3 - Court says that New York City churches can continue to meet in schools
It's been a 17-year battle between officials in New York City and churches there, who have been allowed to rent space in school buildings in order to hold their worship services on weekends. The city had attempted to enforce a policy that would bar churches from renting space, Bronx Household of Faith filed suit, and late last year, a Federal appeals court said that the city's ban was constitutional - since the U.S. Supreme Court decided not to hear the case, the city gave a deadline for churches to find other places to meet.
The Bronx church partnered with the Alliance Defense Fund and went back to court to seek to resume meeting in the buildings, and in February, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York issued a preliminary order that allowed Bronx Household of Faith and other religious groups to conduct worship services in schools while the ADF lawsuit against the city proceeded. On Friday of this week, the court made the preliminary order permanent.
Jordan Lorence of ADF said, "Churches that have been helping communities for years can continue to offer the hope that empty buildings can’t...The court’s order allows churches and other religious groups to meet for worship services in empty school buildings on weekends on the same terms as other groups. ADF will continue to defend this constitutionally protected right if the city chooses to continue using taxpayer money to evict the very groups that are selflessly helping the city’s communities, including the public schools themselves.” The city had contended that allowing the churches to meet in their buildings violates the Constitution, but, at least in this round, the court has dismissed the city's contention. For now, churches have the access, but it would not be surprising to see further court action.
2 - Colorado ministries face peril from wildfires, ministries from across America get involved
Residents of the Colorado Springs area have been under the threat of a raging wildfire to the northwest of the city, where some 32,000 residents were evacuated as the result of a dramatic increase in the size and scope of the Waldo Canyon Fire, threatening the Air Force Academy and destroying thousands of homes.
A number of national and international ministries are headquartered in the Colorado Springs area, including Focus on the Family, whose facility is just across Interstate 25 from the Academy, the Navigators, whose building was threatened and evacuated, and Compassion International. A number of families from these and other ministries faced evacuation and loss of property as the result of this disaster.
And, Christian ministries began to mobilize to bring relief to those affected by the fires. Gleaning for the World, a ministry associated with Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Virginia, is working with church partner New Life Church in Colorado Springs, distributing water, food, personal care supplies and related items to more than 50,000 evacuees in the state.
And, Samaritan's Purse and the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team are also working to bring aid and spiritual comfort to those adversely affected by the fires. Samaritan's Purse is actively recruiting volunteers to go to Colorado and New Mexico to aid in wildfire relief, as well as Minnesota and Florida to help in the aftermath of flooding. To learn more, you can go to www.samaritanspurse.org.
And, The Christian Post has a report, including a quote from Brady Boyd, pastor of New Life Church, commenting on his church's willingness to help:
"What I love about our church is that I did not have to tell anyone, anything or organize [a response]. They responded without me even saying anything," he said. "They took people into their homes. They took food down to the food banks. There were people that were moving horses, livestock out of danger, they've volunteered all that.
"We don't wish for these kinds of tragedies, but in these kinds of times this is the church's finest hour. This is when the church can be the church. Our people from across the city are responding."
Continue to be in prayer for the residents of Colorado Springs and other areas that are suffering under these threats. There will be those who have lost property and will have to take a number of steps to rebuild. Others have suffered and are still suffering from the fear of being under such a threat. And, pray for rain, which is a remedy for the dry conditions that have helped to facilitate these occurrences of wildfires throughout the West.
1 - U.S. Supreme Court rules health care law constitutional, individual mandate is a tax
After oral arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court on the combination of cases challenging the national health care law, known as the Affordable Care Act (ACA) or "Obamacare", it was widely thought that the government's lawyers had failed to make the case that the individual mandate to purchase health care, which provides the funding mechanism for the health care act, was somehow constitutional under the Commerce Clause. In other words, the government could not force you to buy anything simply because you are alive and breathing. And, when the greatly anticipated ruling was handed down on Thursday, it was true, the Supreme Court had said the mandate could not be allowable under the Commerce Clause. But, in the majority opinion written by Chief Justice John Roberts, siding with the 4 liberal justices on the court, he stated that the individual mandate was a tax, and therefore falling under the power of Congress. In his opinion, Roberts seemed to indicate that the role of the high court was to determine constitutionality, not whether or not a piece of legislation is good public policy.
And, Christians and Christian groups have long decried the Act as being poor public policy. Not only does it expand the size and scope of government, it provides a mechanism to fund abortion using tax dollars, and could lead to the rationing of care at the expense of the most vulnerable in society. Now according the Supreme Court, it represents a large tax increase, which adversely affects taxpaying individuals and families.
Here is the report from CitizenLink.
So, where does the law go from here? The Obama Adminstration has indicated it will go full speed ahead to implement the massive health care structure. However, a number of groups, including dozens of Catholic entities, have filed suit against the mandate that employers, including religious institutions, provide their employees with free contraception and abortion-inducing drugs under their health care plans. This has perhaps become the largest religious liberty issues of our time.
Steps are being taken in the House and Senate to repeal the law, a repeal that would be vetoed by current President Obama. But if a new President, Mitt Romney is elected, then the road to repeal will be greatly enhanced. Voters will have their say in November, and as Chief Justice Roberts wrote in his majority opinion,
Members of this Court are vested with the authority to interpret the law; we possess neither the expertise nor the prerogative to make policy judgments. Those decisions are entrusted to our Nation’s elected leaders, who can be thrown out of office if the people disagree with them. It is not our job to protect the people from the consequences of their political choices. (from ABC News)So, while many Christians and conservatives take issue with Roberts' position, his point here is well-taken: the people have the opportunity to elect leaders who will govern consistent with our ideology. That is why we must make a prayerful and an informed choice when we vote and see which candidates will reinforce our values.