Sunday, April 27, 2014

The 3 - April 27, 2014

In this week's edition of "The 3," there is a variety of stories from 3 different countries: from Canada, a Christian university has finally been given the go-ahead to establish a law school, but it continues to experience opposition.   In the U.S., plans continue for representatives of the Army to be part of the National Day of Prayer event at a Congressional office building on Thursday.  And, at the Vatican, a historic ceremony took place over the weekend, involving the canonization of 2 Popes, witnessed by 2 others.

3 - Canada's first Christian law school continues to deal with difficulty 

This past week, J.C. Derrick of WORLD News Group joined me on The Meeting House radio program and discussed the long and arduous process that Trinity Western University had gone through in order to establish a law school.  A newly released piece on the WORLD website summarizes some of the activities:
...Last December, TWU received back-to-back approvals from the Federation of Law Societies of Canada and the Minister of Advanced Education in British Columbia. The Law Society of British Columbia followed with another approval on a 20-6 vote earlier this month, joining affirmation from five other provincial bodies of the federation—which essentially hold veto power over federation decisions.
However, in the aftermath of this string of victories, a number of potential setbacks have emerged. On Thursday, the Law Society of Upper Canada voted 28-21 not to allow TWU graduates admission to the bar in Ontario. The Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society did the same by a 10-9 vote Friday.

University President Bob Kuhn is quoted as saying, “We are very disappointed...These decisions impact all Canadians and people of faith everywhere. They send the chilling message that you cannot hold religious values and also participate fully in public society.”

The big issue surrounding the law school which has drawn opposition is TWU's requirement that employees and students sign a community covenant pledging to abstain from “sexual intimacy that violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman.”  This has set off gay rights advocates in Canada, where same-sex marriage is legal.

Last week, a gay activist in Vancouver filed suit against the Minister of Advanced Education in British Columbia, Amrik Virk, claiming TWU’s community covenant equates to a discriminatory admissions policy. And the Law Society of British Columbia must now convene a special proceeding to hear complaints about its two-week-old decision after receiving a petition with more than 1,000 signatures.

2 - Army defends National Day of Prayer participation

A USA Today report from a writer for the Army Times states that Army officials have said they will not back away from participating in a Capitol Hill prayer event next month despite complaints that the event amounts to an endorsement of evangelical Christians.

Officials from the Military Religious Freedom Foundation demanded the Pentagon withdraw all support from a May 1 National Day of Prayer celebration at the Cannon House Office Building in Washington, calling it a "private fundamentalist Christian religious event."   Foundation Director Mikey Weinstein is quoted as calling the event a "sectarian spectacle" and said the Army's stance was "ridiculous."

Planners of the three-hour event, which has close ties to evangelical Christian groups, have said they are nondenominational and nonpartisan, but foundation leaders say support for the event amounts to favoritism for conservative Christians.

Army officials disagree. In a statement, service officials said they would continue to provide numerous personnel for the event, including a chaplain to offer a "prayer for the military," an armed forces color guard, a brass quartet and a vocalist for the national anthem.

They also said they had no formal response to the foundation's complaint.

The National Day of Prayer has been held on the first Thursday in May since 1952 when Congress passed a joint resolution to create the observance and President Harry Truman signed it.  The private National Day of Prayer Task Force is organizing the congressional event at the Cannon building and broadcasting it online. The group's chairwoman, Shirley Dobson, is the wife of James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family. Task force officials say the two organizations have no connection.

Scheduled speakers for the Capitol Hill event include both James and Shirley Dobson; evangelist Anne Graham Lotz, daughter of the Rev. Billy Graham; Campus Crusade for Christ co-founder Vonette Bright; and several current and former lawmakers.

1 - History in Rome: 2 living Popes attend canonization for 2 Popes at Vatican

Major religious news grabbed headlines over the weekend, as an unprecedented ceremony took place at the Vatican.  Popes John Paul II and John XXIII, who presided over enormous changes within the church and across the world, were proclaimed "saints" on Sunday before a crowd of nearly 1 million people in an historic ceremony celebrated by Pope Francis with his predecessor, Benedict XVI, according to a report on the Religion News Service website.

Around 100 heads of state and government leaders joined those who crammed into St. Peter’s Square under gray and dreary skies. Thirty Jewish leaders were among the official delegations who took part at the Vatican.

Pope Francis declared to the crowd in Latin during the two-hour ceremony, "We declare and define Blessed John XXIII and John Paul II be saints, and we enroll them among the saints, decreeing that they are to be venerated as such by the whole church..."

Francis acknowledged John and John Paul as among the most influential popes of the modern era, living through some of the momentous changes of the 20th century. John convened the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) that revolutionized Catholic life and reordered the church’s relationship with non-Catholics, and John Paul stared down communism and globalized the papacy.

He described them as "men of courage." Pope Francis said, "They lived through tragic events of that century, but they were not overwhelmed by them. For them, God was more powerful, faith was more powerful.”  But just because they we highly-regarded popes, that did not qualify them for being considered a formal "saint" in the Catholic church.  After all, of the 266 popes, 83 (including John XXIII and John Paul II) have been made saints; almost all of them were canonized in the first millennium of Christianity, according to Religion News Service, which reports there are three basic steps to formal sainthood: First, a formal inquiry is opened and if a person’s “heroic virtues” are initially confirmed the candidate is called “venerable.” Beatification, usually by the pope, is the second step and the candidate is called “blessed.” Canonization is the third and final step, when a candidate is formally declared a saint.

The sainthood process remained largely unchanged until John Paul II approved revisions in 1983; the biggest change was to eliminate the “devil’s advocate,” who was charged with trying to poke holes in a person’s sanctity.
Two miracles are generally required for canonization, although the pope can dispense with that requirement, as Francis is doing in canonizing John XXIII, who was credited with just one miracle.  Nearly all miracles are unexplained medical cures, and they are verified by a panel of medical and scientific experts — not all of them Catholic — who must affirm that there was no possible natural cause for the cure. The cures are usually instantaneous.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

The 3 - April 20, 2014

In this edition of my week-in-review blog, "The 3", the top story undoubtedly is the celebration of Easter, the resurrection of Jesus from the dead - each year, you find that there are creative ways in which people are commemorating the significance of His life and the new life we can have in Him.   I'll explore some information related to the Easter season, coming up.  Also, in pro-life news, another Federal judge has struck down a bill passed by a state legislature banning abortion after the heartbeat of an unborn child is detected, and in Colorado,it was decided by the legislative leadership a bill that could have stymied pro-life legislation in the future would not move forward.

3 - Fetal heartbeat bill in North Dakota declared unconstitutional

For the second time in about a month, a Federal judge has ruled unconstitutional a state's bill banning abortion when a heartbeat is detected in an unborn child.   This time, a George W. Bush appointee has struck down North Dakota's fetal heartbeat bill. reports that Federal District Judge Daniel Hovland issued a permanent injunction against the legislation, officially declaring the law to be “invalid and unconstitutional.”  He wrote, “The United States Supreme Court has spoken and has unequivocally said no state may deprive a woman of the choice to terminate her pregnancy at a point prior to viability...The controversy over a woman’s right to choose to have an abortion will never end. The issue is undoubtedly one of the most divisive of social issues. The United States Supreme Court will eventually weigh in on this emotionally-fraught issue but, until that occurs, this Court is obligated to uphold existing Supreme Court precedent.”

In issuing a temporary injunction against the new law last July, Hovland had pointed to the 1973 decision of Roe v. Wade, writing that, "The state has extended an invitation to an expensive court battle over a law restricting abortions that is a blatant violation of the constitutional guarantees afforded to all women."

This comes on the heels of a decision by another Federal judge, Susan Webber Wright, an appointee of George H.W. Bush, who had struck down an Arkansas law that banned abortions after 12 weeks if a heartbeat is detected.

According to a story, Wright wrote in her opinion that the standard for abortion restrictions according to Roe v. Wade is whether the child is viable,  rather than whether the baby has a heartbeat.

She wrote, “The Court notes that the [state] conveys that viability ‘begins’ with a heartbeat; it does not declare that viability is fully achieved with the adept of a heartbeat...Such a declaration would undoubtedly contravene the Supreme Court’s determination that viability in a particular case is a matter for medical judgment, and it is attained when, in the judgment of the attending physician on the particular facts of the case at hand, that there is a reasonable likelihood of sustained survival outside the womb.”

2 - Colorado lawmakers do not bring up legislation that would have kept pro-life laws from being passed

The Legislature in Colorado was considering a piece of legislation that would essentially be a pre-emptive strike against future pro-life bills, but it was turned back and did not come to the floor.

CitizenLink reports that, “It would have left it open for absolutely no regulation, ” according to Carrie Gordon Earll, senior director of issue analysis at Focus on the Family. She added, “We’re talking late-term abortions, informed consent and regulation of the abortion industry. This would have shut down any policy debate and prevented the passage of any pro-life legislation in the state.”

Legislative leaders claimed they had enough votes to pass the bill, but a flood of emails and calls from constituents and a prayer rally by approximately 1,000 people on the Capitol steps proved to be effective, according to the report.  Leadership dropped the bill without a vote.

Jessica Haverkate of the Colorado Family Institute said, “The faith community united together in a public debate about one of the most important issues to all of us — the protection of unborn life...Let us all remember… what we were able to accomplish by stepping out in faith and engaging in our communities.”

As Carrie Gordon Earll points out, there was a lot at stake with SB 175 – and not just for Colorado. She is quoted as saying, “This is the sort of thing that we need to be diligent about as a pro-life movement...because a bill like this can get legs in other states once it passes. We want the nation moving toward a pro-life position, not the other direction.”

1 - Easter, Holy Week commemorate Christ's death and resurrection

Across the world, Christians were involved in special Easter presentations this week.  And, this is undoubtedly the top story each year during the week of Easter, for without the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, we would have no Savior and our faith would have no meaning.

So we have the opportunity to take a few moments during this special season to reflect on the meaning of Christ's sacrifice for us and to rejoice in the risen Lord.   I found a story taken from Baptist Press about a Barna survey from 2010, in which 67 percent of the respondents mentioned some type of theistic religious element in Easter, including the fact that it's a Christian holiday or it's a special time for church attendance.

Only 42 percent of those surveyed said the meaning of Easter was the resurrection of Jesus or that it signifies Christ's death and return to life, Barna said. Two percent said they would describe Easter as the most important holiday of their faith.

David Kinnaman, Barna's president is quoted as saying that, "Perhaps most concerning, from the standpoint of church leaders, is that those who celebrate Easter because of the resurrection of Christ are not particularly likely to invite non-churched friends to worship, suggesting that their personal beliefs about Jesus have not yet translated into a sense of urgency for having spiritual conversations with their acquaintances." He noted a substantial gap between people's openness to inviting an unchurched person to worship on Easter and the likelihood of them actually doing so.

During this season, we commonly find that churches are utilizing creative means of presenting the gospel message. And, social media is an effective tool through which we can share the good news.  One example I discovered was the use of the #EasterMeans hashtag, documented in a piece on the website.   This is used in the Church of England's Twitter campaign, which kicked off on Thursday, inviting people to share their thoughts on what Easter means to them.

Among those joining in was theologian Vicky Beeching (@vickybeeching), who said: "I'm excited about the #EasterMeans campaign - it encourages Christians to give the world a window into their personal faith; why Easter matters to them and how the events of Jesus' death and resurrection have impacted their life."

#EasterMeans is a follow-up to the #Christmasmeans Twitter campaign, which reached more than four million people between Christmas Eve and Christmas morning.

Bishops weighed in about what Easter means to them in a series of podcasts.  The Bishop of Ramsbury, Edward Condry, who gave up his car for Lent, estimates he has saved 2,000 car miles over the last six weeks just by cycling, walking and using public transportation.  He found his Lent challenge to be a conversation starter, saying, "I really have enjoyed it. When I turn up for a service on Sunday I've had lots of good conversations and people want to go deeper and find out what motivated me."

The Bishop of Oxford, the Right Reverend John Pritchard, said that Easter means "nothing is impossible". He shared, "You can't keep a good God down."

The practice of reflection and worship that we commonly find during the Easter season can be a springboard for growing deeper in our relationship with Christ throughout the year as we recognize that Jesus is alive and He is alive in us!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

The 3 - April 13, 2014

On this week's edition of "The 3", my week-in-review feature, a rejection by the Supreme Court means that a New Mexico photographer will have to pay for its refusal to be involved with a same-sex marriage ceremony, in case with significant religious freedom implications.  Also, a college professor who spoke out in a manner consistent with his Christian views will receive the promotion that he was denied as a result of expressing those views.  And, students all across America were involved in the Day of Dialogue this week, an opportunity to affirm God's plan in relationships.

3 - U.S. Supreme Court decides not to take case of photographer who would not take pictures at gay wedding

There was some hope that the U.S. Supreme Court would take up the case of a New Mexico photographer that had been fined by a state agency for refusing to take pictures at a same-sex ceremony in a state where gay marriage was not legal (at the time). On Monday, the high court declined to hear the case. The photographer, Elane Photography, owned by Jonathan and Elaine Hugenin, had been told by the New Mexico Supreme Court that she must, as “the price of citizenship,” use her creative talents to communicate a message with which she disagrees or suffer punishment, according to a report on the Alliance Defense Fund media website.

This series of events began in 2006, when Elaine was approached with photographing the ceremony. She politely declined to use her artistic expression to communicate a message at odds with her beliefs. The woman who approached Elaine easily found another photographer for her ceremony—and for less money. Nevertheless, the woman filed a complaint with the New Mexico Human Rights Commission. After a one-day administrative trial in 2008, the commission ruled against the Huguenins and ordered them to pay over $6,600 in attorneys’ fees. The case then made its way through the New Mexico state court system, and the New Mexico Supreme Court upheld the ruling.

Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Jordan Lorence pointed out, “The First Amendment protects our freedom to speak or not speak on any issue without fear of punishment. We had hoped the U.S. Supreme Court would use this case to affirm this basic constitutional principle; however, the court will likely have several more opportunities to do just that in other cases of ours that are working their way through the court system.”   Cases in which ADF are involved include a florist and a cake artist who did not wish to endorse a gay wedding through their participation, as well as a T-shirt printer who did not provide shirts for a "gay pride" event.

Senior Counsel David Cortman added, “Elaine and numerous others like her around the country have been more than willing to serve any and all customers, but they are not willing to promote any and all messages. A government that forces any American to create a message contrary to her own convictions is a government every American should fear.”

2 - College ordered to promote professor who spoke out with Christian views

Dr. Mike Adams is a professor of criminology at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington.  He was hired in 1993 and became an associate professor in 1998.  When he was hired, he was an atheist, but things changed in 2000, according to a report on the website.

That year, he became a born-again Christian, and his worldview began to change. He became a columnist for and also appeared on radio and television broadcasts, where he spoke about a broad spectrum of issues, from religion to morality to freedom of speech.

However, Adams’ conversion to Christianity and his outspokenness on current events drew some opposition, as some, including the atheist who was appointed to head the department in which he served, disagreed with his views and manner of presentation.  In 2006, when he was up for consideration of a promotion to full professor status, Adams was denied.

Therefore, in 2007, Adams filed suit, contending that university officials discriminated against him because of his Christian beliefs. In 2010, a District Court ruled against Adams, who then appealed his case to the 4th Circuit. In April of the following year, the court ruled that Adams provided sufficient evidence to warrant a trial, which was held last month.

At the conclusion of the trial, the jury agreed with attorneys for Adams, concluding that he was unjustly denied a promotion because of the views he expressed in print and broadcast media, which were protected by the First Amendment.   This week, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, Southern Division, ordered the school to promote Adams and to pay him $50,000 in back pay after the jury's decision.

1 - Students urged to speak out on God's plan for relationships on Day of Dialogue

This week, students across America were scheduled to participate in the Day of Dialogue, a student-led event that encourages young people to enter the conversation about controversial, but important, subjects already being discussed among their peers and promoted in their schools. Focus on the Family sponsors the event.

CitizenLink quotes Candi Cushman, education analyst for Focus on the Family, as saying that, "The student guide has a lot of resources – tips for students on how to have a successful event, a legal section that explains their rights and, of course, the free speech tools...Day of Dialogue helps students give a balanced perspective on the difficult issues of the day.”

She said, “As we have seen from headlines in recent weeks, it does require great courage in this culture of spiritual relativism to acknowledge the existence of redemptive truth."

The Day of Dialogue website says that there are 7 guiding principles for the day.  In the relationships area, the components are: having healthy relationships, developing a healthy identity, and protecting others.   The sexuality area covers experiencing God's best for sexuality and understanding why gender is important.   And, the spirituality principles include: realizing that God cares and having a relationship with God.

What was formerly known as the Day of Truth became the Day of Dialogue in 2011, according to the Focus on the Family website.  At the time, Cushman said that the program's name change reflected a key goal of equipping students with an opportunity to articulate a Christian perspective. She said, "We're trying to raise awareness that more than one side needs to be heard on the issue of homosexuality, and we're helping to ensure Christian students have the chance to express their viewpoint...What is freedom of speech, after all, but a guarantee of the right to have dialogue?"

She was quoted as saying that she believed dialogue is more helpful than staying silent on this meaningful issue, which is what Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network's Day of Silence encourages. Day of Silence was held this past Friday, April 11.  Cushman pointed out that, "Silence is a media op, but dialogue is a learning op."

Sunday, April 06, 2014

The 3 - April 6, 2014

This week's edition of "The 3," my week-in-review feature, includes a major conference on the West Coast which was designed to inspire and inform leaders.   Also, this week, there has been discussion about the resignation of a high-profile, high-tech CEO who was forced to step down due to his support of traditional marriage.  And, the top story involves a court ruling regarding the right of churches to rent public school buildings in New York City.

3 - High-profile Christian speakers challenge leaders at Catalyst West

According to its website, Catalyst was conceived as a Next Generation Leaders Conference in 1999 by Andy Stanley, Reggie Joiner, John Maxwell, Lanny Donoho and several young leaders. Catalyst was created to meet the felt need that existed within the church leader space for a leadership event that was focused on a new generation of church leaders. Everything within this space seemed built around a forty to sixty year old mindset and medium. This team was convinced that this needed to change.

Since its beginnings with a gathering at North Point Community Church in Atlanta, over 100,000 leaders have made the annual trek to Atlanta to participate in the Catalyst Conference experience, and this October, once again over 12,000 young leaders are expected to gather to experience Catalyst up close. This past week, the Catalyst West conference was held at Mariners' Church in Orange County, California, and another conference will convene in Dallas later this month.

Speakers at the latest event, which drew over 4,000 people, according to a report on the Christian Post website, included Frances Chan, Matt Chandler, Andy Stanley, Louie Giglio, Jim Collins, and Jud Wilhite.  

Catalyst President Brad Lomenick is quoted as saying that, "We were praying that for every leader here this would be a bench mark for them or a marker on the road of leadership for them."  He said that he hopes leaders would be able to look back at the conference and say that it was a significant turning point in their lives.

Lomenick also said, "There's so much hope we can still have in the present regardless of circumstances...We love this idea that we should be hopeful leaders, encouraging and more excited about tomorrow, but equally present in today. Part of the reason that we created an environment at Catalyst that is fun and is hopeful is to give people permission to enjoy and find joy in the present."

2 - Christians stand with CEO forced to resign over traditional marriage support

I've been searching the Internet for something that could clue me in to why the recently-appointed CEO of the Mozilla, which is known for the Firefox web browser, gave $1000 in support of Proposition 8, the marriage amendment in California.  That donation raised the ire of a vocal group of people who called for his resignation, which he tendered earlier this week.  Even though I see no identification with a Christian church or organization, the set of circumstances has resonated with some in the Christian community, who are crying foul in this case, where an apparent litmus test was instituted for Brendan Eich, who was appointed to run the company of which he has been a leading participant for many years.

Terry Mattingly over at the Get Religion blog said he was waiting for the "religion shoe to drop."   He says that:
Right now, the framing for this story is that his actions were anti-gay, not pro-something, something doctrinally and legally different.
Over at the normally gay-news-driven New York Times, this story is not receiving major attention. A “Bits” feature in the business pages does provide an interesting summary of the raging debates surrounding this case, including the fact that some liberals — including some in the gay community — are quite upset with the illiberal campaign by many “liberals” to punish Mozilla, while making Eich an untouchable in the highly influential tech world.
He mentions that the article also noted that Eich has consistently stressed, and so far no one has contradicted this, that he was committed to inclusiveness in the Mozilla workplace and had never discriminated.  However, Mattingly points out that Eich has also asked not to be judged for his “private beliefs.”  He says that, "In a way, that is also interesting in that fierce defenders of the First Amendment have long argued for free expression, even in public (with others, yes, having the right to freely protest in return)."

The Get Religion blogger says that over on the other side of the Atlantic, The Telegraph dug a bit deeper and published a few additional facts that have also appeared — with interpretation — in the comments pages on many of the gay-press coverage of Eich’s fall. Here is the crucial passage:
The father of five responded to allegations of homophobia levelled at him over the donation in a blog post refusing to discuss his involvement with the campaign, which was initially passed but later overturned by the US Supreme Court. …
In an interview this week with the Guardian Eich refused to be drawn on his stance on gay rights. “I don’t want to talk about my personal beliefs because I kept them out of Mozilla all these 15 years we’ve been going,” he said. “I don’t believe they’re relevant.” He said his donation to the campaign was “personal” and said Mozilla’s code of conduct formalised the principle of “keeping anything that’s not central to our mission out of our office”.
Prior to his short spell as CEO, the Pittsburgh-born programmer studied maths and computer science at Santa Clara University before working on network and operating system code at Silicon Graphics.
Mattingly points out that Santa Clara is a campus in Silicon Valley. It is a Jesuit university, too. Both pieces of that equation many turn out to be relevant in this ongoing story.

Dr. Robert George from Princeton, a co-author of the Manhattan Declaration, wrote this on the First Things website
Now that the bullies have Eich’s head as a trophy on their wall, they will put the heat on every other corporation and major employer. They will pressure them to refuse employment to those who decline to conform their views to the new orthodoxy. And you can also bet that it won’t end with same-sex marriage. Next, it will be support for the pro-life cause that will be treated as moral turpitude in the same way that support for marriage is treated. Do you believe in protecting unborn babies from being slain in the womb? Why, then: “You are a misogynist. You are a hater of women. You are a bigot. We can’t have a person like you working for our company.” And there will be other political and moral issues, too, that will be treated as litmus tests for eligibility for employment. The defenestration of Eich by people at Mozilla for dissenting from the new orthodoxy on marriage is just the beginning.
Isn't it odd that a company that espouses so-called "equality" and "tolerance" did not support its new CEO's rights to express his opinion?

1 - Court ruling allows NYC schools to refuse to lease space to churches

Another chapter in the 20-year struggle for local churches to have the right to lease space in public school buildings in New York City concluded this past week, as a 2-1 decision in the 2nd U.S. Court of Appeals said that a policy of prohibiting churches from gathering in schools “was consistent with its constitutional duties.” So the court has spoken that schools in the city can now legally ban churches from holding services in buildings outside of school hours, according to a report on the website.

The piece quotes New York Times, which reported that the new policy will allow religious and community organizations to use buildings for programs after hours, but not as a “house of worship.”

In 2012, U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska had ruled against the ban, under the argument that holding a worship service in a school did not associate that establishment with a particular religion; Thursday’s decision overturned Preska’s ruling.

The church involved in the dispute, the Bronx Household of Faith, believes that the policy is in violation of its right to worship freely without government interference, according to a report on the Charisma News site.

Jordan Lorence, attorney to Bronx Household of Faith, was disappointed in the outcome of the decision, but said that the church will now consider appealing to the circuit bench or taking the case to the Supreme Court.

But, just because the court has ruled that schools can refuse to rent to churches, that doesn't mean that they will, and a leading voice against the ban, Councilman Fernando Cabrera is quoted on the Capital website as saying that, "The Mayor with a single swipe of his pen can offer immediate relief to thousands of his fellow New Yorkers who now face the prospect of not knowing if they will have a place to celebrate the Easter or Passover holiday."

This week, according to that website, Mayor Bill de Blasio reiterated his belief that church groups should be able to use school facilities, in the wake of that decision.

After saying his administration's corporation counsel, Zachary Carter, would review the ruling and "assess from there," the mayor sided with religious organizations who have sued for the right to hold services in public schools on weekends.

He said, "I stand by my belief that a faith organization playing by the same rules as any community nonprofit deserves access...They have to go through the same application process, wait their turn for space, pay the same rent, but I think they deserve access."

He said the non-secular groups "play a very, very important role in terms of providing social services and other important community services and I think they deserve that right."