Sunday, April 03, 2016

The 3 - April 3, 2016

This week on my week-in-review feature, The 3, I call attention to a deadly incident in Pakistan, in which Islamic extremists targeted and killed Christians, and they ended up actually killing Muslims, as well.  Also, the bill passed by the North Carolina Legislature that set statewide standards for transgender individuals' use of public restrooms and struck down the city of Charlotte's outrageous action of a few weeks ago has continued to have its detractors, including the state's attorney general, who refuses to defend the bill.  And, religious freedom has been in the news this week, as Georgia's governor vetoed a mild religious freedom bill and Mississippi legislators passed a bill that extended protection to business owners.

3 - Islamic radicals target Christians in Easter Sunday massacre

Over 70 people lost their lives in an Easter Sunday bombing in a park in Lahore, Pakistan.  The Los Angeles Times reports that "Officials raised the death toll in the Sunday evening bombing to 72 people, including at least 25 children. The explosion occurred as the park was packed with families celebrating Easter, among them members of Lahore’s Christian minority, although the vast majority of casualties were Muslims. About 300 more were injured."

The newspaper reports that a splinter group of the Pakistani Taliban militant federation claimed responsibility for the bombing and said it targeted Christians, who make up less than 2% of Pakistan’s population of 182 million.  The Times reported that officials said at least 14 Christians were among the dead.

Morning Star News reported that the dead included at least 45 Christians and 25 Muslims, including women and children, according to unofficial reports.

A spokesman for the militant organization, Ehsanullah Ehsan, said a suicide bomber deliberately targeted the Christian community. He is quoted as saying "We claim responsibility for the attack on Christians as they were celebrating Easter. He added that the attack had been carried out under an operation code-named Saut Ul Raad (Sound of Lightning), “which will continue throughout this year.”

“It was part of our annual martyrdom attacks we have started this year,” Ehsan said, adding that “we had been waiting for this occasion … We want to convey to the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the prime minister that we have arrived in Punjab and we will reach you.”

Morning Star reported that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif “condemned the Easter bombing in the strongest terms and assured justice to the mourning families,” and the country’s powerful army chief, Gen. Raheel Sharif, ordered intelligence and security services to “arrest the perpetrators of the attack.” However, Islamist extremist groups continued to mock the state’s declarations.

2 - North Carolina governor, lawmakers face corporate backlash for bathroom ordinance, Attorney General refuses to defend the new law

During the final full week of March, the North Carolina Legislature passed a bill known as the Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act.  It was passed by an overwhelming majority of the Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Pat McCrory, according to a story at, which reported that the law bans local governments from passing “anti-discrimination” ordinances and requires transgender people to use the public restrooms that align with their biological gender.  The legislation overturns a Charlotte ordinance that allowed transgender people to be free to choose the restroom that they wished.

The Legislature's bill immediately came under fire from LGBT activists, according to WND, and North Carolina’s Democrat attorney general, who is running against McCrory for governor, refused to defend the law against legal challenges from the ACLU and others.  Governor McCrory called the opposition to the new law a “vicious nationwide smear campaign” and rebuked Attorney General Roy Cooper for refusing to defend the law. In a five-minute YouTube video, the governor said that by getting professional sports leagues, the Hollywood film industry and corporate America to line up against the law the political left has been able to turn a common-sense privacy issue into an economic issue.

And, a Christian legal advocacy firm has announced that it would be willing to defend the law.  The article reports that Mat Staver, founder and chair of Liberty Counsel, sent a letter Thursday to North Carolina lawmakers stating that his organization will defend the new North Carolina law free of charge. The ACLU has already sued the state on behalf of two transgender people and a lesbian professor.

1 - Religious freedom bill passes Mississippi Legislature, Georgia governor vetoes religious freedom bill

States are continuing to strengthen religious liberty protections, and the latest is the state of Mississippi, whose Legislature on Friday, according to The Stream, passed a bill that would prohibit the government from punishing businesses, social workers, religious groups and public employees for denying services based on “sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction.” The state's House of Representatives approved the Senate version of the “Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act” by a vote of 69-45.

The report referred to stories from CNN and NBC News.  According to the NBC report, the government would not be permitted to prevent those of faith from, among other things: refusing to marry a same-sex couple, firing an employee whose "conduct or religious beliefs are inconsistent with those of the religious organization," or blocking the adoption of a child because of religious beliefs.

Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, a strong supporter of the bill, is quoted as saying, “In the wake of last year’s U.S. Supreme Court decision, many Mississippians including pastors, wanted protection to exercise their religious liberties,” adding. “This bill simply protects those individuals from government interference when practicing their religious beliefs.” The bill now goes to Republican Gov. Phil Bryant, who hasn’t said whether he’ll sign the legislation.  But, he did tell WLBT recently he didn’t think the bill was discriminatory.

Meanwhile, the Georgia General Assembly passed a religious discrimination bill that provided protection for pastors and religious organizations from facing punishment for refusing to take part in certain activities that violate their beliefs, such as performing a same-sex wedding ceremony or lease their facilities for such a purpose, without any protection for small business owners who wished to opt out of certain activities.  Another piece published on The Stream, a commentary from Breakpoint, including these comments by John Stonestreet:

Georgia Governor Nathan Deal vetoed HB757, saying the bill “doesn’t reflect the character of our state or the character of our people.” Deal, despite his insistence otherwise, was the latest governor to cave to the well-orchestrated pressure from the NFL, Disney, Salesforce and the LGBT lobby.

That would be disturbing enough if this were the same type of religious freedom bill that caused so much trouble in Arizona and Indiana. But as Ryan Anderson notes at the Daily Signal, this bill offered no protections for florists, photographers, bakers or other wedding-related professionals to live by their religious convictions. This bill would have only protected the freedoms of ministers from officiating same-sex ceremonies, for faith-based organizations from hiring employees whose views undermined their mission, and for protecting churches and their ministries from state government-level discrimination.

Stonestreet observed:

...The Indiana Religious Freedom Act firestorm a year ago showed us that “religious freedom,” an idea as American as baseball and apple pie, was no longer considered to be a cultural “good.” When many, many people in our country hear “religious freedom,” what they really hear is “license to discriminate.”

The Georgia governor’s words and actions this week prove just how far that redefining of religious freedom has gone. Apparently, not even pastors should be able to hold religious convictions that violate the new orthodoxies our culture has embraced.

You can hear my interview with Mike Griffin, Public Affairs Representative for the Georgia Baptist Mission Board, on this legislation and the governor's veto, by clicking here.

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