Sunday, February 01, 2015

The 3 - February 1, 2015

This week's edition of The 3, my week-in-review feature, includes some good news from Great Britain for a large-scale missions organization.  Also, more legal developments regarding a federal judge's ruling that Alabama's marriage amendment was unconstitutional.  And, there's news concerning New York City, where city attorneys continue to fight for the right to keep churches from meeting in school buildings - the defense team for a local church filed a brief this week with the U.S. Supreme Court.

3 - Youth With a Mission workers will be allowed to stay in Great Britain

Youth With a Mission is an organization that operates around the globe.  Its website describes the organization, also known as YWAM, as "a global movement of Christians from many cultures, age groups, and Christian traditions, dedicated to serving Jesus throughout the world."

In 1960, the organization's main focus was to get youth involved in missions. Today, it still focuses on youth, and people ages 8 to 80 are involved. It currently works in more than 1,100 locations in over 180 countries, with a staff of over 18,000.

In December, according to a Christianity Today piece, Britain suspended licenses for 300 YWAM missionaries and their families due to issues with the organization’s sponsorship paperwork.  Without the authorization to sponsor visas, YWAM would have been forced to send the missionaries home as soon as April, cutting its presence in England and Wales in half.

This week, it was announced that government officials reinstated the organization’s sponsorship status, meaning that these YWAM workers could continue their work.  In a statement, YWAM said that, "We are extremely grateful for this positive outcome, but admit that we have had to learn several hard lessons about our internal processes and our approach to record keeping.”

The missionary organization, which has operated in the UK for more than 40 years, released a statement Tuesday praising God for the resolution to its visa issue and thanking supporters for their encouragement.

2 - Alabama marriage amendment defended by Chief Justice and Governor, Attorney General appeals federal judge's ruling

Over a week ago, on January 23 a federal judge in Mobile, Alabama issued a ruling saying that Alabama's marriage amendment, defining marriage as one man and one woman, was unconstitutional.   That ruling, along with another that she issued dealing with same-sex marriage, were both placed on hold until February 9, giving the 11th Circuit appeals court an opportunity to extend a stay on the ruling taking effect.

A Baptist Press piece follows the series of events involving probate judges in the state, who would be charged with issuing marriage licenses for same-sex couples. After the initial ruling, the Alabama Probate Judges Association issued a statement claiming the ruling only applied to "parties in the case" and did not require its members to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

But a clarification issued by the judge, Ginny Granade, on January 28 led the president of the judges' organization to say in a statement that the association now believes its members could be required to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples February 9.

The piece also includes a report on the letter that Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore sent Gov. Robert Bentley on January 27 stating that Moore would "continue to recognize the Alabama Constitution and the will of the people overwhelmingly expressed in the Sanctity of Marriage Amendment." Moore added that "nothing in the United States Constitution grants the federal government the authority to redefine the institution of marriage," according to a report on

In response, Bentley issued a statement expressing his support of the marriage amendment. He stated, "The people of Alabama voted in a constitutional amendment to define marriage as being between man and woman...As governor, I must uphold the Constitution. I am disappointed in Friday's ruling, and I will continue to oppose this ruling. The Federal government must not infringe on the rights of states."

As an article points out, the governor filed a court brief to support Attorney General Luther Strange's appeal to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to put the January 23 ruling on hold.

The piece reports on the 24-page brief submitted by attorneys for Bentley, which argues, among other points, that the 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution grants the power to define marriage to states.

They argue that a stay pending a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court would avoid substantial confusion on the law concerning marriage licenses in Alabama.  The Supreme Court has agreed to take up the issue of same-sex marriage in its upcoming term.  

1 - Legal team files brief in defense of churches' right to meet in public school buildings, New York City mayor's legal team defends ban

This past Monday, the Alliance Defending Freedom filed a brief before the U.S Supreme Court answering New York City’s arguments against the high scrutinizing its attempts to ban worship services in empty public school buildings, according to the website.  In September of last year, ADF asked the high court to review a 2-1 ruling by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit that upheld a city policy prohibiting worship services in public school buildings during non-school hours.  The panel’s ruling is on hold until the Supreme Court decides whether to take the case.

ADF Senior Counsel Jordan Lorence contends that, "In New York City, any community group can meet in vacant school buildings for any purpose except for religious groups meeting to worship God. The city’s arguments in defense of this policy cannot withstand constitutional scrutiny," adding, "Evicting churches and the help they offer the people in their communities through their worship services in otherwise empty buildings on weekends helps no one. Violating the First Amendment, as New York City is doing, hurts everyone. For that reason, we hope the U.S. Supreme Court will agree to hear this important case."

The New York City Department of Education has defended this policy, known as Regulation I.Q., in court on and off since 1995 even though the department allows other community groups to rent space for their meetings. As reports, this case began in 1995, when Bronx Household of Faith submitted an application to rent a public school building for its worship services, but was denied by the Board of Education.  The matter then went to court, and the Board of Education argued that allowing churches to use school facilities and to advertise their services amounted to a violation of the Establishment Clause in the United States Constitution.  The church, represented by ADF, pointed to the fact that religious student groups already use school rooms after hours for Bible reading and prayer.

The case went all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court, which declined to hear the matter.  In 2012, however, U.S. District Court Judge Loretta Presha issued a permanent injunction, allowing the Bronx Household of Faith to continue to hold services in local public school buildings indefinitely. She stated that denial of the use of the building equated to an infringement of the Free Exercise and Establishment Clauses of the U.S. Constitution.

But the ruling was again appealed, and last April, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals issued its ruling that the school board's prohibition doesn’t violate the Constitution. The case was then again appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, despite the declaration of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio during his campaign, quoted by Christianity Today, that, "I stand by my belief that a faith organization playing by the same rules as any community non-profit deserves access," attorneys for the city argued to keep its current restrictions.  Their brief said, according to, said, "The department’s decision to make public schools available to religious organizations for a wide range of activities, but not for worship services or as a house of worship, is constitutional." It also stated, "The policy does not prohibit, limit, or burden any religious practice; does not entangle the government in matters of religion; and does not impair petitioners’ ability to speak freely."

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