Sunday, October 26, 2014

The 3 - October 26, 2014

In this week's edition of The 3, my week-in-review feature, there is emerging news from the country of Nigeria, where a militant group has apparently kidnapped more young ladies, even though there had been talk of some sort of ceasefire.  Also, there is confusion in the case of 2 Idaho wedding chapel operators who have refused to perform same-sex wedding ceremonies.  And, another Federal judge has upheld a law defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

3 - Boko Haram abducts 25 more girls against backdrop of possible truce

News has surfaced this week that militants suspected to be part of the Boko Haram terrorist group have reportedly kidnapped at least 25 girls in an attack on a remote town in northeastern Nigeria, even against the backdrop of talks on freeing over 200 other female hostages they seized in April. This is according to a report on the Irish Times website, referenced by, which points out that Boko Haram terrorists already have nearly 200 girls in captivity that were abducted from a school in Chibok on April 14.  In this recent attack, the militants reportedly came late in the night and forced all of the women and girls to go with them; the older women were later released but 25 girls were kept captive.

Nearly a week after the government announced a ceasefire deal with Boko Haram, which it said would include the release of the girls kidnapped from the secondary school in Chibok in northeastern Nigeria in April, there is still no sign of them being freed.

Talks to release the schoolgirls have been reportedly been taking place in secret between the government and a Boko Haram representative in the capital of Chad, N’Djamena.

John Kwaghe, who witnessed the most recent attack and lost three daughters to the abductors, was quoted as saying that, “We are confused that hours after the so-called ceasefire agreement has been entered between the Federal Government and Boko Haram insurgents, our girls were abducted by the insurgents...We urge the government to please help rescue our daughters without further delay, as we are ready to die searching.”

2 - Wedding chapel operators who refused to do gay wedding may be exempt from city's anti-discrimination law

Even though the Idaho marriage amendment defining marriage as one man-one woman, was struck down by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals recently, the owners of a wedding chapel in Couer d'Alene refused to marry gay couples, citing their religious beliefs.  Furthermore, it was thought that they could be in violation of a city non-discrimination ordinance.

But, according to, things may be going in favor of chapel owners.  This past Thursday, the interim executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Idaho, Leo Morales, said he won’t pursue legal action because the chapel owned by Donald and Evelyn Knapp, the Hitching Post, only provides religious services and is exempted from the local ordinance. He said the ACLU would reconsider its stance if the chapel were to offer secular services, such as providing flowers or cakes, or holding nonreligious ceremonies.

Alliance Defending Freedom spokesman Greg Scott said that Couer d’Alene police had called the couple on Thursday to investigate a possible violation of the city’s 2013 anti-discrimination ordinance after a complaint from someone who had requested a same-sex ceremony and was refused. ADF filed a lawsuit against the city on behalf the Knapps.

Keith Erickson, a city spokesperson, said, "As a religious organization, they are exempt from our anti-discrimination law. They are for-profit...We’re asking them to dismiss this federal lawsuit. It has no merit because the ordinance doesn’t apply to them.” However, city attorney Mike Gridley had written to the ADF earlier this month saying, “If they are operating as a legitimate not-for-profit religious corporation then they are exempt from the ordinance like any other church or religious association.”

Meanwhile, ADF said the Hitching Post is not a nonprofit religious organization like a church, but rather is a religious for-profit limited liability company like a Bible publisher.  

So, whether or not the Knapps are exempt remains to be seen - one thing that is clear:  the Knapps will not be performing same-sex ceremonies at their wedding chapel.

Recently, Stuart Shepard of CitizenLink discussed this case and other topics.   You can listen to it or download it here.

1 - Puerto Rico Federal judge upholds traditional marriage

This past week, according to the WORLD Magazine website, U.S. District Court Judge Juan Pérez-Giménez upheld the constitutionality of the 1902 Puerto Rico marriage statute defining marriage as one man and one woman, following a challenge by five homosexual couples. The couples’ attorney said they would appeal.

In his opinion, Pérez-Giménez wrote that heterosexual marriage was essential to society and related concern that changing the definition of marriage opens the door to legalizing polygamous and incestuous relationships.  He said, "Ultimately, the very survival of the political order depends upon the procreative potential embodied in traditional marriage...Those are the well-tested, well-proven principles on which we have relied for centuries.”

As WORLD notes, the Puerto Rico judge's decision stands out among others by about two dozen judges on the U.S. mainland who overturned state marriage laws following the 2013 landmark Supreme Court ruling U.S. v. Windsor.  In his opinion, Pérez-Giménez said U.S. judges overturning state marriage laws wrongly interpreted the high court's Windsor decision, which struck down a federal provision that denied some tax, health, and veteran’s benefits to legally married gay couples. The ruling did not, however, declare gay marriage legal on a national scale.  He wrote that Windsor was a bolstering of states’ rights.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

The 3 - October 19, 2014

In this week's edition of "The 3," my week-in-review feature, I focus on some international news, with developments in the ongoing case of the first Christian women to face a death sentence under Pakistan's blasphemy laws.  Also, students across America were being encouraged to bring their Bibles to school this past Thursday.  And, the top story involves the situation in Houston, Texas, where pastors' communications are being subpoenaed.

3 - Pakistani court upholds Asia Bibi's death sentence

Asia Bibi, the first Christian woman to be sentenced to death under Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, had her appeal of her conviction rejected by the High Court in Lahore on Thursday, according to a report on the World Watch Monitor website.

The women, also known as Aasiya Noreen, received the death penalty in 2010 after she allegedly made derogatory comments about the Prophet Mohammed during an argument with a Muslim woman.

However, the Superintendent of Police who investigated Asia’s case, testified in the trial court that the religious argument broke out over drinking water, and not about the Prophet or the Koran. The trial court judge nonetheless convicted her and gave her the death penalty.

The Lahore High Court began hearing the appeal in March this year, but the case kept circulating among several judges who postponed its hearing.  Legal sources told World Watch Monitor that judges were unwilling to decide the case because of fear of reprisal from extremist elements.  Asia Bibi's defense team now has one more opportunity to appeal her case by taking it to Pakistan’s Supreme Court.

Asia Bibi has had some high-profile supporters, the article notes.  Pope Benedict XVI appealed to the Pakistani government for clemency.  The then-Governor of Punjab, Salmaan Taseer, went to meet Noreen in prison and prepared a petition for mercy, which he had intended to submit to the President of Pakistan, but he was killed in 2011 because of his support for Asia and his characterization of the blasphemy laws as "black laws."  Two months later, the only Christian member of the cabinet, Shahbaz Bhatti, was killed.  Bhatti had supported Noreen and sought to reform Pakistan's blasphemy laws, which, according to the article, are often used to settle personal scores and pressure religious minorities.

2 - Students encouraged to participate in "Bring Your Bible to School Day"

This past Thursday, students across the nation were invited to participate in a national effort called Bring Your Bible to School Day, according to a report on the website.  The initiative is sponsored by Focus on the Family, in association with the Day of Dialogue.  It is stated to be “designed to empower Christian students who have a heart for sharing Christ’s love and express a Biblical perspective on current-day issues with peers.”

Students participating in the effort were encouraged to not only bring their Bible to school, but to also engage in dialogue with their peers about matters of faith during non-instructional times. 

Candi Cushman, Focus on the Family's education analyst and facilitator of Day of Dialogue, said, "We believe truth rises to the surface when honest conversations and a free exchange of ideas are allowed to happen...It equips the next generation of Christian leaders with confidence that the Gospel of Christ speaks into even the most sensitive cultural issues.” Organizers are quoted as saying that the (Day of Dialogue) event began three years ago with just a few hundred participants, but has now grown to an estimated 18,000 youth observances nationwide.

The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) issued a legal memo surrounding the observance.   ADF Senior Legal Counsel Jeremy Tedesco is quoted as saying that, “Christian students don’t abandon their constitutionally protected freedoms at the schoolhouse gate...Their freedom to express their beliefs includes the right to bring their Bible to school, to read it during their free time, and to engage in other activities as part of ‘Bring Your Bible to School Day.’”

1 - Houston pastors under threats from city officials

A fierce debate on a so-called "equal rights ordinance" in Houston reached a whole new level this week.  In June, the city council had passed the ordinance, supported by openly lesbian mayor Annise Parker, which provides for new policies, including allowing those who identify as a gender different than their biological one to use the bathroom of the opposite sex.  A petition drive challenging the law was launched earlier this year, and even though the number of signatures collected was well over the threshold of necessary signatures, city officials claimed that there were not enough valid ones.  A lawsuit was filed to challenge the actions of the city of Houston, and this week, a group of 5 pastors, none of them involved in the lawsuit, were presented subpoenas for various forms of communication, including sermons.

You can read a report from the Alliance Defending Freedom here.

According to a Family Research Council blog post from FRC President Tony Perkins,
Everyone from Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) to the liberal Americans United for the Separation of Church and State have challenged Parker’s naked abuse of government power.
Writing about a Thursday press conference, Perkins said:
The Mayor “should be ashamed,” Sen. Cruz told reporters before a local press conference this morning. “This is wrong. It’s unbefitting of Texans, and it’s un-American. The government has no business asking pastors to turn over their sermons.”
Perkins points out that Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott called out city leaders with the full weight of the state.  In a formal letter to Houston city attorney David Feldman, he wrote: “Whether you intend it to be so or not, your action is a direct assault on the religious liberty guaranteed by the First Amendment...The people of Houston and their religious leaders must be absolutely secure in the knowledge that their religious affairs are beyond the reach of the government. Nothing short of an immediate reversal by your office will provide that security.”

In a press conference with Parker, Feldman said, “It’s unfortunate...that our subpoenas have been construed as some effort to infringe on religious beliefs.”  It was widely reported that the mayor did eliminate sermons from subpoenas, but other forms of communication are being sought.  Casey Mattox of the Alliance Defending Freedom is quoted on the FRC blog: "The only way to make this subpoena appropriate and not unconstitutional is to place a giant red X across the whole thing. Otherwise, this is window dressing intended to shield them from public attention, not any real change. There is NO construction of this subpoena that is appropriate. Period.”

A conversation with Kerri Kupec, Legal Communications Director for ADF, from the Friday, October 17 edition of The Meeting House can be found here.

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.

Sunday, October 05, 2014

The 3 - October 5, 2014

This week on this edition of The 3, my week-in-review feature, there is news out of Switzerland that has stopped a court move to try to loosen restrictions on physician-assisted suicide.  Also, a Federal appeals court has upheld a law in Texas that established standards for abortion clinics in the state. And, the top story involves a popular Christian family expert who has teamed up with his son to release a brand new set of video resources, including some updated material from a series released decades ago.

3 - Swiss court overturns decision providing for physician-assisted suicide

In a case out of Switzerland, in which the Alliance Defending Freedom had filed a brief, ADF reports that the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights this past Tuesday threw out a case filed against the Swiss government for its refusal to provide suicide drugs to a woman who did not suffer from any fatal disease.

The chamber nullified a ruling by a panel of the Court against Switzerland upon learning that the woman at the center of the lawsuit actually committed suicide in November 2011 and that no one had notified the court or others involved in the lawsuit of her death or of the fact that she committed suicide using the very poison that she was attempting to secure through her lawsuit.

The Grand Chamber had agreed to review the case after an ECHR panel ruled 4-3 that Switzerland’s law banning lethal poison in such circumstances violates Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, regarding the right to respect for private and family life, because the court considered the law vague. That ruling is now null and void.

ADF Legal Counsel Paul Coleman is quoted as saying, “Because the government has an obligation to protect life, not assist in promoting death, we are pleased to see this bad decision thrown out despite the extraordinary circumstances...The lawsuit’s claim that a person should be able to do whatever he or she pleases does not override national laws rightfully designed to protect the weak and vulnerable.”

ADF intervened in the case in March 2012. Switzerland is one of only four European countries to allow doctor-prescribed death in certain circumstances, but individuals can obtain sodium pentobarbital, a drug that can be used to commit suicide, only after a medical examination and prescription by a doctor.  That protocol will remain intact.

The Alliance Defending Freedom pointed out that the case attempted to create a “right” to assisted suicide under the European Convention.  In a very similar case, Haas v. Switzerland, the ECHR in 2011 unanimously rejected the claim that the country had an obligation to assist individuals in committing suicide.

2 - Texas pro-life law upheld by appeals court

In August, a Federal court judge had ruled to be unconstitutional a provision in a Texas law that required abortion facilities to adhere to the same standards of other surgical centers.  This past Thursday, a three-judge panel of the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned that lower court ruling, according to a report on the website.  The passage of the original law had been expected to result in the closure of a significant number of abortion clinics in the state.

The website reported that the Center for Reproductive Rights had filed suit to challenge two regulations imposed by H.B. 2, including the requirement that abortion facilities comply with the standards of surgical centers. Those who opposed the law stated that the requirement would be too costly for the majority of abortionists, in some cases meaning upwards of $1 million dollars in upgrades.

In August, U.S. District Court Judge Lee Yeakel declared the regulation unconstitutional, asserting that it was created by “a brutally effective system of abortion regulation that reduces access to abortion clinics, thereby creating a statewide burden for substantial numbers of Texas women.”

The appeals court judge who wrote the majority opinion, Judge Jennifer Walker Elrod, wrote, "Without any evidence on these points, plaintiffs do not appear to have met their burden to show that the ambulatory surgical center provision will result in insufficient clinic capacity that will impose an undue burden on a large fraction of women."

The article points out that reports state that seven to eight abortion facilities in Texas will be able to remain due to the ruling, down from the current 19 that are open.

1 - Churches simulcast portion of new Dobson video series 

This week, the video series on which Dr. James Dobson and his son, Ryan, collaborated, was released and included a simulcast of one of the video presentations, which was being shown in an estimated 5000 churches, according to the website,

According to that site, the simulcast featured a single session entitled Your Legacy.  In the film, Dr. James Dobson takes viewers on a journey of the legacy that was set before him and shared insight on what is most important in leaving a legacy.   The simulcast was designed to be a launch into seven other films, books, and Bible studies.  The titles of the other films are, Bringing Up Boys, Bringing Up Girls, The Strong-Willed Child, Dare to Discipline, Straight Talk to Men, Love For a Lifetime, and Wanting to Believe.

In an interview for The Meeting House at the National Religious Broadcasters convention earlier this year, Ryan Dobson shared how he was inspired by watching his father's Focus on the Family film series from the 70's and how he was intent on re-releasing and updating some of that material.   The Focus on the Family website states that the series has been viewed by more than 90 million people worldwide.

Dr. Dobson also joined me recently to discuss his inspiration and involvement in the project, as well as some of the driving principles.  Both Dr. Dobson and Ryan Dobson have each released a book to coincide with the project.