Saturday, July 05, 2014

The 3 - July 6, 2014

In this week's edition of "The 3," my week-in-review feature, there is news of more violence directed at Christians in the country of Nigeria.  Also, marriage amendments are continuing to be challenged - a judge ruled against Kentucky's amendment, and Florida's amendment was in court this week.  And, the top story is from the nation's highest court - relief for family-owned businesses who do not wish to provide, in their health care plans, forms of birth control that they find objectionable due to religious convictions.

3 - More violence against Christians in Nigeria

Militants are continuing their attacks against Christians in Nigeria, and on their day of worship, members of four churches were victims of violence.  According to Christian Today, gunmen fired at worshippers gathered in Kwada village just 6 miles from Chibok in Borno state on Sunday, where more than 200 schoolgirls were kidnapped and taken hostage on April 14.

The militants then set fire to the buildings, which included the Protestant Church of Christ in Nigeria and the Pentecostal Deeper Life Bible Church, before heading to nearby Kautikari village where they continued their rampage; shooting local civilians and setting fire to their homes. More than 30 people reportedly lost their lives.

President Goodluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency in Muslim-majority Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states in May 2013 and has authorized an increased military presence in an attempt to combat extremism.  However, Boko Haram – whose name translates as 'Western education is forbidden' – continues to wreak devastation across northern Nigeria. Members are thought to be responsible for at least 2,000 deaths so far this year alone.

More violence took place on Tuesday.  The website,, reports that a car bomb explosion in Maiduguri exploded, causing dozens of deaths, according to witnesses.  Boko Haram is being blamed for that act of violence, as well as a series of previous bombings in the region.

The bombing took place just hours after it was announced that Nigerian authorities arrested a "key figure" in relation to the abduction of the over 200 schoolgirls on April 14, according to a report.

Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) reports that the military arrested a businessman named Babuji Ya'ari - known to be a Boko Haram ringleader - along with two female operatives who work for the extremist group.

In addition to leading a violent Boko Haram cell, Ya'ari is said to have "participated actively" in the abductions of April 14 that resulted in global outrage and an international campaign to bring the girls to safety. 219 of the young women, mostly aged between 16 and 18, however, are still missing - sparking fears that they have been sold into slavery.

2 -  Federal judge strikes down Kentucky marriage amendment, Florida amendment in court

Earlier this year, a Federal district judge ruled that Kentucky must recognize so-called same-sex marriages performed in other states.  This past week, that same judge, U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn II, an appointee of George W. Bush, ruled against Kentucky’s constitutional amendment that sought to protect marriage as being between one man and one woman and banned so-called marriage between members of the same-sex, according to a report on the website.

In his decision, Heyburn took a shot at those who hold to the historical and biblical belief that marriage comes from and is defined by God and those who voted for the amendment, expressing that such beliefs do not rise above the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution.

Heyburn declared, “In America, even sincere and long-held religious beliefs do not trump the constitutional rights of those who happen to have been out-voted."

Heyburn also criticized Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear (D) for arguing that the ban preserves the state’s birth rate, and therefore contributes to the economic stability of Kentucky.

Heyburn has stayed his ruling pending an appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit.

Meanwhile, in Florida, a judge in Miami this week began to hear arguments on a challenge to that state's marriage amendment.  According to the website, a lawsuit challenging the ban was filed by six same-sex couples from South Florida in January.   The suit reportedly contends that the amendment is discriminatory and violates guarantees of equal protection.

Attorney General Pam Bondi's office is contending that one judge should not overturn the 2008 amendment. Attorneys for her office also argue the U.S. Supreme Court has left marriage definitions to the states.

1 - U.S. Supreme Court rules in favor of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties in challenge to contraception mandate

The greatly anticipated ruling in the combined challenge to the government mandate that employers provide contraception, including abortion-inducing drugs, in their health care plans was handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday.   Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialities, two family-owned businesses, had challenged the mandate, and their cases were combined before the high court.

The website had an assortment of reactions from Christian leaders.  Here are a few:

Becket Fund for Religious Liberty attorney Lori Windham, who represented Hobby Lobby in the suit, is quoted as saying that Americans “don’t give up their rights to religious freedom just because they open a family-run business. This is a landmark decision for religious freedom.”

Barbara Green, co-owner of Hobby Lobby, along with husband Steve Green, said, “Our family is overjoyed by the Supreme Court’s decision…The Court’s decision is a victory, not just for our family business, but for all who seek to live out their faith. We are grateful to God and to those who have supported us on this difficult journey.”

Dr. Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission for the Southern Baptist Convention quoted scripture as he commented on the case writing, “‘Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a coverup for evil, but living as servants of God.’ (1 Peter 2:16). Let’s fight for religious freedom, for everybody. And let’s preach the gospel with power. We must be about both: persuasive proclamation and the guarding of the freedom to disagree with us. That’s what Jesus taught us. So let’s hold onto freedom and let’s pray, for liberty and Jesus for all.”

Dr. George Wood, general superintendent of the Assemblies of God said, “The court should be commended for recognizing that individuals do not surrender their religious freedom rights when they incorporate as a closely held, for profit business. A family-owned business...has religious freedom rights because members of the family do.”

Family Research Council president Tony Perkins, in expressing thankfulness for the ruling, is quoted as saying, “The unfair HHS mandate gave family businesses two non-choices: either violate your deeply held moral beliefs and comply by paying for drugs and services to which you object, or pay crippling fines of up to $100 per day, per employee, for non-compliance. This mandate threatened the jobs, livelihood and healthcare of millions of Americans and forced those who stood up for their conscience, like Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood, to either comply or be punished.”

Former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum said, “The Supreme Court’s ruling on Obamacare’s contraception mandate is a tremendous victory for our freedom of conscience. I’m proud of the Green and Hahn families for holding true to their core convictions and standing up to Obamacare’s intrusive contraception and abortion coverage mandate. The Hobby Lobby and the Conestoga Wood Specialties businesses were built on people living out the American dream, and their owners should not have to check their religious beliefs at the door.”

National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference President Dr. Samuel Rodriguez offered this word of caution in commending the decision, "For people of faith, this decision requires both celebration and a renewed commitment to vigilance, as today’s complacency is tomorrow’s captivity.”
Also, the Becket Fund reported that Wheaton College received last minute relief from the Supreme Court this week, protecting the College’s right to carry out its religious mission free from crippling IRS fines.

The Court’s order states that Wheaton “need not use the form prescribed by the Government” under the HHS Mandate, and it prohibits the government “from enforcing against [Wheaton] the challenged provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and related regulations pending final disposition of appellate review.” The order gives Wheaton the same relief that the Supreme Court gave to the Little Sisters of the Poor in January and came just days after Hobby Lobby and Eternal Word Television Network won similar victories at the Supreme Court and Eleventh Circuit, respectively.

The Becket Fund reports that there have been a total of 49 for-profit lawsuits filed against the contraception mandate.  Of the 41 cases with rulings touching on the merits of the cases, the scorecard is 40-6.  There have been 51 non-profit lawsuits filed, and the scorecard is 30 injunctions granted and only 3 denied.

No comments: