Sunday, June 15, 2014

The 3 - June 15, 2014

It's time for another edition of my week-in-review feature, "The 3," featuring 3 stories of relevance to the Christian community.   One of the stories that attracted my attention from this past week involves 2 managers at an Air Force base who are facing termination because of their support for a "Duck Dynasty" star.   Also, religious freedom issues were topics of a hearing before a Congressional subcommittee this past week in Washington.  And, the top story - the nation's largest Protestant denomination held its annual meeting this week in Baltimore.

3 - Religious freedom in the workplace: employees at Air Force base under scrutiny for showing support for "Duck Dynasty" star

One of the areas that I have been tracking fairly regularly deals with how people of faith are being restricted in their religious expression.   And, there have been numerous issues of concern in the U.S. military.   A recent incident was reported in a piece this week by Todd Starnes of Fox News on the Charisma News website, and it took place at Eglin Air Force Base in the Florida Panhandle.

You have 2 senior management officials who put decals on their personal trucks supporting "Duck Dynasty" star Phil Robertson. Now a union representing Federal employees is demanding that they be fired.

Alan Cooper, the executive vice president of the local chapter of the American Federation of Government Employees, said one of the officials also displayed the "I Support Phil" decals in his office last month and offered them to subordinates.  An employee was reportedly offended by this, and Starnes quotes Cooper as saying, "We took offense...These two particular individuals have a great amount of influence over individuals who may be gay, who may be African-American – and we have a concern they should not be in a position to exert that influence when it comes to promotions."   Cooper went on to disparage Phil Robertson of "Duck Dynasty" and said that the decal could constitute a civil rights violation.

Starnes spoke with one of the individuals being targeted by the government union, who said, "My intent was not to offend anybody...My intent was to support the show and to show support for his Christian values." He said that he was especially upset after union workers took photographs of his truck and his license plate and emailed the images to other union members. That email was reportedly sent to hundreds and hundreds of personnel.

He said, "I see the email that went out accusing me and my boss of being racist...That couldn't be farther from the truth," adding, "I'm pro-family,...I'm pro-life. I don't have a problem with anybody who doesn't agree with me."

The Air Force is apparently standing behind the two officials who are standing with Phil. The director of public affairs for the base, Andy Bourland, stated: "Brigadier General Dave Harris is not taking any action against the individual as the display of such a bumper sticker is considered legally protected speech under the First Amendment."  Bourland said they looked into the incident involving the decals in the worker's office. They also decided not to take action in that incident.

2 - Religious freedom hearing takes place before U.S. House subcommittee

The issue of religious freedom was taken up on Capitol Hill this week.  During each session of Congress, the House Subcommittee on the Judiciary holds a hearing on religious freedom.  In this hearing, according to a report on the CitizenLink website, several Christian legal experts expressed their concerns on what is perceived as a rise in challenges to religious liberty by the current Administration. Testimony centered on topics such as religious freedom on campus, same-sex marriage and the judiciary.

Greg Baylor, senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom, said that the government has taken “extreme positions designed to dramatically decrease religious freedom...In order to protect our first liberty — religious freedom — Congress should consider taking steps within its power to curtail these harmful activities.”

Mat Staver, CEO of Liberty Counsel, said, “Judges have been tripping over one another to ignore the rule of law and the will of the people to invalidate the institution of marriage and silence any opposition to their ideology...The destruction of the institution of marriage is not only harmful to society at large, but it has resulted in unprecedented intrusion into the religious freedoms of individuals and businesses that have been attacked for operating their business according to the dictates of their conscience.”

Kim Colby, an attorney with the Christian Legal Society, testified about the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). Passed in 1993, the act was intended to ensure a “level playing field for Americans of all faiths.” Instead, RFRA has become a target for activists, especially when it comes to the HHS mandate in Obamacare. She pointed out that RFRA and the First Amendment, "require that the government respect religious liberty by restoring a definition of ‘religious employer’ that protects all entities with sincerely held religious convictions from providing, or otherwise enabling, the objectionable coverage." She added, “At the end of the day, this case is not about whether contraceptives will be readily available — access to contraceptives is plentiful and inexpensive — but whether America will remain a pluralistic society that sustains a robust religious liberty for Americans of all faiths.”

1 - Southern Baptists gather in Baltimore, elect new president, pass resolutions

The Southern Baptist Convention held its annual meeting at the Baltimore Convention Center this week, and just shy of 5300 representatives, or "messengers," gathered to elect a new President, hear from their outgoing leader, conduct business and speak with a united voice on certain issues of the day through resolutions.

Baptist Press offered a summary of the proceedings.

Ronnie Floyd, pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas, was elected President of the Convention on the first ballot with 51.62 percent of the vote. Maryland pastor Dennis Manpoong Kim was second with 40.70 percent of the vote. His predecessor, Fred Luter, shared a sermon based on Psalm 80:18-19, the passage for this year's "Restoration and Revival through Prayer" theme. He said Southern Baptists must repent of their failure to share the Gospel with lost men and women.

The convention adopted nine resolutions on topics ranging from transgender identity to payday lending, church revitalization, global hunger relief, the 50th anniversary of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and casinos and lotteries.

The resolution on transgender identity affirmed "God's good design that gender identity is determined by biological sex and not by one's self-perception." The resolution invited transgender persons "to trust in Christ and to experience renewal in the Gospel" and opposed all efforts to "validate transgender identity as morally praiseworthy."

According to, the resolution concerning gambling affirmed the messengers' opposition to government sponsorship of casinos and lotteries and asked Americans of all religious and political convictions to join in a call to end the practice, which they say has amounted to “corrupt deals” and “broken dreams.”

Regarding the Civil Rights Act, messengers marked the 50th anniversary of enactment of the Act and said that they, “lament and repudiate this nation’s long history of racial segregation as well as the complicity of Southern Baptists who resisted or opposed the dismantling of the evil of racial hierarchy in our churches or society.”

The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission presented awards: The Green family, owners of Hobby Lobby, received the John Leland Religious Liberty Award for their refusal to abide by the federal government's abortion/contraception mandate. Pastor Saeed Abedini, an Iranian-American pastor who is being held in prison in Iran, received the Richard Land Award for Distinguished Service for "faithfully serving the Lord Jesus Christ ... despite the risk involved."

According to, the Convention will be held in Columbus, Ohio next year and St. Louis in 2016.   And, in 5 years, in 2019, The Alabama Baptist reports that the Convention will be in Birmingham.

No comments: