Sunday, December 16, 2012

The 3 - December 16, 2012

This week, our nation's collective consciousness has been damaged by the horrific events in Connecticut on Friday - that story and the Christian response to it comprise the overall top story this week in this edition of "The 3", my week-in-review feature.   Also, this week, a Michigan college student who was ejected from a counseling program because she referred, to another counselor, a potential client who was having some issues concerning homosexuality, settled with her university.  And, pro-life license plates are available or will be available in over 25 states, but now one state will have to remove them, based on a court action, and another state is the site for further court action to make them available there.

3 - Michigan college student settles with university in court case involving the referral of a gay student to another counselor

Julea Ward and Eastern Michigan University have reached a settlement in a case involving Julea's attempt to avoid violating her religious beliefs by referring a potential client to another counselor.

According to the Alliance Defending Freedom, Julea enrolled in a counseling course at EMU in January 2009 and was assigned a potential client seeking assistance regarding a sexual relationship that was contrary to Ward’s religious convictions.  She recognized the potential conscience issue with the client and asked a supervisor how to handle the matter.  The supervisor advised Ward to reassign the potential client to a different counselor.  EMU then informed Ward that she could only stay in the counseling program if she agreed to undergo a “remediation” program.  Its purpose was to help her “see the error of her ways” and change her “belief system” as it relates to counseling about homosexual relationships.  Julea filed suit against the university, and a lower court ruled in favor of EMU.

In a strongly worded opinion, the 6th Circuit reversed that lower court decision in favor of the university and sent the case back for trial, saying, “a reasonable jury could conclude that Ward’s professors ejected her from the counseling program because of hostility toward her speech and faith….” Moreover, the decision notes, “A university cannot compel a student to alter or violate her belief systems based on a phantom policy as the price for obtaining a degree.”   This week it was announced that Julea had reached a settlement with the University.

As part of the settlement, EMU agreed to pay Ward a sum of money to settle her claims and to remove the expulsion from her record.
ADF Senior Legal Counsel Jeremy Tedesco is quoted as saying, “When Julea sought to refer a potential client to another qualified counselor--a common, professional practice that is endorsed by her profession’s code of ethics--EMU denied the referral. Then it attacked and questioned her religious beliefs, ultimately expelling her from the program. We are pleased that Julea and her constitutionally protected rights have been vindicated.”
2 - Pro-life license plates ruled unconstitutional in North Carolina, issue returns to court in New York 

Late last week in North Carolina, a federal judge ruled that the "Choose Life" license plates in that state are unconstitutional because there is not a pro-abortion plate.  The legislature had approved the plates in 2011, and the ACLU of North Carolina Legal Foundation filed suit in U.S. District Court.

According to, U.S. District Court Judge James C. Fox ruled Friday that North Carolina can’t sell the pro-life license plates, saying, “The State’s offering of a Choose Life license plate in the absence of a pro-choice plate constitutes viewpoint discrimination in violation of the First Amendment.”  He had already issued a temporary injunction and his decision on Friday, December 7th makes that decision permanent.

Bobbie Meyer, the state director of Carolina Pregnancy Care Fellowship, told LifeNews: “North Carolina is the only state in the southeast that refuses to let its citizens purchase the choose life license plate. For eight years the legislation for the choose life plate has been denied a vote even though more than 130 other plates have been approved.”

She went on to say that, “Here in NC there are 85 pregnancy care centers who last year saw over 46,000 women and children.”  An extra fee is charged for the plates, and the proceeds are distributed to pregnancy care centers across North Carolina.

Ultimately, the Choose Life plates across the nation have raised over $8.7 million and over 400,000 plates have been sold or renewed in the 17 states that currently have the plate available.  Reportedly, almost a dozen other states have approved the sale of such a plate.   

New York is not one of them.   The issue was first introduced some 8 years ago, and despite a favorable court action on the constitutionality of the plate, the state continues to block the sale of "Choose Life" plates.   Proponents and opponents were back in court this week.  According to CitizenLink, the Children First Foundation, a pro-adoption organization in New York, is suing the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles for rejecting the nonprofit’s application to sponsor a “Choose Life” specialty plate.

The first lawsuit was filed by the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) in 2004 on behalf of The Children First Foundation (TCFF), dedicated to helping women with unexpected pregnancies choose adoption.

In 2011, a district court found the state guilty of viewpoint discrimination when it refused the Foundations request for the pro-life plates. The court issued an order for the state to approve the application, but placed the order on hold until the completion of any appeals in the case.

“Pro-adoption organizations have the right to a specialty license plate on the same terms as any other organization, and the district court affirmed that,” ADF Senior Legal Counsel Jeremy Tedesco said. 

1 - Christian leaders, organizations respond to Newtown tragedy

It is truly the unthinkable, an unimaginable expression of evil.    And, within minutes of a gunman entering the premises of Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, 20 children and 6 adults were dead in one of the worst school shootings in the U.S. history.

As California pastor Greg Laurie described it, according to the Christian Post

"It's Christmas time...Parents bundle up their children another day for school before Christmas vacation starts in the small town of Newtown, Connecticut. There's shopping to do, errands to run before they pick them up.

"Then the worst imaginable scenario takes place. A young man walks into Sandy Hook Elementary School and begins shooting. When the horror finally stops 20 children and 6 adults have been shot and killed. This is just heartbreaking."

Laurie, who lost his 33-year-old son, Christopher, as the result of a deadly car accident in 2008, said he knows the excruciating pain of losing a child.

"The experts will opine on why this happened. All I can say is this was pure evil. The heartlessness and wickedness of this man that did the shooting is really unimaginable," he wrote. "I know from personal experience that the pain of losing a child is a fate worse than death for a parent.

Christian leaders and organizations have responded to the tragedy.   Chaplains from the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team were diverted from their activity ministering to the Hurricane Sandy victims to come to Connecticut.   Franklin Graham spoke out, saying:  "Senseless killings like the one we've seen today in Newtown, Conn., leave us stunned and looking for answers...The Bible tells us the human heart is 'wicked' and 'who can know it?'  My heart aches for the victims, their families and the entire community."

"One thing we can be absolutely sure of is that God loves each one of the victims and all those who are suffering right now as a result of this vicious act..."

Christian author and speaker Max Lucado crafted a special prayer as his response:
"Dear Jesus,
It's a good thing you were born at night. This world sure seems dark. I have a good eye for silver linings. But they seem dimmer lately.
These killings, Lord. These children, Lord. Innocence violated. Raw evil demonstrated.
The whole world seems on edge. Trigger-happy. Ticked off…"
He continued, "Your world seems a bit darker this Christmas. But you were born in the dark, right? You came at night. The shepherds were nightshift workers. The Wise Men followed a star. Your first cries were heard in the shadows. To see your face, Mary and Joseph needed a candle flame. It was dark. Dark with Herod's jealousy.  Dark with Roman oppression.  Dark with poverty.  Dark with violence…"
He concluded, "This Christmas, we ask you, heal us, help us, be born anew in us.
Your Children"

In times of tragedy, people so often turn to faith, and President Obama was scheduled to be part of an interfaith service Sunday night in Newtown.    There have been special services and prayer vigils throughout the area since the tragedy occurred. 

And, according to former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, it is the lack of faith being taught in schools that has contributed to an atmosphere conducive to violence.   He is quoted by the Post as saying that:
"Should we be so surprised that schools have become such a place of carnage? Because we've made it a place where we don't want to talk about eternity, life, what responsibility means, accountability..."

"That we're not just gonna have to be accountable to the police if they catch us but one day we stand before a holy God in judgment. If we don't believe that, then we don't fear that," Huckabee added. "People are going to want to pass new laws... [but] This is a heart issue ... laws don't change this kind of thing."

It is true - we have to acknowledge that evil is present in the world, and no amount of legislation can change the propensity of the human heart to do harm to others and ourselves - it is only through the risen Lord, born into the earth at Christmas, that gives us the power to change, and can give the residents of Newtown the power to be healed.

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