Sunday, August 16, 2015

The 3 - August 16, 2015

On this week's edition of my week-in-review feature, The 3, there continue to be ramifications from the information shared about Planned Parenthood and its alleged sale of body parts from aborted babies.  Also, in two cases involving religious freedom, a Colorado cake baker was found guilty by an appeals court of discriminating against a gay couple, and a Federal judge has ruled against a Kentucky clerk who will not issue marriage licenses to gay couples.  And, the top story involves some good news regarding the release of some Assyrian Christians that had been held hostage by ISIS; however, two Sudanese men who were set free by a judge are having some issues in leaving the country.

3 - AR cuts state funding to Planned Parenthood, Federal Government says that states who cut Medicaid funds for Planned Parenthood may be violating law

The fallout from the videos that have announced and affirmed that Planned Parenthood is involved in the sale of body parts from pre-born children continues to build, and this week, another state has announced it will no longer send tax dollars to Planned Parenthood through its Medicaid program.

The Christian Post reports that Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson has asked the state's Department of Human Services to end its Medicaid contract with Planned Parenthood. The governor is quoted as saying that, "It is apparent that after the recent revelations on the actions of Planned Parenthood, that this organization does not represent the values of the people of our state and Arkansas is better served by terminating any and all existing contracts with them."

Earlier, the Obama administration had warned Louisiana and Alabama that their similar action may violate federal law.

A Breitbart story, citing a report in The Wall Street Journal, says that The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), which is part of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), has stepped in to warn these states that they may be in violation of federal law because it says that the blocking of Planned Parenthood receiving these Medicaid funds could result in women losing access to essential preventive care, such as cancer prevention screenings.

The Brietbart piece says that spokesmen for both Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley said their states are not in violation of federal law since their Medicaid contracts with Planned Parenthood give either party the right to cancel it at will with a notice period: 30 days for Louisiana and 15 days for Alabama.

The HHS guidance says that states can exclude providers from Medicaid funding if their engagement in certain criminal acts is proven, a provision that many believe is the case with the videos of Planned Parenthood’s top medical personnel discussing the sale of aborted baby organs and body parts.

And, the Christian Post story related that StemExpress, which works with Planned Parenthood, said it is cutting its ties with the country's largest abortion provider.

Also, The Christian Post reported that the undercover videos can continue after biomedical company StemExpress failed, through legal action, to stop their release.

"It is apparent that after the recent revelations on the actions of Planned Parenthood, that this organization does not represent the values of the people of our state and Arkansas is better served by terminating any and all existing contracts with them," Hutchinson said in a statement Friday.
The Republican governor added that this includes "their affiliated organization, Planned Parenthood of Arkansas and Eastern Oklahoma."
Hutchinson has not heeded the Obama administration's warning issued earlier to Louisiana and Alabama that their similar action may violate federal law.
However, DHS spokesperson Amy Webb said in a statement: "Based on the legal guidance from our counsel and a review of the contract, which allows either party to terminate for any reason with 30 days notice, we believe that we can terminate the provider agreement."

2 - CO baker loses in court over his refusal to provide cake for same-sex wedding ceremony, court tells KY clerk to issue marriage licenses for same-sex couples

Jack Phillips, the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Colorado, in 2012, declined to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple, based on his Christian faith.  A Todd Starnes report at tells the story.  According to court documents, Phillips offered to make them any other baked goods – including cakes, but they demanded that he make a wedding cake.

This week, the Colorado Court of Appeals affirmed an order from the Colorado Civil Rights Commission’s order that Phillips violated the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act when he refused to make a wedding cake for Charlie Craig and David Mullins.  

The Alliance Defending Freedom has been representing Jack Phillips. Attorney Jeremy Tedesco said, “Jack simply exercised the long-cherished American freedom to decline to use his artistic talents to promote a message with which he disagrees,” adding, “Government has a duty to protect people’s freedom to follow their beliefs personally and professionally rather than force them to adopt the government’s views.”

Phillips told Starnes that, "The court’s ruling is not fair...It shows that some people have more equal rights than others. When you’re not in line with the same-sex agenda, you don’t have as much equal rights.”   Starnes points out:

As it stands – Jack will be required by the government to make wedding cakes for same-sex couples. If he denies anyone service, he will be required to explain why. He is also expected to retrain his staff in the state’s anti-discrimination policies – including his 88-year-old mother.
It sounds like the government wants to round up Phillips and his staff and haul them to a reeducation camp – where they can be purged of the religious beliefs that offend the LGBT community.
“My mom is on my staff and she said she will not be retrained,” he defiantly said. “And I’m not going to make same-sex wedding cakes.”

Also, this week, a U.S. District Judge issued an opinion ordering Rowan County, Kentucky, Clerk Kim Davis to issue same-sex marriage licenses.  According to Mat Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, which is representing the clerk: "Kim Davis did not sign up as a clerk to issue same-sex marriage licenses. Her job duty was changed by five lawyers without any constitutional authority. At a minimum, her religious convictions should be accommodated.”

The judge wrote: "...her religious convictions cannot excuse her from performing the duties that she took an oath to perform as Rowan County Clerk.”

Staver said, "Judge Bunning’s decision equated Kim’s free exercise of religion to going to church. This is absurd! Christianity is not a robe you take off when you leave a sanctuary." He continued, "he First Amendment guarantees Kim and every American the free exercise of religion, even when they are working for the government."  Liberty Counsel filed a request for a stay, as well as an appeal of the decision.

1 - Christians being held by ISIS released, Sudanese pastors await clearance to leave the country

There's been some good news this week on the international religious freedom front. According to The Christian Post, there were 22 Assyrian Christians released by ISIS.  They were part of the 200 Christians abducted in February in the Khabur region in northeastern Syria.

The Assyrian Observatory for Human Rights has said the Christians were released due to "the tireless efforts and negotiations by the Assyrian Church of the East in the city of Hasakeh," and noted that there were 14 women among the hostages.

At least 187 other Assyrians from the Khabur region remain imprisoned and ANHR Director Osama Edward is vowing that negotiations will continue to free them all. He is quoted as saying, "There is a positive atmosphere around the negotiation."

Also, the American Center for Law and Justice is reporting that there have been some delays in the release of 2 Sudanese pastors.   The ACLJ website has said that pastors Yat Michael Ruot and Peter Yein Reith were released by a Sudanese judge.  The pastors were originally from South Sudan and were facing possible death sentences.  The Center said that the pastors were released after a major international outcry.

However, they encountered some delays in leaving the country. After they were released from prison, the two men travelled to the airport to leave the country, but they were told they could not due to a travel ban.   It turns out that the judge may not have had jurisdiction to lift the ban, if it was put in placed by the National Intelligence Security Service (NISS), which originally levied the fabricated charges against the pastors. A hearing was set for Sunday, the 9th, and following that hearing, the travel ban remains in place.

The ACLJ website states:

We continue working with our contacts on the ground and aggressively advocating across the globe, urging Sudan to let the pastors leave the country. They and their families remain at risk. They will not be truly free until they are safely out of Sudan.

There is a petition on the organization's website or through also reports on two men who were released from Vietnam earlier this month. Authorities released Catholic blogger Paulus Le Van Son and Protestant activist Nguyen Van Oai, who had both served four-year prison terms for “trying to overthrow the legitimate government.” The articles states that they were arrested during a 2011 crackdown against bloggers and others with ties to human and religious rights groups, according to a report on the Asia News website.

And, the Christian Headlines website mentioned that Iranian Christians rejoiced when authorities released Church of Iran member Alireza Seyyedian on Aug. 1, according to Middle East Concern. Seyyedian served three and a half years in prison after authorities re-arrested him in March 2012 for trying to enter Turkey.  

The ACLJ reports on another prisoner in Iran, Pastor Saeed Abedini. The organization's website says that Human Right Activists News Agency Iran published a story this week that Pastor Saeed was again the victim of an aggressive inspection at the prison. The report said that Saeed’s condition in Rajai Shahr prison was very worrisome and that on August 6th, prison guards raided Pastor Saeed’s prison cell again. The news agency reports that Saeed was the sole target of the raid and that the guards’ actions toward Pastor Saeed were dishonorable and harsh.  A petition for Pastor Saeed's release can be found at

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