Sunday, July 28, 2013

The 3 - July 28, 2013

In this week's edition of my week-in-review blog post, "The 3", there is some important court action to report to you in 2 of the top 3 stories.  A Federal appeals court has upheld the right of a Tennessee county's commission to begin its meetings with prayer.   Elsewhere, singular Federal judges have attempted to block current laws - a pro-life bill that was passed in North Dakota recently, as well as a marriage amendment that was passed by the voters of Ohio a number of years ago.  And, the top story involves the huge gathering in Rio that featured young people congregating to learn and grow, and to hear from the head of the Catholic Church.

3 - Appeals court rules in favor of legislative prayers

As the issue of prayer before public governmental meetings awaits a hearing and decision from the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of prayers offered before a council meeting in Greece, New York, a Federal appeals court has said that the practice of opening meetings in prayer in Hamilton County, Tennessee can continue.

Here's the backstory, according to the Christian Post:
Last year, county residents Brandon Jones and Thomas Coleman contested the voluntary, citizen-led prayers held before commission meetings and filed a lawsuit against Hamilton County, alleging that the tradition of having prayers said before commission meetings violated the Constitution's Establishment Clause of the First Amendment because the majority of prayers referenced Jesus, and therefore were predominately Christian.
The Freedom from Religion Foundation also chimed in with one of their now-famous letters in opposition to the prayer policy.  The County Commission then sought to alter its policy regarding prayer in an attempt to be more inclusive of other faiths and to assert that the commission in no way endorsed religion. The new policy said that, "Any invocation that may be offered before the official start of the Commission meeting shall be the voluntary offering of a private citizen, to and for the benefit of the Commission."

It went on to say that, "The views or beliefs expressed by the invocation speaker have not been previously reviewed or approved by the Commission and do not necessarily represent the religious beliefs or views of the Commission in part or as a whole. No member of the community is required to attend or participate in the invocation and such decision will have no impact on their right to actively participate in the business of the Commission."

U.S. District Court Judge Harry Mattice ruled that the county's prayer policy did not violate the Constitution's Establishment clause, writing in his ruling that the prayer policy was "all-inclusive" in that it contemplates invocations from all religions.  On Friday, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a 21-page ruling, which stated, in part, "Here, the Policy is facially constitutional. The Policy aims to respect the diversity of all religious groups, and it does not seek to advance one faith or belief over another. The Policy is similar to other policies that have been recognized as facially neutral by our sister circuits."

This is an ongoing struggle between those who would remove prayer and other vestiges of religious thought from the public square, and those who would want the freedom to express their faith and to acknowledge God.   The issue will go before the high court, and people of faith will no doubt be looking to the Supreme Court to uphold a tradition that is consistent with religious freedom.

2 - Federal judges put legislation regarding life on hold, judge rules in OH same-sex marriage case

How frustrating it can be when good, solid legislation is passed consistent with Biblical principles, and one judge is able to put that law on hold.  That has been the case in several states regarding pro-life legislation, and history has repeated itself in North Dakota, where, according to CitizenLink, a Federal judge on Monday temporarily halted a new North Dakota law that helps protect the lives of preborn babies. Signed by Gov. Jack Dalrymple earlier this year, the law prohibits abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected.  It was set to take effect Aug. 1.

The judge wrote that,“Although the likelihood of this measure surviving a court challenge remains in question, this bill is nevertheless a legitimate attempt by a state Legislature to discover the boundaries of Roe v. Wade."  

And, in Ohio, which has a constitutional amendment in place that defines marriage as one-man and one-woman, a Federal judge has made an exception for one same-sex couple that got "married" in Maryland and wanted the state of Ohio to recognize that union.

Phil Burress, president of Citizens for Community Values in Ohio, told CitizenLink, “Attorney General Mike DeWine assured me today that it will be appealed...The law is the law. The state Constitution says marriage is between one man and one woman.”

The U.S. Supreme Court struck down part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act last month. Without that section - section 3 - the government must accept whatever states decide about same-sex marriage. The high court ruling does not affect section 2, which says that no state is required to recognize another state’s redefinition.

Bruce Hausknecht, CitizenLink Judicial Analyst, points out that, "Under the U.S. Constitution’s Full Faith and Credit Clause, there is a strong historical and legal reservation to the states of the right not to recognize the effect of out-of-state laws or legal proceedings...This includes same-sex marriage, where such laws or legal statuses violate the strong public policy of the state where recognition is sought.”
So, the law appears to be on the side of the state of Ohio in this case, but, just as in the California marriage case, one Federal judge has attempted to strike down the wishes of the people of a state.  This is not unexpected, in light of the high court's ruling striking down that part of DOMA.

1 - World Youth Day attracts massive crowd, papal appearance

When you have an estimated one million people gathered in one place in a religious gathering, it has enormous significance. This year, World Youth Day took place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and the first-ever Pope from the Americas, who ministered in Argentina before becoming the pontiff, Pope Francis, spoke to the large group assembled there.

According to Catholic World Newsthe Pope told the young people gathered at Copacabana beach: “Today Christ asks each of us again: Do you want to be my disciple? Do you want to be my friend? Do you want to be a witness to my Gospel?”

The motto for this year’s World Youth Day was “Put on faith.” The Pope remarked: “Put on faith, and your life will take on a new flavor.” Exploring the theme further, he said that the motto really meant: “Put on Christ.”

“Today, it benefits all of us to ask sincerely: in whom do we place our trust?” the Pope said. “In ourselves, in material things, or in Jesus?” Material goods and earthly power provide temporary gratification, he said, but the love of Christ is the only lasting good. “Put on Christ in your life, place your trust in Him, and you will never be disappointed.”
The Vatican Information Service reports that while in Rio, the Pope asked to meet with the Argentine delegation, and he told them in an impromptu speech, “I want the Church to go out into the streets, I want us to defend ourselves against all worldliness, opposition to progress, from that which is comfortable, from that which is clericalism, from all that which means being closed up in ourselves. Parishes, schools, institutions are made in order to come out … if they do not do this, they become a non-governmental organisation, and the Church must not be an NGO”.
These are principles that can be applied to the lives of all believers in Christ.   When the leader of a major denomination is speaking before roughly a million people, mainly of the next generation, it is helpful for us to take notice, and recognize that the spiritual awareness that is taken from the locale in South America into the world could have a dramatic impact.

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