3 - Department of Justice argues for same-sex marriage, against Prop. 8
The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to make a decision later this year about the constitutionality of same-sex marriage, not only concerning the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), but also Proposition 8, the California amendment affirming marriage as one man and one woman. Oral arguments will be held later this month, and the Obama Administration, through its Department of Justice, not unexpectedly, has weighed in.
You may remember that the DOJ did not defend DOMA in court, and so the responsibility was taken up by the House of Representatives. Now, just this week, according to a CitizenLink article, the Department filed a brief with the high court arguing that DOMA is unconstitutional because it discriminates against homosexuals.
CitizenLink reports that the department argues in the brief that the law is unconstitutional under “heightened constitutional scrutiny”:
In other words, the DOJ is asserting that sexual orientation should be treated as a suspect classification, like race or sex. The usual test for laws not involving suspect classifications is the “rational basis” test, which is a much lower threshold for laws to meet. Marriage laws have uniformly been tested under a “rational basis” review in the past.The DOJ filed its brief in the DOMA case, United States v. Windsor. The suit involves a New York woman required to pay federal inheritance taxes on property her late partner left her. Although their Canadian marriage is recognized in New York, it is not recognized under DOMA.
CitizenLink Judicial Analyst Bruce Hausknecht weighed in, saying that, “If the Supreme Court finds that homosexuality is entitled to 'heightened constitutional scrutiny,' it could mean bad news for all marriage or family laws that define or promote one man, one woman marriage, or that support the notion that children are entitled to a mom and a dad."
He also stated that if DOMA is struck down because the Court equates homosexuality to race and gender, it would also, down the road, cause legal issues for churches, faith-based organizations and believers across the country.
Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) Senior Counsel Austin Nimocks adds that the court has already made it clear in past cases that the federal definition is constitutional.
And, President Obama weighed in on Friday, according to CNN, saying, "Let's treat everybody fairly. Let's treat everybody equally." He stated, "What we've said is that same-sex couples are a group, a class that deserves heightened scrutiny. The Supreme Court needs to ask the state why it's doing it, and if the state doesn't have a good reason, it should be struck down. That's the core principle, as applied to this case."
This is essentially the viewpoint of many, including those in the Administration, who equate what they believe to be a lifestyle choice with genetic traits such as race and gender, and the potential implications for the Biblical definition of marriage, which Christian and pro-family leaders have pointed out needs to be protected, are troubling indeed.
2 - NRB opens in Nashville
As I mentioned before, I am writing this week's edition of the blog from the Gaylord Opryland Hotel in Nashville, site of the 2013 National Religious Broadcasters Convention. I write today after spending some time in the exhibit hall helping to set up the Faith Radio/Meeting House booth, at which I conduct dozens of interviews with Christian radio programmers, authors, film producers, musicians, and others who are involved in doing ministry work.
The opening general session Saturday night features speakers Raul Ries and Pete Briscoe (son of Stuart and Jill), as well as music by Christian music veteran Cindy Morgan and newcomer Andrew Greer. I will be involved in special events sponsored by ministries such as the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, Moody Radio, Turning Point, and FamilyLife Today. I look forward to speaking with a number of influential Christian leaders throughout the next few days, including Ken and Joni Tada, David Jeremiah, Phil Cooke, Kay Arthur, Tony Perkins, and many more.
Addressing the convention already were rising evangelistic leader Nick Hall and the developer of the YouVersion.com Bible app, Bobby Gruenewald of LifeChurch.tv. Sunday morning worship will feature Keith and Kristyn Getty and a message from Tony Evans. There will be a public policy panel discussion on Tuesday involving the rise of radical Islam. And, a night of entertainment will include top-level Christian comedians Chonda Pierce and Dennis Swanberg, as well as Michael Jr.
NRB offers an opportunity for Christian communicators to build relationships, receive training, and to be inspired in being more effective in Christian media. Follow the convention online at www.nrbconvention.org.
1 - Interest builds in "The Bible" miniseries
On Sunday night, March 3rd, and continuing for 5 weeks through Easter Sunday, the History Channel will present a brand new miniseries called, "The Bible". It's been developed by Mark Burnett ("Survivor", "The Apprentice") and his wife, Roma Downey ("Touched By an Angel"). And, it has received some glowing recommendations from a number of Christian leaders. Saddleback Church pastor Rick Warren hosted a live webcast preview of the miniseries with the Burnetts on Saturday, and plans to use "The Bible" as the basis for a series of sermons. Warren, quoted in The Christian Post, says that, "Every Sunday night for five weeks – from March 3rd through Easter Sunday on March 31st – millions of viewers will see the Bible come to life in a whole new way...You can make the most of this opportunity to reach out to the people in your community who will be watching...plan a sermon series, small group and outreach campaign and help viewers go deeper and learn even more about the Bible."
Earlier this month, hoping to encourage viewers of the "The Bible" to delve into the Word of God by easily accessing scripture through the latest technology, Burnett and his wife, Roma Downey, announced that the Bible App by YouVersion, developed by LifeChurch.tv, will host the official companion app for the series.
"Our prayer has always been that the dramatization of these stories will drive viewers to go to the Bible itself and drink in the actual text, because it is a book that changes lives," said Downey, who co-executive produced the series with her husband and also plays the role of Jesus' mother, Mary.
Jim Daly, President of Focus on the Family was involved as a content advisor for the series and writes,"Let’s face it - it takes some moxie to lift up the Bible in the middle of Hollywood. In fact, when they first proposed the project they were told to try and tell the story without mentioning Jesus. They refused, rightly countering, of course, that not only is it impossible to omit Jesus, but that the life, death and resurrection of Jesus is the climax of the entire book!
Daly stated, "I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know Mark and Roma over the last six months. In the process we’ve become friends. It’s always inspiring to be around people who have a fervent desire to tell other people about Jesus. And this couple is clearly passionate about sharing the message of Jesus with the world as well as having the opportunity to put on film the greatest story ever told, come what may from those who may object to it."
It is Daly's belief that, "we’re living in a dark day when millions of people, including our neighbors and even many of our family and friends, refuse to accept Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior. Many of these same people refuse to go to church. They refuse to open a Bible. But many of these people watch television. That The Bible may serve as a spark to rekindle or kindle their faith should be a source of great excitement for all of us."
So, people will be exposed to the story of God's love for humanity, expressed in a way that, by the indications I've seen so far, promises to be specatular - and it gives us a chance as believers to demonstrate and discuss how that great story has impacted us.