Sunday, October 18, 2015

The 3 - October 18, 2015

In my week-in-review feature, The 3, I identify three stories of relevance to the Christian community. This week, a high school football coach in Washington state made headlines when he announced his intention to defy a school district prohibition on a weekly practice of walking to the 50-yard-line to pray, and this past Friday night, he followed through.  Also, a Kentucky city is under fire because of a cross on the top of a water tower there.  And, the news emerged this week of the death of an evangelist in eastern Uganda, who was involved in sponsoring debates with Muslims in the region.

3 - Coach defies school district, prays at midfield after game

After the Bremerton High School football game in Washington state on Friday night, assistant coach Joe Kennedy continued the practice in which he has engaged for years, walking to the 50 yard line and saying a prayer.  The Daily Mail reported on the postgame event.

The report said that the coach defied the Bremerton School District, which demanded he stop leading post-football game prayers, and went to the 50-yard line to say a 'private, post-game prayer' on Friday.  To his surprise, he was joined by some members from his Bremerton High School football team, players from the opposing team and a group of supporters during the homecoming game as a sign of solidarity.

The report quoted from the Seattle Times, which quoted the coach's prayer: "Lord, I thank you for these kids and the blessing you’ve given me with them. We believe in the game, we believe in competition and we can come into it as rivals and leave as brothers." 

Check out this quote from the district's Superintendent on the district's website: "Like every public school district in the nation, our teaching and coaching staff is not allowed to include religious expression, including prayer, in talks with students while on duty for the District."  To me, that sounds like a denial of "free exercise" of religion, as guaranteed by the First Amendment.

The Daily Mail article reports that Hiram Sasser of the Liberty Institute said the coach's prayers were legal, according to KIRO-TV.   He said, "As long as the kids understand that he's doing that in his individual and private capacity, which is what he's doing, it's perfectly constitutional and not only that, it's a violation of the constitution to tell him he's not allowed to pray."

2 - Kentucky city resists effort to remove cross from water tower

In Wilmore, Kentucky, home of Asbury University, there is a water tower that has a cross situated at the top of it.  The Freedom From Religion Foundation is attempting to force city officials to remove the cross, even though there is a 40-year-old agreement that keeps the cross on the tower, which was built by Asbury University and transferred to the city in 1968, according a report on the WORLD website.

Mayor Harold Rainwater is quoted as saying (from CBN News): “There’s nothing that’s drawn our town together more than the possibility of losing this cross,” adding, “I one hundred percent support keeping it there. We won’t take it down unless we’re forced to take it down.”

Sheila Nighy, a Wilmore resident, is creating crosses for neighbors to post in their yards in protest. She was making nearly 400 crosses for a rally on Saturday to support the water tower cross. She's quoted as saying: “We saw the letter and I said, ‘Take down our cross? We’ll put up more!’”

1 - Ugandan evangelist's body found following Muslim-Christian debate

It was announced this week that the body of an evangelist in eastern Uganda was found following a heated Christian-Muslim debate. According to a Morning Star News report on the Baptist Press website, the body of 59-year-old Samson Nfunyeku was found close to his home in Kalampete village in Kibuku District early on September 23, after the latest in a series of organized debates with Islamic scholars at Tirinyi Trading Center ended prematurely due to flaring tempers the previous night.

That debate, as well as a previous one several months ago, were sponsored by Nfunyeku's Church of Uganda and other churches. Muslim leaders had threatened him and warned him to hold no more debates, a source said.

One of the participants, a former Islamic teacher, who had become a Christian, said, "Four months ago Samson and others had a very hot debate at Tirinyi Trading Center with the Muslim scholars that ended on a bad note, and they gave warning that such debates were not good for the Muslims." Nevertheless, on September 22, a sparsely-attended debate was conducted.

The report says that converts from Islam to Christianity in eastern Uganda have recently experienced regular instances of persecution.

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