Sunday, December 30, 2012

The 3 - December 30, 2012

This week's edition of my week-in-review feature, "The 3", includes a reminder that believers in Christ are being persecuted all over the world, and Iran is one of those countries that has been particularly noteworthy in its treatment of Christian pastors.   Also, a large student missions conference has taken place this week in St. Louis, drawing thousands to come together and to be strengthened in their faith.   And, the top story - Christmas, which provides a time of celebration for many, but sorrow for some, and this Christmas Day and the preceding days offered great ministry opportunities.

3 - Iranian pastors face more persecution

It's only a few days before the advocacy group Open Doors will release its 2013 World Watch List that ranks countries in the world according to the degree of their persecution of Christians.   Last year, North Korea was #1...again.   And, Iran was #5.  

The way that Iran treats Christians, especially Christian pastors and those who sympathize with them, has been in the news this year primarily because of the plight of Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, who was released from prison just a few weeks ago - he is now back in prison, due to apparently what officials are describing as some sort of technicality.  According to Religion Today, citing ASSIST News Service, sources at Christian Solidarity Worldwide report that Nadarkhani has been returned to jail on the orders of the directors of Lakan Prison, who claimed he had been released several days too early due to the insistence of his lawyer, Mohammed Ali Dadkhah. "We are disappointed to hear Pastor Nadarkhani has been returned to prison in such an irregular manner," said Mervyn Thomas of CSW. "The timing is insensitive and especially sad for his wife and sons, who must have been looking forward to celebrating Christmas with him for the first time in three years."  Dadkhah, by the way, has been sentenced to nine years in prison, reportedly due to his attempts to free the pastor.  

Religion Today also reports that a 32-year-old Iranian who is a U.S. citizen and a Christian convert has been imprisoned without notice of any formal charges while visiting his family in Iran, according to Fox News.  In July, the Rev. Saeed Abedini, who lives in the U.S. with his wife and two young children, was making one of his frequent trips to visit his parents and relatives in Iran when he was pulled off a bus by Iranian authorities, who confiscated his passports and subjected him to intense interrogation, saying he must face a penalty for his previous work as a Christian leader in Iran.  He is currently in prison awaiting trial.  His family members, who are also Christian converts from Islam, are under house arrest.

And the website reports on an Iranian pastor who wrote a letter from prison, ministering to Christians and displaying a positive attitude despite his suffering.  Pastor Benham Irani was leading the Church of Iran in the city of Karaj before his arrest in 2011 for "acting against the interests of national security".  He has reportedly been tortured in prison and was denied hospitalization for a bleeding ulcer.  Several times he was found unconscious in his prison cell, raising fears for his well-being.  His wife and two children have said they are afraid that unless the beatings stop and he is offered proper medical care, he could die in prison soon.

The nation of Iran, which operates under strict Islamic law, is a place that is become quite well-known for its persecution of Christians.   Pray for these and other church leaders who are facing stiff difficulties as a result of their faith in Christ.

2 - Urbana student missions conference brings together a multitude of young adults 

Every three years, thousands of colleges students gather to be encouraged and equipped in their walk with Christ and in sharing the gospel at the Urbana student missions conference.  The Christian Post reports that this year, an estimated 16,000 Christian youth attended opening night of Urbana 2012 at the Edwards Jones Dome in St. Louis Thursday.   InterVarsity Christian Fellowship organizers, who are hosting the event, hope that students will come to a decision about serving God locally or globally.

Tom Lin, who serves as InterVarsity's Vice-President and the conference director, is quoted as saying to the students, "Surrender your plans and allow God to surprise you. God's invitation may be unexpected...You and I are called to share God's Kingdom news not just for our campuses, not just for our cities, but also for the ends of the earth – the unfamiliar places, the unfamiliar cultures, and for unfamiliar friends."

The Post reports that David Platt, senior pastor at the Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, said to the young people at the conference:  "Jesus is the very word of God made flesh … Jesus is all of these things and [yet] we have reduced Him to a poor, puny savior who is just begging for us to accept Him into our hearts."

The first Urbana conference was held in 1946, before it went by that name, which was adopted after moving to the University of Illinois campus at Urbana-Champaign in 1948.   More than 250,000 have been challenged in their participation in global missions since that first conference, which was held in Toronto. 
This is a critical gathering that God has used to stir that hearts of young people to be involved in kingdom work.

1 - Christmas brings celebration, sorrow, and wacky weather 

Christmas Day brings believers in Jesus Christ an opportunity to reflect, to worship, and to spend time with not only family, but fellow church members, as well.    Churches sponsored special musical and dramatic performances during the period leading up to Christmas Day, and there were candlelight services and other special events observed during a unique 3-day period from Sunday through Tuesday.

While it was a time of celebration for many, it was also a time of sorrow for some, including the families of the victims of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT, less than 2 weeks removed from the deadly shooting of 26 people, including 20 children. 

And, it was a wacky and deadly weather day, as a massive storm system brought snow and ice to the nation's midsection and severe storms and tornadoes to the Southeastern United States.  There were several deaths reported from the dangerous weather, but not in Mobile, AL, where an EF-2 tornado rumbled through the center of the city, resulting in considerable property damage, but thankfully, no loss of life or life-threatening injuries.  And, the reminder of treacherous weather continues to be felt in the New York City area, where the cleanup from Hurricane Sandy continues, along with the ministry opportunities accompanying it.

And, charitable opportunities abounded during the season, giving Christians and Christian ministries the ability to shine the light of Christ to people in need.    Earlier in the month, a large Miami area church had raised over $600,000 over a 48-hour period to reach out to people in their community.   This is indicative of how we can intentionally give of ourselves in honor of the One who gave it all for us.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

The 3 - December 23, 2012

In this week's edition of "The 3", my week-in-review feature, we see the huge box office results for a film based on a book by a Christian author who integrates a faith perspective into his writings.   There was also more court action concerning that divisive mandate that free contraception and abortion drugs be provided in health insurance plans, despite the objections of religious organizations and companies.   And, the top story involves a new study that illustrates the prevalence of Christianity in the world today, and as we prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus, reflecting on these results could propel us to confidently share our faith.

3 - Movie based on Christian author's book sets December box office record

The new movie based on the writings of Christian author J.R.R. Tolkien has set an all-time December record for an opening weekend, with The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.  Tolkien integrated a faith element into his works, including The Lord of the Rings trilogy, as well as The Hobbit, and it is said that through Tolkien's influence, his friend C.S. Lewis came to Christ.

Hannah Goodwyn of writes: 
J.R.R. Tolkien's faith permeated his work, starting with The Hobbit.  Bilbo's adventure is more than just a fictional children's story about hobbits, wizards, trolls and goblins. This fantasy shines a light on the evil and good in human nature – greed, suspicion, bravery and loyalty.  Thankfully, that's not at all lost on the cast personifying Tolkien's beloved Middle Earth characters.
She quotes poet W.H. Auden as saying:
If one is to take a tale of this kind seriously, one must feel that, however superficially unlike the world we live in its characters and events may be, it nevertheless holds up the mirror to the only nature we know, our own; in this, too, Mr. Tolkien has succeeded superbly, and what happened in the year of the Shire 1418 in the Third Age of Middle Earth is not only fascinating in A. D. 1954 but also a warning and an inspiration.
The Christian Post reports that the first movie in what will be a trilogy of films based on Tolkien's beloved children's book earned an estimated $84.78 million over Friday, Saturday and Sunday last weekend, according to Box Office Mojo.  This is higher than the previous December record of 2007's "I Am Legend", starring Will Smith.  The premiere also exceeded the $73.3 million debut of "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" in 2003.  (It should be noted that theaters offering 3D/IMAX viewing options might have inflated "The Hobbit's" numbers.)

The movie made another $138 million internationally, bringing up its worldwide total to $222 million after only three days – already making well over its estimated $180 million production budget.

For a "FilmTalk Small Group Bible Study" based on The Hobbit, go to or   And, watch those sites for material on the forthcoming film, Les Miserables, which is said to possess a strong redemptive element.

2 - More activity regarding the HHS contraception mandate: new lawsuit, court victory for 2 schools and 1 company, defeat for another

This week was a very active week concerning the Obama Administration's mandate that employers, including religious employers, provide for free contraception and abortion-inducing drugs in their health care insurance plans.   The week began with the news of Domino's Pizza founder Tom Monaghan filing suit on behalf of his company, Domino's Farms (the pizza chain is now a public corporation).  The following day, there was news out of the D.C. Circuit that a federal appeals court handed Wheaton College and Belmont Abbey College a major victory in their challenges to the HHS mandate.  According to the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, who argued the case on behalf of the plaintiffs:  Last summer, two lower courts had dismissed the Colleges’ cases as premature.  On Tuesday, the appellate court reinstated those cases, and ordered the Obama Administration to report back every 60 days—starting in mid-February—until the Administration makes good on its promise to issue a new rule that protects the Colleges’ religious freedom.  The new rule must be issued by March 31, 2013.

According to the Becket fund, the court based its decision on two concessions that government lawyers made in open court.  First, the government promised “it would never enforce [the mandate] in its current form” against Wheaton, Belmont Abbey, or other similarly situated religious groups.  Second, the government promised it would publish a proposed new rule “in the first quarter of 2013” and would finalize it by next August. The administration made both concessions under intense questioning by the appellate judges.  The court deemed the concessions a “binding commitment” and has retained jurisdiction over the case to ensure the government follows through.

There were also conflicting decisions in separate circuits concerning for-profit companies' suits against the mandate.   These companies face stiff penalties if they do not comply with the mandate by January 1, 2013.
According to the Gleanings blog at

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals refused to grant Christian-owned Hobby Lobby an injunction against the mandate, ruling that the craft chain "has not demonstrated a substantial likelihood of success on the merits" of the case.  This is the second loss for Hobby Lobby, which was appealing a lower court decision to the appeals court.   It now plans to take its case to the U.S. Supreme Court for temporary relief prior to the mandate, and the fines for non-compliance, take effect.   Hobby Lobby could pay some $1.3 million per day in fines.

However, a Missouri federal district court granted a preliminary injunction to a small metal-recycling business, American Pulveriser Company, owned by two evangelicals, ruling that they do have a "substantial likelihood" of winning their case.

The D.C. case has great significance because the court is requiring the government to report its admitted attempts to exempt religious entities from having to violate their consciences and provide these drugs or face stiff penalties.  For-profit companies, on the other hand, will begin paying penalties beginning January 1st for non-compliance, which will result in a significant financial burden and likely increases in the cost of their products.
1 - New study shows Christianity tops global religious landscape

This week, the results of a new study by the Pew Forum on Religion in Public Life were released, and the data indicates that almost one-third of the people on the globe claim to be - Christian.   The study, entitled, "The Global Religious Landscape: A Report on the Size and Distribution of the World’s Major Religious Groups as of 2010" shows that of the world's 6.9 billion people, 2.2 billion or 32 percent are Christians.

According to a report on the survey at, only 12 percent of Christians live in North America, and the vast majority of Christians, 99 percent, live outside the Middle East-North Africa region where Christianity began.

Apart from North America, Christians are geographically dispersed, with 26 percent in Europe, 24 percent in Latin America and the Caribbean, 24 percent in sub-Saharan Africa and 13 percent in the Asia-Pacific region, the study found, based on 2010 data.

Pew reported that the world's population includes 1.6 billion Muslims, 1 billion Hindus, nearly 500 million Buddhists, 400 million adherents of various folk and traditional religions, 58 million adherents the study confined to the category of "other," comprised of many religions including Baha'i faith, Jainism, Sikhism, Shintoism, Taoism and Wicca.

Also, the study states that most of the world's population, 5.8 billion or 84 percent, affiliates with a particular religion, leaving 1.6 billion, or 16 percent, with no religious affiliation.   But many with no religious affiliation hold religious or spiritual beliefs, such as a belief in God or a universal spirit, while not identifying with a particular religion. 

Regarding the United States, the study found that 78 percent, or 243,060,000 of the country's 310,390,000 people are Christian.
There is much to be learned from these survey results - for one thing, we can be encouraged at the significant number of people worldwide and in America who claim to be Christians.   This can give us confidence that Christianity is and can be a powerful force in the world today.   But, even at that, Christians only make up one-third of the religious population worldwide...this tells us there is quite a mission field.   And, as we continue to track, there are many - generally between 15 and 20 percent - that say they do not follow any particular religion, although many claim to be spiritual.   There is a great affinity for the divine in the world today, and as we follow the truth of the Bible, then we can help point people who are searching to a knowledge of our Savior.

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.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

The 3 - December 9, 2012

This week's edition of "The 3" includes another flashpoint regarding the observance of Christmas, this time involving a school and church in Arkansas.  Also, there is a great report from a leading Bible translating ministry this week.  And, the top story involves the nation's top court and one of our leading institutions - traditional marriage.

3 - Charlie Brown Christmas play cancelled after controversy

It seemed like a harmless holiday season field trip - a group of elementary school students in Little Rock, Arkansas, going to see a play called, "Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown".   Even though it was not mandatory, a parent reportedly was upset with the school for taking students to a local church, Agape Church.  The mother than contacted the Arkansas Society of Freethinkers (ASF), and the organization complained to the Little Rock School District on her behalf.

According to the Christian Post, the principal of Terry Elementary School, Sandra Register decided not to cancel the field trip, and school board attorneys had determined that the trip was acceptable.  However, the church announced this week that the special presentation for school students has been cancelled.

Happy Caldwell, pastor of Agape Church, issued a statement on the church's website on Wednesday, stating that while he believes the school was within its constitutional rights to bring students to the production, the church has nevertheless decided to cancel it special showing for students.

"It is not our desire to put hard working, sacrificial teachers and cast members in harm's way," wrote Caldwell. "What we want said is that we love our city, our schools, parents and families. People are at the heart of the matter to us."   Pastor Caldwell invited the students to performances at the church later this month, but not part of a field trip.

Liberty Counsel has stepped forward to offer free legal counsel and, if needed, legal defense to the Little Rock Superintendent of Schools and Agape Church to defend the right of students to attend the “Merry Christmas Charlie Brown” play at the church. 

As Liberty states on its website, "The advent of the Christmas season predictably sees atheists making outrageous assertions regarding the proper role of schools and the recognition of Christmas. The United States Supreme Court has held that the Constitution requires accommodation, not merely tolerance, of all religions and forbids hostility toward any religion. In the Christmas context, the Court upheld the constitutionality of a publicly sponsored Christmas display."

This is yet another instance in which a celebration consistent with the nature and background of the Christmas holiday, a Federally-recognized holiday has been challenged by those who want to prohibit the free exercise of religion embraced by a large majority of Americans.

2 - Number of Bible translations increasing around the world, according to Wycliffe

Wycliffe Bible Translators has set an ambitious goal of translating the Bible into every language by the year 2025, and this week, the organization released a progress report indicating that they are on track to reach that goal, as the number of Bible translations continues to be on the rise.

A report on The Christian Post website indicates that Wycliffe, along with affiliated organizations like The Seed Company and SIL International, has managed to translate the Bible into 2,075 different languages around the world.  That still leaves another 1,967 others to be translated, but the vast majority of the human population now has access to the Scriptures in their own languages.

"These statistics are very important in showing progress toward our goal of seeing a Bible translation in progress in every language community needing it by 2025," said Bob Creson, president of Wycliffe USA, in a statement shared with The Christian Post. "They demonstrate...that what we are doing is making a difference in the pursuit of our God-given mission."

For the first time ever, the number of languages with a Bible translation outnumber those without. This accounts for an estimated 5.4 billion around the world, while the remaining 1,967 languages, many of them dialects with minor variations from larger groups, are spoken by an estimated 209 million people.

New technologies and strategies have been critical in bringing God's Word to various communities.  Wycliffe and its partners are major players in reaching out to help facilitate the gospel being shared in every nation in every language.

1 - U.S. Supreme Court agrees to hear cases on the definition of marriage

Currently, there are Federal appeals court decisions that have invalidated a state Constitutional amendment approved by the people of California and a Congressional act that affirmed traditional marriage - defined as one man for one woman.   And, the U.S. Supreme Court has stepped in and agreed to hear the appeals of lower court decisions.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had sided with those who had filed suit to overturn Proposition 8, approved by the voters of California, defining marriage as one-man, one-woman in the state's constitution.  There have also been a number of challenges to the Federal Defense of Marriage Act, and the high court will be evaluating one particular case - Windsor v. United States, involving a New York woman who was obligated to pay more than $363,000 in taxes on the property her late partner left her in 2007 because their Canadian marriage, while recognized by the State of New York where they lived, is not recognized under DOMA.  CitizenLink has the story on Friday's high court, high-stakes activity.

The two cases accepted by the U.S. Supreme Court will be argued sometime in March or April, with a decision expected by late June.

John Eastman, Chairman of the National Organization for Marriage, stated:  "We believe that it is significant that the Supreme Court has taken the Prop 8 case...We believe it is a strong signal that the Court will reverse the lower courts and uphold Proposition 8. That is the right outcome based on the law and based on the principle that voters hold the ultimate power over basic policy judgments and their decisions are entitled to respect."  

The defense of DOMA has fallen to the U.S. House of Representatives after the Obama Administration said that it did not support the Defense of Marriage Act.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

The 3 - December 2, 2012

This week's edition of "The 3" includes a story that has emerged from a college campus in the Carolinas, where trees known as Christmas trees were on sale, then they were renamed, and renamed again - back to the original.   Also, more instances of court rulings involving the Obama Administration's contraception mandate.   Finally, the response is strong regarding new statistics on a significant decline in the abortion rate.

3 - NC College reverses Christmas tree sale ban, so-called "war on Christmas" returns

I'll be right up front - I don't like the term, "War on Christmas" - I don't think that the celebration of our Savior's birth constitutes any sort of war, and if there was a war, it was settled through the cross.   The war is over, and Jesus Christ is Lord.

But, I've had a hard time coming up with another term to describe this give-and-take that comes about this time of year involving the expression of Christmas.   So, when we refer to this "war", if refers to two fronts:  the retail side of things, which involves how stores and companies refer to this holiday season in their advertising - some, who desire to somehow be politically correct and risk offending the sizable portion of the population claiming to be Christians, will use terms other than Christmas to position the season that wouldn't even be taking place if it weren't for the celebration of Christ's birth - I believe that would be "Christmas".

And, the other front includes public, or governmental institutions, who have over-responded to fears that by acknowledging Christmas, that they are somehow violating the law of the land, the Constitution of the United States.   One of the initial volleys on this front this season involves a college in North Carolina, according to

Administrators at Western Piedmont Community College had told members of a club called the BEST Society in November they could not use the word "Christmas" in their announcement about a Christmas tree sale, the proceeds of which will be used to support Angel Tree, which provides Christmas gifts for children who have an incarcerated parent.

On Tuesday, lawyers with legal coalition Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) sent a letter to the school, warning administrators they had violated the students' First Amendment rights by censoring the content of their message. On Wednesday morning, the school re-posted a press release announcing the sale on its website, with a headline that reads "WPCC Club Sells Christmas Trees!!" 

"It's ridiculous that anyone would have to think twice about using the word 'Christmas' as part of a Christmas tree sale," said Matt Sharp, one of the ADF lawyers representing the group. "Not only is it perfectly constitutional to use the word 'Christmas,' it is unconstitutional to prohibit use of it. This is another perfect example of the immense misunderstanding that far too many college officials have about what the First Amendment truly requires." 

So, the Christmas tree sale will go on as planned at WPCC, but this is just one of what I will imagine will be a host of skirmishes across America concerning the expression of the celebration this time of year as actually Christmas.   But, this is indicative of the misunderstanding that is prevalent concerning our Judeo-Christian religious traditions that are part of the fiber of American life.

2 - 2 courts rule against plaintiffs in lawsuits on the contraception mandate

We're continuing to keep score regarding lawsuits involving the mandate from the Obama Administration under the new health care law, requiring employers, even religious organizations, to provide free contraception and abortion-inducing drugs in their health care plans.   Religious entities had received a temporary reprieve from having to comply, but a number are continuing to object.   Other companies, who object on religious grounds, will have to pay fines beginning on January 1, 2013 - less than a month away.

One of those companies, Hobby Lobby, lost their bid in court for a temporary halt to the mandate going into effect for them last week.  Tyndale House Publishers received short-term relief until their case can go to trial.   Hobby Lobby was not deemed "religious" enough, apparently, while Tyndale, in another court, won a temporary order from having to pay the fines.

And, 2 religious organizations who had filed suit had court decisions last week go against them.  According to CitizenLink, this week, U.S. District Judge Terrence F. McVerry said in an opinion that the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh has not yet suffered harm from the mandate, since most of the mandate’s regulations do not take effect until Jan. 1, 2014.   Also on Tuesday, a Tennessee district court dismissed the Catholic Diocese of Nashville’s lawsuit challenging the HHS mandate for similar reasons, ruling that the diocese has not yet suffered any injuries related the mandate.

Also, in a case regarding the health care law as a whole, this past Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court granted a petition for rehearing filed by Liberty Counsel in the ObamaCare case of Liberty University v. Geithner. Liberty Counsel filed the petition for rehearing on behalf of Liberty University and two private individuals. The Court directed that the case be reheard at the federal court of appeals in Richmond. This may pave the way for the case to return to the High Court in 2013. At issue is the constitutionality of the employer mandate and also whether ObamaCare’s forced funding of abortion is unconstitutional under the First Amendment Free Exercise of Religion Clause and the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).

The entire health care law was opposed by Christian groups because of its provision for taxpayer funding of abortion, as well as other concerns, including possible rationing of care that would endanger the lives of vulnerable individuals, including the elderly and the disabled.   The HHS contraception mandate is yet another provision of the new law that has been found to be objectionable on religious grounds, and dozens of lawsuits continue to move forward.    Some plaintiffs have received temporary relief, others have not, but a number of these cases will be going to court, where these religious entities and companies founded on religious principles will get the opportunity to give the reasoning for their opposition.

1 - CDC reports decline in abortion rate for 2009, credit to pro-life activity

Some good news that I believe can be attributable to the effectiveness of the pro-life movement has recently been released.    It actually came out just before Thanksgiving, but there has been extensive response by the Chrisitan, pro-life community over the past few days.  According to,  abortion fell 5 percent nationwide in 2009, according to new information from the Centers for Disease Control, which tracks abortion figures nationwide.   Now, one child losing his or her life from the womb is too many, but there is reason to be encouraged.

Since 1969, CDC has conducted abortion surveillance to document the number and characteristics of women obtaining legal induced abortions in the United States.  However, because the data doesn’t include numbers from all 50 states, most pro-life groups consider the data incomplete. says that "the numbers are a good reference for understanding trends and the trend is that abortions are on the decline thanks to pro-life laws, the work of pregnancy centers and shutting down abortion clinics and practitioners who run afoul of the law."  

Also, the CDC confirms abortions continue to hurt women, noting that “In 2008, the most recent year for which data were available, 12 women were reported to have died as a result of complications from known legal induced abortions.”

And, while some n the mainstream media attribute the decline to various forms of contraception, I believe the pro-life narrative is much stronger - poll after poll are showing opposition to abortion, incremental pro-life laws are restricting access to the termination of pregnancies, pregnancy resource centers are effectively sharing the redeeming message of God's grace, combined with ultrasound technology that shows the development of the pre-born child.  Plus, the number of abortion clinics has dramatically declined in America over the past 2 decades.   And, as I believe you'll see next month, with the 40th Anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, there is an unprecedented passion, especially among young people, millennials who are cause-driven and have been turning out to advocate for life.   We have much about which to be encouraged as we continue to stand on God's view on the sanctity of human life.