Sunday, May 31, 2015

The 3 - May 31, 2015

On this week's edition of The 3, my week-in-review feature, there is some news that has been distributed this week about a Marine lance corporal who has been discharged from the military as the result of being court-martialed for displaying Scripture-related material on her desk.  Also, a victory of sorts in Syria, where Christians have been part of a fighting force to turn back incursions by the Islamic State.  And, in North Carolina, the governor has vetoed a bill granting protections to magistrates who do not wish to perform same-sex marriages because of their religious convictions.

3 - Marine who was court-martialed for posting Bible verse files appeal

Monifa Sterling was once a Lance Corporal in the U.S. Marine Corps.  But not any longer. According to a report on the Gospel Herald website, she was convicted last year at a court martial as the result of not following orders to take down slips of paper with the Old Testament scripture displayed on her desk, including a paraphrase of Isaiah 54:17, "No weapons formed against me shall prosper."

The article referred to a Fox News piece that reported that last year at her trial, she represented herself and cited her right to religious expression under the First Amendment and her protection under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The military court found that the Biblical quote could "easily been seen as contrary to good order and discipline," and added, "Maintaining discipline and morale in the military work center could very well require that the work center remain relatively free of divisive or contentious issues such as personal beliefs, religion, politics, etc."

The Gospel Herald quotes a Washington Post report that said her rank was subsequently reduced from lance corporal to private and she was given a bad conduct discharge, which damaged her future chances at finding employment and makes her ineligible to receive veteran benefits.

The news continued to emerge this past week that Liberty Institute and former U.S. Solicitor General Paul Clement announced they are appealing her case to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, the highest military court.  The Gospel Herald quotes Mike Berry, Liberty Institute's director of military affairs and senior counsel, who told Christian Today, "If the government can order a Marine not to display a Bible verse, they could try and order her not to get a religious tattoo or go to church on Sunday. Restricting a Marine's free exercise of religion is blatantly unconstitutional."

The article quotes Franklin Graham, from his Facebook page: "Unbelievably, she was criminally prosecuted by the U.S. government for displaying this encouraging Scripture on her computer in her workspace. Give me a break-really? Can our society be at a point where a supervisor can order a young Marine to remove a Bible verse from her computer? Others are able to display secular messages without any opposition, but Sterling was targeted by her supervisor. Today there's a tolerance in our culture for everything-except the things of God and His Word. The Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces has been asked to review LCpl Sterling's case-let's pray that this kind of targeting and persecution of Christians by our government will be stopped."

2 - Christians in Syria unite to fight ISIS

While opposition forces are attempting to erase gains made by Islamic State in recent weeks, a report on the WORLD Magazine website contains some good news regarding largely Christian areas in Syria.   There, an unheralded combination of Kurdish and Assyrian Christian fighters in recent weeks have managed to recapture a string of villages along the Khabur River from Islamic State, or ISIS.

These victories have come three months after ISIS swept into the area, taking command of 14 villages and kidnapping several hundred Assyrian Christians who lived there. These have gone unnoticed as ISIS made gains elsewhere, mainly in taking Palmyra further south in Syria, and capturing Ramadi in central Iraq. But as local forces reenter the Khabur River villages, they are finding a swath of devastation in the Islamic militants’ wake.  They also have destroyed Christian churches in the area.

Emanuel Youkhana, an Assyrian priest who heads the relief group CAPNI, is quoted as saying, "All the Christian Assyrian villages in Khabur are re-controlled and IS is pushed out." But he said there are newly discovered dangers, including land mines left in the vicinity of churches, leaving about 1,400 Assyrian families—nearly 7,000 persons—unable to go back to their homes and villages. Some are still living in churches in cities east of the Khabur River.

1 - Bill protecting magistrates from being forced to perform marriage of same-sex couple vetoed by NC Governor

With the proliferation of so-called "same sex" marriage and the possibility of a Supreme Court ruling legalizing the practice on the horizon, states are attempting to take measures to protect officials who object to participating in this type of practice.  North Carolina lawmakers took the bold step of passing legislation that would give government officials the right to refuse to perform gay marriages due to religious objections, according to the Breaking Christian News website.

The bill was intended to protect the rights of those who face losing their job if they decline.

The article quotes Reuters, which reported that supporters of the bill claimed it would add needed protection for magistrates who have said they would not perform gay marriages since it became legal in North Carolina last year.

However, Republican Governor Pat McCrory issued a statement on his official website following the passage of the bill, saying:
"I recognize that for many North Carolinians, including myself, opinions on same-sex marriage come from sincerely held religious beliefs that marriage is between a man and a woman. However, we are a nation and a state of laws. Whether it is the president, governor, mayor, a law enforcement officer, or magistrate, no public official who voluntarily swears to support and defend the Constitution and to discharge all duties of their office should be exempt from upholding that oath; therefore, I will veto Senate Bill 2."
Television station WITN reported that McCrory did indeed veto the bill a half-hour after his public statement, according to spokesman Josh Ellis. The bill now returns to the legislature, which could override the veto if at least three-fifths of the lawmakers voting in each chamber support it.

The House and Senate already passed the bill by margins above the threshold, although the House's 67-43 vote Thursday was barely above it. Ten House members had excused absences and didn't vote.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

The 3 - May 24, 2015

This week's edition of The 3, my week-in-review feature, highlights some content from a speech from the president of the Boy Scouts of America calling for gay Scout leaders.  Also, there were two court defeats this past week for non-profit organizations seeking to be released from the HHS contraception mandate.  And, religious freedom was defended by the Governor of Louisiana, and a bill protecting pastors and religious organizations cleared a major hurdle in Texas.

3 - Boy Scouts president announces that homosexual leaders should be allowed

This past Thursday, the president of the Boy Scouts of America, Robert Gates, in a speech at the annual Boy Scouts meeting in Atlanta, said the organization’s ban on homosexual leaders needs to be changed to “deal with the world as it is, not as we might wish it to be,” according to a story on the WORLD Magazine website, which quotes Gates as saying, “the status quo in our movement’s membership standards cannot be sustained.”

As Warren Cole Smith, the writer of the WORLD article, pointed out:
When the Boy Scouts decided in 2013 to allow homosexual youth into the program, critics of the change said then the decision was unsustainable. John Stemberger, who ultimately left the Scouts to found a group called Trail Life USA as a Christian alternative to the BSA, said then the new policy “creates a myriad of problems” for the Boy Scouts. Andrew Walker of the Heritage Foundation said the BSA’s 2013 policy of allowing gay boys but prohibiting gay men displayed “willed naiveté on this issue.” Gates himself seemed to agree when he said after becoming president of the BSA in May 2014 that he favored ending the ban on homosexual adult leaders.
As Smith reports, Gates said in his Thursday speech that a decision by a New York BSA council in April to hire the nation’s first openly gay adult leader, Pascal Tessier, was a direct affront to the national policy and posed a potentially damaging legal and reputational threat to the Boy Scouts. While Gates said that he didn't see that coming, the WORLD piece quotes Jeremy Tedesco, an attorney with Alliance Defending Freedom, as saying: "When Alliance Defending Freedom was commenting on this policy change, we told them this is where this policy change would lead,” adding, “You can’t compromise in one area and then expect that compromise won’t have consequences elsewhere.”

2 - Court defeats for non-profit organizations seeking relief from HHS contraception mandate

Even though the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of closely-held companies in the Hobby Lobby case, involving the Department of Health and Human Services mandate that forces employers to provide free contraception and potential abortion-causing drugs in their health care plans, two non-profit organizations suffered court defeats this past week in their challenge to being forced to comply with the mandate.

The Washington Times reports that the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia said a majority of its judges had decided not to rehear the lawsuit from Priests for Life, after a three-judge panel rejected its challenge in November.

That decision was the second ruling in two days against religious nonprofits who have filed suit to be exempted from the mandate.

The newspaper reported that earlier in the week, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals refused to grant a preliminary injunction that would shield the University of Notre Dame from the mandate.

The Priests for Life website states:
So now we have 90 days to appeal to the Supreme Court.
And in the meantime, we need the Appeals court to keep in place the injunction which has protected us from the mandate throughout this litigation.
Priests for Life has been, and remains, the "lead case" for the religious non-profit sector, just as Hobby Lobby was for the business sector.
Our case -- represented by the American Freedom Law Center, and our attorneys Robert Muise and David Yerushalmi -- is farther along in the courts than the others -- even though some have gotten more media. None has gone to the Supreme Court yet on the merits of the arguments. There has been some Supreme Court activity just about preliminary injunctions, while the arguments on the merits of those other cases are being heard in lower courts.

1 - Louisiana Governor issues order for religious freedom protection; Texas Legislature approves protection for pastors

After a religious freedom protection bill, the Marriage and Conscience Act, failed to move forward in the Louisiana Legislature, Governor Bobby Jindal issued an executive order designed to accomplish the same purpose.

The bill was sponsored by Louisiana State Representative Michael Johnson, according to The Christian Post, and sought to protect businesses and individuals who oppose gay marriage from being legally compelled to provide services for said ceremonies.

After the announcement of the defeat of the bill, Governor Jindal said, "We will be issuing an Executive Order shortly that will accomplish the intent of HB 707 to prevent the state from discriminating against persons or entities with deeply held religious beliefs that marriage is between one man and one woman."  He added: "This Executive Order will prohibit the state from denying or revoking a tax exemption, tax deduction, contract, cooperative agreement, loan, professional license, certification, accreditation, or employment on the basis the person acts in accordance with a religious belief that marriage is between one man and one woman."

Meanwhile in Texas, a bill referred to as the “Pastor Protection” bill, designed to protect pastors and their churches when refusing to perform a same-sex marriage, passed the Texas House with bipartisan support, according to the website, which reported that the bill would go immediately to Texas Governor Abbott, who had vowed to sign it.

The vote for passage of the bill was 141-2, with five House members abstaining. The two who voted against the measure were Democrats.

The website reported that Senate Bill 2065, like the essentially identical House Bill 3567, provided that clergy, religious organizations, and employees of religious organizations may not be required to perform a marriage or provide goods, services, or accommodations related to a marriage ceremony, if the action would violate their sincerely held religious beliefs.

The article says that Jonathan Saenz, President of Texas Values Action, provided the following statement to Breitbart Texas:
Texas made an important decision today to specifically protect the religious freedom of our pastors and churches that follow their beliefs on marriage. Government at any level should not be allowed to punish our clergy and churches for following their faith on marriage. We are thankful for the pastors, churches and church leaders from all across the state that have lead in this effort and have demonstrated the very real threats to religious freedom from those seeking to redefine marriage.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

The 3 - May 17, 2015

This week's edition of The 3, my week-in-review feature, includes a report on some of the relief efforts that have been taking place in Nepal, where a second major earthquake struck this week. Also, there is a new survey that shows that the number of people identifying as Christians is down, the number of those who are non-affiliated is up, and evangelicals experienced a slight decline.  And, a major piece of pro-life legislation protecting unborn children at over 20 weeks has passed the U.S. House.

3 - Relief efforts continue in Nepal; 2nd major earthquake hits

This past Tuesday, a powerful new earthquake struck the nation of Nepal, taking lives and sending thousands into the streets, according to a piece on the Baptist Press website, which reported that this week's 7.3-magnitude quake came just 17 days after a massive earthquake killed over 8,000 people and destroyed hundreds of thousands of homes. Tuesday's tremor set off a series of landslides at the epicenter, Namche Bazar, which is near Mount Everest.

The site reported that Southern Baptist relief teams were already on the ground in Nepal from the earlier quake, and well-positioned to investigate the new damage and emergency needs. The Southern Baptist efforts are being coordinated by Baptist Global Reponse, with whom the International Mission Board partners in disaster response.  It was reported that BGR's Nepal Earthquake Response will continue to help hurting people with basic survival needs -- like water, shelter, food and healthcare -- in the coming days.

Samaritan's Purse is working in the region, as well, providing relief items such as shelter materials, clean water supplies, and hygiene and cooking kits.

And, Reach Beyond's efforts in the country are centered in the remote village of Harmi, which was epicenter of the first quake.  Virtually every structure was destroyed, including the Reach Beyond partner’s radio station.   People there are without housing, food, water and basic necessities.

Here's a report from Gospel for Asia's website:
Gospel for Asia Compassion Services workers are continuing to bring relief to the needy, especially those in rural, hard-to-reach areas, that have not yet received aid. In many of these villages, believers who attend fellowships led by Gospel for Asia-supported pastors are suffering, too: Some have lost homes and no longer have a place to meet to worship. Despite this, believers and pastors have assisted Compassion Services teams as they provide aid.

Mission Network News reports that, "The indigenous ministries in Nepal that Christian Aid Mission assists are well-positioned to help earthquake survivors. With rains and landslides cutting off road access to many areas, local Christian workers know how to get aid to people and how to come alongside shell-shocked survivors in their trauma."  (Here is the link to the Christian Aid website.)

These are examples of how Christian missions and relief organizations are responding to this devastating tragedy.

2 - Pew survey points to decline in Christianity, rise of the non-affiliated, and only slightly lower numbers for evangelicals

This week, the findings of a survey became so pervasive that the results ended up grabbing headlines. The Religious Landscape Study was conducted by Pew Researchand its website said there was a sample size of more than 35,000 Americans, designed to offer a detailed look at the current religious composition of U.S. adults.

Here is a summary of some of the key findings:

1. Christians are declining, both as a share of the U.S. population and in total number. In 2007, 78.4% of U.S. adults identified with Christian groups, such as Protestants, Catholics, Mormons and others; seven years later, that percentage has fallen to 70.6%.

2. Within Christianity, the biggest declines have been in the mainline Protestant tradition and among Catholics.  The percentage of Mainline Protestants dropped from 18.1% in 2007 to 15.7% in 2014.  The Catholic share of the population fell to 20.8% from 23.9% over the same period.  With respect to evangelical Protestants, that percentage only declined about 1 point between 2007 and 2014 (from 26.3% to 25.4%).

3. The decline of Christians in the U.S. has corresponded with the continued rise in the share of Americans with no religious affiliation (religious “nones”).  The survey summary said that people who self-identify as atheists or agnostics, which is about 7% of all U.S. adults, as well as those who say their religion is “nothing in particular,” now account for a combined 22.8% of U.S. adults – up from 16.1% in 2007.

4. The major trends seen in American religion since 2007 – the decline of Christians and rise of the “nones” – have occurred in some form across many demographic groups, including men and women, older and younger Americans, and people with different levels of education and different races and ethnicities.

5. The share of Americans who identify with non-Christian faiths, such as Islam and Hinduism, has grown modestly.  Interestingly enough, less than 1 percent of the population - .9% - is identified as Muslim, .7 is identified as Hindu.

Another summary on the Pew Research website highlights the relatively small decline in the number of evangelical Protestants.  The report says that, "One big reason evangelical Protestants have not declined at the same rate as other major Christian groups is that they are gaining new converts at a greater rate than they are losing people who were raised in the tradition. While 8.4% of Americans were raised as evangelicals and have since left evangelicalism for another faith (or no faith), even more U.S. adults (9.8%) were raised in another faith (or without a religious affiliation) and have since become evangelicals."

1 - U.S. House passes ban on abortions after 20 weeks

This past Wednesday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which would ban most abortions after 20 weeks' gestation, according to a report on the website. The bill passed 242-184, largely along party lines.

The bill ended four months of what the article described as "often vitriolic debate" among Capitol Hill Republicans and pro-life activists about the legislation.   The article points out that the passage of the bill came on the second anniversary of the conviction of late-term abortionist Kermit Gosnell, was convicted on three of four charges of murdering babies born alive after failed abortions.

According to, the bill was originally scheduled to come to the floor for a vote on the day of the March for Life, but a number of female members said they did not support a rape exception that allowed a woman to have a late-term abortion only if she reported the crime to police before aborting her child. Their opposition led to changes in the bill, including the removal of the reporting provision for adults.  Other changes included, based on that report:
  • a requirement that abortionists ensure that rape victims have received either medical treatment or licensed counseling a minimum of 48 hours prior to the late-term abortion, not at the abortion clinic, unless it is in a hospital,
  • the addition of language that requires the presence of a second doctor in the case of such abortions, in case the child is born alive, and 
  • the provision that a child who survives a late-term abortion is to be cared for in the same way as any premature child - a woman can sue if that part of the bill is violated.
Plus, accountability and reporting laws are also enhanced under the bill, and informed consent is required. also included a story with response from pro-life leaders, including a number of lawmakers.  It quotes Rep. Mike Kelly, a Republican from Gosnell's state of Pennsylvania, who said: "Scientific evidence now shows that unborn babies can feel pain by 20 weeks post-fertilization, and likely even earlier," adding, "A late term abortion is an excruciatingly painful and inhumane act against children waiting to be born and their mothers."  

Sunday, May 10, 2015

The 3 - May 10, 2015

On this week's edition of The 3, my week-in-review feature:  3 new Presidential candidates have entered the Republican race, and you could say that there is more identification with the evangelical Christian community. Also, good news from Nigeria, where hundreds of girls have been rescued from captivity, but there are also some concerns.  And, the top story includes prayer across America on the National Day of Prayer.

3 - More candidates enter Presidential race, more identification with evangelicals

Several weeks ago, there were 3 candidates in the Republican field for the 2016 Presidential nomination, and that total has now doubled due to announcements this week, and more identification from candidates with evangelical Christianity.

First out of the gate this week was renowned former neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson, who began to stir some potential voters after his 2013 speech at the National Prayer Breakfast.  But, as a Religion News Service profile points out, that speech slammed political correctness, as well as Obamacare. He's quoted as saying...“The PC police are out in force at all times,” adding, “People are afraid to say ‘Merry Christmas’ at Christmastime. …We’ve got to get over this sensitivity. You know it keeps people from saying what they really believe.”

His faith background is Seventh-Day Adventist, but he told RNS in 1999: “I spend just as much time in non-Seventh-day Adventist churches because I’m not convinced that the denomination is the most important thing." He said, “I think it’s the relationship with God that’s most important.”  Carson is attributed with saying that he prayed before each surgery, and said, "Quite frankly, as a neurosurgeon, there’s a lot of emphasis on technical ability, but I believe that that’s something that can be taught, but wisdom comes from God and I think that it’s something that you have to seek.”

Carson has been identified with evangelicals quite closely, having signed books at last year's Southern Baptist Convention, even though he withdrew from speaking at this year's Pastors' Conference.  Reportedly, that was due to concerns expressed by a group of younger pastors who did not want the Conference to be so aligned with politics, as well as doctrinal concerns.

The following day, a former pastor and governor threw his hat into the increasingly crowded ring, as former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee announced his candidacy.  Another Religion News Service article highlighted his announcement, in which, according to the piece:
He portrayed himself as an economic populist, a protector of Social Security, a defender of Israel and the scourge of Iran. A former Southern Baptist minister and Fox News talk-show host, he also touched on issues that particularly resonate with many conservative Christians, including his opposition to same-sex marriage, his support of religious freedom laws and his concern about the country’s moral standards.
“This country could only be explained by the providence of Almighty God,” he declared, noting he had accepted Jesus as his savior at Bible camp when he was 10. His campaign announcement at the University of Arkansas Community College started with a prayer.
The piece notes that Huckabee "scored a surprising upset in the opening Iowa GOP caucuses by appealing to the state’s evangelical voters..." in 2008, but noted that he will have more company this year.  The articles points out that:
Born-again voters are a powerful part of the Republican electorate, especially in two of the states that hold early contests. In Iowa, about six in 10 GOP caucus-goers identified themselves as evangelical or born-again Christians in 2008 and 2012. In South Carolina, 65 percent of Republican primary voters were evangelicals.
The faith walk of Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina was also highlighted. She announced her candidacy Monday, and says she relied on her faith when her stepdaughter died of a drug overdose. “Without my complete conviction that a loving God had been with Lori, and was with our family as we buried her, I am not sure how I would have coped,” she wrote in “Rising to the Challenge,” a memoir published Tuesday by Sentinel. 

According to another Religion News Service article, she reportedly grew up Episcopalian, and the piece says that at a recent Heritage Foundation event, she said when she was 8 years old her mother, who was also her Sunday school teacher, gave her a plaque that said: “What you are is God’s gift to you and what you make of yourself is your gift to God.”  The article says that according to The New York Times, she told Iowa’s Faith and Family Forum, “It was my husband Frank’s and my personal relationship with Jesus Christ that saved us from a desperate sadness,” referring to her breast cancer battle and her stepdaughter's death.

2 - Good news from Nigeria: hundreds of women, girls rescued

There is word of rescues coming out of Nigeria recently, according to  This past Monday, 260 women and children that had escaped from the grip of Islamic terrorist group Boko Haram were found near Chalawa Village in Adamawa State.  This followed a rescue by the Nigerian army of hundreds in Sambisa Forest.

Unfortunately, a report states that over 200 of the nearly 700 women and girls that were recently rescued from Boko Haram are pregnant, indicating mass rape.

None of those rescued over the past week are believed to be among the Chibok girls that have been missing since 2013.

According to the article, Borno State Governor Kashim Shettima has expressed concern over the large numbers of women and girls who have become pregnant by the Islamic terrorist group, believing that the group is attempting to grow more followers to carry on the group’s mission.

Spokesman Isa Gusau is quoted as saying, “They also believe that whoever does not hold their ideology is an unbeliever that should be killed and rendered homeless and whatever belongs to him or her becomes a legitimate booty recovered from enemies,” adding, “This booty includes women that are then allocated to ranking leaders of the sect as sex slaves.”

The piece points out that Boko Haram, which being translated means, “Western education is sinful,” has been seeking to build a caliphate in Northern Africa, a part of the continent that is predominantly Christian. The group has killed thousands since it stepped up its attacks in 2009, often targeting churches and those who are non-Muslim.

1 - Christians across America pray, read God's Word

This past Thursday marked the National Day of Prayer, which was determined by Congress to be observed on the first Thursday of May.  The National Day of Prayer Task Force sponsors a prayer gathering in the nation's capital each year, in the Cannon House Office Building.

This year, the honorary chair of the Task Force was Dr. Jack Graham, pastor of the Prestonwood Baptist Church in the Dallas area.   A Baptist Press report quotes Graham as saying: "We are facing a crisis in America. These are desperate days," adding, "This is a crying time in America. It's a time for tears."

He called for extraordinary prayer, emphasizing the event's theme "Lord, Hear Our Cry," taken from I Kings 8:38. He said, "There's a time for ordinary prayer...But there is a time for what Jonathan Edwards the great revivalist called extraordinary prayer. Uncommon times call for uncommon prayer, and so we cry out to God. We cry out to God."

Graham read a letter from Saeed Abedini, a pastor who is imprisoned in Iran. He wrote: "The National Day of Prayer is a great opportunity for us to come out and use the freedom that we have been given. So many Christians around the world are imprisoned and martyred for their faith in Jesus." He said, "You have the freedom to gather across the United States at your state capitol to pray. Please use this opportunity. Please use your freedom for the Kingdom of God.

Leading up to the National Day of Prayer, the entire Bible was read on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol Building, which is where, according to a Charisma News report, the President takes his oath of office.  The report states that the U.S. Capitol Bible Reading Marathon began in 1990, the year proclaimed by a Joint Congressional Resolution and Presidential Proclamation by President George H.W. Bush as the International Year of Bible Reading.  The event is intended to honor the Bible, celebrate religious freedom and unite the diverse branches of Christianity around the Bible.  The estimated time to read the entire Bible: 90 hours.

And, in the Faith Radio broadcast area, at least 3 Bible reading marathons took place, including an event on the west side of the State Capitol in Montgomery.   The cities of Troy and Ozark continued their tradition of holding a Bible reading marathon in their downtown areas.

Sunday, May 03, 2015

The 3 - May 3, 2015

This week in The 3, my week-in-review feature, there is good news about a Christian businessman who won a court victory after standing on his faith principles.  Also, there was unrest in Baltimore, but church leaders stepped in to try to bring peace.  And, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments from those who wish to allow same-sex couples to enter into a marriage relationship and those who presented the case for adhering to the traditional definition of the institution.

3 - KY T-shirt printer wins court victory after refusal to print gay pride shirts

Blaine Adamson is a t-shirt printer in Lexington, Kentucky.  His company is called Hands On Originals.  According to the Alliance Defending Freedom, he had been approached by the Lexington Pride Festival, hosted by the Gay and Lesbian Services Organization to print shirts promoting the event.  Adamson turned down the business because he did not want to convey the message that would be printed on them, he nevertheless offered to put the festival organizers in touch with another printer that would produce the shirts for the same price.  But, that did not satisfy the GLSO, which filed a complaint with the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Human Rights Commission, which ruled last year that Adamson ruled last year that must print messages that conflict with his faith on shirts that customers order from him.  By the way, festival organizers eventually received the shirts for free from another printer, so they had no problem obtaining their desired goods and services.

Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys representing Adamson appealed the ruling to the Fayette Circuit Court, which reversed the commission’s decision.

ADF Senior Legal Counsel Jim Campbell, who argued before the court in Hands On Originals v. Lexington-Fayette Urban County Human Rights Commission, is quoted as saying: "The government can’t force citizens to surrender free-speech rights or religious freedom in order to run a small business, and this decision affirms that,” adding, “The court rightly recognized that the law protects Blaine’s decision not to print shirts with messages that conflict with his beliefs, and that no sufficient reason exists for the government to coerce Blaine to act against his conscience in this way.”
As ADF pointed out, the commission’s ruling had the potential to override the conscience rights of all Lexington-area printers regardless of their views, as a GLSO representative admitted at a hearing last year."

Jamie Dean, News Editor for WORLD Magazine, was on The Meeting House recently and in that conversation, she discussed the case involving Blaine Adamson.  You can listen to that conversation by clicking here.   Her original article can be found here.

2 - Baltimore church leaders respond with prayer, action

When there is a situation involving desperation, turmoil, and hopelessness, the church has a unique opportunity to step in and bring hope, healing, and peace.  Such has been the case in American cities in the midst of violence concerning the deaths of young African-American males in conflicts with police officers.

In the most recent incident, the one in Baltimore involving Freddie Gray, who died in police custody, church leaders stepped in to help to provide assistance during the riots and protests that occurred, according to a piece on The Christian Post website, which referred to Michael Crawford, the pastor of Baltimore's Freedom Church who also serves as a church growth strategist for the Mid-Atlantic Baptist Network. He was set to board an airplane headed for Florida but said he knew that God was calling him to remain in Baltimore and pray for the well-being of his city.

The articles states that after leaving the airport, Crawford told the Baptist Press that he sent a video message through his phone to other area pastors inviting them to his church to pray in solidarity. He said, "Satan wants our city, and he can't have it," adding, "We were born for this hour and we will fight this right away — on our knees."

On the Monday night after the riots began, Crawford's church hosted three hours of prayer and another meeting the following day.  Crawford is quoted as saying: "Things started calming down in the city. The National Guard was called in to assist. And gang members were meeting with other clergy in the city," adding, "I believe God heard and answered our prayers."

Another Christian Post article described a meeting in Orlando this week leading up to the latest gathering sponsored by The Reconciled Church.  Bishop Harry Jackson, chairman of the High Impact Leadership Coalition and senior pastor of Hope Christian Church in Washington, D.C., spoke to a group that night, which also viewed a WBAL TV 11 report showing clergy marching against the violence in Baltimore and praying in the street, creating a barrier between police and angry agitators.

And, according to the website, by late Tuesday, 11 Billy Graham Rapid Response Team chaplains were already on the streets in Baltimore with more to be added in the coming days.

Franklin Graham said: “Hurt compounding hurt won’t bring healing...What happened to Freddie Gray was tragic, unacceptable, and needs immediate correction. But what is happening now on the streets of Baltimore isn’t the answer." He added, “Join me in praying for the people of this great city.”

1 - U.S. Supreme Court considers definition of marriage, Christian leaders pledge to stand

This past Tuesday, significant oral arguments took place regarding the definition of marriage, which has been in place for, as Justice Anthony Kennedy said in the hearing, "millennia."  Actually, you can go all the way back to the second chapter of the book of Genesis, when God's expressed definition for marriage was instituted.

There has been much analysis of the questions and answers in the hearing.  On The Gospel Coalition website, Russell Moore and Andrew Walker of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention highlighted the top 10 questions they heard during the hearing.  Some of these include:
  • Chief Justice Roberts asked whether expanding marriage to include gay couples would lead to marriage’s redefinition.
  • Justice Kennedy's questioning of whether it was prudent for the Court to step in and change the definition of the institution that has been established for "millennia."
  • Justice Alito observed that while ancient cultures like Greece embraced homosexuality, they still held marriage as distinct. He asked, “So their limiting marriage to couples of the opposite sex was not based on prejudice against gay people, was it?”
  • Justice Breyer hinted at perhaps the most important aspect of this particular case: Letting the states decide. He suggested that this debate is working itself out in the states, asking why not “wait and see whether in fact doing so in other states is or is not harmful to marriage?”
  • Referencing Bob Jones University’s wrong and sinful banning of interracial dating, Alito asked whether redefining marriage would eventually pose risks (such as the loss of tax-exempt status) to the religious liberty of religious institutions.
Regarding that question, in their commentary in response to those questions, Moore and Walker wrote:
This was the most shocking moment in the arguments, one that should give people on all sides cause for concern. The Solicitor General said the question of tax exemption might well be an “issue” to be considered later. This demonstrates just how perilous the American principle of recognizing the natural right of religious liberty has become.
Ryan Anderson of The Heritage Foundation, on The Daily Signal website, said:
Tuesday’s oral arguments at the Supreme Court were excellent. There were so many good points made about what marriage is and why redefining marriage would cause harms.
This litany of harms stands in stark contrast to the outrageous lower court rulings that had declared no rational basis to state marriage laws defining marriage as it always had been in America: a union of husband and wife.
Most importantly, it was clear that the nine Supreme Court justices do not have any greater insight on ideal marriage policy than do ordinary American citizens. And the Constitution itself is silent about it.
So the justices should uphold the authority of citizens and their elected representatives to make marriage policy in the states.
In advance of the oral arguments, a number of Christian leaders signed on to a Defend Marriage Pledge.  Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel was one of the co-drafters.  At the Liberty Counsel website, you can read that at the recent March for Marriage in Washington, DC, sponsored by the National Organization for Marriage...
Mat Staver, Founder & Chairman of Liberty Counsel, and a diverse group of religious leaders spoke about the importance of natural marriage .“This is a line we cannot, and will not cross,” Staver told the enthusiastic crowd.
The Liberty Counsel website states:
The Defend Marriage Pledge reads in part, “Our highest respect for the rule of law requires that we not respect an unjust law that directly conflicts with higher law. A decision purporting to redefine marriage flies in the face of the Constitution and is contrary to the natural created order. As people of faith we pledge obedience to our Creator when the State directly conflicts with higher law. We respectfully warn the Supreme Court not to cross this line.” 
Find out more at  The Supreme Court is expected to issue a decision sometime around late June.