Sunday, October 14, 2012

The 3 - October 14, 2012

In this week's edition of my week-in-review feature, "The 3", an official at a D.C. university has been suspended because she signed a petition to rescind the law passed by the Maryland Legislature legalizing same-sex marriage.   Also, the blasphemy law in Pakistan is taking its toll on children and their families - a young man and his family are now in hiding as a result of charges brought under the law.   And, the most impactful news story involves pastors across America, going into pulpits on October 7th to preach sermons about political issues and candidates.

3 - D.C. university official suspended for support of MD gay marriage repeal

The voters of Maryland will be going to the polls to attempt to undo what was done by the state legislature when they legalized same-sex marriage.   There were some 160,000 signatures gathered on a petition to place a measure on the ballot to repeal that law, and one of the people who signed has been suspended by her employer as she exercised her free speech rights.

According to the Christian Examiner, the President of Gallaudet University, which caters to hearing-impaired students, has placed the school's Chief Diversity Officer, Dr. Angela McCaskill, on paid administrative leave.

Gallaudet President T. Alan Hurwitz wrote on the university's Facebook page that, "It recently came to my attention that Dr. McCaskill has participated in a legislative initiative some feel is inappropriate for an individual serving as Chief Diversity Officer."

Senior Counsel at the American Freedom Law Center Robert Muise said all Americans have the right to sign petitions.

“This is just a microcosm of a really larger problem that I’m seeing across the country — Christians who want to engage in  their religious belief and express their views are being punished,” Muise told CitizenLink.
Hurwitz stated he would use this time to determine the next his steps regarding McCaskill.

McCaskill is the first deaf African-American woman to earn a doctorate from Gallaudet University..

So, the message here - it's OK to be diverse as long as you hold to one specific position.   Can't Dr. McCaskill still embrace "diversity" and express her own political views?   Isn't it interesting that those who espouse diversity or tolerance seem to be intolerant of other points of view, and do not allow others to express their positions on issues?   Sounds rather non-diverse to me.

2 - Children charged under Pakistan blasphemy law

A 16-year-old Pakistani boy is in hiding, accused of sending text messages denigrating the prophet Muhammed to friends and neighbors in the city of Karachi.   The Christian Post reports that
Ryan Stanten has been charged under the nation's controversial blasphemy law.  He and his family have been in hiding since Tuesday night, when the cleric of the local mosque, Maulvi Ghulam Qadir, spoke to them about the text messages, according to a report in The Express Tribune.   His mother was suspended from work on Wednesday, the day a complaint was lodged at the local police station.  The same day, protesters broke into their house, threw the furniture and electric appliances on the road outside the colony, and set fire to them.  No arrests have been made.

According to the Post, an unnamed Christian activist was quoted as saying that the boy's friends had taken away his cell phone and sent the messages, saying: "Ryan had no idea who the messages were sent to and what kind of messages they were."

And, the story of a mentally challenged minor girl in the country, Rimsha Masih, continues - she was initially charged under the blasphemy laws, then it was alleged that she was framed by a local imam.  Witness have reportedly decided not to testify on her behalf, saying they had been tortured by police into recording their statements against the imam.  

According to Compass Direct News, she is due to appear in an Islamabad juvenile court this Tuesday.  Originally charged in regular court where the potential penalty is life imprisonment, the girl’s case was transferred to the juvenile court after her age was certified and evidence surfaced that she was framed by a local imam.

“We will ask the judge to quash the charges against her,” attorney Tahir Naveed told Open Doors News.

And then, he said, the girl’s family will try to settle back into something resembling a normal life.

“The family will live in Pakistan and they have already voiced their intention publicly,” Naveed said. “For now it’s certain that the family of Mizrek Masih will not seek asylum outside Pakistan. We will relocate them and also help in arranging employment for the father.”
Meanwhile, it is tense in Rimsha's neighborhood, according to Compass Direct.  Other Christians who fled Islamabad’s Meherabadi neighborhood to avoid Muslim anger over Rimsha’s alleged offense have tried to return home, too. Naveed, who is a member Punjab state Legislative Assembly, said his All Pakistan Minorities Alliance party is looking after the needs of returning Christians and that relations with Muslims are calm.

Not everyone sees it that way. “Some members of Rimsha’s congregation, who gathered last Sunday for worship at the church in the affected area, were stopped from playing the harmonium and tablas when they were singing hymns,” said a Christian pastor identified as Ahsraf, who said he provided shelter to several Christians fleeing from Meherabadi at his church in Islamabad’s Sector G-8. “The tension is pretty much out there.”

Ashraf said about 450 Christians took shelter in the 66 Quarters area of Awami Colony in the suburbs of the Islamabad.
So the conflict continues surrounding this law, which is largely regarded as an affront to the freedom of speech and freedom of religion in that country.

1 -  Record number of pastors participate in Pulpit Freedom Sunday

Last Sunday, some 1,600 pastors in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico registered to participate in what is known as "Pulpit Freedom Sunday", which has been promoted by the Alliance Defending Freedom.  This number represents more than twice as many as took part last year.

Participating pastors committed to preach sermons that present biblical perspectives on the positions of electoral candidates. ADF states that by doing this, they will exercise their constitutionally protected freedom to engage in religious expression from the pulpit despite an Internal Revenue Service rule known as the Johnson Amendment that activist groups often use to silence churches by threatening their tax-exempt status. The Johnson Amendment was passed by Congress in 1954 as an amendment to section 501(c)(3) of the federal tax code. The Amendment states that entities who are exempt from federal income tax cannot "Participate in, or intervene in (including the publishing or distributing of statements), any political campaign on behalf of – or in opposition to – any candidate for public office."

Under the Amendment, churches or ministries that speak out Biblically on the positions of political candidates could risk the loss of their tax-exempt status. 

ADF Senior Legal Counsel Erik Stanley is quoted as saying that, “Pastors should decide what they preach from the pulpit, not the IRS...It’s outrageous for pastors and churches to be threatened or punished by the government for applying biblical teachings to all areas of life, including candidates and elections. The question is, ‘Who should decide the content of sermons: pastors or the IRS?’”

Alliance Defending Freedom hopes to eventually go to court to have the Johnson Amendment struck down as unconstitutional for its regulation of sermons, which ADF believes are protected by the First Amendment.

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