Sunday, October 12, 2014

The 3 - October 12, 2014

This week's edition of The 3, my week-in-review feature, includes a report on pastors who responded to a call to address political issues, including the approaching stance of candidates on issues from a Christian perspective.  Also, the Supreme Court began its week with inactivity on gay marriage, kicking off a week of significant activity on the topic.  And, the top story - thousands of venues across the land serves as sites for a large evangelistic crusade event originating from a packed arena in Texas.

3 - Pastors speak out on political issues from pulpits

The Alliance Defending Freedom encouraged pastors to address political issues from their pulpits during the seventh annual Pulpit Freedom Sunday initiative, which began on Sunday, October 5th. On its website, ADF reported that, as of Friday, more than 1,800 pastors in all 50 states plus Puerto Rico had participated in the event.  Of those participating, just over 1,500 preached sermons presenting biblical perspectives on the positions of electoral candidates and signed a statement agreeing that the IRS should not control the content of a pastor’s sermon.  An additional 242 pastors signed the statement only, bringing the total number of pastors in support of pulpit freedom to more than 3,800 since 2008.  Pastors can register and participate through Election Day, Nov. 4, so it is expected that the numbers will continue to grow.

The Alliance Defending Freedom website states that, "Pulpit Freedom Sunday gives pastors the opportunity to exercise their constitutionally protected freedom to engage in religious expression from the pulpit despite an Internal Revenue Service rule known as the Johnson Amendment, which activist groups often use to silence churches by threatening their tax-exempt status.

ADF Senior Legal Counsel Erik Stanley, who heads the Pulpit Freedom Sunday event, is quoted as saying, “The tax-collecting IRS shouldn’t be playing speech cop and threatening a church’s tax-exempt status simply because its pastor exercises his constitutionally protected freedom of speech...Pastors and their churches should decide what is said in church. The IRS shouldn’t be empowered to censor speech, period. A growing movement of pastors is calling for a solution to this very real violation of the First Amendment.”

According to a recent Pew Forum survey, the share of Americans who say churches and other houses of worship should express their views on social and political issues is up 6 points since the 2010 midterm elections (from 43% to 49%). The share who say there has been “too little” expression of religious faith and prayer from political leaders is up modestly over the same period (from 37% to 41%). And a growing minority of Americans (32%) think churches should endorse candidates for political office, though most continue to oppose such direct involvement by churches in electoral politics.

2 - High court decides not to hear same-sex marriage cases

There was a possibility that the U.S. Supreme Court would take up the definition of marriage during its fall term, but on Monday, it made the decision that it would not hear appeals in 7 cases affecting 5 states, in which the traditional definition of marriage had been struck down by Federal appeals courts, opening the door for gay marriage in states covered by those courts, according to a report on the WORLD Magazine website.  According to an updated report on the site, at the beginning of the week, same-sex marriages were legal in 19 states, and now they are legal in 27, and the number will likely rise to 35 when lower courts begin enforcing the circuit courts’ precedents in all the states under the appellate courts’ jurisdiction.

This is due to not only Monday's non-decision, but also legal decisions issued throughout the week. For instance, on Tuesday, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled laws defining marriage as between one man and one woman in Idaho and Nevada unconstitutional. But on Wednesday, Justice Anthony Kennedy halted same-sex marriages in those states in an emergency order.  On Thursday, the high court admitted that Kennedy had meant to only halt same-sex marriages in Idaho.  Nevada officials had decided not to defend their marriage protection law, and private defenders withdrew from the case on Thursday.  Friday, the Supreme Court issued a brief two-sentence order denying a request by Idaho officials for an emergency stay in its marriage protection case, which overrides Kennedy's stay from Wednesday.  Also this week, West Virginia officials announced their intent not to defend that state's marriage law, and a Federal judge found North Carolina's amendment unconstitutional - both of these were a result of the 4th Circuit's ruling against Virginia's marriage law going into effect.

The Supreme Court did not seize the opportunity to rule on gay marriage definitively.   As Emily Belz points out in the WORLD article reviewing the high court's week on gay marriage, "The 5th Circuit and the 6th Circuit have more conservative judges and will rule on marriage cases in the near future. If either of those circuits rule in favor of marriage protection laws, the Supreme Court would be much more likely to take a case. The high court often takes cases when circuit courts disagree on an issue. Justice Kennedy would probably be a swing vote on legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide if it came before the high court, but he seems likely to rule in favor of it."

1 - Harvest America draws tens of thousands at venues across the nation

"All roads lead to God."  That was the declaration by Pastor Greg Laurie during his message at Harvest America, originating from Dallas last Sunday night.  Now, at first glance, that might appear to be a rather universalistic statement, but consider the context of the quote from Pastor Laurie, reported on the The Christian Post website:
"I believe all roads lead to God. I don't care if you're a believer, agnostic or an atheist. I believe whatever road you're on, you will get to God one day and you will stand before God one day. All roads lead to God. But only one road leads to heaven, and that's the road through Jesus Christ."
According to the Christian Post report, with the Scripture John 14:6 displayed at the front of the stage in the arena: "Jesus said, I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me," Laurie explained, "Heaven is not the default destination for everyone, but for Christians, the forgiven people."

The Post reports that Pastor Laurie shared his message on God's grace and salvation through Jesus Christ with an overflow crowd of 19,000 at Dallas' American Airlines Center and Victory Park Sunday for his first Harvest America event in Texas.  Along with the overcapacity crowd, a total of 3,900 host venues throughout the country, 1,200 of them churches, watched the live streamed event. Music was provided by MercyMe, Phil Wickham, and for King and Country.

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