Sunday, January 19, 2014

The 3 - January 19, 2014

This week's edition of "The 3", my week-in-review feature, includes news on a court ruling potentially affecting pro-life pregnancy resource centers in New York City in a positive way.  Also, there is news out of a Federal court, where a single judge has struck down Oklahoma's marriage amendment, defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman.  The top story involves a major conference bringing together thousands of college students in Atlanta to unite and be challenged in their walk with Christ.

3 - Appeals court ruling helps pregnancy resource centers in New York

On Friday, a panel of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld most of a lower court order saying that New York City cannot force pro-life pregnancy centers to post signs telling women to go elsewhere.

CitizenLink has this report.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg had signed the law in spring 2011. It mandates these centers to post notices stating whether they provide referrals to abortion sellers. They must also state whether there is a licensed medical provider on staff. Failure to do so could result in fines of up to $1,000 the first day and up to $2,500 for each day after.

In summer 2011, a federal district court issued an order prohibiting the city from enforcing the ordinance. The city appealed that decision.

Matt Bowman, Senior Legal Counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom, is quoted as saying, “The district court’s order kept the city from enforcing the totality of its anti-speech ordinance, which some city officials designed to deter women from receiving the help they need to make fully informed choices about their pregnancy...The 2nd Circuit reinstated one provision of the ordinance, but did not provide any clarity as to whom it applies and when the city’s language must be recited. The district court was right about the vagueness of the entire ordinance. It should be completely invalidated.”

Bowman also said, “The appeals court rightly affirmed that the city cannot force pregnancy centers to communicate some city-crafted messages that encourage women to go elsewhere, but the court left one provision in place that still does that. Because this type of compelled speech is not constitutional, we are considering our options for appeal regarding the remaining provision of New York City’s ordinance.”

In this week prior to the anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the legality of abortion, there were several developments on the pro-life front.   The high court heard oral arguments on a Massachusetts law that prevents sidewalk counselors from coming within 35 feet of an abortion clinic entrance.  And, the court agreed to hear a case from Ohio involving billboards that were erected by a pro-life group publicizing a Representative's support of the Affordable Care Act based on empty promises that it would not fund abortion.  And, from North Carolina, a Federal district judge struck down that state's provision that a woman obtain an ultrasound prior to an abortion.

In Congressional action, the House Judiciary Committee approved a bill that would prevent Federal funds from being used for abortion - a move that was precipitated, at least in part, by the inclusion of taxpayer-funded abortion in the ACA.

2 - On heals of Utah ruling, another judge strikes down Oklahoma marriage amendment

On Tuesday, a Federal judge ruled that Oklahoma's marriage amendment, passed by three-fourths of voters, was unconstitutional.   According to, U. S. District Judge Terence Kern wrote, “The Court holds that Oklahoma’s constitutional amendment limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution...Equal protection is at the very heart of our legal system and central to our consent to be governed. It is not a scarce commodity to be meted out begrudgingly or in short portions.”  He placed a stay on its enforcement pending appeal.

Oklahoma’s constitutional marriage amendment was approved by 76 percent of voters during the November 2004 election.  State regulations were first challenged in 2004 by four lesbian women, who renewed their lawsuit again in 2009.

Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin expressed disappointment, saying, "The people of Oklahoma have spoken on this issue...I support the right of Oklahoma’s voters to govern themselves on this and other policy matters.”

Tony Perkins, president of the Washington-based Family Research Council, responded by saying, “This activist judge is overrunning both the constitution and the rule of law in a drive to fundamentally alter America’s moral, political and cultural landscape...He is substituting his own ideology for the three-quarters of Oklahomans who voted to preserve marriage in their constitution as it has always been defined.”

The decision comes about a month after a federal judge declared Utah’s ban on same-sex “marriage” unconstitutional.  He, nor the 10th Circuit, would stay that decision, but the U.S. Supreme Court did, and the appeal moves forward.  The Justice Department had said last week that it would recognize the greater than one thousand same-sex marriage licenses that had been granted in the state of Utah.

1 - Thousands of young adults gather for first of two Passion gatherings 

The first Passion gathering for 2014 took place over the weekend at the Philips Arena in Atlanta, a sold-out event attracting young adults ages 18-25.  The next one is scheduled for next month at the Toyota Center in Houston.

The Christian Post website reported that over 20,000 students attended the two-day event, representing over 1,200 universities and 33 countries.

Passion 2014 brought together several internationally renowned pastors, teachers and worship leaders. Joining Passion founders Louie and Shelley Giglio in Atlanta were John Piper, Christine Caine, and Francis Chan.  Worship was led Chris Tomlin, Matt Redman, David Crowder, Kristian Stanfill, Brett Younker, Christy Nockels and Hillsong United.

Organizers insist that Passion is more than simply a conference or an event. Rather, it is a call for "saying goodbye to lesser things and saying yes to the One whose name is above every name," a theme that is stated on the Passion website and often echoed by the speakers.

Last year's event at the Georgia Dome drew some 60,000 participants, who raised a collective amount of over 3 million dollars to help curb human trafficking.   This year, people were asked to bring towels and socks to distribute to homeless shelters in the Atlanta area.

Instead of a single, massive Passion conference this year at one location - the Georgia Dome - multiple events will be held.   The Post reports that in addition to Atlanta and Houston, events will be staged in Dubai, Hyderabad and Delhi in India, Singapore, Manila, and Honolulu between March 20 and April 1.

It reports that, "Passion Conferences has been uniting college students around the world for the past 16 years, hosting 48 events in 16 countries. Since the first Passion Conference was held in 1997 in Austin, Texas, with 2,000 people, the movement has grown exponentially and hosted millions of university students at large-scale gatherings across the U.S. and around the world through nine conferences, four world tours and multiple one-day and regional events."

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