Sunday, September 27, 2015

The 3 - September 27, 2015

This week's edition of my week-in-review feature includes more wrangling on Capitol Hill about funding the nation's largest abortion provider.  Also, Presidential candidates converged on Washington to address the Values Voter Summit, and there was a clear winner in a straw poll taken there.  Plus, the Pope visited the U.S., bringing the perspective of a spiritual - and political - leader.

3 - Another attempt to defund Planned Parenthood turned back in Congress

On Thursday, the U.S. Senate voted to block a government funding bill that would defund the Planned Parenthood abortion business. The Senate included language from the bill into legislation to temporarily fund the federal government, according to the website,, which reported that the Senate voted 52 to 47 against ending debate on the government funding bill.  8 Republicans joined 44 Democrats to create that margin.  Democrat Joe Manchin joined 46 Republicans in voting to move the bill forward.

The Administration's Office of Management and Budget (OMB) said before the vote: “The Administration strongly opposes Senate passage of the Senate amendment to H.J.Res. 61, making continuing appropriations for fiscal year (FY) 2016, and for other purposes, which contains highly objectionable provisions that advance a narrow ideological agenda.”  According to the story, the OMB added that eliminating federal funding to Planned Parenthood would "limit access" to healthcare for women, men, families and “disproportionately” affect low-income people.

President Obama said he would only sign a government funding bill that does not include language de-funding Planned Parenthood.

The Hill reports that top House Republicans are hoping to convince their members to keep the government open by using a fast-track process known as reconciliation to try to defund Planned Parenthood.

House Republican leaders are planning to target Planned Parenthood’s funding by immediately drafting a fast-track reconciliation bill, according to a senior House GOP aide. The plan would mean supporting a short-term bill introduced in the Senate on Thursday to keep the government open through Dec. 11, but it could also lead to legislation blocking money for Planned Parenthood hitting President Obama’s desk. The article points out that implicit in that course is the suggestion that the House would have to vote next week on the Senate bill that includes funding for Planned Parenthood, and the article states, "That might be a bridge too far for many House conservatives, who have insisted they will not support any government funding bill that also includes money for Planned Parenthood." speculates that:

With Speaker John Boehner announcing today that he will resign from Congress next month, the idea may generate more support from conservative Republicans who have been arguing for a shutdown of the federal government in order to attempt to de-fund Planned Parenthood.

2 - Values voters gather in Washington, Cruz wins straw poll

A total of 8 Republican Presidential candidates made their case to what are called "values voters," who could be characterized as conservative Christians, at the annual Values Voter Summit, sponsored by FRC Action, a sister organization to the Family Research Council, headed by Tony Perkins.  The Hill reports that for the third straight year, Texas Senator Ted Cruz won the Summit's straw poll, with 35 percent of those voting, ahead of runner-up Ben Carson’s 18 percent.  Last year, Cruz edged out Carson by just 5 percentage points.  In third, it was former AK Governor Mike Huckabee, with 14 percent; then, in fourth, FL Senator Marco Rubio. In fifth place, with 5 percent, it was Donald Trump.

Carson won the event’s poll for vice president, his second consecutive win for that category.

According to the VVS websiteother candidates addressing the crowd included Lindsey Graham, Bobby Jindal, and Rick Santorum.

So who's the strongest with evangelicals?  The Boston Globe ran a story that included results of 2 recent polls.  One was the CNN poll released September 10, a national poll of Republicans in which 32 percent of white evangelicals said they would vote for Donald Trump. Carson was second, with 28 percent. No other candidate was in double digits.

The Globe reported on a Washington Post-ABC News poll released on September 14 which showed that Trump’s numbers are better among white evangelicals than almost any other subgroup of voters. In the survey — which also showed Trump surging among voters overall — 54 percent of evangelicals support him on immigration, 62 percent think he is qualified to be president, and 50 percent think he is honest and trustworthy.

Warren Smith, Vice-President of WORLD Magazine says "not so fast"...he says that what he calls the "myth" of Trump support among evangelicals...

...likely started in August, when a Fox News poll said Trump was the top choice of “white evangelical” voters. But polls like this use methodology that allows respondents to self-identify their religious affiliation without any examination of their actual beliefs.

Smith quotes Chris Anderson, president of Anderson Robbins Research, which helped conduct the Fox News poll. Smith says that Anderson told him that the survey question asked, “Would you describe yourself as a born-again or evangelical Christian?” 

Smith adds:

That may sound like a straightforward question, but people who do religion polling for a living know a dirty little secret: People lie, and there’s no way to know they’ve lied unless you ask more questions that expose the lie. A famous Barna survey found that while more than 25 percent of Americans self-identify as evangelicals, less than 10 percent actually hold historically evangelical beliefs, such as the divinity of Jesus, a historical resurrection, and the authority of the Bible.

He also cites a Gallup survey of religious voters, which found that Trump received just a 22-percent favorability rating among the “highly religious” respondents, which Gallup says more accurately represents true evangelicals.

And, WORLD has been conducting a monthly survey of evangelical leaders.  In the most recent, 91 participated in September, just after the second debate.  Rubio led the poll, with 37.4% of respondents saying he was their first choice.  Ted Cruz was second, with 19.8%, and Carly Fiorina moved up to third, with 18.7% of respondents.  When you combine the number picking a candidate first with those picking the candidate second, Rubio is up to almost 57%, with Fiorina at just over 39 percent, with Cruz over 30.  Trump was the first choice of 1.1%, identical to the percentage who picked him second.

1 - Pope's visit includes Washington, New York, and Philadelphia

The greatly-anticipated visit of Pope Francis to America has reached its conclusion, and there are enormous spiritual and political implications of the visit.  The Pope made a strong defense for religious freedom in some opening comments at the White House and on the next-to-last day of his visit, gathered at the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia.  And along the way, he had his moments as a head of state, shown in his addresses to Congress and the United Nations.

But in his U.N. address, he made some bold declarations.  According to the Christian Post website, he said: "Man is not only a freedom which he creates for himself. Man does not create himself. He is spirit and will, but also nature. Creation is compromised where we ourselves have the final word. The misuse of creation begins when we no longer recognize any instance above ourselves. When we see nothing else but ourselves."

He added: "Consequently, the defense of the environment and the fight against exclusion demand that we recognize a moral law written into human nature itself. One which includes the natural difference between man and woman and the absolute respect for life in all its stages and dimensions."

The Post reports that the Pontiff touched on issues such as human trafficking, climate change, sexual exploitation, social and economic justice and international security, and religious freedom. He also warned against war and praised the Iran nuclear deal.

Austin Ruse, President of the Center for Family and Human Rights, was a guest on The Meeting House, and had made reference to concerns by himself and other pro-life individuals about the Congressional speech, but he was complimentary about the U.N. address.

Baptist Press noted that in his Congressional speech, Pope Francis commented on a variety of issues but without being particularly specific on abortion and marriage.

Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, expressed gratitude the pope spoke to Congress "about the dignity of all human life, whether the unborn, the elderly or the immigrant, as well as the importance of the family in a free and flourishing society," but went on to say, "I do think that the pope's address was an opportunity to address urgent moral issues like abortion culture and religious liberty with more clarity and directness than what was delivered."

Fox News reported on the Pope's first message on American soil, to a gathering at the White House, where, in addition to addressing climate change, he made a strong statement on religious freedom, stating that American Catholics, along with countless other people of goodwill are "likewise concerned that efforts to build a just and wisely ordered society respect their deepest concerns and their right to religious liberty. That freedom reminds one of America's most precious possessions ... all are called to be vigilant, precisely as good citizens, to preserve and defend that freedom from everything that would threaten or compromise it."

In Philadelphia, he spoke in front of Independence Hall, and while not address specifics, he made broad statements of support of religious freedom.  CNN quotes the Pontiff as saying: "Religious freedom certainly means the right to worship God, individually and in community, as our conscience dictates," adding, "But religious liberty, by its nature, transcends places of worship and the private sphere of individuals and families."

Sunday, September 20, 2015

The 3 - September 20, 2015

In this week's edition of my week-in-review feature, The 3, the Alabama Supreme Court has ruled that the state does not have to recognize a lesbian adoption.  Also, abortion was front and center on Capitol Hill Friday, as the House passed 2 pro-life bills.  And, there was a faith element to Presidential politics, with more talk of social issues in the GOP debate, and a Democratic candidate visited a Christian university.

3 - AL Supreme Court: state does not have to recognize lesbian adoption

The Alabama Supreme Court has refused to recognize a lesbian adoption from Georgia, according to a story on The Daily Caller website, which reports that this is a case centered around a lesbian couple who shared custody of three children but later split up.  One of them actually gave birth to the children, and her partner later adopted the children while living in Georgia, so they could both be the official, legal parents.

The biological mother, who now lives in Alabama, had tried to keep the children from the adoptive mother after the couple split. The Alabama high court ruled that the state did not have to recognize the adoption made in Georgia, stripping the adoptive mother of her rights to the children.

In its decision, the court reasoned that Georgia did not properly rule on its own laws regarding same-sex adoption and that the state has a vested interest in making sure adopted children have good homes.  That is a contention that the Daily Caller points out that gay rights groups have issues with.

2 - U.S. House passes 2 pro-life bills, including legislation to defund Planned Parenthood

On Friday, the U.S. House of Representatives took action on 2 pro-life bills, both of which passed the chamber. reported that the House voted 241 to 187 for a bill that would freeze Planned Parenthood funding for one year while Congress conducts an investigation into its sales of aborted babies and their body parts.

239 Republicans and 3 Democrats voted for the bill. 183 Democrats and 3 Republicans voted against it, with one Republican voting "present." Rep. Diane Black, a Tennessee Republican, is the pro-life lawmaker sponsoring the legislation and a nurse for more than 40 years. reported that the estimated $235 million of savings would be invested into Federally Qualified Health Centers. also reported that the House, by a vote of 248-177, passed the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, sponsored by pro-life Congressman Trent Franks, which would make failure to provide standard medical care to children born alive during an abortion a federal crime. It would also apply stronger penalties in cases where an overt act is taken to kill the abortion survivor.

1 - Faith and Presidential politics: 2nd Republican debate, Sanders at Liberty U.

A county clerk in Kentucky, the Planned Parenthood videos, and even casino gambling, were issues that were addressed on the debate stage on Wednesday, the second debate featuring Republican candidates.

Rachel Alexander, Senior Editor of The Stream was a guest on my radio program and offered some analysis.  Click here to access.

In her article for The Stream, she wrote:

Bush was challenged for disagreeing with Mike Huckabee that the jailing of Kentucky clerk Kim Davis represented the “criminalization of Christianity.” Bush responded by insisting that didn’t accurately represent his viewpoint and that he believes there should be an accommodation for religious freedom at the local level.

The Planned Parenthood issue was also addressed by some candidates.  Alexander wrote:

Cruz and Kasich also disagreed about stripping Planned Parenthood of funding if it were to result in shutting down government for two weeks. Kasich explained that as long as Obama is president, he won’t sign the legislation. Cruz responded in part, “We shouldn’t send millions of dollars to funding criminal enterprises. Republicans surrender, unlike Obama who sticks with his principles.”

Fiorina may have gotten the most applause of the evening when she added, “Anyone who has watched this video, I dare anyone to watch a fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its leg kicking, while someone wants to harvest its brain. This is about the character of this nation, and if we will not force Obama to veto this bill, shame on us.”

Alexander also referred to a skirmish between Donald Trump and Jeb Bush over the topic of casino gambling:

At one point, Trump and Bush got into an argument over whether Trump ever attempted to put casinos in Florida. Bush said he stopped him from bringing casino gambling to the state, and Trump said that wasn’t true and that if he’d wanted to put casinos there he would have made it happen. Which candidate was lying? It was hard to tell from the debate, but it was Trump who apparently was playing fast and loose with the truth...

Alexander referred to a Business Insider fact check on that issue.

Meanwhile, on the same university campus where Republican Ted Cruz announced his candidacy for the Presidency, Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders spoke this past week.  It was at a convocation at Liberty University, and according to a piece on the WORLD Magazine website by News Editor Jamie Dean:

Sanders’ message at Liberty stuck with his usual talking points, but offered a biblical twist. The candidate called on students to pursue justice for others, based on Jesus’ teaching on the Golden Rule and lesson from the book of Amos.

Christians agree with Sanders on the importance of helping the needy, but instead of the church, Sanders wants the U.S. government to fill that role. The Wall Street Journal estimates his plans for universal healthcare, free tuition at public colleges, and other massive programs would cost $18 trillion.

Dean also pointed out about Sanders: "After thanking Liberty for the invitation to speak, he quickly acknowledged Christians disagree with him on important issues and declared his own creed of sorts." He said in the event, "I believe in women’s rights and the rights of a woman to control her own body," adding, “I believe in gay rights and gay marriage. Those are my beliefs, and it is no secret."

Sunday, September 13, 2015

The 3 - September 13, 2015

In this week's edition of The 3, my week-in-review feature:  there is news from California that the legislative body there has approved a bill allowing physicians to assist dying patients to end their lives.  Also, a Kentucky county clerk who would not issues marriage licenses to same-sex couples is free from jail.  And, a Navy chaplain can now look forward to retirement with no blemishes on his record as the result of the findings of a committee, released just before Labor Day.

3 - California legislature approves physician-assisted suicide bill

In a special legislative session in California, the state Senate voted 23 to 14 to approve the controversial End of Life Option Act, which would allow physicians to prescribe lethal drugs to their dying patients, according to the Christianity Today website, which reported that the lower house, the state Assembly voted earlier in the week 42-33 to approve the bill.

Gov. Jerry Brown had called the session to focus solely on financing for MediCal, the state health insurance program. The story says that he has yet to announce whether he would sign any physician-assisted suicide bill. He has until October 11 to sign or veto the bill.

The story points out that:

Public debate over assisted suicide changed as Californian Brittany Maynard, 29, a terminally ill cancer patient, began public advocacy for it on YouTube and CNN. She moved from California to Oregon to take advantage of Oregon’s Death with Dignity law. She died November 1.

The CT story referred to a Life News story regarding the Assembly vote on Wednesday, which said:

Assembly members didn’t focus on the bill’s language,” said Margaret Dore, president of Choice Is an Illusion, regarding the bill modeled on similar laws in Oregon and Washington State. “The bill is sold as giving people choice and control at the end of life. Yet the bill’s language is stacked against the patient and applies to people with years, even decades, to live.”

There was also a development in the U.K. on the topic on Friday.  According to the Christianity Today story:

Earlier on Friday in the UK, the Parliament delivered a stunning setback to proponents of physician-assisted suicide. Voting 118 to 330, MPs voted down a private member's bill that would allow a "competent" person with a terminal illness to request professional medical assistance in dying.

2 - Kim Davis released from jail, plans to return to work

Rowan County, Kentucky clerk Kim Davis was released from jail on Tuesday, September 8, and a Religion News Service/USA Today report had initially said that she needed time to rest and would not return to work until Friday or Monday, according to attorneys with Liberty Counsel, who are representing Davis.

The Liberty Counsel website reported that Davis would return on Monday.  It quoted her as saying:

I am overwhelmed that people took the time out of their busy lives to write and tell me that they are standing with me. Every letter has been kind and encouraging. I am heartened that God’s people are not huddled up in a corner, but they are standing strong. Standing begins on our knees. I have no doubt that God answers prayer. God is so real to me. He has transformed my life.

The RNS/USA Today story said that U.S. District Judge David Bunning released Davis from jail Tuesday on the condition that she does not interfere with her deputies issuing licenses to same-sex couples. He said he was satisfied that the Rowan County Clerk’s Office would comply with his order. He warned Davis she would be sanctioned again if she violates the conditions of her release.  The judge ordered the court-appointed lawyers for her deputy clerks to provide an update every 14 days on whether they are complying with their sworn pledge to issue licenses to all couples.

The story quotes Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel as saying that Davis had not abandoned her conscience. In a statement, he said: “We are pleased that Kim Davis has been ordered released,” adding that, “she can never recover the past six days of her life spent in an isolated jail cell like a common criminal because of her conscience and religious convictions.”  The American Civil Liberties Union, which represents four couples who sued her, said its goal has been achieved.

1 - Chaplain charged with discrimination against gay people exonerated

A Naval chaplain is now on track to retire after he was cleared of charges brought against him accusing him of being intolerant and insensitive.

The news came down actually on the Friday before Labor Day and has spread in the past week as Lt. Cmdr. Wesley Modder can now look forward to the next step in a highly regarded Naval career.

The Military Times reported that Modder was given a "detachment for cause" letter in February and ousted from his job after his commander concluded that he was "intolerant" and "unable to function in the diverse and pluralistic environment" of his current assignment at the Navy Nuclear Power Training Command in South Carolina.

The article reports that a high-level review at Navy Personnel Command rejected the commander's recommendation to fire the chaplain, which will clear the way for Modder to retire in good standing as he nears his 20th year of service.

According to the website for Liberty Institute, the legal advocacy organization that defended the chaplain, the controversy began in late 2014, when a handful of sailors complained that they disagreed with the biblical views Chaplain Modder expressed during private counseling sessions, even though the views were in line with the teachings of his faith.    

His former commander, Captain Jon R. Fahs, had labeled Modder “unfit” and requested that the Navy detach the chaplain for cause and send him before a Board of Inquiry, which could have involuntarily removed Modder from the Navy and prematurely ended his career, which was described as "stellar."

The Military Times reported that Rear Adm. David Steindl, the head of Navy Personnel Command NPC and deputy chief of Naval Personnel, wrote a letter to Fahs dated Sept. 3, stating that Navy Personnel Command said the commander's investigation's "evidence of substandard performance in this case does not meet the standard of gross negligence or complete disregard for duty" that is required under Navy rules to warrant a detachment for cause, which is filed into an officer's record and can trigger a board that ends their service.

As it was stated on the Liberty Institute website:

The victory is of wide-ranging importance—as the case was closely watched by Congress, millions of active service and retired personnel, chaplains, and those interested in the future of religious freedom.

Sunday, September 06, 2015

The 3 - September 6, 2015

Here in this week's edition of my week-in-review feature, The 3, there is a challenge in Oklahoma concerning the Supreme Court's order to remove a 10 Commandments monument from the Capitol grounds there.  Also, a lawyer who has been involved in defending crosses at Chinese churches from being removed has been placed in jail, and U.S. officials are speaking out.  And, the top story involves a county clerk in Kentucky who was sent to jail because she would not issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

3 - OK Attorney General attempts to keep 10 Commandments monument on Capitol grounds

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt has released a statement in which he contends that, as the result of ordering the removal of a 10 Commandments monument from the Capitol grounds, the Oklahoma Supreme Court has set a precedent that involves the censorship of all religious expression on government property, according to a report on the Christian Post website, which said that the Attorney General filed a brief in court this past Thursday.  In his statement, the Attorney General stated, "In its decision to remove the monument, the Oklahoma Supreme Court held that no matter how historically significant or beneficial to the state, state law prohibits any item on state property or to be funded by the state if it's at all 'religious in nature.'"

In 2012, this privately-funded monument was installed on the grounds of the Oklahoma Capitol, three years after a bill was passed giving the go-ahead for such a monument.

In August 2013, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit against the display, arguing that it was an unconstitutional government endorsement of religion. Also, American Atheists filed suit and the New York-based Satanic Temple attempted to get a satanic display erected on the same property, arguing equal access.

In September 2014, Oklahoma County District Judge Thomas Prince ruled in favor of the display, concluding that, as with other displays at the Capitol, the Ten Commandments blended historical and spiritual significance.

However, just this year, on June 30, the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled 7-2 against the monument, arguing that it violated the state constitution.
As the Post reports, Pruitt argued that the high court's decision against the display creates a climate of anti-religious hostility.

2 - Leading defender of crosses in China put in jail before scheduled meeting with U.S. Ambassador, U.S. officials call for release 

The United States has called for the release of Chinese lawyer Zhang Kai and a group of religious figures, including Christian pastors, accused of threatening public order and national security, according to a report on the Voice of America website, which reports that the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Samantha Power, has also launched a campaign for the release of 20 women prisoners of conscience, including Chinese attorney Wang Yu.

Ahead of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s first state visit to Washington later this month, the U.S. ambassador-at-large for religious freedom, David Saperstein, said the August 25 detentions of religious figures, including Zhang, were a “particularly alarming development.” It came as he prepared to meet them the next day in China.

Christianity Today story identifies Zhang as the leader of “Lawyers for Protection of the Cross," a group that defends churches whose crosses have been forcibly removed amid a government campaign to strip skylines of Christian symbols.

Zhang Kai is the latest of more than 250 attorneys, pastors, and human rights activists detained or arrested since July in connection with the 400 to 1,200 cross removals in the eastern province of Zhejiang, a Christian stronghold.

The CT story says that according to China Aid, Zhang and his intern, Liu Peng, are being held for six months in a so-called “black jail,” one of several detention facilities outside the established penal system. Torture is common in such centers, where prisoners may be held without trial, China Aid said.

Lawyers representing Zhang and Liu requested to meet with them, but authorities denied that request. Sources told the attorneys that Zhang and Liu have been charged with endangering state security and “assembling a crowd to disrupt social order.”

Saperstein is quoted as saying to news media: “These detentions fit into the disturbing pattern of state intimidation of public-interest lawyers, internet activists, journalists, [and] religious leaders,” adding, “Other people that I have met, or tried to, have suffered harassment of some kind."  He said that the US government "demands the immediate release of these activists, who boldly underline the precariousness of religious life in China."

1 -  KY clerk jailed, supporters rally

As of this blog post, county clerk Kim Davis of Rowan County, Kentucky remains in jail.  According to CitizenLink,  Federal officials took Davis into custody. Davis has maintained she cannot issue same-sex marriage licenses because of her deeply held faith. Late Thursday afternoon, she refused to allow her deputy clerks to issue the licenses in her stead.

She is quoted as saying, “My conscience will not allow it,” adding, “God’s moral law convicts me and conflicts with my duties.”

U.S. District Court Judge David Bunning also warned two other clerks in the state who have taken the same stand, saying they would be held in contempt if they did not comply with his order.

Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel, said he was stunned. He said, "The judge could have simply ordered fines, but said they were not enough of a punishment."

This series of events was discussed in a recent conversation with Kim Trobee of CitizenLink.  You can listen to or download it here.

Liberty Counsel is representing Kim Davis, and its website has been posting consistent updates and facts about the case.  The site points out that:
The Supreme Court did not change Kentucky’s marriage law or its forms, but invalidated the legislation limiting marriage to opposite sex couples. It is up to each state’s legislature to conform the law to the opinion. Kentucky Senate President Robert Stivers filed a brief in Davis’s case, pointing out to the judge: “The Supreme Court ruling has completely obliterated the definition of marriage and the process for obtaining a marriage license in Kentucky. The General Assembly will be compelled to amend many sections of Kentucky law, not just for the issuance of marriage licenses, to comply with the recent Supreme Court decision.” The brief pointed out that the Governor can call a special session of the legislature, or he could issue an executive order about the licenses to later be codified by the legislature during the 2016 session. A judge is not a super-legislature that can rewrite the law.
A number of clerks had apparently tried to avoid this situation.  Liberty Counsel reports that during the regular session of the Legislature, 57 clerks, including Davis, wrote a letter to Kentucky legislators, pleading with them to “get a bill on the floor to help protect clerks” who had a religious objection to authorizing the licenses. The Kentucky Clerks Association also recommend that the names of clerks be removed from the forms.

The website,, reported that attorneys for Davis said that marriage licenses issued by her office Friday were void because only Davis has the authority to authorize a marriage license, and she refuses to do so.