Sunday, March 13, 2016

The 3 - March 13, 2016

On this week's edition of The 3, my week-in-review feature, there has been some activity this week concerning defining activities carried out by Islamic State as genocide.  Also, another state has approved a ban on abortion after 20 weeks.  And, religious freedom is getting an airing in statehouses, including Missouri and Georgia.

3 - New report calls on officials to label ISIS activity as "genocide"

A new report was introduced this week that provides evidence of activity carried out by Islamic State in the Middle East, co-sponsored by the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic society, and In Defense of Christians, a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving Christianity in the Middle East. According to a report on The Stream website, Carl Anderson, CEO of the Knights of Columbus, said: "The evidence contained in this report as well as the evidence relied upon by the European Parliament fully support—and I suggest to you compel—the conclusion that reasonable grounds exist to believe the crime of genocide has been committed against Christians in the region."

The 278-page report includes a legal brief, 44 Iraqi witness statements, and lists of crimes against Christians, Christians that were murdered, and churches that were attacked, as well as other supplementary materials. The story points out that over 200 House lawmakers have voiced their support of a declaration of genocide against ISIS for its treatment of Christians and other religious minorities through House Concurrent Resolution 75.

The resolution was introduced in September by Representatives Jeff Fortenberry, a Republican from Nebraska, and Democrat Representative Anna Eshoo of California, and defines targeted “atrocities” against Christians and other religious minorities as “war crimes,” “crimes against humanity,” and “genocide.” The House Foreign Affairs Committee unanimously passed the resolution on March 2.

A letter was sent earlier this week to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry from an attorney on behalf of The Philos Project, the American Mesopotamian Organization, the Assyrian Aid Society of America and the Iraqi Christian Relief Council regarding "the genocide being perpetrated against Christians in Islamic State-controlled territory."  According to the Iraqi Christian Relief Council website, "Kerry and the State Department were asked to carefully consider this letter as they anticipate making an imminent decision regarding the question of whether Christians are, along with Yazidis, victims of genocide. This letter has also been sent to the appropriate offices at the White House."  In the Executive Summary of the letter, it states:

The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (“Genocide Convention”) prohibits the intentional destruction, in whole or in part, of an ethnic or religious group by, inter alia, killing members of the group, causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group, or deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction.

Publicly available information strongly suggests that ISIS is subjecting Assyrian and other Iraqi and Syrian Christians living in areas under the control of ISIS to genocidal conditions.

2 - South Dakota governor signs late-term abortion bill

Another state has passed legislation banning abortion after 20 weeks. reports
that South Dakota has become the latest state to, "protect unborn babies from painful, late-term abortions."

On Thursday, Gov. Dennis Daugaard signed bill to ban abortions after 20 weeks and penalize doctors who do late-term abortions in non-emergency situations, according to a report in the Argus Leader referenced by the website.  Penalties for violations of the law include up to a year in jail and a $2,000 fine, according to the report. The only exceptions would be in certain medical emergency cases, the report states.  It points out that the bill is modeled after the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which had become law in 12 states, now 13.

Live Action News referenced a recent Montgomery Advertiser story that reported that this past Wednesday, an Alabama Senate Committee voted 7-1 to approve a bill that would ban abortion after fetal heartbeat.

The bill would make it a felony for a doctor to abort a baby whose heartbeat had been detected. Exceptions are made for cases in which the mother’s life is in danger, cases of ectopic pregnancy, and cases of lethal anomaly in the fetus.

And, in Oklahoma, according to, a bill has introduced that would add killing an unborn child to existing murder statutes.  It reads, "No person shall perform or induce or attempt to perform or induce an abortion after conception,” adding, “A person commits murder in the first degree when that person performs an abortion as defined by Section 1-745.5 of Title 63 of the Oklahoma Statutes.”

The website says that the effort to pass such a bill is said to be the result of a petition signed by over 30,000 Oklahoma residents, calling for lawmakers to immediately present legislation that would completely end abortion in the state. It was to have been heard in the Senate Tuesday following its recent passage out of the Health and Human Services Committee, but was stalled by Republican leadership.

1 - States grapple with religious freedom bills (GA, MO)

This past week in Missouri, a resolution was passed by the state Senate March 9 and is now headed to the state's House of Representatives, according to a report on the Baptist Press website.

After a 39-hour filibuster of Senate Joint Resolution 39 (SJR 39), also called the Missouri Religious Freedom Amendment, SJR 39 was approved 23-9.  If resolution passes in the House, it goes to a referendum this fall, in which voters determine whether or not it will be added to the state constitution.  The resolution's legislative process does not require the signature of Gov. Jay Nixon.

Drafters of SJR 39 insist that the amendment "is a shield, not a sword" -- intended not to attack any group of people, but simply to provide religious liberty protections for people of any faith following the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in favor of same-sex marriage last summer.  SJR 39 would protect the religious liberty of pastors, churches and other religious organizations as well as business people who use their creative abilities within the wedding industry.

In Georgia, there have been bills introduced to prevent people of faith from facing repercussions as the result of acting on their deeply held religious beliefs. The Religious Freedom Restoration Act (Senate Bill 129) and the Pastor Protection Act or First Amendment Defense Act (House Bill 757) are two pieces of legislation pending in the General Assembly. According to the Neighbor Newspapers website, The Atlanta City Council Monday by a 13-0 vote approved a resolution by members Mary Norwood and Alex Wan expressing its opposition to the bills.

According to a piece by Mike Griffin of the Georgia Baptist Convention, writing on The Christian Index website in a piece dated March 4:

The most significant piece of legislation so far has been the Pastor Protection Act (HB 757) that passed out of the Senate with an amendment that will protect individuals (ex. counselors), churches, private schools, private colleges, adoption agencies, nonprofit organizations, and businesses from adverse government action because of their beliefs on marriage. This bill, having already passed from the House without this amendment, now has to be voted on again with the Senate’s amendment.

Griffin goes on to describe how important it is for the House to retain the amended language, rather than having the bill go to a conference committee.  He says:

The LGBT activists, the Chamber of Commerce, and media are promoting only pastors, churches, and faith-based nonprofits. They overwhelmingly asked the legislature and the governor to not protect the business community from public accommodation laws, which will force these businesses to promote, support, and participate in same-sex marriage ceremonies.

Neighbor Newspapers reports that on March 2, Georgia Unites Against Discrimination, a bipartisan grassroots campaign that is "dedicated to protecting GLBT Georgians from discrimination" delivered a petition with over 75,000 signatures "opposing any efforts to enshrine discrimination in Georgia law to Gov. Nathan Deal, who recently came out against the proposal as well."

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