Sunday, January 31, 2016

The 3 - January 31, 2016

In this week's edition of The 3, my week-in-review feature, there is good news regarding participation in a tax rebate program for a theme park under construction in Kentucky featuring a life-sized replica of Noah's Ark.  Also, faith was a thread of the latest Republican debate in Iowa this past week.  And, a grand jury in Texas that was supposed to be considering indictments against Planned Parenthood turned the tables on 2 video producers who had exposed the organization's involvement in the sale of fetal body parts.

3 - Court rules that Ark Encounter can participate in tax incentives

Tickets are now on sale for the new Ark Encounter theme park, which is being built outside Cincinnati by the ministry of Answers in Genesis.  According to an Ark Encounter press release, the $92 million dollar first phase is scheduled to open July 7 in Williamstown, Kentucky, and tickets for the Ark's first forty days and nights of opening went on sale January 19. The park’s centerpiece is a massive, full scale, 510-foot-long recreation of Noah’s Ark.

According to the release, Answers in Genesis had applied to be part of the Kentucky Tourism Development Program, which has allowed many other tourist-attraction developers to qualify for a gradual rebate of a portion of the new state sales taxes their projects generate, But, AiG had been blocked by state officials from participating because, as the ministry claims: 1) the Ark project’s religious messaging; and 2) the possibility of AiG exercising its right as a religious organization to use religious preferences in hiring at the Ark.

Answers in Genesis filed a Federal lawsuit, and this week, a Federal judge issued a ruling finding, “that the Commonwealth’s exclusion of AiG from participating in the program for the reasons stated – i.e., on the basis of AiG’s religious beliefs, purpose, mission, message, or conduct, is a violation of AiG’s rights under the First Amendment to the federal Constitution”.  The judge ordered the state to move forward in processing AiG’s application for the available tax rebate incentives that would become effective once the Ark Encounter is open and operating.   The judge also said that the ministry may “utilize any Title VII exception for which it qualifies concerning the hiring of its personnel.”

2 - Emphasis on faith in latest Republican debate

Republican candidates took to the stage just days before the Iowa caucuses to discuss a variety of issues, and there was significant mention of faith in the latest GOP debate.  Tony Perkins wrote in an FRC Action e-mail release:

...If you ask me, there was one clear winner: evangelicals. Sure, a lot in the field held their own -- but it was the emphasis on God, faith, and values that carried the day. Of course, no one can be sure what impact Donald Trump’s absence had, but we do know that the seventh contest of the 2016 race was a substantive one on key issues. Among them, life, religion, and family. Chris Wallace made sure of that, bringing up the hefty influence of evangelicals, which, as he reminded people, make up 60 percent of Republican caucus-goers. Pointing to the influence of the movement in the primaries, he opened an entire line of questioning to values issues.

Perkins noted that, "With the exceptions of Senator Ted Cruz (Texas), Governor Jeb Bush (Fla.) and Dr. Ben Carson, candidates were asked pointed questions about how their beliefs square with their policies on abortion (Senator Rand Paul, Ky.), religious liberty (Governor Chris Christie, N.J.), big government (Governor John Kasich, Ohio), and the notion of America as a Christian nation (Senator Marco Rubio, Fla.)."

Baptist Press referenced a number of the faith statements that were related in the debate, including Marco Rubio's response to a questioner's mention of a TIME magazine article proclaiming him as "the Republican savior." He said, "Let me be clear about one thing: there's only one Savior, and it's not me," adding, "It's Jesus Christ, who came down to earth and died for our sins."

According to BP, Rand Paul said America's continued liberty "requires a virtuous people," citing George Washington and Christian social commentator Os Guinness. He also said he believes "abortion is always wrong" and proposed state and federal measures to protect unborn babies, including federal legislation stating the constitutional right to life begins at conception.

Chris Christie took aim at taxpayer funding of Planned Parenthood by the Federal government, saying he banned taxpayer funding in New Jersey. He also responded to a question about Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk who was jailed last year for refusing to allow her office to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples. He said that Davis should not personally have been required to issue the licenses, but "the person who came in for the license needed to get it."

John Kasich referred to the Bible in an answer to a question about caring for the mentally ill: "When I study Scripture,"he said, "I know that people who live in the shadows need to have a chance. ... The time has come to stop ignoring the mentally ill in this country and begin to treat them and get them on their feet, along with, of course, treating the drug-addicted."

In his closing statement, Ted Cruz said, as he attempted to emphasize trust: "Who do you know will defend life, marriage and religious liberty? Examine our records, pray on it and I will be honored if you and your family will come caucus for us on Monday night."

Baptist Press also reported that, "The candidates spoke on several occasions about how to balance religious liberty with security concerns related to radical Islam."

1 - Planned Parenthood undercover video makers indicted, no charges for Planned Parenthood

Just months after voters in Houston, Texas turned back an ordinance (the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, or HERO) that would have granted preferential treatment based on sexual orientation and so-called, "gender identity," the area is at the center of a controversy about a deeply-held Christian value, this time pertaining to the sanctity of life.

This week, as the Liberty Counsel website reported, a grand jury in Houston indicted David Daleiden and Susan Merritt of the Center for Medical Progress for allegedly “tampering with governmental record” “with intent to defraud and harm” Planned Parenthood.  Liberty Counsel is representing Ms. Merritt, and as the site pointed out, "the jury was supposed to investigate Planned Parenthood but is now charging the whistleblowers. Liberty Counsel will defend Susan against both efforts to silence her."

Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel, who will be a guest on The Meeting House on Faith Radio on Tuesday (February 2), “Planned Parenthood is the “Corrupt Organization” here, and the Texas indictment is outrageous,” adding, “The fact that our client has been indicted and Planned Parenthood was not is mind-blowing.” Staver said, "Anyone who has watched Planned Parenthood employees sort through dismembered baby parts and heard the Planned Parenthood officials attempt to sell them knows that Planned Parenthood is the criminal, not our client.”

And, the Christian Examiner reports that a spokesman for the Houston Area Pastor Council said in a emailed statement this past Thursday that hundreds of pastors throughout the city had reviewed the indictments of the two investigative journalists and were "profoundly disturbed" at the district attorney's presentation of the case.

Rev. Dave Welch, who represents the council, said: "We highly respect the nature and process of our justice system when it works justly; however, often it falls prey to the private agendas and philosophies of individuals and we are very disturbed by the appearance of that in this case. To spin an investigation around one hundred eighty degrees from scrutinizing Planned Parenthood's documented trafficking of baby body parts to 'shooting the messenger' is breathtaking."

The pastors had objected to the fact that a Planned Parenthood board member was working in the DA's office. Welch said, "District Attorney Devon Anderson personally assured me at the beginning of the investigation into Planned Parenthood regarding the trafficking of human body parts that the assistant DA who is on the board of Planned Parenthood would be 'walled off' and have no role in the investigation," but added, "I am confident that DA Anderson made good on that promise: however, the results raise serious questions."  

Welch was one of the pastors whose sermons and other communication were subpoenaed by city officials, an action related to the so-called Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO).

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