our troops.

Here are some of Gov. Perry's comments:

Here is the link to the New York Times video of Governor Perry, including his prayer.

Does Governor Perry have the right to express his faith perspective in a public setting? Of course he does. Were his comments extremist or theocratic? Of course not. So, was "The Response" worth the media getting all worked up about? Well, I hope that media outlets in the days to come will have plenty of material about God's answers to the prayers offered at "The Response" and by his people throughout our troubled nation who truly desire to make Him famous.

Well, I will say this, God has promised to hear the prayers of His people who come before Him with humility and repentance - our nation is facing problems that the mind of man cannot solve; it will require Godly wisdom, and I believe it will require the people of God submitting ourselves before Him, so that His Spirit might move in a profound and powerful way - for the glory of God and God alone.