Saturday, October 29, 2011

The 3 - October 29, 2011

The importance of speaking Biblical truth into the culture is highlighted in the 3 stories I have selected for this edition of "The 3", my week-in-review feature. A New Jersey teacher is facing disciplinary action for a personal post on Facebook regarding her school's celebration of gay history, a new movie that has gone viral online is helping to spread the truth about the sanctity of life, plus Federal law that defines marriage as one man for one woman marriage is being challenged in court and Congress.

3 - New Jersey teacher under scrutiny for personal Facebook post on homosexuality

We have been tracking this trend where people who express their honest views on homosexuality, in many instances consistent with Biblical truth, are ostracized and even face punishment. This took place recently in Florida, where teacher Jerry Buell was temporarily suspended because of personal views about the gay marriage vote in New York, which he posted on his Facebook page. In a sense, history repeated itself in New Jersey, where teacher Viki Knox is now being investigated because of personal comments she made on Facebook concerning her opposition to the commemoration of a gay and lesbian history event at her school. Sure, she expressed that the celebration glorified immoral behavior, and that's how the Bible describes it, too. Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey spoke out about the incident, taking the side of the school district, and saying that Ms. Knox's views were "disturbing".

Here's a report from the Family Research Council.

But, it seems in the eyes of some, those that believe that homosexuality is an incorrect lifestyle choice and speak out about it are the immoral ones. We're continuing to follow incidents in the corporate world where those that hold to a Biblical view of homosexuality are facing repercussions, such as the situations involving 2 organizations that had their apps removed from the iPhone store and companies that were encouraged to withdraw from a Christian shopping cooperative that benefits charities because of the views of some of the charitable organizations, such as the FRC and Focus on the Family.

But, when the Christian school hosting a special event for Americans for Truth About Homosexuality (AFTAH)
was vandalized by having 2 brick pavers with threatening message thrown through their glass doors, a prominent pro-gay organization refused to label the action a "hate crime", essentially saying that AFTAH and their friends got what they deserved. So, there are those that are begging for "tolerance" who are exhibiting extreme intolerance themselves.

2 - Provocative pro-life film goes viral on Internet, spreads to campus

Recently, Ray Comfort, founder of the ministry Living Waters and co-host (with Kirk Cameron) of the "Way of the Master" TV program, appeared on my radio show, "The Meeting House", to discuss a new video project that he has released called, "180".

In the midst of producing a documentary regarding the life and activities of Adolf Hitler, Ray began to ask a very challenging question, and the movie shows the way that young people - on-camera - changed their position on the abortion issue. During its first month of release, there have been some 1.2 million online views, qualifying for "viral" status, and this week, some 200,000 DVD copies of "180" were distributed on college campuses across the nation. Here is a report from

Ray Comfort is quoted as saying: “I am so thankful that people are open to change. While there are some who are very angry at us for making this movie, others are very thankful and write to tell us their story.”

Tony Miano, the coordinator of the massive giveaway said, “Emails have been pouring in from students around the country who not only took the DVD, but took the time to watch it.“ ‎

This is another example of how the God of creativity is using technology to communicate His truth. You can learn more by visiting

1 -
DOMA under fire in U.S. Senate, Federal court

In 1996, Congress overwhelming passed the Defense of Marriage Act, which was signed into law by then-President Bill Clinton. Now, 15 years later, there are attempts to negate DOMA, which defines marriage in the U.S.A. as one man for one woman. This week, we have seen two fronts on which it has been challenged - in Congress, where it was announced that next week the Senate Judiciary Committee is due to consider legislation that would repeal the long-standing law, and in the courts, where a group has filed suit on behalf of same-sex military members, who just received a victory in the finalization of the repeal of the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy.

It really became just a matter of time before there would be an attempt to legalize same-sex marriage in the military. The suit is challenging the right of same-sex partners to extend their benefits to each other and their children, according to an article in The Christian Post. Of course, there have been other lawsuits filed challenging DOMA, including one that resulted in a Massachusetts court declaring DOMA to be unconstitutional. We recognize there is a dedicated effort to legitimize homosexuality and to institute same-sex marriage through whatever means possible, and it's important that as Christians, we are dedicated to speaking truth consistent with the Bible regarding the activity and consequences of homosexual behavior.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The 3 - October 23, 2011

This week's edition of "The 3", my week-in-review feature, includes a non-decision from the U.S. Supreme Court on a state law involving a "moment of silence". Also, a victory for religious freedom in actions concerning a Veterans' cemetery in Houston where there have been reports of religious references being suppressed. And, in the number 1 slot, Presidential politics and important issues to evangelical voters making the headlines and generating discussion this week.

3 - Illinois moment of silence in public schools upheld

While American law over the past few decades has attempted to place restrictions on the rights of religious expression by students in public schools, some states have acted to enact legislation that would allow for a so-called "moment of silence" at the beginning of the school day. While this period is not for the expressed purpose of prayer or silent reflection, it still allows for those who wish to pray to do so.

Interestingly enough, when Alabama attempted to establish a moment of silence, the law was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court, in the 1985 decision known as Wallace v. Jaffree. In that case, the High Court decided that Alabama legislators did not have a secular purpose for their law, since proponents had declared that their objective was to return prayer to the public schools.

In Illinois, even though the law is called the Silent Reflection and Student Prayer Act, proponents wrote into the law the stipulation that the "moment of silence" would not be conducted as a religious exercise, in other words - a secular purpose. It is truly sad how far we have come when lawmakers have to write legislation that allows prayer, but then has to say that the vehicle allowing the prayer is secular.

Last year, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, when hearing the challenge of atheist Rob Sherman, defended by Michael Newdow - yes, the one who tried to take "under God" out of the Pledge of Allegiance, decided the moment of silence in Illinois did not violate the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The judge writing for the majority in the appeals court also stated that the law did not single out one particular religion and served that secular purpose.

According to a report by the Illinois Family Institute:
"Matthew Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, believes the federal courts have made the right call. 'A moment of silence does not endorse a religion contrary to the First Amendment. A moment of silence is just that -- a moment for a person to pray or meditate or do nothing. They are not forcing anyone to pray or not to pray. It's an accommodation of people who may choose to use this time for prayer.'"

Also, Judge Manion of the 7th Circuit "drew that distinction between the Alabama and Illinois statutes, saying that Illinois had 'offered' a secular purpose for their law, namely, 'establishing a period of calm the students and prepare them for a day of learning.' Illinois joins Georgia, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia in requiring a dedicated 'moment of silence' at the beginning of the school day."

And, while these states do offer the opportunity for prayer in a more official time that is set aside, students have broad rights to engage in religious conversation and activity on their own throughout the school day, as well as in non-instructional time, when Christian clubs can meet, with the same access as other school-sanctioned organizations.

2 - Houston veterans' cemetery case regarding religious discrimination settled

A controversy involving religious expression at the Houston National Cemetery has been simmering for months, and just this week, a proposed settlement agreement was accepted by the U.S. Veterans' Administration (VA). The Houston Chronicle had this report on the proposal.

Local groups had accused VA officials of limiting some forms of religious speech, including references to "Jesus" and "God", at special services at the cemetery. One instance involved local pastor Scott Rainey, who took the cemetery to court after he was asked to remove the name of Jesus Christ out of his planned Memorial Day speech. A Federal judge upheld his right to say the name, and he did so on that special holiday.

This case hopefully sends a strong message to Federal agencies who attempt to limit the First Amendment rights of free speech, freedom of expression, and freedom of religion. Veterans in the Houston area were bold to speak out about instances where they saw attempts to restrict the free speech rights that so many American service men and women had paid for with their lives

1 - Candidates' positions on life, faith come under scrutiny

The issue of abortion and its role in the contest for the 2012 Republican Presidential nomination came to the forefront this week in light of comments by GOP frontrunner Herman Cain, when pressed for answers by Piers Morgan on the issue of abortion in cases of rape and incest. Apparently, what Cain had intended to say was that in those cases, families should have the right to make a decision without government interference. This is consistent with a view of many pro-lifers that abortion should be illegal, except in cases of rape, incest, or danger to the mother's life. But, many interpreted the comments more broadly, and sensed that Cain might be less pro-life than some had previously thought.

Cain attempted to clarity his remarks on Piers Morgan, as well as on "Meet the Press" on Sunday, with a statement on his website. His comments centered around his perception of the role of the President, who he said does not have the authority to "order" anyone not to seek an abortion.

The discussion of Cain's pro-life credentials can also be broadened to include the other candidates. CitizenLink, in a piece on the Cain controversy, shared a brief summary of the GOP contenders' views on abortion:

Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann had made statements similar to some of Cain’s in the past — that life is a fundamental right, and she is 100 percent pro-life “from conception” — without backing away. Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman said he supports a right-to-life amendment and making second-trimester abortions illegal. Texas Gov. Rick Perry opposes federal funding for abortion and thinks it should only be legal in the case of rape, incest or to save the mother’s life. Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich said the government should “stop forcing pro-choice morality on religious organizations.” Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum says no abortion should be legal, even in the case of rape or incest. Texas Rep. Ron Paul has said he supports legislation defining life as beginning at conception and that abortion is murder, but also that abortion laws should be made at the state level and that emergency contraception allows for individual moral choices to be made. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney used to support abortion and now says he believes “in the sanctity of life from the very beginning until the very end.”
According to The Christian Post, candidates who visited the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition banquet on Saturday night attempted to appeal to evangelical voters, as they highlighted their positions on abortion and gay marriage. 6 out of the 8 major candidates spoke - the exceptions were Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman.

The issue of the candidates' religious beliefs is another topic that has been generating some press coverage, and Christianity Today published an excerpt of a particular part of the Tuesday night Presidential debate, dealing with the comments of First Baptist/Dallas Pastor Robert Jeffress' comments at the Values Voter Summit relative to Mitt Romney's Mormonism:

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who are both Roman Catholic, argued that faith says a lot about a candidate.

“It's a legitimate thing to look at as to what the tenets and teachings of that faith are with respect to how you live your life and how you would govern this country,” Santorum said. “With respect to what is the road to salvation, that's a whole different story. That's not applicable to what the role is of being the president or a senator or any other job.”

Gingrich offered a similar view. “None of us should rush in judgment of others in the way in which they approach God,” Gingrich said. “But I think all of us would also agree that there's a very central part of your faith in how you approach public life. And I, frankly, would be really worried if somebody assured me that nothing in their faith would affect their judgments, because then I'd wonder, where's your judgment -- how can you have judgment if you have no faith? And how can I trust you with power if you don't pray?”

Texas Gov. Rick Perry simply said his faith is ingrained. "I can no more remove my faith than I can that I'm the son of a tenant farmer," he said.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, as a Mormon, faced public resistance to his religion during his 2008 run for the nomination. The issue has only recently haunted his candidacy this cycle, highlighted again with comments made by a Southern Baptist pastor--and Perry supporter--Robert Jeffress’ that ignited a controversy at a summit hosted by the Family Research Council.

"I don't suggest you distance yourself from your faith any more than I would,” Romney told Perry. “[But] the founders of this country went to great length to make sure -- and even put it in the Constitution -- that we would not choose people who represent us in government based upon their religion, that this would be a nation that recognized and respected other faiths, where there's a plurality of faiths, where there was tolerance for other people and faiths.”

Romney took advantage of the topic to criticize “the concept that we select people based on the church or the synagogue they go to,” which he called “very dangerous and an enormous departure from the principles of our Constitution.”

Romney added, “With regards to the disparaging comments about my faith, I've heard worse, so I'm not going to lose sleep over that.”

In an op-ed for the Washington Post published Tuesday, Jeffress said critics were attempting to eliminate a discussion about religion from political discourse, arguing that “our religious beliefs define the very essence of who we are.
One anticipated topic of conversation in the weeks to come, I believe, will be the extent to which a candidate's religious faith should influence our decision about whether or not to vote for him or her. I commonly ask candidates how their religious faith affects their decisions - I want to know if a person's beliefs will guide his or her decisions on policy matters, rather than be kept separate. While the Constitution says there is no religious test for the office of the President, I still would feel more comfortable with someone who says that their decisions are guided by that faith.

Now, other factors are there, such as competency and experience - and I would rather elect a non-Christian who reflects my values and has a competent track record than a professing Christian in whom I could not place confidence that he or she could do the job. And, it is true that we are not electing a "clergy-in-chief", but isn't it contradictory to say that we would like Godly people to run for office and then turn around and state that a candidate's faith doesn't matter?

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The 3 - October 15, 2011

This week's edition of "The 3" highlights a new study from a government agency that provides some encouragement for Christians as we reinforce the message of abstinence. Also, the U.S. House voted - again - to prevent tax dollars from funding the abortion industry. And, the top story involves communication between the President, his Administration, and some evangelical leaders.

3 - New CDC study on teenage sex reveals encouraging stats, Christian magazine examines young adult sexuality

This week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a study regarding teenagers and their sexual habits and attitudes. The percentage of teens ages 15-19 that report having had sex has declined since 2002, when the last study was released, and the CDC reports that the percentage of females who have engaged in sexual activity has declined from 51 to 43 percent since 1988. Overall, 57 percent of girls and 58 percent of boys ages 15-19 said that they had never had sex. Of course, this means that greater than 4 in 10 teenagers have been involved in sexual activity. Of those who said they had never had sex, 41 percent of girls and 31 percent of boys chose "against religion or morals" as their main reason for not having had sex. Teenagers were least likely to choose "don't want to get a sexually transmitted disease" as the reason for not having had sex, the CDC said.

Baptist Press published this analysis.

Richard Ross, co-founder of the True Love Waits abstinence movement told Baptist Press that, "Adults have to decide whether teenagers are like barnyard animals, incapable of moral decision-making and at the mercy of primal urges," and went on to say that, "Adults who tend to believe that assume all we can do is try to prevent some of the consequences of their amoral behavior."

Early True Love Waits leaders stood in opposition to that sentiment and instead told teenagers, "We have great respect for you. In the power of the Spirit, we believe you are perfectly capable of choosing values, making promises and keeping those promises," Ross said. He cited the Obama Administration and Department of Health and Human Services, who question the effectiveness of the abstinence message, yet, "...the government's own Centers for Disease Control reports annually that rates of teenage sexual activity have dropped every year since True Love Waits and the broader abstinence movement came on the scene. Perhaps the Administration is making decisions based more on an ideology than on research."

Valerie Huber, executive director of the National Abstinence Education Association, said the study shows the sexual risk avoidance message is "not only resonating but also making a difference in the lives of youth." Huber expressed concern that the rate of condom use is increasing, but so is the rate of sexually-transmitted diseases: "...we must examine the connection between increased condom use and rising STD rates among teens. In an administration that professes to embrace science, these findings beg serious questions that need to be addressed with objectivity and for the health of our youth."

But, once young people exit the teen years, there is a great temptation for them to be involved in sexual activity, as the cultural and relational pressures are having an impact on young adults, especially young adults. Relevant magazine is examining the tendency of evangelical young adults to be caught up in premarital sex, even renouncing earlier pledges to stay pure. Here is an overview from the CNN Belief blog. According to the blog post,
Relevant theorizes about why it’s so hard for so many young Christians to wait, including the saturation of sex in popular culture, the prevalence of pornography and a popular “do what feels good philosophy.”
Yet the article also asks a question that rarely comes up in discussions about abstinence movement. Relevant notes that in biblical times, people married earlier. The average age for marriage has been increasing in the U.S for the last 40 years.
So, we can be encouraged that the teen sexuality statistics are showing that the idea of abstinence, consistent with a Biblical perspective, is working for teens. But, we can be concerned that young adults are seemingly showing a lessened amount of resistance - in fact, Relevant cited a December 2009 study, conducted by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, which included information on sexual activity. I think that the results may be a bit skewed, for whatever reason, but while the study's primary report did not explore religion, some additional analysis focusing on sexual activity and religious identification yielded this result, according to Relevant: according to the study, 80 percent of unmarried evangelical young adults (18 to 29) said that they have had sex - slightly less than 88 percent of unmarried adults. So, it becomes a challenge for churches in their college, career, and young adult ministries to continue to reinforce the message that God's design for sex is that it is for marriage, and is (still) worth waiting for.

2 - Obama meets with evangelical leaders, Administration officials preview new movie on global poverty

The same week that the President was continuing to make the case for not amending the health care law to include safeguards against tax dollars funding abortion, he was meeting with a group of evangelical leaders at the White House. While the issue of abortion was not part of the conversation, and participants touched on same-sex marriage and the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell", the meeting with representatives of the National Association of Evangelicals covered a wide range of issues, including religious freedom. The group did commend the President on his support for Iranian pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, who is facing a death sentence, and reportedly discussed matters of the right of religious organizations to adhere to a set of hiring standards, even while receiving Federal funds, as well as immigration reform.

According to writer Sarah Pulliam Bailey, who wrote for the Religion News Service, and whose story was published in the "On Faith" section of the Washington Post:

One participant in the meeting said Obama and NAE leaders acknowledged a “respectful disagreement” over same-sex marriage, and NAE officials advocated for the right of military chaplains to voice their opposition to homosexuality following the repeal of the Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell policy.
The NAE represents 40 denominations across some 45,000 local churches, and extends a request to meet with the president each year, according to NAE President Dr. Leith Anderson. This is the first time Obama has accepted. One could say that the acceptance of the invitation to the meeting was timed to coincide with the President's re-election campaign, as Obama hopes to peel off some evangelical voters, as he did in 2008, when around 1 in 4 born-again, or evangelical voters, went with him, according to exit poll data reported by Christianity Today.

According to the same report, the Wednesday meeting came on the heels of a Tuesday night screening of the new movie on global poverty called, "58". Leaders from several Christian agencies, such as Compassion International, World Relief, Food for the Hungry and International Justice Mission met with members of the Administration to watch the film and discuss ways to help the poor.“Poverty is no longer an abstract issue,” Todd said. “I think the risk in the current climate is that it becomes politicized. It’s not. It’s always been bipartisan.”

Stephan Bauman, president and CEO of World Relief, the NAE’s affiliated humanitarian arm, said that Christian agencies hope to see continued funding through President Obama’s Feed the Future program. Scott Todd of Compassion International, told Bailey that an upcoming study from the Barna Group suggests that 20 percent of Protestants and 16 percent of Catholics have traveled abroad on some form of ministry or mission trip. Christians under 35 are 50 percent more likely to give to causes to eradicate extreme poverty, the study suggests.

Tony Neeves, Producer of the "58" film, will be a guest on my radio show, The Meeting House on Monday, October 17th.

1 - House passes Protect Life Act, removes taxpayer-funded abortion from health care law

Even though it faces a certain Presidential veto and an uncertain future in the U.S. Senate, the so-called Protect Life Act was passed by the U.S. House this week. This represents a long-term solution in the new health care law to the issue of abortion. The Hyde Amendment prevents tax dollars from funding abortion, and this Act is designed to settle the issue in the health care legislation on a permanent basis. CitizenLink, an affiliate of Focus on the Family, had this report.

The Administration promised that the President would veto the bill, stating that it would infringe on the reproductive rights of women. But, then the White House referred to the Executive Order regarding taxpayer funding of abortion, signed by the President on the day the health care bill passed in order to attract votes from Democratic House members who had been regarded as pro-life - they essentially deemed the Protect Life Act as unnecessary. So, why not have Congressional certification of the content of the Executive Order, if the Order actually does what its proponents say it does? The day after the vote, legal experts said that the Order had no authority, and pro-family advocates have identified the language in the health care law as providing for taxpayer-funded abortion, which is an element that has clearly been supported by the Obama Administration.

Friday, October 07, 2011

The 3 - October 7, 2011

This week's edition of "The 3", my week-in-review feature, includes some activity from the nation's highest court with respect to employment policies of religious organizations, 2 activities that attracted thousands of women over the weekend, and an event that drew the leading Presidential candidates, making their appeals to "values voters".

3 - Ministry employment before the high court: World Vision retains freedom to hire and fire, Lutheran school case has major implications

The fall session of the U.S. Supreme Court convened earlier this week, and a couple of cases dealing with religious organizations' employment policies have attracted some attention - one case that the high court did not rule on, but allowed a lower court ruling to stand, and another in which the high court held oral arguments on Wednesday.

The case the court did not hear was Sylvia Spencer et. al. vs. World Vision, a case where 3 former employees of the large Christian missions organizations claimed their employment was wrongly terminated because of their refusal to sign a statement of faith. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld World Vision's position, and its President Richard Stearns was relieved, saying: "Today's action by the U.S. Supreme Court represents a major victory for the freedom of all religious organizations to hire employees who share the same faith--whether Muslim, Buddhist, Jewish, Christian, or any other religion." He went on to say that, "I am pleased, relieved and gratified with the court's action. After four years of litigation, we at World Vision U.S. may now put this matter behind us, and continue our policy of hiring Christians."

Here's a report from Christianity Today.

And, this past Wednesday, the court held oral arguments in the Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School vs. EEOC. This is a complicated case that deals with something called the "ministerial exemption", basically exempting churches and ministry organizations from some aspects of employment law. A number of Christian and religious groups have sided with the school in this case, fearing that a ruling against the school could open ministries up to potentially detrimental intrusion by the Federal government. The case centers around a former teacher at the Hosanna-Tabor school who developed some health issues and was dismissed. She believes her dismissal was unfair based on the Americans with Disabilities Act, but the school did not believe that she was performing her duties capably due to these health limitations, therefore in her case, they exercised a "ministerial exemption", which allowed the school to circumvent the ADA restrictions and terminate her employment. The government is arguing that the teacher does not qualify for such an exemption.

Here is an excellent summary from The Christian Post.

Again, this case could test the limits of how far the government might intervene in the employment policies of a religious organization.

2 - Women gather coast-to-coast to worship and grow - Sarah Palin headlines conference at Liberty, Women of Faith stops in Portland

It was quite the weekend for conferences, including 2 high-profile Christian events oriented toward women. One of those took place at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, where some 10,000 women, a sellout crowd, attended one of the extremely popular Extraordinary Women conferences (also known as "E-Women"). The President of E-Women is Julie Clinton, wife of the President of the American Association of Christian Counselors, Dr. Tim Clinton, and the E-Women conferences are staged at a variety of venues each year.

The Lynchburg event had as its keynote speaker a rather familiar name in American politics and evangelical Christianity, former Vice-Presidential candidate Sarah Palin, who announced definitively this past week she would not be seeking the Presidency. Here is a report from the website, of Amherst, Virginia.

According to a press release, "
The 2011 Extraordinary Women 'Everlasting Hope' tour also includes New York Times best-selling authors Lysa TerKeurst and Donna VanLiere, and noted Bible teachers Jennifer Rothschild and Carol Kent, along with inspiring music from awarding-winning Christian artists, Michael O'Brien, Meredith Andrews, Jeremy Camp, and Female Vocalist of the Year, Francesca Battistelli."

Meanwhile, thousands of miles away in Portland, Oregon, scores of women flocked to the Rose Garden arena to attend another in the 2011 series of Women of Faith conferences. Women of Faith has built a solid reputation for offering women high-quality speakers and passionate worships, and this year, attendees heard from Patsy Clairmont and Marilyn Meberg, two of the longstanding WOF speakers, as well as Sandi Patty, Brenda Warner, wife of former NFL star Kurt Warner, and former "Facts of Life" star Lisa Welchel, along with music from Mandisa, Selah, and the Women of Faith worship team.

Not only were women congregating at large venues in the U.S. this weekend, but some 13,000 Christian leaders were treated to high-profile speakers such as Andy Stanley and Mark Driscoll at the annual Catalyst conference in Atlanta. Here's a report from The Christian Post.

1 - Values Voter Summit encourages, equips, and informs

And while tens of thousands of Christians spent time in arenas over the weekend, the event that received the most coverage in the mainstream media was no doubt the Values Voter Summit in Washington, DC, sponsored by the Family Research Council and its partner organizations. The purpose of the Summit annually has been to inform and equip people who desire to have a greater voice in the public square and even the political arena, and while a number of speakers and workshops helped to facilitate that goal, the most significant aspect of the Summit, which enjoyed its largest attendance in history this year, at over 3000 people, was the presence of 7 GOP Presidential candidates.

And, attendees to the Summit participate in a Presidential Straw Poll. Interestingly enough, Ron Paul, the Republican with strong Libertarian leanings, won his first-ever Summit Straw Poll, with 37% of the overall vote this year. In second place, with 23% of the vote, was Herman Cain, and Rick Santorum had 16%. Mitt Romney, who finished third last year - behind Rep. Mike Pence and Mike Huckabee - finished with only 4% of the votes cast. According to CBS News, FRC President Tony Perkins was somewhat skeptical of Paul's strong finish, citing some 600 tickets that were purchased by Paul supporters, who left after their candidate spoke. Perkins told a press conference, "Let me just take you back four years to this event, when we had a straw poll. Mitt Romney won that straw poll...I think people are still in the process of deciding where they want to go."

The candidates were joined by a number of other high-profile speakers to compile a motivational lineup, underscoring the importance of casting ballots and communicating boldly with respect to the values upon which this nation was built - values consistent with Biblical truth.

And, there was a bit of a sideshow at the Summit, when the Pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas, Dr. Robert Jeffress, who introduced Texas Governor Rick Perry, basically said to the media that Mormonism is not considered a branch of Christianity, that Mormonism is considered a "cult", and that evangelicals should not support Mitt Romney. This has put the other candidates in a difficult position, especially those, like Perry, Cain, and Bachmann, who are considered to be the evangelicals in the race, as they were asked if they agreed with the pastor's position, which is actually held by a significant number of mainstream Christians. Here is a story from The Christian Post on the controversy. But, I think this is an issue that Christians will have to deal with - if someone believes Mormonism is a cult, which many Christians do - then can that person in good conscience support Mitt Romney as a candidate? And, if you hold to the belief that voting is a God-given right, and you face a choice between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, what will we do? If we believe that Obama has an agenda that stands in such stark contrast to our deeply-held Christian values, then would and could we support anyone else, no matter what their religious beliefs? Just a few questions that I believe that many, including myself, are pondering at this time...