Sunday, December 06, 2015

The 3 - December 6, 2015

This week in my week-in-review feature, The 3, I explore a possible religion-oriented conflict that could have been at play in the San Bernardino shootings this past week.   Also, an "inclusion and diversity" office at a major Southern university has offered some concerning comments about making sure that holiday parties are "inclusive."  And, the U.S. Senate has passed a significant pro-life bill that would halt most taxpayer funding of the nation's largest abortion provider.

3 - Some Christians lose lives in San Bernardino attack

As the information continues to emerge and a clearer picture of what may have led up to the shootings on Wednesday at a San Bernardino, California, center for disabled people, some spiritual content has become known.

WORLD Magazine reported on Christians who were among the 14 who lost their lives in the incident. A Messianic Jew named Nicholas Thalasinos, had engaged in a heated discussion about the nature of Islam with his colleague Syed Farook two weeks before Farook and presumed wife Tashfeen Malik opened fire that day. In that discussion, the San Bernardino County restaurant inspectors argued about whether Islam is a peaceful religion—Thalasinos said it isn’t, and Farook disagreed, saying Americans don’t understand Islam, according to a friend who overheard the debate.

The wife of Nicholas Thalasinos, Jennifer, said Thursday her husband became born again two years ago and was always evangelizing. She is quoted as saying: “He wanted to serve the Lord and bring more people to the Lord.” He also was a passionate defender of Israel and his other conservative political and religious views. She believes her husband was “martyred for his faith and beliefs.”

Other victims include Bennetta Betbadal, a county health inspector who was 18 when she fled Islamic extremism and persecution of Christians after the Iranian Revolution. Also, the wife of Michael Raymond Wetzel, a environmental health specialist, posted Psalm 61:2 on Facebook after her husband's death. asked some questions about the nature of the relationship between Thalasinos and Farook:

One question leads to another. Was this workplace violence? Was he provoked, somehow? In his mind, was he on a mission from Allah? Was Farook planning an even larger act of violence against unbelievers and crusaders, but something at that office party made him fly into action on this day?

From the beginning, I have been curious to know more details about the "holiday party" that Farook briefly attended, before leaving (some witnesses said in anger) and returning with his wife Tashfeen Malik to slaughter his co-workers.

News coverage has mentioned that the room contained Christmas trees and other decorations.

Writer Terry Mattingly then offers this analysis:

Yes, there is a chance that the First Amendment is going to take a hit in discussions of his massacre, since there was an evangelical Christian present – a Messianic Jew, to be precise – who had previously talked about politics and faith with Farook. To make matters worse, Thalasinos may have criticized Islam and suggested that Farook needed to convert to Christianity.

So, when you have an alleged perpetrator who had recently pledged support to ISIS, whose "husband" had apparently become radicalized, one can only suppose, based on previous ISIS behavior, that Christians could have been targets.   As more information is reported, we shall see, but there is a troubling element here that indicates that at least one of the victims could have been targeted because of his faith. As Mattingly writes, "From the beginning, I have been curious to know more details about the "holiday party" that Farook briefly attended, before leaving (some witnesses said in anger) and returning with his wife Tashfeen Malik to slaughter his co-workers."

2 - University chancellor under fire for Christmas party comments

The Office for Diversity and Inclusion at my alma mater, the University of Tennessee is at it again. The office had received some flak earlier this year for posting these gender-neutral pronouns on its website, which were later removed.  Now Todd Starnes of Fox News reports that the office recently released an “unofficial” edict calling for the campus to host holiday parties that do not emphasize religion or culture.

Thee organization warned in an online document titled, "Best Practices for Inclusive Holiday Celebrations in the Workplace," to "Ensure your holiday party is not a Christmas party in disguise."

The so-called "Best Practices" is "...a list of suggestions for inclusive celebrations,” they stated, adding, “We recognize that our campus community is diverse and its members observe various religious and faiths.”

The statement went on to point out they "honor Christmas as one of the celebrations of the season and the birth of Jesus and the corresponding Christmas observance is one of the Christian holidays on our cultural and religious holidays calendar."

A suggestion that is made is that, "Holiday parties should not play games with religious or cultural themes," singling out "Dreidel" and "Secret Santa."

The recommendations have drawn the ire of alumni – including Rep. John Duncan, who told Starnes: "The people I represent are disgusted by this," adding, "People from all over the country are sick and tired of all this political correctness."  Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey is quoted as saying, "While the advisory makes clear it is not university policy, these ‘suggestions’ call into question what purpose university offices of diversity serve."

The Tennessean reports that Ramsey, in a Facebook post Friday morning, said if UT-Knoxville Chancellor Jimmy Cheek approved the post, he should resign. If not, Ramsey said, "the entire staff of the Office for Diversity and Inclusion should be dismissed." The newspaper also states that Senate Education Committee Chairwoman Dolores Gresham and Senate Government Operations Committee Chairman Mike Bell, called for Cheek's resignation on Thursday, and Rep. Sheila Butt said voters should urge lawmakers to cut UT's diversity funding during the upcoming legislative session, which starts in January.

1 - U.S. Senate passes bill to drastically reduce Planned Parenthood funding and weaken Obamacare

The U.S. Senate, using a method called "reconciliation" that only requires 51 votes in order to pass a bill, rather than to achieve a 60-vote threshold to cut off debate, has approved a bill that, according to, would block, for one year, most federal payments to Planned Parenthood. At least 89% of federal funding of Planned Parenthood would be blocked by the bill.

The reports says that the bill would repeal a number of major components of the Obamacare health law, including two of the major provisions that will lead to rationing of lifesaving care — the “Independent Payment Advisory Board” and the “excess benefits tax.”  The vote was 52-47.

The LifeNews story points out that the bill now goes back to the House and will head to President Barack Obama once the House approves the measure. Though Obama will veto the bill, the vote makes it clear that, under a pro-life president, Congress can get a de-funding bill approved with a majority vote that the president would sign into law.

Leading pro-life groups that also support the reconciliation bill to de-fund Planned Parenthood include Susan B. Anthony List, National Right to Life, Family Research Council, March for Life, Concerned Women for America, Students for Life, Priests for Life, Operation Rescue, and American Life League, among others.

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