Sunday, March 09, 2014

The 3 - March 9, 2014

On this edition of "The 3", my week-in-review feature, some coverage of the resignation, from the ministry he founded, of a Christian leader who has had millions attend his seminars.  Also, new regulations on religious expression in the workplace have been handed down from a Federal agency.  And, big news this week for a German homeschool family that has been living in America - their case to stay was rejected by the Supreme Court, but in roughly a day's time, they experienced a stunning reveral of circumstances.

3 - Legendary Institute in Basic Life Principles leader suspended, resigns

I remember that when I was teenager, members of the youth group at my church all travelled to downtown Atlanta to hear a gentlemen speak on Biblical principles.  I was stunned to see the old Omni arena full of people coming together for what was then called the Institute in Basic Youth Conflicts.   I remember the red notebook that was full of principles and black-and-white cartoon drawings.   I am thinking that I returned the following summer, as well.   What an incredible impact the teaching of Bill Gothard has made on so many people!  Through what is now called the Institute in Basic Life Principles, thousands have experienced a deeper walk with Jesus Christ.   More than 2.5 million people are estimated to have attended a Bill Gothard seminar, according to a recent article on the WORLD website, which stated that Mr. Gothard has resigned as president of the Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP) and from its board and affiliates.

The announcement came Thursday night in a letter to families associated with the IBLP’s Advanced Training Institute from David Waller, ATI’s administrative director.

Gothard’s resignation comes just days after IBLP’s board of directors placed its longtime leader on “administrative leave” while it investigated claims that the 79-year-old years ago engaged in sexual harassment and other misconduct.

The accusations against Gothard became public as a result of the work of Recovering Grace, which has statements from 34 women regarding incidents dating back to their youth in the 1970s and thereafter.

In Waller’s letter, neither Gothard nor the organization admitted wrongdoing. “Mr. Gothard communicated to the Board of Directors his desire to follow Matthew 5:23-24 and listen to those who have ‘ought against’ him,” Waller wrote. “To give his full attention to this objective, Mr. Gothard resigned as president of the Institute in Basic Life Principles, its Board of Directors, and its affiliated entities. The Board of Directors expects to appoint interim leadership for IBLP in the very near future.”

The apostle Paul writes about the importance of finishing strong.  If the current trajectory continues, that may not be the case for Bill Gothard.  Since the allegations deal with activity dating back to the 70's, there would have been ample opportunity for repentance to occur.  The IBLP statement did not admit that any wrongdoing took place, and I would hope that would be the case.  But, if not, perhaps it is not too late to restore some of the lost reputation of this man and his ministry that has touched so many lives by an admission of wrong, an expression of a desire for restoration, and the necessary steps to help make things right.

2 - EEOC guidelines changed to allow more religious accommodations

The number of complaints and million-dollar settlements for cases of religious workplace discrimination neared record levels in 2013, according to a piece on the Religion News Service website.  Therefore, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued new, detailed new guidelines for employers on religious rights and responsibilities in the workplace.

An EEOC spokesperson, Justine Lisser, said that complaints have more than doubled since 1997.   Lisser also said that representatives of religious groups have asked for more EEOC outreach in this area.  There have been guidelines in the past but the EEOC spelled out workplace rights and responsibilities in a new question-and-answer guide and accompanying fact sheet.

The new guidelines detail how businesses with more than 15 employees must accommodate workers with “sincerely” held religious beliefs — and unbelievers who “sincerely” refuse religious garb or insignia. For instance, businesses cannot refuse to interview a Sikh with a turban or a Christian wearing a cross. Neither can they limit where employees work because of their religious dress.

The guidelines cited multiple examples including three settled in 2013:
Title VII, which is enforced by the EEOC, “defines religion very broadly to include not only traditional, organized religions such as Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Sikhism, but also religious beliefs that are new, uncommon, not part of a formal church or sect, only subscribed to by a small number of people, or may seem illogical or unreasonable to others.”

The rules apply to the sincerely unreligious as well, as long as these views relate to “what is right or wrong that are sincerely held with the strength of traditional religious views.”
This could be viewed as a welcome clarification of religious rights in the workplace.  It will be interesting to see how these will be implemented and if this could lead to more freedom for religious expression in a work setting.

1 - German homeschool family can stay in the U.S. after case rejected by Supreme Court

The week began for the German homeschool family who had been fighting to stay in America by having their case rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court.    However, the Romeike family was granted "indefinite deferred status" by the Department of Homeland Security, according to a report in the "Gleanings" section of the Christianity Today website.

The family had fled to the United States from Germany and received asylum in 2010 after being severely penalized for illegally homeschooling their children in their home country. The family was threatened on multiple occasions, fined about $10,000, and had three children forcibly removed from home and driven to school by police, according to the brief.

After they had initially been granted asylum, the Romeikes lost every case after that, eventually ending up at the Supreme Court. When the Supreme Court decided against taking the case on Monday, the Home School Legal Defense Association promised not to give up but to look for another way.

Jim Mason, HSLDA attorney, said that even though the Supreme Court thought that the family wasn't entitled to asylum under current law, the Department of Homeland Security apparently doesn't want to send them back to Germany.  He told CT that the organization is working on legislation that would make it possible for others to come to the United States if they're facing similar circumstances. He said that, "The denial of certiorari from the Supreme Court makes it more difficult for other families to come in the same ways the Romeikes did.  He added that the deferred status makes it possible for the Romeikes to stay without worries in the future.

Russell Moore, President of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, is quoted as saying, in response to the Supreme Court denial, "Educating one's children according to one's religious convictions is a human right...Sending this family back to Germany is the repudiation of a great American heritage. This should remind us of how imperiled religious liberty is at home and around the world."

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