Sunday, August 31, 2014

The 3 - August 31, 2014

On this week's edition of "The 3," my week-in-review feature, I explore the story of a New York couple who was fined for not allowing a same-sex wedding ceremony to be performed at its facility - they have announced that they will no longer host weddings.   Also, a singular Federal judge has ruled against a portion of the Texas abortion law providing for certain standards for clinics. And, a large missions agency has a new leader - a popular author and pastor.

3 - Couple fined for not allowing gay wedding at its facility, will no longer host weddings

In yet another example of a business that refused to participate in a same-sex wedding ceremony and has faced consequences from the government, a couple in New York has now made the decision to no longer allow their facility to be used for weddings.

According to a story on the website, Robert and Cynthia Gifford own Liberty Ridge Farms, a 50-acre facility that hosts a number of family-friendly attractions.  In 2012, two lesbians contacted the facility to schedule their “wedding” ceremony, as the venue regularly hosts weddings and other outings.  When the Giffords realized that the two were lesbians, they informed the women that they could not be of assistance.

The ladies filed a complaint with the New York Division of Human Rights, alleging discrimination.

Administrative Law Judge Migdalia Peres fined Liberty Ridge Farms $13,000, citing “the goal of deterrence” for other businesses who might adhere to their convictions and decline to personally accommodate same-sex celebrations. $1,500 of that amount is be paid to each the lesbians who were turned down by the facility, which also serves as the Giffords' home.

Liberty Ridge Farms was also ordered to provide proof that they have trained their employees not to refuse requests from homosexuals. A poster noting that the business is subject to human rights law was additionally to be displayed prominently at the business.

Because of the order, the Giffords have now decided to close the wedding venue altogether, while keeping other parts of their farm operational, in order to avoid violating their religious beliefs.

Their attorney, James Trainor, told reporters this week that, the Giffords "...have decided to no longer host any wedding ceremonies on their property (other than the ones already under contract).” He added, “Since the order essentially compelled them to do all ceremonies or none at all, they have chosen the latter in order to stay true to their religious convictions, even though it will likely hurt their business in the short run. They will continue to host wedding receptions.”

Also, as previously reported by, a Christian-owned trolley company in Maryland likewise decided last year to discontinue its wedding services to avoid any legal entanglements. Matt Grubbs of Discover Annapolis Tours informed the Baltimore Sun that he will lose $50,000 a year because of his decision, but said that he would rather lose money than dishonor God.

2 - Last-minute Federal judge decision puts part of TX abortion law on hold

Just 2 years ago, the state of Texas had 40 abortion clinics in operation, and according to a report on the WORLD Magazine website, in the aftermath of the passage of the new abortion reform law called HB2, now only 19 centers remain in business.  The law has already withstood a legal challenge to the portion of the law that required abortionists to have privileges at a nearby hospital. The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in March that the privileges requirement did not place an undue burden on women seeking abortions.

Now, a lone Federal judge has ruled against another provision of the law, set to go into effect this week. The ruling blocks a requirement that abortion centers in Texas have hospital-like facilities with operating rooms, air filtration systems, and other standards that are typically only mandated in surgical settings. Supporters of the measure said it would protect women’s health, but U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel said it created an “impermissible obstacle as applied to all women seeking a previability abortion.”

The Los Angeles Times points out that the judge also struck down the admitting privileges mandate as it applies to two clinics, one in the Rio Grande Valley, the other in West Texas, regions where women have the least access to abortion services.  As the Times points out, the original bill banned nearly all abortions in the state after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

This ruling is yet another in a series of ruling by Federal judges who see themselves apparently as the protectors of a woman's so-called right to abortion.

1 - Platt named new head of Baptist foreign missions agency

The International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention has a new President - the IMB's Board of Trustees named Birmingham pastor, David Platt, of the Church at Brook Hills, as the new head of the Convention's foreign missions arm.

A Baptist Press report says that the IMB is the largest denominational missionary-sending body among American evangelicals. More than 4,800 Southern Baptist international missionaries serve worldwide.

Platt succeeds former missionary, pastor and Southern Baptist Convention president Tom Elliff, who had served as President since March 2011.  Elliff asked the agency's trustees earlier this year to begin an active search for his successor.

Baptist Press quotes Platt as saying, "This is not something I saw coming." He said, "I love pastoring The Church at Brook Hills. I love shepherding this local church on mission for the glory of God among the nations and could picture myself doing that for decades to come. At the same time, God has been doing an unusual work in my heart and life. The only way I can describe it is that He's been instilling in me a deeper, narrowing, Romans 15 kind of ambition, where [the Apostle] Paul said, 'I want to see Christ preached where He has not been named.' … He has given me a deeper desire to spend more of my time and energy and resources in the short life He has given me to seeing Christ preached where He's not been named. The concept of unreached peoples -- of nearly 2 billion people who have never heard the Gospel -- is just totally intolerable."

Search committee chairman David Uth, pastor of First Baptist Church of Orlando, FL, is quoted as saying, "When we realized his sense of call, whether that meant serving as IMB president or going himself … we realized how passionate, how deeply committed and called he was to the nations." He said the trustees are excited about Platt's influence among thousands of Southern Baptists and other evangelical leaders through The Church at Brook Hills, the Radical network and other arenas.

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