Sunday, November 16, 2014

The 3 - November 16, 2014

In this week's edition of The 3, my week-in-review feature, I explore a halt to new regulations and a halt to new churches being registered in the African nation of Kenya.  Also, a Federal appeals court has upheld the housing allowance extended to clergy in the U.S. tax code.  And, Christians stood in prayer with persecuted believers in an annual observance recently.

3 - Kenya bans new churches

Church leaders in the nation of Kenya are crying foul in the face of proposed new regulations directed at churches in the wake of a scandal involving a minister who was allegedly selling miracles.

Standard Digital News reports that the Chairman of the Evangelical Alliance of Kenya, Bishop Mark Kariuki, and others alleged that the move by the Attorney General Githu Muigai to stop registration of new churches and his proposal to introduce regulations amounted to persecuting the church.

Kariuki addressed journalists ahead of a meeting with the Attorney General on Friday to discuss proposed regulations.  He is quoted as saying that, “We see this as persecution of the Church and we call on all Christians to support us and stand with us. When it comes to matters of faith, people are willing to die for the faith and we will stand firm with the church.”

Christianity Today, which had referenced a link to the Standard story, reported that the government response came after TV station KTN's Jicho Pevu and Inside Story broadcast a "Prayer Predators" exposé of preacher Victor Kanyari, whom the station claimed had been making money from his followers by asking them for advance payment for prayers and miracles.  Kanyari, who preaches at Salvation Healing Ministry, continued holding services but hired security to screen out visiting journalists, according to the Standard.

Kanyari admitted he coached members of his church to give false testimonies, but said many people had been “healed and blessed in many ways” by his ministry. He will be investigated for obtaining money by false pretenses, according to Kenya's director of public prosecutions.

The Standard reported that the AG has directed existing religious organizations to file details on their current status and financial returns with the Registrar of Societies. Details that organizations are required to provide would include: a copy of Kenya Revenue Authority’s personal identification number, full name of the organization, a registration number, date of registration, details of office bearers, copies of their identification cards and their passport size photographs.

During the press briefing, Kariuki reportedly argued that there is no need for the church to be punished for the sins of one person.

2 - Appeals court upholds clergy housing allowance

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit issued an important decision this week in a case involving the clergy housing allowance - it ruled that the federal tax code provision that treats church-provided housing allowances to ministers as income tax-free must stand, according to a report on the website of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, or the ECFA.  The allowance had been challenged by the Freedom from Religion Foundation.

The ECFA piece states:
In doing so, the appeals court overturned a previous decision by a lower district court in favor of the atheist group, Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF). The district court had found that the exclusion is an unconstitutional benefit in favor of religious groups...
The appeals court determined that the FFRF and its leaders were not proper parties to challenge the law in federal court because they had not suffered any concrete, personal injury—a critical element to establish standing.

The ruling stated, regarding the atheist organization's challenge, "This argument fails, however, for a simple reason: the plaintiffs were never denied the parsonage exemption because they never asked for it. Without a request, there can be no denial."

Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Legal Counsel Erik Stanley is quoted as saying:
The government isn’t subsidizing something when its money is not even involved...The atheists who filed this suit may have an axe to grind against religion, but as the 7th Circuit found, that doesn’t give them sufficient standing to challenge a tax benefit for which it has never applied and that has been provided to pastors for decades. The allowance many churches provide to pastors is church money, not government money. It is constitutional and should continue to be respected and protected.
1 - Christians unite in prayer for persecuted church, release of Kenneth Bae celebrated

The first two Sundays of November are set apart to remember and pray for the persecuted church, through the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church (IDOP), according to its website.

It states that, "Today’s greatest untold story is that more than 100 million Christians worldwide face persecution for their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Daily Christians in countries such as Eritrea, Nigeria, India, Pakistan, Sudan and Sri Lanka face imprisonment, violence and even death."

The IDOP is a designated time, this year set aside on either November 9th or even the 2nd, when Christians around the world who are suffering persecution are remembered in prayer.  The website,, featuring resources helpful in observing the day and in standing with the persecuted church, is a project of the Religious Liberty Commission of the World Evangelical Alliance.

This week, a piece ran on the Christian Today website reporting that Christian missionaries have vowed to continue their work in North Korea and China with more caution, despite the crackdown on Christianity in the region after the imprisonment of American missionary Kenneth Bae.

Bae was released recently from labor camp and returned to America after serving two years of his 15-year sentence for his Christian faith. North Korea and neighboring China have reportedly both increased their surveillance on Christian activities since his sentence.

"We are getting more nervous," Kim Seung-eun, a missionary from South Korea that often travels to North Korea, told Reuters. "We have to come up with a strategy to avoid another case like Kenneth Bae's."

Bae and another man held in North Korea, Matthew Todd Miller, were released from North Korea on Saturday, November 8 and arrived on U.S. soil later that day, according to NBC News.

Jeffrey Fowle is another Christian, who is from Ohio, who was detained for several months in North Korea. According to Christian Today, he was arrested after he had left a Bible in a public place, which he later explained in an interview that he planned to give to North Korea's underground church. Fowle told CBN that it was clearly against the nation's law but, as he said, "...being a Christian believer, I was trying to carry out the Great Commission of Jesus Christ, saying 'carry the Gospel to all corners of the Earth."

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