Sunday, February 08, 2015

The 3 - February 8, 2015

In this week's edition of The 3, my week-in-review feature:  a new development in the case of an Oregon bakery who refused to endorse a same-sex wedding by baking a cake for it.  Also, there's been quite a bit of commentary on President Obama's message at this week's National Prayer Breakfast likening the brutality of ISIS as an extreme perversion of religion to, as he put it, the Crusades or Jim Crow laws.  And, an appeals court ruling upheld the rights of a parachurch ministry to set its practices on who to employ or terminate according to its faith principles.

3 - Christian bakers in OR found guilty of discrimination, could pay huge fine

In 2013, the owners of Sweet Cakes by Melissa, a bakery in Oregon, declined to provide a wedding cake for a same-sex couple, according to a report by Todd Starnes on the Fox News website, who said that the owners, Todd and Melissa Klein, were relentlessly pummeled in the media. LGBT activists launched protests and boycotts. Starnes reports that their small children even received death threats - simply because they chose to follow the teachings of their faith.

He also states that:
At some point the activists threatened to launch boycotts against any wedding vendor that did business with the Kleins. That turned out to be the death blow to their retail shop. Today, Melissa bakes cakes out of the family’s home.
The report says that last year, investigators concluded the bakers had violated the couple’s rights to equal treatment in places that serve the public.  And, in the latest development, an Oregon administrative law judge ruled on January 29 that the Todd and Melissa did, in fact, discriminate in 2013 when they declined to provide the cake for the lesbian couple because it would have violated their Christian beliefs against same-sex marriage.  The announcement of the judge's ruling was made this past Monday, according to a piece on the Baptist Press website.

There will now by a hearing on March 10 at which the Kleins will learn how they will be punished. They could have to pay at least $150,000 in fines.  Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian will be making that determination. Starnes reports that in 2013, Avakian told The Oregonian that it is the government’s desire was to "rehabilitate" businesses like the one owned by the Kleins.

Aaron Klein is quoted as saying that there will be no reconciliation and there will be no rehabilitation. He said, "There's nothing wrong with what we believe...It’s a biblical point of view. It’s my faith. It’s my religion.”

2 - Critics call out President for comments about religious extremism at National Prayer Breakfast

The National Prayer Breakfast is an annual event held in the nation's capital which generally features a keynote speaker, along with a message by the current President.  Dr. Ben Carson was the speaker in 2013, Eric Metaxas the year before that.  This year, NASCAR great and Fox Sports commentator Darrell Waltrip was the guest speaker.  He shared about his own personal faith journey and apparently delivered a strong presentation of gospel truth.  WORLD reported on Waltrip's message:
“If you’ve never gotten on your knees and asked Him to forgive you of your sins—you’re just a pretty good guy or a pretty good gal?—you’re going to go to hell,” Waltrip said, after telling the story of how he accepted Christ following a bad crash in 1983. He walked away from the wreckage wondering what might have happened to him if he had died.
During his younger years, Waltrip said he was arrogant and drank too much. He was more interested in hanging out at bars than going to church. But his wife, he said, prayed for him for years and continually pointed him toward God. When he finally got on his knees, he said it felt like the weight of the world had been lifted from his shoulders.
However, Waltrip's testimony has been overshadowed by the words of President Obama.  WORLD reports that Mr. Obama said that Islamic State militants are part of a “death cult,” not a legitimate religion: “We are summoned to push back against those who would distort our religion for their nihilistic ends.”

But, as the article points out:
Rather than focus his comments on Islam, Obama wagged a rhetorical finger at Christians, who he said were responsible centuries ago for atrocities during the Crusades and more recently for using the name of Christ to justify slavery and later Jim Crow laws in the United States. Because of that history, the president said, Christians especially should be humble in assuming they have all the answers or a direct line to divine revelation.
A number of Christian leaders were swift to respond, such as Franklin Graham, who posted on his Facebook page, according to The Christian Post:
"Today at the National Prayer Breakfast, the President implied that what ISIS is doing is equivalent to what happened over 1000 years ago during the Crusades and the Inquisition," Graham wrote. "Mr. President — Many people in history have used the name of Jesus Christ to accomplish evil things for their own desires. But Jesus taught peace, love and forgiveness."
Graham further wrote that unlike Jesus, who lived His life without sin, Mohammed took many innocent lives.
"[Jesus] came to give His life for the sins of mankind, not to take life. Mohammad on the contrary was a warrior and killed many innocent people," Graham asserted. "True followers of Christ emulate Christ — true followers of Mohammed emulate Mohammed."
The article reports that Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, also criticized Obama for his easy willingness to condemn Christian brutality but inability to acknowledge terrorist ties to Islam. He told Megyn Kelly of Fox News that he thinks the president squandered a chance to bring more awareness to the lives of people currently being oppressed by Muslim oppressors, which currently includes an American citizen, Saeed Abedini.

And, Western Journalism reports on the words of Bishop E.W. Jackson of STANDAmerica on Fox and Friends, telling Elizabeth Hasselbeck:
This president does everything he possibly can to defend Islam and does almost nothing to defend the honor of this country. And yes, once again, he’s giving them exactly what they want. And you know, Elizabeth, they’re laughing at us because all they see it as, is a sign of weakness. And America needs to operate from strength.
Jackson concluded his comments with a strong message to Christians:
Pray for our president. I think he’s deeply misguided and confused. Pray for our country. We need leaders who will defend the integrity of our nation.

1 - Appeals court rules that parachurch ministry can set employment qualifications based on faith 

This past Thursday, a ruling was handed down by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals involving InterVarsity Christian Fellowship and its employment practices. According to a Christianity Today report, the ruling is apparently an extension of the Hosanna-Tabor decision that said that churches could establish practices concerning the hiring and firing of employees based on their faith principles.

In 2013, a former spiritual director at InterVarsity filed a lawsuit challenging her firing. She had been placed on paid leave in 2011 after informing her supervisor she was considering divorce, and terminated that December for what she alleges was "failing to reconcile her marriage." (Her husband filed for divorce the following month.) She claimed that two of her male colleagues in similar situations had not received the same treatment.

According to the report, the court ruled that because InterVarsity is a religious organization and the employee was a "ministerial employee," "IVCF’s decision to terminate her employment cannot be challenged under federal or state employment discrimination laws."

The article provided some of the backstory of the Hosanna-Tabor case, in which the Supreme Court ruled that a Lutheran school teacher was a "minister" who could not sue the church that fired her in 2005, on the basis of the “ministerial exception,” which allows religious institutions to hire and fire employees according to their religious criteria. While the Sixth Circuit acknowledged that IVCF was not a church, it granted faith-based organizations the same rights.

The article quotes David French, an attorney for the American Center for Law and Justice, which represented IVCF in this case, who wrote, “These conclusions demonstrate profound respect for our constitutional structure and for the First Amendment...It is simply not the business of the government to determine who may or may not serve as a minister of the Gospel—or a minister of any other faith."

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