Saturday, June 28, 2014

The 3 - June 29, 2014

In this week's edition of "The 3," my week-in-review feature, I include a brief report on an event that I, along with over three thousand other people, attended in Atlanta.  Also, another ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court went in favor of pro-lifers and free speech.  And, the top story involves a Sudanese woman who refused to recant her Christian faith and who was released, detained, and re-released this week.

3 - Thousands converge on downtown Atlanta for Christian Retail Show

The annual event sponsored by CBA: The Association for Christian Retail (formerly known as the Christian Booksellers Association), the International Christian Retail Show, drew thousands to the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta this week.  The annual gathering brings together publishers, authors, filmmakers, retailers, and others who are involved in marketing a variety of Christian products.

According to a report on the Christian Retailing website, the industry is seeing significant cultural shifts in consumer shopping habits and fluctuations in church attendance, especially among millennials, ages 18 to 33. Reaching that critical group was a focus of this year’s show for Christian retailers and ministry leaders.

The initial reports are that attendance was roughly the same as last year, when ICRS was held in St. Louis. Christian Retailing reported that attendance numbered slightly higher than last year, while buyers rose by 2.4%. The Publishers Weekly site headline said that attendance was flat - at just over 3,700, slightly under last year in St. Louis.  That report said that the CBA cited a 2% increase in professional attendance, from 1,485 in 2013 to 1,520 in 2014.   Both reports indicated that after next year's Orlando gathering, there may be some changes in the presentation of the show.

This was my fourth consecutive year attending ICRS, and the second time I have attended the show in Atlanta.   After two years in which attendance was approaching 5,000 people (Atlanta, then Orlando), according to Christian Retailing, attendance dropped sharply last year.

Curtis Riskey, CBA President, visited with me near the beginning of the show, and discussed some of the challenges in Christian retailing, as well as opportunities to be involved in community activities.  CBA modeled that this year by hosting the Change a Life Festival to benefit a local Christian ministry.  You can access my conversation with Curtis here.

I benefited again from having the Faith Radio/Meeting House broadcast center near the exhibit hall entrance, and I was able to interview close to 3 dozen people - authors, filmmakers, and others who are communicating gospel truth.  You can check out conversations from the show by visiting the Meeting House download center at

2 - U.S. Supreme Court issues second pro-life, free speech decision in as many weeks

Coming on the heels of a decision in favor of a national pro-life organization whose free speech rights were affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court, the high court issued another ruling in favor of pro-life free speech this week.  In a unanimous ruling this week, the justices struck down a Massachusetts law that limited pro-lifers from talking to people entering abortion facilities.

CitizenLink has this report.

The law was signed in 2007, requiring a 35-foot “buffer zone” around abortion sellers. Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) filed suit a year later on behalf of a group of pro-lifers. The group, many of whom are grandparents, reportedly wanted to simply provide information on abortion alternatives, and offer support to those who want it.

Attorney Mark Rienzi is quoted as saying, “Americans have the freedom to talk to whomever they please on public sidewalks...The Supreme Court has affirmed a critical freedom that has been an essential part of American life since the nation’s founding.”

ADF petitioned the Supreme Court to hear the case after a federal appeals court upheld a lower court’s ruling in favor of the law.

In the ruling, the court underscored pro-lifers’ constitutional rights to share their ideas in public:
It is no accident that public streets and sidewalks have developed as venues for the exchange of ideas. Even today, they remain one of the few places where a speaker can be confident that he is not simply preaching to the choir…. In light of the First Amendment’s purpose “to preserve an uninhibited marketplace of ideas in which truth will ultimately prevail…,” this aspect of traditional public fora is a virtue, not a vice.

1 - Sudanese Christian woman now reportedly free and safe

As of Friday morning, Meriam Ibrahim, the Sudanese woman who was sentenced to death on charges of apostasy and punishment on charges of adultery because she married a Christian man, was reportedly in the safety of the U.S. Embassy in Sudan.   The WORLD website reported that after Meriam had been released from prison earlier this week, she, her husband, and children were re-arrested at the airport on suspicion of forging travel documents.  After being released, the family fled to the embassy for protection. U.S. officials told the Associated Press they were working to get the family out of the country. Ibrahim’s husband, Daniel Wani, is a naturalized U.S. citizen.

Meanwhile, it was reported that Ibrahim's family members, who had filed the complaint against her in the first place, had threatened to carry out the death sentence that had been removed by the court earlier in the week. Christian Solidarity Worldwide reported Ibrahim's lawyers had also received death threats and extremist groups attempted to pressure the court to carry out her sentence.

As WORLD points out, Ibrahim was freed from prison on Monday and had been sentenced to die for refusing to recant her Christian faith.  After an international outcry, a judge commuted her sentence.  Her lawyer, Eman Abdul-Rahim, said the family was trying to get on a plane bound for the United States when they were detained at the international airport in Khartoum.  Daniel Wani, Ibrahim’s husband, is a naturalized U.S. citizen. Her release apparently came after U.S. Representatives Chris Smith, Frank Wolk, Mark Meadows, and Joe Pitts met with Maowia Khalid, the Sudanese ambassador to the United States.  
Smith called Ibrahim’s release a “huge first step,” but said he would reserve the right to convene a hearing until Ibrahim and her family are “on a plane and heading to the United States.”

Smith, who chairs the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Africa, had scheduled a hearing on Ibrahim’s case for Tuesday, but he agreed to postpone the proceeding based on assurances he received at that meeting.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

The 3 - June 22, 2014

In this week's edition of "The 3," my week-in-review feature, I bring to you some news from a Presbyterian denomination's annual meeting, where same-sex marriage was affirmed.  Also, thousands gathered in the nation's capital to voice their support for traditional marriage.  And, a unanimous decision from the U.S. Supreme Court went in favor of a pro-life group.

3 - Presbyterian Church USA votes to allow gay marriage

In its General Assembly in Detroit this past Thursday, the Presbyterian Church (USA) voted to recognize same-sex marriage.  According to the WORLD website, delegates voted 371-238 to allow ministers to perform same-sex marriages wherever legal, and 429-175 to amend the definition of marriage in its constitution. The PCUSA is the nation's largest Presbyterian denomination, with some 1.8 million members.

The order to pastors was made effective when the assembly adjourned, while the constitutional changes require approval from a majority of 172 regional presbyteries, which will vote on the change over the next year. The amendment says marriage can be the union of “two people,” not just “a man and a woman.” 

As WORLD reported, Thursday’s vote wasn’t surprising.  Since a 2011 vote to ordain pastors in open homosexual relationships, 428 of the mainline denomination’s more than 10,000 churches left for other, more conservative Presbyterian denominations or dissolved.  With the potential for further backlash, PCUSA officials issued a letter to pastors telling them to remember that God is in control and “to take seriously our charge to bestow … grace and love on one another.”

The Presbyterian Lay Committee, a conservative group within the PCUSA, denounced Thursday’s vote as “an abomination,” calling for a financial boycott of any PCUSA arm that fails to denounce the assembly’s actions. The committee stated that the assembly “committed an express repudiation of the Bible.”  It said that, “God will not be mocked and those who substitute their own felt desires for God’s unchangeable Truth will not be found guiltless before a holy God.”  The committee contended that Scripture was missing throughout the process. The marriage amendment, for example, doesn’t mention the marriage-gospel metaphor in Ephesians 5. Rather, the denomination affirmed that the “sacrificial love that unites the couple sustains them as faithful and responsible members of the church and the wider community.”

In other news from the General Assembly, on Thursday, 78 percent of the PCUSA General Assembly rejected a resolution condemning the killing of babies born alive during abortions.  The resolution was initiated by the South Alabama presbytery and called for inclusion of pro-life Presbyterians and an investigation into doctrinal and financial support of abortion.  Dissenters cited pro-abortion stances, while others noted past affirmation of viable babies and reservations in commenting on criminal cases.

2 - Marriage march affirms support for traditional marriage

On the same day as the vote on same-sex marriage at the PCUSA meeting - this past Thursday - the National Organization for Marriage, which has been a key force in attempting to uphold the traditional definition of marriage across America, sponsored its second March for Marriage in Washington, D.C., which featured a rally near the Capitol building, followed by a march to the U.S. Supreme Court building.

Brian Brown, President of NOM, wrote in a blog post:
Did you see yesterday's March for Marriage? What a day it was!
Several thousand Americans — people from across the spectrum of America — Men and Women, African Americans and Latinos, Orthodox Jews, Evangelicals and Catholics, young and old — stood together in defense of marriage between one man and one woman.
There were people from all over the country, and we even got congratulations from the states of Texas and Indiana as they watched the rally online. Texas Values president Jonathan Saenz wrote, "Marriage is a Texas value, and we stand in unison with the thousands in D.C. today standing for marriage between one man and one woman."
Besides those gathered at the Capitol for the exciting rally, there were thousands more who tuned in to watch the live stream from their own hometowns, making this a truly national event.
Christopher Plante, Regional Coordinator for NOM, gave a preview on the Tuesday edition of The Meeting House radio program, and a brief recap on Thursday.

Speakers included former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum, New York State Senator Rev. Ruben Diaz, and Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone.

The Washington Times featured a special section on its website devoted to coverage of the March.  In a report on the March for Marriage, it quoted one of the speakers, Gov. Huckabee, who told the Times and TellDC that without the traditional understanding of marriage, the foundation of American freedoms and government will begin to crumble.

He is quoted as saying, “It’s not just conservatives, there was a time at one point in America where liberals and conservatives both agreed that marriage was foundational to the structure to the stability and to the longevity of society, Some of us just haven’t given up on that notion that families still matter and that a family is the most foundational form of any government."

1 - Supreme Court gives green light to pro-life organization in free speech case

A national pro-life advocacy organization received a positive, unanimous ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court this week and is continuing its challenge to a "false statements" law in the state of Ohio.

Here's the backstory, reported by

In the 2010 election, the Susan B. Anthony list had planned to put up billboards highlighting Rep. Steve Driehaus’ record on life issues. Driehaus, a Democrat, claimed to be pro-life, but had voted for Obamacare, which allows taxpayer funding of abortion. When Driehaus found out about the billboards, he filed a complaint with the Ohio Election Commission, which decided in favor of the Congressman, who was defeated in his re-election bid.

SBA List filed suit in federal court challenging the Ohio “false statement” law, which puts election officials in charge of what is “true” in campaign ads and what is “false.”

Two federal lower courts ruled that SBA List’s free speech had not been silenced. The case was then appealed to the Supreme Court, where, this past week, the justices unanimously ruled that the pro-life group had “standing” to challenge the law on First Amendment grounds.

SBA List President Marjorie Dannenfelser is quoted as saying, “Our goal from the beginning has been to educate Ohio voters about the multiple abortion-funding provisions in Obamacare and expose those elected officials who voted for it...Everything we have argued is true and the reality of abortion-funding in Obamacare will continue to be an issue in the midterm elections and future election cycles.”

This week, in the aftermath of the Supreme Court decision, the SBA List is seeking for the law to be placed on hold as the legal process moves forward. Dannenfelser said, "SBA List must be permitted to continue educating voters...both in Ohio as well as in other battleground states.”

To hear Kim Trobee of CitizenLink's discussion of this case, click here.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

The 3 - June 15, 2014

It's time for another edition of my week-in-review feature, "The 3," featuring 3 stories of relevance to the Christian community.   One of the stories that attracted my attention from this past week involves 2 managers at an Air Force base who are facing termination because of their support for a "Duck Dynasty" star.   Also, religious freedom issues were topics of a hearing before a Congressional subcommittee this past week in Washington.  And, the top story - the nation's largest Protestant denomination held its annual meeting this week in Baltimore.

3 - Religious freedom in the workplace: employees at Air Force base under scrutiny for showing support for "Duck Dynasty" star

One of the areas that I have been tracking fairly regularly deals with how people of faith are being restricted in their religious expression.   And, there have been numerous issues of concern in the U.S. military.   A recent incident was reported in a piece this week by Todd Starnes of Fox News on the Charisma News website, and it took place at Eglin Air Force Base in the Florida Panhandle.

You have 2 senior management officials who put decals on their personal trucks supporting "Duck Dynasty" star Phil Robertson. Now a union representing Federal employees is demanding that they be fired.

Alan Cooper, the executive vice president of the local chapter of the American Federation of Government Employees, said one of the officials also displayed the "I Support Phil" decals in his office last month and offered them to subordinates.  An employee was reportedly offended by this, and Starnes quotes Cooper as saying, "We took offense...These two particular individuals have a great amount of influence over individuals who may be gay, who may be African-American – and we have a concern they should not be in a position to exert that influence when it comes to promotions."   Cooper went on to disparage Phil Robertson of "Duck Dynasty" and said that the decal could constitute a civil rights violation.

Starnes spoke with one of the individuals being targeted by the government union, who said, "My intent was not to offend anybody...My intent was to support the show and to show support for his Christian values." He said that he was especially upset after union workers took photographs of his truck and his license plate and emailed the images to other union members. That email was reportedly sent to hundreds and hundreds of personnel.

He said, "I see the email that went out accusing me and my boss of being racist...That couldn't be farther from the truth," adding, "I'm pro-family,...I'm pro-life. I don't have a problem with anybody who doesn't agree with me."

The Air Force is apparently standing behind the two officials who are standing with Phil. The director of public affairs for the base, Andy Bourland, stated: "Brigadier General Dave Harris is not taking any action against the individual as the display of such a bumper sticker is considered legally protected speech under the First Amendment."  Bourland said they looked into the incident involving the decals in the worker's office. They also decided not to take action in that incident.

2 - Religious freedom hearing takes place before U.S. House subcommittee

The issue of religious freedom was taken up on Capitol Hill this week.  During each session of Congress, the House Subcommittee on the Judiciary holds a hearing on religious freedom.  In this hearing, according to a report on the CitizenLink website, several Christian legal experts expressed their concerns on what is perceived as a rise in challenges to religious liberty by the current Administration. Testimony centered on topics such as religious freedom on campus, same-sex marriage and the judiciary.

Greg Baylor, senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom, said that the government has taken “extreme positions designed to dramatically decrease religious freedom...In order to protect our first liberty — religious freedom — Congress should consider taking steps within its power to curtail these harmful activities.”

Mat Staver, CEO of Liberty Counsel, said, “Judges have been tripping over one another to ignore the rule of law and the will of the people to invalidate the institution of marriage and silence any opposition to their ideology...The destruction of the institution of marriage is not only harmful to society at large, but it has resulted in unprecedented intrusion into the religious freedoms of individuals and businesses that have been attacked for operating their business according to the dictates of their conscience.”

Kim Colby, an attorney with the Christian Legal Society, testified about the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). Passed in 1993, the act was intended to ensure a “level playing field for Americans of all faiths.” Instead, RFRA has become a target for activists, especially when it comes to the HHS mandate in Obamacare. She pointed out that RFRA and the First Amendment, "require that the government respect religious liberty by restoring a definition of ‘religious employer’ that protects all entities with sincerely held religious convictions from providing, or otherwise enabling, the objectionable coverage." She added, “At the end of the day, this case is not about whether contraceptives will be readily available — access to contraceptives is plentiful and inexpensive — but whether America will remain a pluralistic society that sustains a robust religious liberty for Americans of all faiths.”

1 - Southern Baptists gather in Baltimore, elect new president, pass resolutions

The Southern Baptist Convention held its annual meeting at the Baltimore Convention Center this week, and just shy of 5300 representatives, or "messengers," gathered to elect a new President, hear from their outgoing leader, conduct business and speak with a united voice on certain issues of the day through resolutions.

Baptist Press offered a summary of the proceedings.

Ronnie Floyd, pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas, was elected President of the Convention on the first ballot with 51.62 percent of the vote. Maryland pastor Dennis Manpoong Kim was second with 40.70 percent of the vote. His predecessor, Fred Luter, shared a sermon based on Psalm 80:18-19, the passage for this year's "Restoration and Revival through Prayer" theme. He said Southern Baptists must repent of their failure to share the Gospel with lost men and women.

The convention adopted nine resolutions on topics ranging from transgender identity to payday lending, church revitalization, global hunger relief, the 50th anniversary of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and casinos and lotteries.

The resolution on transgender identity affirmed "God's good design that gender identity is determined by biological sex and not by one's self-perception." The resolution invited transgender persons "to trust in Christ and to experience renewal in the Gospel" and opposed all efforts to "validate transgender identity as morally praiseworthy."

According to, the resolution concerning gambling affirmed the messengers' opposition to government sponsorship of casinos and lotteries and asked Americans of all religious and political convictions to join in a call to end the practice, which they say has amounted to “corrupt deals” and “broken dreams.”

Regarding the Civil Rights Act, messengers marked the 50th anniversary of enactment of the Act and said that they, “lament and repudiate this nation’s long history of racial segregation as well as the complicity of Southern Baptists who resisted or opposed the dismantling of the evil of racial hierarchy in our churches or society.”

The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission presented awards: The Green family, owners of Hobby Lobby, received the John Leland Religious Liberty Award for their refusal to abide by the federal government's abortion/contraception mandate. Pastor Saeed Abedini, an Iranian-American pastor who is being held in prison in Iran, received the Richard Land Award for Distinguished Service for "faithfully serving the Lord Jesus Christ ... despite the risk involved."

According to, the Convention will be held in Columbus, Ohio next year and St. Louis in 2016.   And, in 5 years, in 2019, The Alabama Baptist reports that the Convention will be in Birmingham.

Monday, June 09, 2014

The 3 - June 8, 2014

In this week's edition of "The 3," my week-in-review feature, I take a look at a shooting at a Christian college campus in Seattle and an act of bravery that helped to thwart the gunman's acts.  Also, almost 2 dozen campuses in Virginia now have a new free speech policy.  And, the top story involves another wave of violent attacks being perpetrated in Nigeria, attributed to the same group that kidnapped almost 300 young girls recently and continues to hold them.

3 - Shooter opens fire at Seattle Christian college, subdued by other students

A lone gunman walked into Otto Miller Hall on the campus of Seattle Pacific University, a Christian college, last Thursday and began shooting, an incident which resulted in 1 death and 3 injuries. reported that Seattle police arrested a 26-year-old man as a suspect in the shooting, someone with no known connections to SPU and who was not a student at the school. He was armed with a shotgun and a knife, police said.

Police say that the suspect was subdued by a student, who was acting as a building monitor. That student is now widely identified as Jon Meis.  It was reported that he pepper-sprayed the gunman, then he tackled him to the ground.  Police told reporters that after the student building monitor subdued the shooter, other students jumped on top of them and helped to keep the shooter to the ground.

University President Dan Martin was quoted by CT as saying that, "We're a community that relies on Jesus Christ for strength and we'll need that at this time...My message is one of hope—in our Lord Savior Jesus Christ who can get us through this." Assistant police chief Paul McDonagh is quoted as saying, "I want to remind everyone here that the actions of the subject here do not define SPU or the city of Seattle...The actions of the students and staff, that's what defines Seattle Pacific University. This is not about an evil act but about the people that actually lived through his scenario and assisted each other when things were pretty tragic."

2 - VA community colleges change speech policies after judge rules in favor of a student's preaching

A tool that you have seen on college campuses to attempt to restrict free speech is the so-called "free speech zone."  Thanks to the efforts of one particular student at a system of community colleges in Virginia, teaming up with the Alliance Defending Freedom, an entire system has abolished its used of these so-called zones.

CitizenLink has a story on the circumstances surrounding Christian Parks, a student at Thomas Nelson Community College in Hampton, who was preaching in the campus courtyard last year. A school police officer told him to stop because his words “might offend someone.” Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) filed suit this March.

This resulted in a revised speech policy, under which free speech will no longer be limited to designated areas. In addition, students do not have to be part of a student organization, or register with the college four days early, in order to exercise their free-speech rights.  This extends to all 23 campuses in the college system.

In response, Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) attorney Travis Barham said, “We commend the Virginia Community College System for revising its speech policy to align with what a marketplace of ideas should be...The revised policies respect the rights of all students, regardless of their religious or political beliefs, to speak freely in the outdoor areas of campus.”

1 - Violence continues in Nigeria; hundreds of girls still held captive linked to a report on the CNN website that scores of residents in four villages in the northeastern Borno state of Nigeria, near the border with Cameroon, were killed Tuesday in Boko Haram raids, a lawmaker and residents said.

They said hundreds of homes were destroyed.

Heavily armed gunmen dressed as soldiers in all-terrain vehicles and on motorcycles attacked Goshe, Attagara, Agapalwa and Aganjara villages in Gwoza district, shooting residents and burning homes.

Villagers fled into neighboring Cameroon to escape the onslaughts, said Peter Biye, a lawmaker from the area who serves in the Nigerian lower parliament.

At the predominately Christian village of Attagara, the insurgents set fire to homes and a church and killed dozens of residents, according to Bulus Yashi, who fled to Gamboru Ngala.  He believes that it was a reprisal attack over casualties that the terrorist organization had suffered in two previous attacks in the village.

The WORLD website reports that in the recent wave of attacks, some 200 people were killed and perhaps at least 2000 were driven to an area where they were trapped without food or shelter.

CNN points out that Boko Haram Islamists have in recent times stepped up raids in northern Borno state near the border with Cameroon, Chad and Niger, pillaging villages, looting food stores and killing residents.

And, the website reports that Congressman Chris Smith of New Jersey was in Nigeria over the weekend.  He held a press conference, saying that Nigeria is ultimately responsible for securing the safe release of more than 200 girls who are still being held by Boko Haram.

But, Smith said, “The international community can and must play a robust supporting role especially in the area of intelligence and counterinsurgency training.”  Smith said he met this week with victims of Boko Haram, including one of the roughly 50 girls who have so far managed to escape.

Sunday, June 01, 2014

The 3 - June 1, 2014

This week's edition of my week-in-review feature, "The 3," with 3 stories of relevance affecting the Christian community, begins with news out of Houston, Texas, where a new non-discrimination ordinance has passed the City Council, which extends equal protection based on sexual orientation. Also, a Colorado cake baker who refused to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple received a ruling this week forcing him to bake wedding cakes for gay couples.  And, the top story involves news this graduation season, including the story of a student in Minnesota who will be allowed to include a Scripture in her graduation speech after being told originally she could not.

3 - Texas city passes new ordinance extending rights to homosexuals

The Houston City Council has approved a controversial gay rights ordinance that critics say would impede religious liberties.  According to CBN News, the 11-6 vote came late Wednesday after more than 12 hours of debate and months of protests from area churches and Christian business owners, who say the law is unconstitutional because it infringes on their right to speak out against homosexuality.

Willie Davis, pastor of MacGregor Palm Community Baptist Church in Houston, said that, "This is what the city has turned into. This is not equal rights; this is unequal rights..."

However, Houston Mayor Annise Parker, who is openly gay, said the measure protects sexual minorities.

She told reporters, "This is not the most important thing I have done or will do as mayor...But it is the most personally satisfying, the most personally meaningful thing that I will do as mayor."

CBN had reported that supporters had said the ordinance would protect sexual minorities while opponents had stated it wrongly elevates sexual orientation to a constitutionally protected class.

Some faith leaders in Houston support the measure but many say it will penalize businesses that want to practice biblical beliefs in the marketplace.

Dave Welch, executive director of The Houston Area Pastor Council, said Christian businesses facing complaints under the ordinance could be forced to pay a $500 daily fine, plus thousands of dollars in legal fees, for every complaint.

Alliance Defending Freedom had noted in an analysis that the ordinance offers no protection for rights of conscience.

2 - Colorado cake baker ordered to make cakes for same-sex ceremonies

Jack Phillips owns the Masterpiece Cakeshop in the Denver area.   In 2012, he was asked by two men to bake a wedding cake for the same-sex couple's ceremony - in a state where gay marriage is not legal.  He did not refuse to serve the two gay men who requested the cake; he said he would bake them any kind of cake - other than a wedding cake

The two men sued Phillips, and an administrative law judge ruled against Phillips last December, according to a report on the WORLD News Group website

The report states that this past Friday, the Civil Rights Commission in Colorado ruled unanimously against Phillips, and ordered him to make wedding cakes for same-sex couples, ruling his religious objections did not trump the state’s anti-discrimination statutes.

Phillips said the decision violates his First Amendment rights to free speech and free exercise. “I will stand by my convictions until somebody shuts me down,” he told reporters after the ruling.

The panel issued its decision verbally, ordering Phillips to “stop discriminating against gay people,” document any customers he refuses to serve, provide “anti-discrimination training” for his staff, and report quarterly for two years.

Phillips said his bakery has been so overwhelmed by supporters eager to buy cookies and brownies that he does not currently make wedding cakes. His legal counsel team, which includes religious liberty attorneys from Alliance Defending Freedom, is reportedly considering an appeal to the Colorado Court of Appeals.

1 - Religious freedom and graduation 

Graduation season has been a rather topsy-turvy affair this year, as students at several universities protested the choice of speaker for their commencement exercises.   And...of course, there are those incidences where students at some schools were facing issues concerning the expression of their faith.

A few weeks ago, a professor at East Carolina University had written a post telling students they could not mention God in their graduation statements.  But, a school official did step forward to clarify that religious references could be used in short, prepared statements that would be read at the graduation ceremony, according to the CBS Charlotte website.

And, a report from CitizenLink this week says that a Minnesota student will be able to read from the Bible during her graduation speech. She was originally told she would not be permitted to do so.

Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) sent a letter to Minnesota Connections Academy school officials after learning they told Genesis Feliciano, a senior, that she would have to remove a verse from her speech — or not be able to deliver a speech at all.  According to Feliciano, a school official said, “We don’t allow Bible verses to be quoted in graduation speeches.”  The school reversed its position after receiving the letter.

Also, CitizenLink reported on a graduation controversy from last week in Arizona, where a group of seniors opened and closed their graduation ceremony in prayer. Pima High School student Esperanza Gonzalez opened the ceremony with prayer.  She told the Eastern Arizona Courier that, “The world keeps saying, ‘No to God, no to God...So, we said ‘Yes’ to God, because He has helped us throughout our entire high school career.”

Sean Rickert, superintendent of Pima Unified School District, told reporters he made the decision to discontinue formal invocations at graduations, because he was following the advice of school district legal counsel. However, he said that, "The fact that the students here at Pima High School felt that they wanted to show their true colors, as it were, by saying a prayer at the beginning and end of their graduation ceremony makes me very proud.”

Bruce Hausknecht, legal analyst for Focus on the Family said the district actually made the right call, as did the students. He said, “The Supreme Court, for better or worse, has drawn some clear lines regarding prayer at high school graduations, in order to avoid First Amendment ‘establishment of religion’ problems."  He added, "The school avoided an inevitable lawsuit and court order."

He explained, "And the parents and students stood up for their own constitutional rights and, in the process, honored God with their prayers and faithful witness to the community...That’s a win-win for everyone.”