3 - Christian sportscaster sues for religious discrimination
The controversy has been growing since the termination of a former SMU and NFL football star who served for years as a commentator in ABC television's college football studio show. In early September, after just one week on the air, Craig James was fired from a stint on Fox Sports Southwest. According to legal advocacy group Liberty Institute, which is representing James in a lawsuit to get his job back, a former supervisor of James is quoted by the Dallas Morning News as saying, “We just asked ourselves how Craig’s statements would play in our human resources department. He couldn’t say those things here.”
What things? Well, not anything that he said on the air during his incredibly brief time with Fox. No, it was apparently for comments made during a debate in the campaign for U.S. Senate, a seat for which James ran, along with the eventual winner Ted Cruz. James was asked – as all political candidates usually are – about his views on same-sex marriage and homosexuality. As a Christian, James expressed his deeply held religious beliefs concerning marriage.
Religion Today quotes Jeff Mateer of Liberty as saying that the lawsuit is not just about Craig James and Fox Sports. "It's really about an attitude in corporate America and whether corporate America can somehow impose, in their view, some sort of political correctness," Mateer said. "But really what it comes down to is: Can people of faith act on and believe a certain thing? Can they express a biblical belief about marriage?" Liberty Institute sent a letter demanding that James be rehired, but it was ignored. Consequently, a lawsuit was filed in Collin County, northeast of Dallas. A hearing will be held early next month.
This past week, in an exclusive interview with Breitbart.com, James is quoted as saying, “This isn’t about me individually. People might not care for me as a broadcaster. This is about what has happened to a religious individual in America. It’s given me a sense of responsibility for others who may be in my same position who may not be in a position to stand up and fight.” He told Ben Shapiro, writing for the website, that he would not stop fighting until he got answers from Fox Sports about their alleged discrimination. The Blaze website also picked up on the story.
So, this past week may have marked a turning point in the amount of visibility of the case, as James and Liberty Institute are continuing to highlight this series of events as an instance of religious discrimination. A number of Christian organizations have rallied to Mr. James' side in his quest to either get his job back or at least to receive some honest answers. Right now, Fox Sports has issued some contradictory statements, and their current position is that "he wasn't a good fit", even though he was spoken of in glowing terms after he was hired. And, unlike Chris Broussard of ESPN, who made comments about homosexuality on-air but was not fired, James' comments were made off-the-air. Furthermore, his comments and personal opinions are consistent with the mainstream views of evangelical Christianity.
2 - Legendary Chuck Smith dies of cancer at age 86
On Thursday, according to The Christian Post, a posting on the Calvary Chapel website read, "Our beloved Pastor Chuck went home to be with the Lord around 3:00 o'clock this morning. He passed into eternity peacefully in his sleep. We rejoice that he has moved out of his worn out tent and into his heavenly body. On behalf of the family, his children, and Kay, they are so appreciative of all your love, prayers and support."
Pastor Chuck Smith, who founded Calvary Chapel, which expanded to encompass a number of affiliate churches all across America, was 86 years old and had been suffering from lung cancer. The church stated that its services Sunday morning "will center on his homecoming." The family is planning a private memorial service, along with a larger public service to be announced in the days ahead.
Jim Daly, President of Focus on the Family, was impacted by Pastor Chuck, and wrote for The Christian Post:
In 1965, years before we met, Chuck was the pastor of a small church in Newport Beach. He and his wife, Kay, would drive around the streets of Newport and Laguna Beach and watch the passing parade of young people, many of whom were on drugs and, quite literally and figuratively, lost. At first, Chuck became mad at the sight of them, lamenting what a waste of human potential they represented. But Kay's reaction was much different, and it convicted her young husband.Out of Calvary Chapel grew the so-called "Jesus movement", which included the foundations of Maranatha! Music, the early purveyors of what is now referred to as "Praise and Worship" music. Brad Christerson, a Biola University sociologist, is quoted at the Christianity Today website, "His impact can be seen in every church service that has electric guitar-driven worship, hip casually-dressed pastors, and 40-minute sermons consisting of verse-by-verse Bible expositions peppered with pop-culture references and counterculture slang."
"You know, they are so desperately in need of Jesus," she said to him one day.
Chuck and Kay began to witness to some of the very hippies stumbling by and before long, his church was filled with them. Calvary Chapel quickly outgrew their space and decided to build a new facility.
According to Wikipedia, quoting a CCM Magazine article, Calvary Chapel was home to more than 15 musical groups that were representative of the Jesus people movement. Some of the early Maranatha! recording artists were the Sweet Comfort Band, Love Song, Chuck Girard, Children of the Day, The Way, Debby Kerner, Mustard Seed Faith, and Daniel Amos. The label's first release was a various artists compilation entitled The Everlastin' Living Jesus Music Concert, in 1971. The label released 20 albums in the Praise! series, and a variety of other releases. The music aspect of Calvary Chapel, led by Chuck Smith, has had a profound impact on the church. And, his radio broadcast, "The Word for Today" is one of the early pioneers in daily radio broadcasting, dating all the way back to the 70's.
1 - Church bus crash with 18-wheeler results in the loss of 8 lives
A bus carrying 18 members of the "Young at Heart" seniors group from Front Street Baptist Church in Statesville, North Carolina apparently lost its front left tire as the group was returning from a gospel jubilee in Gatlinburg this past Wednesday. According to a story in the Charlotte Observer, the bus appeared to lose its tire as it traveled near Mile Marker 423 on Interstate 40 in Jefferson County, Tennessee, sending it skidding across a 10-yard-wide grass median and through a four-cabled restraining device and into oncoming traffic. Investigators have found gouge marks from the rim of the bus wheel in the left lane of I-40 leading into the median, said Sgt. Bill Miller of the Tennessee Highway Patrol. 6 people on the bus lost their lives, including the driver of the bus, as well as the driver of a tractor-trailer and a Chevrolet Tahoe with which the bus collided. The oldest victim was 95 years old!
The 12 survivors of the crash were taken to a hospital in Knoxville, and soon thereafter, the pastor and youth pastor of the church made the journey from Statesville, which is about 30 miles north of Charlotte, to the hospital in Knoxville. Pastor Tim Stutts set out for Knoxville to minister to his flock after receiving word of the crash. He described them as a tight-knit group of seniors who enjoyed traveling together. They were known for taking part in the church’s various missions and for visiting nursing homes and other churches to share the gospel with a zeal that belied their years, he said.
He told the Observer that he talked to each of the survivors, including those in critical condition. He said they were devastated, and one of their first questions was about the others of the bus. Stutts said the church grieves for their loss but celebrates their arrival in heaven.
The pastor relates that since the accident, condolences have poured into the Statesville church by the hundreds, from as far away as Asia.
Because of the government shutdown, the National Transportation Safety Board did not send anyone to investigate the accident.
This is an incident that I am sure certainly hits home for churches who frequently utilize bus transportation for seniors groups or youth groups. And, while we celebrate the ability to travel, it's a reminder to make sure that we are taking as many precautions as we can.