On this week's edition of "The 3", my week-in-review feature, we shine the spotlight on another violent incident from the Middle East involving a Christian presumably being killed for his faith. Also, thousands took to the streets this week in a series of rallies against the White House's contraception mandate. And, a Supreme Court non-decision this week could make life tougher for Christian organizations who wish to be officially recognized on college and university campuses - they may be forced to allow non-believers to be members and leaders.
3 - Another Christian slain by Muslim extremists shows dangers of Middle East
Hundreds of young protesters in Yemen, including some Muslims, are showing their support for 29-year-old American teacher Joel Shrum, who was murdered this week because he was allegedly attempting to "proselytize" students - al-Qaeda has taken responsibility for his death.
CBN News reports that young Yemenis are saying that Shrum was gunned down in his car for no good reason. He had worked in the Islamic nation for the past two years, teaching poor people English and vocational skills. "Mr. Joel came all the way from the United States of America, having nothing but good intentions to help and teach the people of Taiz. And I believe he did nothing to be killed for," one young student said in English, in a video of the protest posted on YouTube.
I have reported consistently on the dangers that Christians face in the Middle East merely for attempting to live a Christian life. It's important that we are praying for the courageous people and their families who choose to live, and live for Christ, in this part of the world...the terrorists might call it "proselytizing", but I would call it obedience - following God's call and not being ashamed of the gospel.
2 - Thousands rally for religious freedom against backdrop of contraception mandate
Across America, in almost 200 cities and towns, thousands took to the streets to protest the Obama Administration's mandate that says that employers, through their insurance plans, must provide free contraception and abortion-inducing drugs. This includes a number of religious organizations, including colleges and hospitals.
LifeNews.com reports that Pro-Life Action League Executive Director Eric Scheidler, the main organizer of the event, the Rally for Religious Freedom, said the rally “has exploded into what may well be the single largest nationwide pro-life event in history.” Schiedler was quoted by The Christian Post as saying: "For us working at the Pro-Life Action League, the HHS mandate which both attacks the sanctity of life by treating fertility like a medical condition and pregnancy like a disease requiring free mandated so-called preventive care, and freedom of religion which motivates us to move into the public square to work for a better America, activism was a natural response."
Representatives of a number of pro-life organizations spoke at events across the country and helped to mobilize people to attend and show solidarity against the mandate. Chicago and San Diego reported some 2000 people attending rallies in each of their cities, and Jeff White, the organizer of the Los Angeles rally that drew around 500 people, told The Christian Post: "A powerful movement has begun...I am sure that this is not the end of it. We are going to see more rallies that are a great way to educate the church and inform the politicians."
There is great enthusiasm by many advocates for life as they realize the importance of their voices being heard. One tool that has been used to unite and inform Christians about opportunities, including the Rally for Religious Freedom, is the Manhattan Declaration website - check it out at www.manhattandeclaration.org.
1 - Supreme Court refuses to take up case of college group appealing right to determine membership policies
In an action that disappointed some court watchers who had hoped that the U.S. Supreme Court would provide some clarification of its decision in the CLS vs. Martinez case involving the Hastings law school in California, the high court refused to hear a case, ADX vs. Reed, out of the 9th Circuit where, according to WorldOnCampus.com, the appeals court had ruled that San Diego State University did not violate the constitutional rights of two Christian organizations when it denied them official recognition because they had clauses in their constitutions requiring leaders to sign a statement of faith. School administrators had told the groups they would have to ditch the requirement if they wanted to use school facilities and apply for student activity fee funding.
The Hastings case, again, according to WorldOnCampus.com, said that public colleges and universities had permission to adopt policies requiring all campus groups to be open to all students - as both members and leaders. But the Supreme Court did not rule on whether such a policy could be enforced selectively. The 9th Circuit determined it could - at San Diego State, ruling that their policies concerning Christian groups were acceptable.
This non-decision could further embolden public colleges and universities who have used CLS vs. Martinez as justification for their restrictions on Christian groups. And, even though it is common for fraternities and sororities to select their members based on gender and for political organizations to consider party affiliations in their membership requirements, it does seem that across the country, Christian organizations who wish to be recognized by their schools do not have the capability of selecting members and leaders based on their faith.