Sunday, September 15, 2013

The 3 - September 15, 2013

On this week's edition of "The 3", I take a look at a nationwide event calling people to prayer on the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.  While those who prayed were crying out to God for revival and spiritual awakening, by contrast, there are those who would want to erase the symbolic evidence of God's hand upon our nation, and a Federal court judge made a decision upholding our national motto, "In God We Trust" this week.   And, the top story involves over 21,000 churches who stated they would commit to inviting people to return to church on National Back to Church Sunday.

3 - "Cry Out America" on 9/11 brings thousands to public places to pray for the nation

On Wednesday, 9/11, "Cry Out America" was observed for the 6th consecutive year.  It is a grass-roots prayer and renewal movement seeking to unite citizens of every state, every county, and every church in prayer for a "Christ Awakening" in the nation. Prayer gatherings were located at state capitols, county courthouses, city parks, churches, and other public venues.

According to the organization that oversees the event, the Awakening America Alliance, this prayer initiative is designed to encourage Christian believers to "remember the sacrifices of yesterday, seek God’s face for the restoration of godliness today, and help redeem future generations from the forces of darkness that they could potentially face."

People assembled at an estimated 3,000 prayer points across the nation, with potentially as many as 300,000 in attendance, according to National Coordinator Kay Horner, who was interviewed on The Meeting House radio show on Faith Radio.   Multiple gatherings were reported in the Chicago and Los Angeles areas, and smaller events were held in public places across America.  People recognize that our nation is in need of a spiritual awakening and that the answers to the moral decline we have observed and the challenges we face lie in the presence and wisdom of Almighty God.

2 - Judge turns back challenge to "In God We Trust", court action continues on "under God" in Pledge

Last Monday, a Federal district court judge in New York dismissed a case filed by atheists who want the national motto, "In God We Trust," removed from U.S. currency.  According to a report on the Baptist Press website, the judge, Harold Baer, Jr., found that the presence of the national motto on currency had not created a "substantial burden" on the plaintiffs, who included 18 atheists and humanists, the New York City Atheists and the Freedom from Religion Foundation.

He wrote, "While Plaintiffs may be inconvenienced or offended by the appearance of the motto on currency, these burdens are a far cry from the coercion, penalty, or denial of benefits required under the 'substantial burden' standard." In the case, Newdow, et al., v. U.S. Treasury, the plaintiffs had alleged that their repeated use of federal currency bearing the national motto forced them to endorse the idea of the existence of God each time they undertook a financial transaction.

The judge also stated, ""The Supreme Court has repeatedly assumed the motto's secular purpose and effect, and all circuit courts that have considered this issue -- namely the Ninth, Fifth, Tenth, and D.C. Circuit -- have found no constitutional violation in the motto's inclusion on currency..."

Jay Sekulow, chief counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice, said in a statement from ACLJ the judge's opinion in the case is "welcome and well-reasoned."

"Time after time, flawed legal challenges like this one are brought by atheists," Sekulow said in the statement. "And time after time, the courts soundly reject their attempts to change the historical and cultural landscape of America. In our amicus brief on behalf of members of Congress and nearly 90,000 Americans, we argued that the national motto poses no constitutional violations and [cases against it] must be dismissed. We're extremely pleased that the court did just that."

The "In God We Trust" case was brought by the mother of Michael Newdow - he is perhaps best known for trying to get the words, "under God" removed from the Pledge of Allegiance. He lost that case before the U.S. Supreme Court on procedural grounds in 2004. The effort to remove those words from the Pledge has been renewed, and a case is being weighed by the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, where state law requires schoolchildren to recite the pledge daily as a patriotic exercise.  Here is the report from Baptist Press on that story.

Attorneys for the humanist plaintiffs avoided claiming that the pledge represents a state establishment of religion, as most of the pledge cases have in the past. Instead, attorneys they have argued that reciting the pledge, which requires atheists to say the words "under God," is discriminatory and violates the state's equal protection laws.

A state Superior Court judge ruled in 2012 that the words "under God" did not violate the law, but reflected a political philosophy evident in the history of the pledge and state law itself.  The judge also stated reciting the pledge is not a religious exercise.

These are clear indications of the intention of some to remove the vestiges of our religious heritage from various parts of American life.  And, it underscores the importance of a commitment to not only know the Judeo-Christian principles upon which we were founded, but to pray for our nation's leaders, including judges, to recognize and uphold those magnificent truths.

1 - National Back to Church Sunday involving over 20,000 churches nationwide

This Sunday, September 15th, marked the 5th annual National Back to Church Sunday, and leading into the day, over 21,000 churches had signed up to participate.  According to a press release on behalf of the event, attendance estimates are related to results from the survey following Back to Church Sunday 2012, when survey respondents reported a 38% increase in their Sunday attendance over usual average attendance.  96% of 2012 respondents indicated their interest in participating again.  This initiative has now established a track record, which contributes to the increase of over 8000 churches from last year's effort.

Scott Evans, founder and CEO of Outreach, Inc., which provides church communications resources and helped launch the initiative, says, "Each year we've been excited to see the enormous increase in the number of participating churches as people get on board with the vision of National Back To Church Sunday." He went on the say that, "The movement was started with two stunning statistics: 82% of people said they would attend church if someone they knew invited them, but only 2% of church members were inviting people to come with them to their church. We wanted to make it easy on everyone and open church doors wide across our nation to welcome people back to church."

More than 3 million people were expected to be welcomed into churches across the nation on National Back to Church Sunday.   The website address is  

And, has reported on why people do not go "back to church".   Citing a Pew Research poll, it stated that of those who do not attend, 24% cite personal priorities—including 16% who say they are too busy.

Also, 24% mention practical difficulties—including work conflicts, health problems or transportation difficulties.

37% point to an issue directly related to religion—including disagreements with the beliefs of the religion or their church leaders, or beliefs that attending worship services is not important.

Overall, Pew finds that church attendance in America has held rather steady over the past decade. Essentially, 37% of Americans in 2013 say they attend worship services at least weekly (vs. 39% in 2003), and 29% of Americans today say they seldom or never attend worship services (vs. 25% in 2003).

So, the encouraging word is that over 8-in-10 people said they would attend if someone invited them, and it's also important to know the personal barriers that people have to attending church - those can be determined in the course of personal relationships and sensitivity to the needs of others.

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