Sunday, April 24, 2016

The 3 - April 24, 2016

This week's edition of The 3, highlighting recent developments impacting the Christian community, shines the spotlight on the state of Oklahoma, where voters will get to decide on whether or not a 10 Commandments monument will return to the capitol grounds.  Also, in Georgia, a public health official has lost his job because of content of sermons he preached in his capacity as an ordained minister.  And, the issue of restroom facilities for transgender individuals took center stage on a number of fronts this week.

3 - Oklahoma residents to vote on restoring 10 Commandments Monument

The Oklahoma House of Representatives has added its approval to a Senate Joint Resolution that would send an amendment to the state Constitution to the voters - that amendment could lead to restoring the 10 Commandments Monument to the grounds of the state capitol.

KFOR Television reports that the action by the House will allow voters the option of removing a section of the Oklahoma State Constitution, which was cited in a ruling that led to the removal of the Ten Commandments monument from state capitol grounds, according to a press release.   The state Supreme Court had ordered the monument's removal last June.

The resolution would remove a section of the Oklahoma State Constitution that provides “public money or property cannot be used directly or indirectly for any sect, church, denomination or system of religion.”

House Speaker Jeffrey Hickman is quoted as saying, "Oklahomans overwhelmingly supported the placement of the Ten Commandments monument on the grounds of the state capitol, and they will now be given the opportunity to address the issue in our constitution which the Supreme Court cited in ordering the removal of the Ten Commandments monument.”

Rep. John Paul Jordan, who brought the resolution, said that, “The new interpretation of this provision can potentially make our state hostile to religion and have damaging impacts on our counties, cities and school districts,” adding, “This impact has already been felt in Johnston County, where the ACLU filed a lawsuit based solely on this section of the state constitution and forced the removal of their Ten Commandments monument."  The amendment could be on the ballot in November.

2 - GA health official fired because of sermon content at his church files lawsuit

Another public official in Georgia has lost his job because of his religious beliefs, that he expressed apart from this work.  Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran was fired because of his views on sexuality, including the sinfulness of homosexuality, which he related in a book that he had written.  Now, according to the First Liberty Institute website, a District Health Director for the Georgia Department of Public Health has been terminated - this time, because of sermon content.  The site states:

Dr. Eric Walsh is an expert in public health with multiple advanced degrees. He has served as the director of the City of Pasadena’s Public Health Department, was appointed to President Obama’s Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDs and also served as an associate pastor for his church. In May 2014, the State of Georgia’s Department of Public Health hired Dr. Walsh as a District Health Director. But soon after Dr. Walsh accepted the offer, state officials asked him to submit recordings of his sermons for their review. After inspecting his sermons, they fired him. First Liberty Institute filed a lawsuit against the State of Georgia on behalf of Dr. Walsh because no one should be fired from his job for something he said in a sermon.

Walsh is an ordained Seventh-Day Adventist Minister. His sermon topics included following Christ, having compassion on the poor, health, marriage, sexuality, world religions, science, creationism, and more.

In September, First Liberty (then known as Liberty Institute), along with co-counsel, filed an official charge of discrimination with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on Dr. Walsh’s behalf. The complaint charged the State of Georgia Department of Public Health with religious discrimination and retaliation for firing Walsh over the content of his sermons. This week, First Liberty filed a lawsuit against the Department.

1 - Transgender bathroom developments: Federal court strikes down VA school policy, Target declares using bathroom of opposite gender is OK

This has been quite a week with respect to the LGBT agenda, especially the "T" component, which stands for "transgender."  While lesbians and gays want people to believe that they were born as homosexual, transgenders have the opposite approach to sexuality - they believe that they were not born with a particular gender; rather they were assigned a gender, which could be different than their "true" one.  Some embrace a concept that gender is fluid - it can fluctuate dependent on feelings.

So, the issue of which restroom to use in public becomes an issue.  The state of North Carolina believes restroom usage should be determined by biological gender, a commonsense approach that has brought criticism to the state.  Just this week, there were several reports I heard or read that involved people going into the bathroom of the opposite gender and committing acts that led to them being charged with crimes.  When you begin to mix genders in public restrooms, it opens the door to trouble.

Just this week, a Federal appeals court struck down a school district's restroom policy in the case of a transgender student - it ruled the district should allow the transgender individual, identifying as a girl, to use the boy's restroom facilities.   A large retailer, Target, reiterated its support of people using whichever restroom they choose.

In the Virginia case, the Christian Examiner reports that a policy preventing transgender student, Gavin Grimm, from using a boys restroom at his Virginia high school is discriminatory, according to a Federal appeals court, which overturns a prior decision to reject Grimm's discrimination claim. Grimm had filed a sex discrimination claim when barred from using the bathroom at the high school after the school received complaints and adopted a policy requiring students to use restrooms corresponding with their biological gender.  Grimm was born female but now identifies as a male.

The article points out that the ruling "may set a precedent for transgender-bathroom related lawsuits in other states, including North Carolina."

The Christian Examiner also ran an article from The Christian Post, which stated that retail chain Target announced this week that transgender people are free to use the bathrooms and fitting rooms in their stores that match the gender they identify with, not their sex.   Target stated on its corporate website:

"In our stores, we demonstrate our commitment to an inclusive experience in many ways. Most relevant for the conversations currently underway, we welcome transgender team members and guests to use the restroom or fitting room facility that corresponds with their gender identity."

The issue became a topic on the Presidential campaign trail, with Donald Trump voicing opposition to the North Carolina bathroom bill, which John Kasich had earlier indicated he would not have signed as a governor.  Ted Cruz fired back at Trump by sharing concern over grown men going into ladies' restrooms.

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