Sunday, January 25, 2015

The 3 - January 25, 2015

This week's edition of The 3, my week-in-review feature, highlights the latest action from the fire chief in Atlanta, who lost his job after publishing a book that presented a Biblical view of sexuality. Also, another Federal judge has struck down a state marriage amendment in another Southern state - this time in Alabama.  And, the top story: a throng of marchers gathered in Washington, DC to stand for the right to life for pre-born babies, with a special concentration on those children with disabilities.

3 - Former Atlanta Fire Chief fights back

An attorney representing fired Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran has filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, claiming that the former chief was terminated due to his religious beliefs, claiming that this action violated his civil rights.

According to an article on The Blaze website, Alliance Defending Freedom "Allied attorney Jonathan Crumly filed an EEOC complaint on behalf of Chief Cochran yesterday based on the City’s clear religious discrimination against the Chief,” according to a statement by ADF senior counsel Jeremy Tedesco.  He added, ”Americans are guaranteed the freedom to live without fear of losing their jobs because of their beliefs and thoughts.”

The piece related that Cochran, in his filing, recounted his version of events, noting that he served as fire chief for nearly five years and that his problems with city officials began on Nov. 24, 2014, when he was suspended without pay following controversy over a book that included a section on sinful behavior, including sexuality.  The Blaze article referenced an interview with Todd Starnes of Fox News, in which the former chief said that he did “not single out homosexuality” in his book.  He is quoted as saying, “I simply spoke to sex being created by God for pro-creation and He intended it to be between a man and a woman in holy matrimony – and that any other sex outside of that is sin,”

Cochran said that he was later informed that an investigation the government conducted while he was out of work found zero instances in which he had discriminated against other staff members, but he alleges that his faith became a factor in the dismissal process. In the complaint, he stated, “The book expresses my deeply held religious convictions on many subjects,” he concluded. “I believe that I have been discriminated against because of my religion — Christian — in violation of Title Vll of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended.”

The mayor of Atlanta is apparently trying to contend that the chief was fired because he disobeyed orders. Mayor Kasim Reed claimed at a press conference earlier this month that Cochran’s judgement was at the center of his firing.

The mayor said he wasn’t consulted before the book was written and that Cochran, who spoke out about his battle with the city to religious groups when he was reportedly told not to, violated policies by not having the book cleared by an ethics panel, as required by the city.

Cochran claims Atlanta ethics officer Nina Hickson gave him verbal permission to write the book and that he had given a copy to Reed’s office last January, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

However, according to Christianity Today, the mayor had said when the book came to the attention of city officials, that he worried that Cochran’s positions in the book would lead to accusations of discrimination. It referenced a USA Today story, quoting the mayor as saying, "I want to be clear that the material in Chief Cochran's book is not representative of my personal beliefs, and is inconsistent with the administration's work to make Atlanta a more welcoming city for all citizens—regardless of their sexual orientation, gender, race, and religious beliefs."

2 - One judge negates hundreds of thousands of voters regarding Alabama's marriage law

Late Friday afternoon, a Federal judge in Mobile ruled that Alabama's marriage amendment, approved by 81 percent of the voters, is unconstitutional.

Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council is quoted as saying, "This federal judge is throwing out the votes of the people of Alabama and attempting to shut down the debate over marriage. In exercising their right to vote, Alabama voters overwhelmingly sent a message that that they want to see society rebuild and strengthen marriage - not have it redefined by unelected judges.

He also said that, "There is nothing in the U.S. Constitution that empowers this federal judge to overturn Alabama's marriage amendment nor any basis for the U.S. Supreme Court to impose a 50 state same-sex 'marriage' mandate."

According to AL.comU.S. District Judge Ginny Granade ruled that the Alabama Marriage Protection Act and the amendment that later enshrined it in the state constitution both were unconstitutional.   The website indicates that over 697,000 Alabamians voted in favor the amendment in 2006.

Also, reported that the Alabama Probate Judges Association issued a statement Saturday night saying despite Friday's federal court ruling, the state's probate judges cannot issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Al Agricola, attorney for the Alabama Probate Judges Association, stated in a press release. "The legal effect of this decision is to allow one person in one same sex marriage that was performed in another state to adopt their partner's child. There is nothing in the judge's order that requires probate judges in Alabama to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples."

And on Sunday, according to, Judge Granade issued a 14-day stay of her ruling. She reportedly rejected arguments by the Alabama Attorney General's Office that the state likely would win on appeal. But she agreed to give attorneys two weeks to make their case to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. If it does not act in that time to extend or lift the stay, the order will take effect on Feb. 9. The judge said she also would issue a follow-up opinion clarifying the original order.

1 - Hundreds of thousands take part in March for Life, House passes ban on taxpayer funding of abortion

The 42nd March for Life was held in the nation's capital on Thursday, and another large turnout participated.  According to a report on the website, "hundreds of thousands of pro-life activists gathered beneath sunny skies and surprisingly warm temperatures to hear speeches from pro-life politicians and prominent movement leaders."

March for Life President Jeanne Monahan Mancini stated that, "I’m so grateful” for those who traveled from around the country and around the world to join the march. She explained that this year’s theme, “Every Life is a Gift,” refers especially to babies with prenatal diagnoses of potentially disabling conditions like Down syndrome who are aborted at a much higher rate than the general population.

The article reported that several lawmakers spoke, including Rep. Kathy McMorris-Rogers of Washington state, the mother of a boy with Down syndrome.  She promised that despite the Republican GOP leadership’s eleventh-hour decision to refrain from voting on the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which would ban most abortions after 20 weeks, she and her pro-life colleagues are committed to its passage, along with the passage of a healthcare conscience rights act. Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina said, “The Senate will stand shoulder to shoulder with the House as you move forward legislation that protects life.”

Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey touted the importance of the passage of the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, saying, "That legislation is historic...It will end our forced complicity, our funding of abortion.”  In addition to those 3 Republican lawmakers, Democratic Rep. Dan Lipinski of Illinois declared, “Everyone needs to come together to protect life,” adding, “Women deserve better than abortion.”

Also, it was reported that as the March itself began, organizers announced the winners of the annual student contest, themed “Every Selfie has a Story.” They then introduced this year’s march leaders, the entire student body and faculty of Shanley High School in Fargo, ND - 400 total people, who filled eight buses and drove 24 hours straight to carry the banner at the front of the march.

Senior Julia Johnson said, “As a school, we are humbled and honored to have been selected to hold the banner for this year’s March for Life.” In a brief speech, Julia proclaimed, "Our cause in defending life is a noble one,” and added, “We are living in a modern-day holocaust … that takes the lives of 3,000 babies each day, more than one million babies each year.”

On Wednesday night, the eve of the March for Life, a vote that was timed with that massive event was suddenly cancelled, the vote on the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which The Daily Signal website describes as a bill banning abortions after 20 weeks, except in cases where rape or incest had been reported to authorities.

The piece quotes a Politico report that said, "The evening switch comes after a revolt from a large swath of female members of Congress, who were concerned about language that said rape victims would not be able to get abortions unless they reported the incident to authorities."

As The Daily Signal points out, the bill passed in the House in 2013 without controversy over the exceptions. And a Quinnipiac poll asked this question: “In 2013 the House of Representatives approved legislation that would ban virtually all abortions nationwide after 20 weeks of pregnancy, except in cases of rape and incest that are reported to authorities...Would you support or oppose such legislation?”

In response to that specific question, 60 percent of Americans, including 59 percent of women, said they would support such legislation in response to the poll, which was released in November. 

Sunday, January 18, 2015

The 3 - January 18, 2015

This week's edition of The 3 includes two cases involving the U.S. Supreme Court - this week, the high court announced it would take up the topic of gay marriage, and it heard arguments in a case surrounding a small church's free speech rights.  The other story involves a university that had planned to allow a Muslim call to prayer to be broadcast at its chapel, then reversed its decision.

3 - U.S. Supreme Court will tackle gay marriage

It was just a matter of time - in light of numerous Federal judicial circuits striking down state marriage amendments, coupled with one circuit upholding the traditional definition of marriage, the U.S. Supreme Court announced Friday that indeed it would take up the issue.

According to the WORLD News Group website, the court in its order said it will consider two questions: One, whether the 14th Amendment requires states to license same-sex marriages; and two, whether states must recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states.

The court has consolidated four marriage cases from the states in the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled in favor of the definition of marriage as one man and one woman. Those states are Michigan, Ohio, Tennessee, and Kentucky.   WORLD reports that the justices will hear an exceptional two-and-a-half hours of arguments on those cases. Usually the court only allots one hour of arguments for each case. The hearings likely will take place toward the end of April, and the court should issue an opinion at the end of June.

2 - Duke University cancels scheduled Muslim prayers 

This week, officials at Duke University decided to cancel plans to allow the Muslim call to prayer to be broadcast from the bell tower of the chapel on its campus, according to a report on the Religion News Service website, which quoted Michael Schoenfeld, a Duke vice president for public affairs and government relations, who said in a statement the school remains committed to “fostering an inclusive, tolerant and welcoming campus” for all students but “it was clear that what was conceived as an effort to unify was not having the intended effect.”

One powerful voice speaking out against the call to prayer was Franklin Graham, who said that the call includes the words “Allahu Akbar,” or “God is great,” which was shouted by Islamist militants during last week’s deadly attacks across Paris.  He said on his Facebook page, "As Christianity is being excluded from the public square and followers of Islam are raping, butchering, and beheading Christians, Jews, and anyone who doesn’t submit to their Sharia Islamic law, Duke is promoting this in the name of religious pluralism.”

A Christianity Today piece on the incident and the broader issue of Christians allowing other faith groups to use their facilities said that on its website, the chapel is described as “a Christian church of uniquely interdenominational character and purpose,” welcoming people of “all faiths and circumstances.”

The dean of Duke Divinity School, Richard Hays, raised concerns about the use of the chapel for the Muslim call to prayer if it’s seen as a Christian church (given its history and iconography), rather than a neutral space on campus.

“There are serious questions...about the wisdom and propriety of allowing Duke chapel to be used for this purpose,” he said in a statement. “Despite some common beliefs and traditions, Christianity and Islam stand in significant theological tension with one another.”  The CT article points out that Duke was founded by Methodists and now describes its Christian ties as “historical and symbolic,” emphasizing its independence from the United Methodist Church.

1 - U.S. Supreme Court considers AZ sign ordinance 

In Gilbert, Arizona, there is a sign ordinance that has been challenged by Good News Community Church, which, according to the Alliance Defending Freedom, rents space in temporary locations for its weekly service.  The church had used small, temporary signs to invite and direct the community to its services.

ADF states that:
The Town of Gilbert Sign Code imposes strict limits on the size, location, number, and duration of the church’s signs. It does not impose the same restrictions on political, ideological, and homeowners’ association signs. If the church violates the code, Pastor Reed could be fined and possibly jailed.
The text of the town’s code regulates signs based on what they say, and the town is applying the code in a manner thatovertly singles out the church’s religious speech for discriminatory treatment. Both are impermissible under the First Amendment. 
The church has argued that the code is an unconstitutional restriction on its First Amendment right to free speech.  On Monday of this week, the case was heard by the U.S. Supreme Court.

ADF Senior Counsel David Cortman is quoted as saying, "...No one’s speech is safe if the government is allowed to pick free-speech winners and losers based on the types of speech government officials prefer. The Supreme Court has a long history of ensuring that the government treats all speech in a content-neutral manner. That’s why we trust the court will not allow the town of Gilbert to continue giving preferential treatment to certain messages while marginalizing others."

The church's pastor, Clyde Reed, is quoted as saying that the church "learned that if we violate the strict rules on our signs, we face criminal fines and even possible jail time. This whole experience has been shocking to me – our signs inviting people to church are very important yet are treated as second-class speech."

The church and ADF are seeking a reversal of a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, which sided with the Town of Gilbert.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

The 3 - January 11, 2015

In this week's edition of The 3, my week-in-review feature, I outline several developments on the issue of same-sex marriage.  Also, laws that are called, "non-discrimination" but that actually provide special rights for homosexual and transgender individuals are finding less traction, and two cities halted forward progress of these types of ordinances this week.   And, the top story involves the firing of the Atlanta Fire Chief for comments made in a Christian book that he has published.

3 - Gay marriage: licenses issued in FL, 5th Circuit hears cases, Supreme Court passes - for now 

There was quite a bit of action regarding same-sex marriage this week.  County clerks in some Florida counties began to issue marriage licenses, in accordance with a ruling last year by a Federal judge that the state's marriage amendment was unconstitutional.  The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had placed the decision on hold, but that "stay" expired this week and was not renewed.

Meanwhile, a three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit heard oral arguments Friday on marriage laws in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas.   A report on the website said that, "gay marriage advocates seemed to find a receptive audience in the 5th Circuit U.S. Appeals on Friday (Jan. 9)..." The piece went on: "Two of the three judges on the panel -- Obama appointee James Graves and Reagan appointee Patrick Higginbotham -- asked skeptical questions about the state's position in defense of the ban, barely letting attorney Kyle Duncan, representing Louisiana, conclude his opening remarks."

The report says that:
Outside the courthouse, Gene Mills of the conservative Louisiana Family Forum said he expected a ruling in favor of the state's marriage ban, and that the courts should not decided [sic] the definition of marriage.
Mills said he expected that the Supreme Court, however, would have the last word on marriage.
The website,, quoted Jonathan Saenz, an attorney and the president of Texas Values, as saying, "What happened today is only a few people are going to be involved in the decision about whether or not marriage gets redefined. But through the demo process, the people of Texas have settled this issue."

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton released a statement following the hearing. He said, “In 2005, Texans overwhelmingly supported a Constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman."  He added, "I am committed to defending the Texas Constitution, the will of our citizens and this sacred institution."

And, USA Today reports that the U.S. Supreme Court "delayed action Friday on its most closely watched deliberation -- whether to rule this year on states' remaining bans against same-sex marriage.

After considering petitions filed by gay and lesbian couples in five states that still prohibit gay and lesbian nuptials, the justices did not agree to hear any of them. The article said that their decision could come next week.

The piece said that:
Although the decision did not come Friday, the justices' hands most likely will be forced by a split among federal appellate courts, created when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit upheld four states' marriage bans in November. While gays and lesbians can marry in 36 states, most recently including Florida, the practice is banned in Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee, along with 10 other states. 

2 - Communities pull back on so-called "non-discrimination" laws

After the debacle involving the Houston non-discrimination ordinance that was passed last year and the rescinding of a similar ordinance in Fayetteville, Arkansas by the voters, it appears that the trend toward passing such legislation could be heading in a different direction.

According to the Family Research Council, this week, in Starkville, Mississippi, members of the city council voted 5-2 to rescind a special rights ordinance.  FRC states that, "People on the ground knew there was storm brewing when Human Rights Campaign came to Starkville and convinced the Mayor to back it."  The Columbus Dispatch reports that the Mayor Parker Wiseman issued a veto on Friday. That veto would be overturned if the five-vote block holds.

And, in Glendale, Arizona
on Tuesday, according to the Alliance Defending Freedom, the City Council postponed a vote on a proposed ordinance, which it says is similar to Houston’s so-called “non-discrimination” law and could be fraught with First Amendment problems. The council held a closed-session workshop Tuesday to discuss the proposed law and recommended hiring a facilitator to research the issue before proceeding further.

ADF Senior Legal Counsel Erik Stanley is quoted as saying, “Citizens should always have a say on laws that could greatly affect them. The Glendale City Council was right not to pass this ordinance without taking into account the concerns of its citizens and the serious ramifications for religious freedom...Other cities in the nation have found such ordinances unnecessary, and we hope Glendale will reach the same conclusion after further research.”

1 - Atlanta fire chief fired for writing book consistent with his Christian beliefs

It's been quite a week for Kelvin Cochran.  He came back to work this week as Atlanta's Fire Chief after a 30-day suspension, due to his publishing of a book including Biblical views of sexuality, including its opposition to homosexuality.  Later in the day that he returned, he found himself without a job.

Christianity Today reports that Cochran was a 34-year veteran of various fire departments (including a 2009 stint as President's Obama's pick for the nation's fire administrator) and deacon at a Southern Baptist megachurch, Cochran wrote Who Told You That You Were Naked?, aimed at Christian men and titled after God’s query to Adam after the Fall.

Mayor Kasim Reed is quoted as saying that, "I want to be clear that the material in Chief Cochran's book is not representative of my personal beliefs, and is inconsistent with the administration's work to make Atlanta a more welcoming city for all citizens—regardless of their sexual orientation, gender, race, and religious beliefs."

The Christianity Today piece states that though Cochran stated he had prior permission to release the book, Reed said it was done without proper review and that Cochran violated the terms of his suspension by publicly defending his stance, according to reports from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The Georgia Baptist Convention has placed a petition on its website, and is calling on the city to:
  • Acknowledge Chief Cochran’s First Amendment Rights.
  • Make a public apology for the termination and grief it has caused the Chief and his family.
  • Restore Chief Cochran’s position and reputation as an honorable Fire Chief.
In the introduction to the petition, it says that, "The Georgia Baptist Convention (GBC) is calling on the Christian community to “stand up for biblical principles and fellow believers who are punished or marginalized for their faith.”

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution quotes the former chief as saying, "LGBT citizens deserve the right to express their beliefs regarding sexual orientation, and deserve to be respected for their positions without hate and discrimination.” He added, “But Christians also have the right to express their beliefs regarding sexual orientation and be respected for their position without hate and without discrimination. In the United States, no one should be vilified hated or discriminated against for expressing their beliefs.”

A rally in support of Chief Cochran has been scheduled for the Capitol Rotunda in Atlanta on Tuesday, January 13th at 1:30pm.

Sunday, January 04, 2015

The 3 - January 4, 2015

This first edition of The 3 for 2015 includes a recent ruling from the Rhode Island Supreme Court against firefighters who had been forced to take part in an event that they believed violated their religious freedom.  Also, in this edition of my week-in-review feature, the first of 3 Passion events in the U.S. took place this weekend in Atlanta.  The top story involves the conclusion of an era, with the cessation of Mars Hill Church on Wednesday.

3 - Rhode Island Supreme Court: firefighters must march in gay pride parade

The news was released this past week, and reported on a number of sites, including, that the Supreme Court of Rhode Island has ruled that the religious rights of two firefighters were not violated when they were forced to participate in a “gay pride parade” a decade ago despite their objections.

Theodore Fabrizio and Stephen Deninno were assigned by city officials to drive a fire truck in the 2001 parade, but when the men asked if they could be reassigned as they do not agree with the homosexual lifestyle, they were refused. The men then carried out their assignment against their will, but state that they experienced sexual harassment, including sexual propositions and “at least 60 profanity-laced anonymous phone calls,” from parade attendees and their co-workers both during and after the event.

The report states that Fabrizio and Deninno asserted that their constitutional rights - namely their rights to freedom of religion and freedom of speech - had been violated by being forced to participate in an event that conflicted with their convictions.

Litigation has been transpiring for more than a decade, and finally the state supreme court threw out the firefighters' lawsuit, saying that the city did not violate the men’s constitutional rights because the assignment was “legitimate.”

Justice William Robinson wrote, according to the report that the,“...appearance in the parade, solely as members of the Providence Fire Department, did not constitute a form of expression on their part...Rather, it was simply the accomplishing of a task assigned to an engine company of the Providence Fire Department, and the individuals chosen to carry out that assignment cannot be said to have engaged in personal speech by carrying out their work as public servants.”

The judge said that there was no case law that supported “the proposition that, in such specific circumstances, employees’ rights are violated if they happen to possess religious objections to the beliefs of the group with which an otherwise legitimate work assignment requires brief interaction.”

2 - First Passion conference of 2015 helps young adults kick off new year

Two years ago, the last Passion conference that was held at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta drew over 60,000 people, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.  Last year, the Atlanta Passion event moved to another weekend and a smaller venue, and a Houston event was added.

This year, Passion is back on the week of New Year's in Atlanta's Philips Arena, and will present another Atlanta event in two weeks.  The Houston event is coming up the first week of February. The website is

According to a report on The Christian Post website:
Over 20,000 university students and leaders from around the world converged in downtown Atlanta Friday evening to kick off the Passion 2015 conference, the first of three, 3-day gatherings hosted by Passion this year focused on making Jesus famous while benefitting local communities and impacting the world.
Attendees at this first Passion 2015 gathering represent twenty-two nations and over 1,000 different universities. The majority of conference participants are students and young professionals ages 18-25, along with pastors and church leaders attending with their groups. In addition, over 1,000 volunteers – referred to as "Door Holders" – are assisting with various logistical needs throughout the conference.
According to the Post, Passion founder Giglio emphasized that the Gospel message is not simply one of forgiveness of sins, but also a call to surrender because of Christ's finished work on the cross.  He said, "We live in a 'me' and 'my' generation, but we are the Jesus generation united for His fame...We rally around the life and death of Jesus. We pray tonight that we will receive the Gospel and relinquish our lives in total surrender."

According to the Passion website, other scheduled speakers included John Piper and Francis Chan, with special music from the Passion worship band.

1 - Mars Hill Church comes to end, Warren speaks at last service

The conclusion of one of the top stories impacting the Christian community in 2014 took place on Wednesday, the date set for the dissolution of the Mars Hill Church congregations.  Mars Hill is based in Seattle.

Warren Throckmorton has chronicled the demise of Mars Hill and the circumstances leading up to the resignation of Mark Driscoll, and he points out on his blog at that:
Actually, the church doesn’t cease as an entity on December 31. There are buildings to sell and resources to distribute. There might be mediation or a lawsuit to settle. There will be donation statements to mail out. Speaking of money, there will be offerings to count and process.
Rick Warren of Saddleback Church delivered the final sermon via video. quotes the famous pastor as saying, "Now the fact is, in our broken world, sometimes everything seems to go wrong or fall apart all at once." It reports that the large, multi-site church will now dissolve into independent congregations.

Seattle television station KING5 reported that Mars Hill Pastor Mark Driscoll "resigned earlier this year after months of controversy regarding his treatment of churchgoers and some of his financial decisions."  It said that Pastor Matthias Haeusel made some brief remarks to the congregation prior to Rick Warren's words and called the final service a bittersweet end.

He said, "Lot of people have been loved real well at this church. Lot of people have come to faith at this church...I talked to someone this morning who had been here for 14 years and actually had a radically different trajectory from when before they came here to after."

Haeusel said that he prays for Mark Driscoll often. Driscoll has not announced what his plans are yet. Despite some of the problems of the past year Haeusel said that he hopes people remember the good.

"God did great things even through broken people," Haeusel said. "If we look at scripture that is what God always does, because he is God not because we are great."