Sunday, October 21, 2012

The 3 - October 21, 2012

You could say that 2 out of the 3 stories in this week's edition of "The 3" are centered around one topic - religious freedom - and that topic is involved in the top story of the week, as well.   The lineup for this week includes rallies dealing with religious freedom that were held across America on Saturday, as well as the challenge to the religious freedom rights of some Texas high school cheerleaders and a court victory this week that has propelled them further into the national spotlight.  And, the top story involves America's most well-known Christian figure and his campaign to encourage voting according to Biblical values - and that includes a defense of religious freedoms. 

3 - Stand Up for Religious Freedom Rallies scheduled across America 

This past Saturday, "Stand Up for Religious Freedom" rallies were taking place in cities all across America - from Des Moines, Iowa to Huntsville, Alabama, from Kalamazoo, Michigan to a large gathering in Chicago, people took to the streets again to pray for our nation and to stand in solidarity against efforts to restrict religious liberties in America.   The linchpin of the rallies: the mandate that employers, including religious entities, provide free contraception and abortion-inducing drugs through their health insurance plans.

You can read reports at the website.  These rallies were a follow-up to similar events held last summer.

At the Chicago rally, for instance, speakers included Chris and Mary Anne Yep, owners of Triune Health Group, which was named the “Best Workplace for Women” by Crain’s Chicago Business earlier this year. The Yeps are among dozens of plaintiffs who have filed lawsuit against the Department of Health and Human Services over the contraception mandate.

Stand Up Rally Co-Chairman Eric Scheidler pointed out that the fight against the HHS Mandate is all about preventing the state from infringing on the rights of individuals to act in accord with the dictates of their conscience and their faith.

Dr. Erwin Lutzer, senior pastor of the Moody Church, spoke about the “intolerance of ‘tolerance,’” and noted how assaults on religious liberty have become increasingly common in recent years as a result of a deeply flawed understanding of the First Amendment in which “all things seem to be an ‘establishment of religion.’”

He then pointed out that the First Amendment also states that Congress shall pass no law “prohibiting the free exercise [of religion]”—but that adherents of the “new tolerance” all too often forget that.

The crowd at the Chicago rally was estimated at some 1700 people.

Some 140 or more cities were sites for rallies, indicating that religious freedom has emerged as a key political issue today - this mandate has contributed to quite a bit of emotion among Christian voters, and could be a major factor in the turnout among religiously-motivated voters, including evangelicals, on November 6th.

2 - Texas cheerleaders win in court - again

Supported by some rather high-profile leaders in the state of Texas, namely Attorney General Greg Abbott and Governor Rick Perry, the cheerleaders at Kountze High School in Hardin County, Texas have survived another legal hurdle to preserve what they see as their constitutional right to free speech - placing Scripture verses on the signs that the football team runs through before each game.  This week, according to the Houston ChronicleState District Judge Steve Thomas said that a ban imposed by the Kountze Independent School District appears to have violated the cheerleaders' rights to religious expression. The trial on the matter has been set for June 24th.

According to CitizenLink, Abbott says the banners do not violate the Constitution in any way.

“The State of Texas intervened in this case to defend the cheerleaders’ right to exercise their personal religious beliefs — and to defend the constitutionality of a state law that protects religious liberties for all Texans,” he said in a statement. “Those banners, which the cheerleaders independently produce on their own time with privately funded supplies, are perfectly constitutional.”

Liberty Institute is defending the cheerleaders, who, along with their parents, sued the Kountze Independent School District last month after the district banned the banners.  CitizenLink quotes Liberty Senior Counsel Michael Johnson as saying, on KBMT News:  "The law is very well established that so long as the speech — be it religious in nature or otherwise — as long as it is initiated by the students, led by the students, which this certainly was, then it’s fully protected under the Constitution."

The banners were challenged by the Freedom From Religion Foundation - interestingly enough, the FFRF is not directly involved in the lawsuit, even those its aims are being supported by the school district in its action against the students.  And, there's an indication of the FFRF tactics - they send letters in order to intimidate, but infrequently litigate.   In Kountze, and other cities across America, citizens who embrace religious freedom are standing strong and fighting back, hoping to receive favorable court rulings, and perhaps even reverse a trend that has resulted in the limitation of rights of students and public officials to communicate their belief in God.
1 - Graham releases new campaign to vote according to Biblical values

When you have America's top evangelist intersecting with the ongoing top news story in our nation, it automatically becomes huge news.  And, that's the case with Dr. Billy Graham, who is featured in a series of full-page newspaper ads and other material that can be downloaded for church bulletins, and to use as posters and flyers.   These ads encourage people to vote according to Biblical values, emphasizing the critical nature of the election coming up on November 6th.

According to a piece on the Baptist Press website, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association said friends who support the ministry have contributed funds designated for the purchase of advertising space using Graham's image to call for the support of candidates who support biblical values.

"The number of states, papers and times the ads run will depend on the amount of funding provided and designated for this project of the BGEA," the association said. "The ads intentionally do not mention any candidate, political party, or contest, urging instead for readers to cast votes for candidates -- at all levels -- based on their support for biblical values."

The statement added that Graham "recently expressed a desire to publicly call America back to God and to prayer, and to draw attention to moral issues that are clearly addressed in the Bible and have increasingly become part of a national political dialog."

A full-page ad featuring Graham has already appeared in The Wall Street Journal and USA Today.  Ads will be placed in reportedly as many as a dozen states.   As I have said on my radio show, it's important that we allow the Bible to shape our perspective on all the issues of life, and that includes our political views.   As we embrace Biblical truth, then we can evaluate the actions and stated positions of candidates to determine whether or not they line up with our deeply-held beliefs. 

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