Sunday, May 01, 2016

The 3 - May 1, 2016

This week's edition of The 3, highlighting 3 recent stories impacting the Christian community, spotlights a new Tennessee law protecting counselors who do not wish to offer counseling that would violate their deeply-held beliefs.  Also, there has been a development in a disturbing story out of China involving the destruction of a church facility, an action that resulted in the pastor's wife losing her life.  And, free speech is on leave at a large public university in North Carolina, where a campus Christian group has found its religious expression stymied.

3 - TN governor signs bill to allow counselors to opt out of counseling situations they find objectionable; counseling student expelled from MO university

Just days after vetoing a bill that would have made the Bible the state book of Tennessee, Governor Bill Haslam signed a bill that, according to a piece on the WORLD Magazine website, protects Christian counselors who don’t want to advise people in same-sex relationships.  Senate Bill 1556 states, "No counselor or therapist providing counseling therapy services shall be required to counsel or serve a client as to goals, outcomes, or behaviors that conflict with the sincerely held principles of the counselor or therapist."

In a statement, the governor said that, "The substance of this bill doesn’t address a group, issue or belief system," adding, "Rather it allows counselors—just as we allow other professionals like doctors and lawyers—to refer a client to another counselor when the goals or behaviors would violate a sincerely held principle."  As WORLD points out:

In other words, if a gay couple comes to a Christian counselor for relationship advice, the counselor can refer the couple to someone who won’t advise them to break up—without the threat of a lawsuit. Or an atheist counselor could refer a Christian client to someone more understanding of their faith.

As the article points out, this development came after a lawsuit was filed earlier in the week by Andrew Cash, a former Missouri State University student expelled from a degree program for a masters in counseling because of his views on same-sex relationships.  According to another WORLD story, Cash had "told administrators he would counsel homosexuals suffering from depression and anxiety, but not couples and not regarding their homosexual relationships. Instead, he would refer them to another counselor who did not share his views." Jason Craddock of the Thomas More Society, which filed the suit, is quoted as saying, "That still wasn’t good enough for the university."

2 - After Chinese church demolished and pastor's wife buried alive, government admits the church owns the land

There continues to be a determined effort by the Chinese government to eliminate Christian symbols, and in a recent case, a church building, this instance involving the Beitou Church in Zhumadian.   According to a Christianity Today story, a local business had wanted to take over the property that the church sat on, and a government-backed demolition crew was sent to destroy the church. The pastor, Li Jiangong, and his wife, Ding Cuimei, stepped in front of a bulldozer, and it didn’t stop.

The story says that China Aid reported both the tragic incident and the ensuing legal victory, and the organization contended that a member of the demolition team said, “Bury them alive for me,” adding, "I will be responsible for their lives.”  The couple was shoved into a pit and covered in dirt - the pastor dug his way out, but his wife did not survive.

The demolition team has been detained, criminal charges are still pending, and a government investigation has concluded that the land belongs to the church. China Aid stated, “This is a definite legal victory for the church,” adding, “The task force concluded the investigation [by] stating … that pastor Li Jiangong's church has the sole authority for the usage of the land as a religious site and should belong to the church for use. It rules no individual or other organization should claim the land from the church.”

China Aid's president Bob Fu expressed concern that justice for the pastor's family has not been brought about.  

As the Christianity Today story points out, at a long-awaited national conference on religion, held April 22-23 in Beijing, China’s president Xi Jinping called on leaders to take the initiative in reasserting Communist Party of China (CPC) control over religion.  It states:

Xi’s speech, his first specifically on religion since coming to power in 2012, delineates a clear hierarchy in which religion is subordinate to state interests. According to Xi, uniting all believers under CPC leadership is necessary to preserve internal harmony while warding off hostile foreign forces that may use religion to destabilize the regime.

1 - Students at NC State told to obtain permits in order to discuss faith

It seems that college campuses have become laboratories where students are attempting to protect themselves from speech that they find offensive.  When you witness the identification of "safe spaces," micro-aggressions, and trigger mechanisms, it seems that there is a heightened level of sensitivity out there, and not in a positive way.

Todd Starnes - FOX News reports on a situation at North Carolina State University, where apparently, as the columnist says, "A permit is required before students can talk about Jesus at North Carolina State University," And, a lawsuit has been filed against that requirement in federal court.

Grace Christian Life, a registered student group at NC State, filed suit over a policy requiring a permit for any kind of student speech or communication anywhere on campus – including religious speech.

Here's some of the backstory:

In September 2015, the student group was told that without a permit, they must stop approaching other students inside the student union to engage in religious discussions or invite them to attend group events.

Alliance Defending Freedom attorney Tyson Langhofer told Starnes, “Public universities are supposed to be the marketplace of ideas, not places where students need a permit just to exercise their constitutionally protected freedoms.”  Starnes reports that the university's rules were so draconian that the Christians were not even allowed to step from behind their table in the student union.  The lawsuit contends that, "The University has not restricted the ability of other students and student groups to engage in expressive activity," and, "Grace has witnessed other students, student groups and off-campus groups handing out literature either without a permit or outside of the area reserved by their table permit."

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