Saturday, March 28, 2015

The 3 - March 29, 2015

In this week's edition of "The 3," my week-in-review feature, I delve into Presidential politics, which is quite relevant, because the first major candidate threw his hat into the ring this week, speaking at a Christian university.  Also, the new religious freedom bill in Indiana is intended to protect people of faith, but there is plenty of misinformation about the intent of the legislation.  Plus, racial reconciliation has been a major theme this week, with two organizations holding special events concentrating on race relations.

3 - First Republican Presidential candidate officially announces, evangelicals look for place to land

The event is being reported as the first official announcement by a Republican candidate for President in the 2016 election.  And, it took place at Liberty University, which is regarded as the nation's largest Christian college.  WORLD reports on the announcement by Texas Senator Ted Cruz:
By declaring his candidacy at Liberty University, the country’s largest Christian college, Cruz took an early stand as a cultural conservative. In videos posted online today, he attempted to connect with immigrants by referencing his Cuban father, women by praising his mother as a computer scientist who “shattered glass ceilings,” and religious believers by showing his family praying around the dinner table. He touted his efforts in the Senate to defund Obamacare and to block President Barack Obama’s executive action on immigration. Neither effort worked, but both demonstrated Cruz’s uncompromising values and set him up as a maverick conservative who is unafraid to take on either political party.
Cruz is approaching the office from a strongly evangelical perspective, but just because he belongs to the evangelical community doesn't mean he automatically has that constituency's support.  Consider some of the pro-family credentials that other candidates carry, according to a Baptist Press story:

For instance, former Florida governor Jeb Bush had announced his support of a federal marriage amendment, but has been criticized for a perceived shift in acceptance of gay marriage.  He also attempted to help save the life of Terri Schiavo, who had a brain deficiency and whose husband successfully attempted to remove food and water from her.

Pediatric neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson has attracted the attention of evangelicals, is pro-life and opposes same-sex marriage, and has chided abortion advocates for saying the pro-lifers are conducting a "war on women," according to

Current New Jersey governor Chris Christie also opposes abortion and same-sex marriage, but dropped his appeal of a court decision legalizing gay marriage in New Jersey. He also signed into law a ban on state-licensed counselors trying to help children reduce or eliminate same-sex attraction. Religion News Service reported that Christie does not believe being homosexual is a sin or a choice.

Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee is also a former pastor and opposes abortion and same-sex marriage.  I have observed that he is closely identified with Christian causes and activities, and was a featured speaker at this year's National Religious Broadcasters convention.

Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, a libertarian-leaning first-term senator from Kentucky, opposes same-sex marriage but says the issue should be settled by state governments rather than the federal government, according to the Washington Post. Paul introduced a bill in the Senate that would declare a fertilized egg a human protected by law. He told a a University of Chicago forum his personal belief that "life begins at the very beginning" does not reflect the views of many Americans.

Rick Perry, former governor of Texas, supported a Texas constitutional amendment defining marriage as "only a union between a man and a woman," but in 2011 he affirmed New York's right under the Tenth Amendment to legalize same-sex marriage.

Marco Rubio, a senator from Florida, defends the rights of states to define marriage as between one man and one woman and believes "the right to life outweighs the right to choose an abortion," according to a National Review report.

Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum is pro-life and opposes same-sex marriage.  As I have highlighted, Santorum also heads a Christian film studio that makes films from a Christian worldview perspective.

And, according to that Baptist Press report, Wisconsin governor Scott Walker is a pastor's son who told attendees at the National Religious Broadcasters convention in February he supports "strong marriages" and seeks to protect innocent life, according to an NRB news release.  He signed a bill requiring women seeking abortions to view ultrasound images of their babies. He opposes abortion even in cases of rape and incest and has defended Wisconsin's ban of same-sex marriage, Milwaukee's Journal Sentinel reported in October.

So, Cruz may be the first,  but as more candidates enter the race, it will be interesting to see which candidate or candidates may galvanize the evangelical vote in the 2016 Presidential race.

2 - Reaction, overreaction to Indiana's new religious freedom bill

This past week, Indiana Governor Mike Pence signed into law a Religious Freedom Restoration Act for the state.  According to Ryan Anderson and Sarah Torre of the Heritage Foundation, writing for The Daily Signal website:
This is good policy that protects the fundamental freedom of Indiana citizens from unnecessary and unreasonable government coercion.
The Indiana law is based on the 1993 federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act—a law that has served the American people well for more than 20 years. Passed with 97 votes in the Senate and by unanimous voice vote in the House, the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act was signed into law by then-President Bill Clinton. This federal law prohibits substantial government burdens on religious exercise unless the government can show a compelling interest in burdening religious liberty and does so through the least restrictive means.
The writers point out that Indiana joins 19 other states that have implemented such laws. Also, they say that eleven additional states have religious liberty protections that state courts have interpreted to provide a similar level of protection.   Anderson and Torre state that, "...Religious Freedom Restoration Acts don’t allow individuals to do whatever they wish in the name of religion. There will be times when the government can show it has a compelling reason for burdening religious expression—to ensure public safety, for instance."  They add:
But Religious Freedom Restoration Acts set a high bar for the government to meet in order to restrict religious freedom. The way we’ve learned to live in a pluralistic society, with diverse religious and moral opinions, is to have a balancing test like the one the Religious Freedom Restoration Act provides.
But, there are detractors who say this new RFRA, resembling a Federal law upon which the Hobby Lobby decision was based last year, and similar to laws in 19 other states protecting religious freedom, will license people of faith to discriminate against gays and lesbians.  The Indianapolis Star reports:
Criticism mounted swiftly on Thursday after Pence signed the bill that opponents say allows businesses to discriminate against members of the LGBT community.
Pence and his supporters have denied claims of discrimination, saying the bill only protects business owners from the government burdening them from practicing their religion.
But the website reports the mayor of San Francisco has said he is banning all city-funded trips to the state.  It says:
The San Francisco mayor is joined by other businesses, groups and individuals who have voiced concerns.
Among those are the NCAA, the tech company Salesforce and the gaming convention Gen Con.
 As Sarah Torre writes in another piece on The Daily Signal website:
The media’s gross mischaracterizations of the Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act ignore the truth: Religious Freedom Restoration Acts prevent government discrimination against religious free exercise and simply provide a way to balance religious liberty with compelling government interests.
And, this is to be pursued, as she points out, "in the least-restrictive means possible."

1 - Racial reconciliation comes into the spotlight with ERLC, Reconciled Church events

This past week, with a heightened opportunity to place an emphasis on race relations because of the anniversary of the Selma-to-Montgomery march in 1965, Christian leaders gathered to discuss issues surrounding racial reconciliation and how Christians of a variety of backgrounds can work together to better their communities.

In Montgomery, Alabama, a series of follow-up meetings conducted by The Reconciled Church, a consortium of Christian leaders representing a variety of churches and denominations, included a panel discussion on criminal justice reform and another on youth empowerment.  Reconciled Church co-founder Bishop Harry Jackson of the High Impact Leadership Coalition was on hand for the Montgomery events, as well as Jim Liske, President of Prison Fellowship.  That evening, a worship service took place at Fresh Anointing House of Worship featuring a number of local and nationally-known speakers.

The following day in Nashville, the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention convened its annual leadership summit, with the theme, "The Gospel and Racial Reconciliation."  A Baptist Press report said about the first day's activities:
The Gospel of Jesus is the solution to America's racial divisions, speakers said on the opening day of a Southern Baptist-sponsored leadership summit.

Black, white and Hispanic pastors and leaders addressed the issue of racial reconciliation Thursday (March 26) at the event...
The report said that longtime civil rights leader John Perkins told the audience of about 500, "I think that we are putting reconciliation back where it belongs -- within the Gospel itself."

Perkins is quoted as saying, in an interview with ERLC President Russell Moore, that people make a "big mistake" in pushing "reconciliation out of the Gospel," out of being a part of conversion that is understood as a Christian is discipled.

Some quotes from various speakers were posted on the ERLC website, including these from Tony Evans:
• "God's not asking me to be like you, or you to be like me, but both of us to be like Him."
• "We've abandoned truth for culture when truth is designed to lead culture"
• "When you take a stand on God's word, racial reconciliation doesn't take long."
Other speakers included Trillia Newbell, Fred Luter, and Trip Lee.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

The 3 - March 22, 2015

On this week's edition of The 3, my week-in-review feature, I turn my attention to President Obama's appeal to the Iranian government for the release of U.S. citizens from prison, including Pastor Saeed Abedini.  Also, a large Protestant denomination has received enough votes from its regional bodies to affirm marriage as the union of two individuals, not just a man and a woman.   And, the top story involves a bill that is intended reduce human trafficking that cannot be passed by the Senate because some lawmakers want an abortion restriction eliminated from the bill's language.

3 - President calls for release of Iranian prisoners, including Pastor Saeed

In association with the Iranian holiday of Nowruz, on Friday, President Obama called on Iran to release U.S. citizens believed to be in Tehran's custody, according to a report on the USA Today website.  The President reportedly said that "at this time of renewal, compassion and understanding, I reiterate my commitment to bringing our citizens home."

The article stated that three U.S. citizens — Saeed Abedini, Amir Hekmati and Jason Rezaian — are believed to be in prison; a fourth — Robert Levinson — is missing and was last seen in Iran.

The statement comes as negotiations are continuing over Iran's nuclear program. report stated that Mr. Obama described Pastor Saeed: “Saeed Abedini of Boise, Idaho has spent two and a half years detained in Iran on charges related to his religious beliefs...He must be returned to his wife and two young children, who needlessly continue to grow up without their father.”

As the website had reviously reported, Abedini, a former Iranian Muslim turned Christian, left Iran in 2005 and moved to the United States with his wife and two children to find religious freedom after facing conflict with authorities for planting house churches in the county. In 2012, he traveled back to Iran to build an orphanage and visit his parents—and was about to return to the states—when he was taken into custody.

The website reported that Pastor Saaed's wife, Naghmeh Abedini, requested a face-to-face meeting with President Obama in January as he was scheduled to speak at an area university. She later told reporters that Obama advised her that “getting Saeed out is a top priority and he is working very hard to get Saeed home back to our family.”  Also, she met last month with U.S. Religious Freedom Ambassador David Saperstein to discuss ways to secure Abedini’s release. And, last week, Keith Harper, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Human Rights Council, also pleaded on behalf of Abedini before the UN, calling upon Iran to “uphold its religious freedom obligations and release those imprisoned for their religious beliefs, such as Pastor Saeed Abedini, and protect the rights of all individuals to manifest their religious beliefs.”

2 - Large denomination redefines marriage

Last summer, the general assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) voted to change the language in its Book of Order, the denomination’s governing constitution, to define marriage as a "unique commitment between two people," rather than a lifelong covenant between a man and a woman as an act of Christian discipleship, according to a report on the Christianity Today website.

After the vote last June, a majority of the PCUSA’s 171 presbyteries also had to approve the measure for it to go into effect. This past Tuesday, the number (86) was reached.

In a statement quoted by CT, the president of the conservative Presbyterian Lay Committee (PLC) criticized the denomination’s shift. Carmen Fowler LaBerge said, “In terms of the PCUSA’s witness to the world, this vote demonstrates a complete accommodation to the prevailing winds of our culture,” adding that, “Any prophetic voice that the denomination may have once had to speak truth and call people to repentance is now lost."

The amendment reportedly provides an exemption for PC(USA) teaching elders who believe that officiating a same-sex marriage would violate their “discernment of the Holy Spirit and their understanding of the Word of God.” Local congregations can also deny the use of church property for same-sex ceremonies.  The new amendment is set to go into effect June 21.

1 - Human trafficking bill stalled in U.S. Senate because of abortion provision

This past week, a bill that was designed to increase penalties for anyone convicted of slavery, human smuggling and sexual exploitation of children was brought to the floor of the U.S. Senate, according to The Christian Post, which reports that the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act enjoyed bipartisan support two weeks ago, but on Tuesday failed by five votes to reach the 60-vote threshold needed to advance the bill.  It cites that USA Today reported that a second vote to end debate on the underlying bill also did not receive the needed amount of votes.

Democrats protested against a provision in the bill that sought to block any funds collected from being used to perform abortions, with the exception in cases of rape, incest, or when the mother's life is in danger.

The Post reported said that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who changed his vote to "no" to allow him to bring the bill up again later, warned Democrats about going against the bill. He is quoted as saying, "If Democrats actually vote to filibuster a bill to help victims of modern-day slavery, I can't imagine the American people will forget," adding that the filibuster is "a historic mistake."

Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn is quoted by as saying that, “Children are being abused and literally sexually assaulted while, apparently, some of our colleagues on the other side of the aisle have decided to try to make a political point.” He added, “To our colleagues who are filibustering this legislation, are you prepared to turn your back on the thousands of people living every day in bondage and who are desperately clinging to the hope that someone, someone will lend them a helping hand? Are you prepared to abandon these children and these other victims of human trafficking who deserve a roof over their head, someone to lean on, and somehow, some way to get a fresh start in life?” also reported that McConnell said that, as a result of their vote holding up the bill, Republicans will not allow a vote on Attorney General nominee Loretta Lynch, who is noted by the news service as being, "pro-abortion."  McConnell indicated his intention to keep the Senate focused on this human trafficking legislation until its successful completion. Further cloture votes to break the filibuster are expected throughout this week.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

The 3 - March 15, 2015

In this week's edition of The 3, my week-in-review feature, I spotlight action from the U.S. Supreme Court in another ruling following from its decision in the Hobby Lobby case regarding the Federal contraception mandate.  Also, a chaplain is facing disciplinary action for counseling Navy members according to the principles of his faith.  And, there is news from several states, where lawmakers are taking bold steps to protect freedom of religious expression and the rights of conscience.

3 - U.S. Supreme Court directs lower court to reconsider ruling against Notre Dame in contraception mandate case

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court ordered a lower court to reconsider its ruling that denied a Catholic university the freedom to follow its faith, according to a piece on the website of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.

The University of Notre Dame had brought its request to the Supreme Court after a surprising lower court decision that made it the only nonprofit religious ministry in the nation without protection from the HHS mandate. The federal government has relied heavily on that decision in courts around the country, arguing that it should be able to impose similar burdens on religious ministries like the Little Sisters of the Poor.

On Monday, the Supreme Court vacated the Notre Dame decision entirely, and sent the case back to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals to reconsider its ruling in light of Hobby Lobby decision protecting religious freedom.

Mark Rienzi, Senior Counsel for the Becket Fund, which filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the case, is quoted as saying that, "This is a major blow to the federal government’s contraception mandate. For the past year, the Notre Dame decision has been the centerpiece of the government’s effort to force religious ministries to violate their beliefs or pay fines to the IRS."  He added, "As with the Supreme Court’s decisions in Little Sisters of the Poor and Hobby Lobby, this is a strong signal that the Supreme Court will ultimately reject the government’s narrow view of religious liberty..."
Interestingly enough, the Becket Fund reports that over 750 plaintiffs in the other nonprofit cases have been granted protection from the unconstitutional mandate, which forces religious ministries to either violate their faith or pay massive IRS penalties.

2 - Chaplain's career at risk as a result of sharing faith principles

Chaplain Wes Modder, a decorated U.S. Marine for 4 years, has served as a Navy chaplain for the past 15 years. He has been praised by commanding officers as a “national asset” with “charismatic leadership and sound judgment.” One called him “the best of the best.” Liberty Institute reports on these accolades and states that, "Chaplain Modder had a spotless, even exceptional, 15 year record."

According to the Liberty Institute website, a very small number of sailors had requested private, pastoral care and counseling sessions during which they asked him about certain matters of personal conduct and belief.  Chaplain Modder’s answers, as always, were in line with the teachings of his endorsing denomination, as required by his denomination and protected by federal law.

A handful of sailors complained, because they disagreed with the biblical views Chaplain Modder expressed in response to their questions during those sessions.

In reaction, the Navy removed Chaplain Modder from his unit and isolated him at the base chapel, cutting him off from his sailors and forbidding him from ministering to their spiritual needs.

Chaplain Modder’s commander requested that Chaplain Modder be:
1) Removed from the promotion list.
2) “Detached for cause,” the military equivalent of being fired, and
3) Brought before an official Board of Inquiry, where he could be involuntarily forced out of the Navy.

Liberty Institute is representing Chaplain Modder, and in a letter to the Chaplain's commander, Senior Counsel Mike Berry, Director of Military Affairs for Liberty Institute, a former U.S. Marine JAG Officer, and adjunct law professor at the U.S. Naval Academy, warns:
“Chaplain Modder’s religious expression is therefore consistent with—indeed, it’s protected—by federal law and military regulations. Any adverse action, including Detachment for Cause, a Board of Inquiry, or removal from the promotion list, which results from a service member’s sincerely held religious beliefs violates those laws and regulations.”
Liberty Institute has posted a petition in support of the Chaplain.  Also, this week, Family Research Council released a petition in support of Chaplain Modder.

1 - States take up religious freedom bills

As Stuart Shepard of CitizenLink and I discussed on a recent edition of my radio program, The Meeting House, state lawmakers are taking measures to protect the religious liberties of its citizens, even though freedom of speech and religion are already guaranteed in the Bill of Rights in the U.S. Constitution.  One example he pointed out was from the state of Indiana.  A bill has already passed the Senate in the state, according to the Indiana Family Institute website - it's called the "Hobby Lobby Bill," and according to a piece on the Indianapolis Star website written by the President of the Indiana Family Institute, Curt Smith:
...this is a civil rights bill that increases every single Hoosier’s religious liberties.
If approved, the state — in all its various expressions — would require a compelling interest before restricting religious liberties. Compelling interests includes such things as public safety, order, health and police powers to provide an environment for ordered liberty. Secondly, if government takes actions that restrict religious liberty, it must do so in the least restrictive manner.
Meanwhile, as I pointed out, in Alabama, lawmakers took a bold step this past week to strengthen the religious freedom rights of judges and ministers regarding marriage.  According to the website, the Alabama House on Thursday passed a bill that gives judges, ministers and other officiants the right to refuse to perform marriage ceremonies.

Rep. Jim Hill, a Republican from Moody, AL, said he sponsored the bill after receiving phone calls from judges and ministers concerned they would be required to perform marriage ceremonies they didn't want to perform. Hill is quoted as saying that the purpose of the bill is simply to clarify existing law that judges and ministers can't be compelled to perform marriage ceremonies they don't want to perform.

And, in what could be a pre-emptive strike regarding the state of Oklahoma issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, reports that the Oklahoma House of Representatives passed a bill this past Tuesday to abolish marriage licenses in the state.

The legislation, authored by Rep. Todd Russ, a Republican from Cordell, OK, amends language in the state law that governs the responsibilities of court clerks. All references to marriage licenses were removed.

Russ said the intent of the bill is to protect court clerks caught between the federal and state governments. A federal appeals court overturned Oklahoma’s ban on same-sex marriage last year. Russ, like many Republican legislators in the state, including Gov. Mary Fallin, believes the federal government overstepped its constitutional authority on this issue.

Across the nation, lawmakers are addressing concerns of violations of religious freedom.  These are examples of actions taken to protect the conscience rights of citizens who wish to practice their faith without fear of reprisals.

Sunday, March 08, 2015

The 3 - March 8, 2015

This week's edition of The 3, my week-in-review feature, includes a story from the realm of Christian music, some troubling news concerning the health of the lead singer of one of Christian music's most popular bands.  Also, another one of  those SOGI - Sexual Orientation Gender Identity - ordinances was proposed for Charlotte, NC, and defeated.   And the top story, the Alabama Supreme Court has halted the issuing of marriage licenses to same-sex couples in the state.

3 - Casting Crowns lead singer likely has cancer

The blog post by Melanie Hall asked a very thought-provoking question:  "When it happens to you, where do you turn?" You see, this week, she and her husband, Mark, found out the dreaded news - Mark, the lead singer of Casting Crowns, may have cancer in his kidney.

A post of the front page of the Crowns website and the band's Facebook page bore the news, saying, in part:
Doctors found a solid mass in my right kidney about a week ago. They are 90% sure it's cancer and they are going to remove the entire kidney next Wednesday, March 11th. They believe the cancer is contained in the kidney, which is also a great hope. They will know more once it is out and Pathology can see it.
He added, "I'll be in recovery for a month or a little longer because of the surgery. Please pray for healing and for God's peace for my family."

Apparently, the news has brought the rescheduling of 3 Casting Crowns dates scheduled for the second week of April, including Pikeville, KY, Asheville, NC, and Fayetteville, NC.   The next anticipated concert for Crowns?   April 16 in Montgomery - if things progress according to that timetable, it could be a wonderful night for Mark to return to his hometown after a serious health scare.  

Melanie wrote in the aforementioned blog post:
Mark and I seemed to be in a bit of a fog for several days while the news was sinking in.
Yet the whole time, the verse that kept running through my head over and over was
"You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in You." -Isaiah 26:3
So that's what we are trying to do in the waiting. Keep our minds steadfast on Him.
She added:
We turned to our families, our Crowns family and our church family first. They've loved on us and prayed with us. It's been a little different to be on the receiving end, but it's also a good feeling to know they've got our backs. Mark and I have both agreed that we can't imagine what people do in times like these when they don't have a family of believers around them.
2 - Charlotte City Council turns back SOGI ordinance

This new trend of ordinances granting special rights on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity has led to some rather vocal opposition.  On the heels of the Houston city council passing such an ordinance and the subsequent overreach of the lesbian mayor there, the future of that city's policy is still very much in doubt.  Fayetteville, Arkansas voters went to the polls to overturn a similar type of ordinance that had been passed by the council there.

Plano, Texas officials, faced with a public outcry on its SOGI (Sexual Orientation Gender Identity) ordinance, have thrown out petitions demanding a public vote, according to a Focus on the Family report.

Going into this week, the next battleground in the conflict over policies granting special rights for homosexual and transgender individuals was Charlotte, North Carolina.  The North Carolina Family Policy Council reports that following four hours of public comment and an additional hour of committee discussion, the Charlotte City Council defeated a proposal by one vote that would have expanded a number of city ordinances to include legal protections on the basis of “sexual orientation,” “gender identity,” and “gender expression.”

The 6-5 vote came after an amendment was adopted to exclude restrooms, locker rooms, showers and changing facilities from the “public accommodations” that would have been covered by the measure.

More than 60 percent of the 100-plus individuals who participated in the public comment period spoke in opposition to the proposal and they asked the City Council to do the same.

According to the state Family Policy Council's website, the ordinance would have:
  • Allowed a man to go into a women’s restroom, locker room, or shower room, and would allow a woman to go into a men’s restroom, locker room, or shower room, depending upon the individual’s “sexual orientation,” “gender identity,” or “gender expression,” and not their biological sex. This ordinance would apply to any “public accommodation."
  • It would have required small business owners – especially those related to the wedding industry – to potentially violate their religious beliefs about marriage or face legal action by the government. 
  • It would have authorized the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Community Relations Committee, or any “aggrieved person,” to file an action in State Superior Court and seek monetary damages and other penalties against an individual or business for allegedly violating this amended ordinance. 
  • It would have made Charlotte the first city in the state to adopt a hazardous “public accommodation” ordinance creating legal protections on the basis of an individual’s “sexual orientation,” “general (gender?) identity,” or “gender expression” as they determine it at any given time.
Charlotte residents David and Jason Benham were leaders in the opposition to the ordinance, as well as Franklin Graham, President of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, which is based in Charlotte.

1 - Alabama Supreme Court temporarily halts gay marriages in the state

This past week, the Alabama Supreme Court, in response to a legal action filed on behalf of two pro-family organizations, the Alabama Citizens Action Program (ALCAP) and the Alabama Policy Institute (API), issued a ruling directing probate judges in the state to no longer issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

API responded by saying:
Today, the Alabama Supreme Court granted our request for a writ of mandamus directing Alabama’s probate judges not to issue same-sex marriage licenses in violation of Alabama’s Constitution. The ongoing confusion caused by the federal court’s action in January needed to be clarified in a formal opinion by the State’s highest court and the Alabama Policy Institute was well-suited to pursue such a remedy. This decision by the Alabama Supreme Court finally, in the words of Justice Scalia, gives the people of Alabama the respect that they deserve by preserving our law until the U.S. Supreme Court resolves the issue. The sanctity of marriage—an institute that has always been reserved for the states—is a cause worth fighting for, for as long as the States still have their rightful say in the matter. quoted from the high court's ruling:
"As it has done for approximately two centuries, Alabama law allows for 'marriage' between only one man and one woman," the order said. "Alabama probate judges have a ministerial duty not to issue any marriage license contrary to this law. Nothing in the United States Constitution alters or overrides this duty." reported that the order gave probate judges five days to submit responses if they wanted to show cause why they should be able to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples.  The order also gave Mobile County Probate Judge Don Davis until this past Thursday to argue why he should not be bound by the order. Davis has asked the court to dismiss him from the lawsuit because he had been ordered by the federal district court to issue licenses to same-sex couples.

Sunday, March 01, 2015

The 3 - March 1, 2015

This week's edition of The 3, my week-in-review feature, spotlights a case before the U.S. Supreme Court contending that a retail chain discriminated against a Muslim girl's religious freedom rights. Also, the Federal Communications Commission ruled in favor of so-called "net neutrality," which represents a threat to the freedom of information shared on the Internet.  And, so-called gay marriage continues to be an issues in courts across the land, involving the states of Texas, Missouri, and Alabama.

3 - High court hears case dealing with possible religious discrimination

We have heard quite a bit about the freedom of religious expression in the workplace, and the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments this week that has brought together organizations across the ideological spectrum in support of the freedom of religion.

According to an article on the Religion News Service website, Samantha Elauf, who is a Muslim, applied for a job at an Abercrombie & Fitch Kids store in Tulsa, OK.  As part of her religious faith, she wears a headscarf.  So she didn’t get the job.

The website points out that no one – not even Abercrombie & Fitch — disputes that her hijab cost her the job offer. And the law, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, states that an employer can’t deny employment based on an worker’s religious practice, unless accommodating it would prove terribly burdensome. So, she filed legal action.

She won in a federal district court in 2011, but lost in a federal appeals court in 2013. At the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, the company’s argument — that it shouldn’t have had to give a religious accommodation because Elauf never asked for one — found traction.

Daniel Mach, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief, who attended Wednesday’s argument, is quoted as saying, “Many members of the court seemed sympathetic to the EEOC’s position and Ms. Elauf.” He added, “It’s a clear case of religious discrimination, and I’m optimistic that the court will agree.”

Groups that filed legal briefs on behalf of Elauf include the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, the American Jewish Committee and the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

Several justices reportedly expressed discomfort with Abercrombie’s stance that it was not liable because Elauf was not more vocal.

2 - FCC approves so-called "net neutrality," Christian organizations opposed

Action by the Federal Communications Commission this past week has brought concern among some Christian leaders.  According to a piece on the Baptist Press website, the FCC voted 3–2 to reclassify broadband Internet access as a telecommunications service under Title II of the Communications Act, with the purported intent of protecting open Internet, according to an FCC press release.
Both the National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) Board of Directors, composed of 100 key leaders among Christian communicators, and the Christian Film & Television Commission (CFTVC), a non-profit ministry aimed at redeeming the values of entertainment media, say the change will hamper free speech and oversteps the bounds of democracy.

Ted Baehr, chairman of the CFTVC, is quoted as saying, "If we allow the federal bureaucracy to control the Internet...the soft tyranny under which we now live will harden into a real tyranny where liberty will rapidly become a dim memory." He said that, "The best for American citizens to demand that Congress immediately overturn the new regulations."

NRB President and CEO Jerry Johnson said, according to a press release, "I am saddened that the FCC voted on partisan lines to dramatically expand federal power over the Internet," adding, "Bigger government is not fertile ground for the flourishing of free speech and innovation. This is a power grab, and NRB opposes it."

1 - TX Supreme Court halts gay marriages, Christian organization files brief at 8th Circuit

It was reported this week that a Texas state representative has filed a judicial conduct complaint against state District Judge David Wahlberg with the State Commission on Judicial Conduct, according to the Texas Values website, which reports that complaint, by State Representative Tony Tinderholt, alleges that Judge Wahlberg violated Texas law by not giving the Texas Attorney General’s office notice that a constitutional provision of Texas marriage law was being challenged in court, a state law requirement under the Texas Government Code, Chapter 402.

Wahlberg ordered the Travis County Clerk to issue a marriage license to a lesbian couple on February 19, in violation of Texas law, and also waived the normal 72 hour waiting period requirement before a marriage can occur after a license is obtained.

Later that day, the Texas Supreme Court issued a stay of Judge Wahlberg’s ruling, as well as a similar ruling from earlier in the week, after Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed a legal request with the state high court, but not before the two women could rush off and engage in a wedding ceremony on the same day.  

This swift action by the Texas Supreme Court has placed the issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples on hold.  Meanwhile, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has held oral arguments on the Texas marriage law.  And, this past week, the Alliance Defending Freedom filed a friend-of-the-court brief that encourages the 8th Circuit to uphold the freedom of the people of Missouri to affirm marriage as the union of one man and one woman.  In November 2014, a district court ruled that the state’s marriage laws are unconstitutional and that marriage licenses must be issued to same-sex couples.

Meanwhile, according to, the Alabama Supreme Court has heard arguments on a petition by 2 Christian, pro-family groups asking the state's high court to rule that same-sex marriages in the state are indeed unconstitutional, as contended by the Chief Justice Roy Moore, who directed probate judges to not issues marriage licenses to same-sex couples, in light of a Federal district judge's ruling that the state's amendment defining marriage as one-man and one-woman was unconstitutional.