Sunday, October 20, 2013

The 3 - October 20, 2013

This week's edition of "The 3" turns our attention to the Christmas season and again to the ways that students are allowed to incorporate the religious traditions of the season into their performances.   Also, stellar performances and numerous honors were part of the Dove Awards show this past Tuesday in Nashville. And, the top story involves concerns by Christian and pro-family leaders about the deal to end the partial government shutdown, raise the debt ceiling, continue to fund the Affordable Care Act.

3 - Major volley in "war on Christmas" yields concessions

I want to say that I do not care for the term, "war on Christmas", and on an annual basis, it seems that I think that perhaps I can come up with a better phrase to use to describe the religious freedom issues the occur during the latter part of the year.   And, this year, over 2 months before Christmas, a controversy arose in Wausau, Wisconsin about the content of a Christmas program.

According to a report by The Christian Post, Phillip Buch, director of Wausau West High School's choral programs since 1981, told the Wausau Daily Herald that local school district administrators had given him three restricting options for Christmas music: include five secular, nonreligious songs for every faith-based carol; hold a concert without any Christmas music; or postpone concerts in December.

Since his elite choir, the 20-member Master Singers, is invited to sing at "nearly a dozen holiday concerts each year," Buch called these demands unacceptable. Due to the new restrictions, he disbanded the group on Oct. 4.  The director is quoted as saying that, "We sing for nursing homes, grade schools and businesses. To do that without Christmas music doesn't make sense."

In an Oct. 7 statement, Kathleen Williams, Wausau superintendent of schools, argued that "district legal counsel" suggested alternatives to ensure that Master Singers concerts adhered to the law.   She later disputed that a ratio had been established.
The Alliance Defending Freedom became involved and assured the school board that the Constitution does not prohibit the singing of Christmas carols by public school groups. They sent a letter that stated, "We write to explain that every federal court to examine the issue has determined that including Christmas carols and other religious music in school choir programs fully complies with the First Amendment."

ADF's Rory Gray told The Christian Post that after the suspension of the Master Singers, "the school board is facing a public outcry of massive proportions," He added that the rule seemed confusing because the school district said they had received no complaints. "I can't think of another case where a school district decided on its own that there's a problem with holiday concerts," Gray said.

At a well-attended meeting of the school board, the body voted unanimously to begin a performance review of Superintendent Williams, according to the Daily Herald. Pat McKee, a member of the board, suggested that it waive a clause in Williams' contract that would require her to pay $6,000 if she were to resign without giving the board 90 days notice.   The Master Singers resumed practice last Tuesday.

This is yet another in an ongoing series of incidents that have been precipitated by a misunderstanding of what is called the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.   Officials who are often intimidated and think they may be violating the Constitution by including religious material end up denying free expression of time-honored religious traditions, which are incorporated into the celebration of holidays.

2 - Dove Awards spotlight best in Christian music 

The 44th Annual Gospel Music Association Dove Awards were handed out this past Tuesday night at Lipscomb University’s Allen Arena in Nashville in celebration of what is called "Gospel and Christian music’s biggest night."   Here is the press release from the Gospel Music Association's website.

The top winner was Matt Redman, who won Song of the Year for "10,000 Reasons", which was also tapped in several other categories.   Redman won 6 awards, followed by TobyMac and Jason Crabb with 4. Tasha Cobbs and producer Wayne Haun scored 3 each. Chris Tomlin, Tamela Mann and Lecrae won 2 Doves.

TobyMac was named as Artist of the Year and his album, "Eye On It" won Pop/Contemporary Album. Jason Crabb won for Inspirational Album of the Year for "Love is Stronger".

The Male and Female Vocalist and Group of the Year award were eliminated this year, and Performancen awards were added in the categories of Contemporary Christian, Southern Gospel, and Gospel.    Christian music newcomer Tasha Cobbs won for Gospel Performance for "Break Every Chain", Jason Crabb won Southern Gospel Performance for “What The Blood is For," and Matt Redman won in the Contemporary Christian category for "10,000 Reasons".

For King and Country took the New Artist of the Year Dove Award.

UP, formerly the Gospel Music Channel, or GMC, surprised Mandisa by honoring her with their “Uplift Someone”. The ‘Uplift Someone’ award embodies the organization’s core values of uplifting and inspiring others and recognizes an artist who through the message of their music and acts of positivity and kindness, has encouraged people across the nation and truly changed lives.

Highlights of the evening included a variety of different live performances.  Tributes to Billy Graham were given by Michael W. Smith and the Newsboys.   Vocalists Karen Peck, Daily & Vincent, Signature Sound and the Isaacs honored Bill Gaither and his music in a collaboration of “He Touched Me.”

The entire pre-show and behind-the-scenes footage were seen live on The broadcast is set to air Monday, October 21st at 7:00pm on UP.  For more information, visit

1 - Government shutdown, debt ceiling deal reached - pro-life leaders call for protections

As Congressional negotiations were underway to try to end the government shutdown and deal with the debt ceiling, pro-life leaders continued to express their concern over provisions in the Affordable Care Act, which was the linchpin issue driving the process which led to the government shutdown.  According to CitizenLink, representatives of over 40 groups had sent a letter to Speaker of the House John Boehner, asking him to protect people from being forced pay for abortions — specifically, in any deals he would make with the White House regarding funding the government. They urged Boehner to include provisions of the Health Care Conscience Rights Act (HCCRA), which had been introduced in March.  Without the provisions in H.R. 940, the letter states, millions of Americans will be “unknowingly enrolled in health care plans that include elective abortion coverage”; these plans with charge enrollees an “abortion surcharge” of at least $1 a month.

The letter continues: “Regulations further contain a ‘secrecy clause’ to conceal the existence of the ‘abortion surcharge’ until the moment of enrollment...This surcharge is only disclosed in the fine print, without itemization in the monthly premium, and is never disclosed again.”  These advocates also mentioned the dangers of the Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate, which requires most businesses and nonprofits to offer potential abortion-inducing drugs in their employee health plans.

Well, on Wednesday, after the deal to reopen the portion of the government that had been shut down and to raise the debt ceiling, pro-life, pro-family advocates spoke out again in a letter to the Speaker, saying, according to another piece on the CitizenLink website, that Americans deserve better than another “Washington deal” and “political gamesmanship”:
The latest deal offers no meaningful relief from Obamacare. No defunding of the law, no delay of the law or even the individual mandate, no protection of conscience or an end to abortion subsidies. No elimination of the unlawful exchange subsidies for members of Congress and their staffs. So while Washington is taking care of politically connected special interests, Americans around the country will continue to be exposed to the harmful effects of Obamacare. Make no mistake, a vote for a deal like this is a vote to move forward with Obamacare.
Tony Perkins, President of the Family Research Council, is quoted by CitizenLink as saying that, “While the ACA’s bad medicine is already evident in rising healthcare premiums and faulty exchanges, the most far-reaching and irreversible damage to America’s First Freedom, the freedom to live according to the dictates of your faith, has yet to be realized in its totality...We will continue to fight for the freedoms of Americans, rather than protect the Washington establishment as Congress takes up future spending bills.”

Pro-family and Christian leaders are calling for conscience protections under the health care law, which are important to people of faith.  By forcing people to pay for abortions with their tax dollars, the Act is violating the deeply-held religious beliefs of a significant number of Americans.  Even though lawmakers had originally agreed to fund the entire government with the exception of the implementation of Obamacare and survey data confirms the majority of Americans are opposed to the law, the health care law because a side issue rather than a central focus during the days that parts of the government were shut down.   And, with the faulty rollout of the health care exchanges, Obamacare opponents had a golden opportunity to continue to point out to the American people their concerns about the law.  Their voices became less prominent as the focus shifted, but that doesn't negate the valid points that pro-life, pro-family leaders make about this law, which many find objectionable.

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