3 - Saeed Abedini back in news after reports of money paid to Iran to secure his release
The Iranian-American pastor who had been released from prison earlier this year is back in the news, because he was one of the prisoners who was freed around the same time as a $400 million payment the U.S. made to Iran.
According to a Baptist Press story, Saeed Abedini told the publication that when asked if that payment was to be considered ransom, he said: "I prefer ... the politicians answer that, because so many things are involved and those who were in charge, they know better than me." In a Fox Business interview, Saeed said that the night he was freed, he and the others waited a full night in the airport. According to police, they were waiting for another plane to arrive. They slept at the airport and did not leave until 10:00 the next morning. The Fox Business report says:
When asked whether he believes the U.S. paid the Iranian government a ransom for his release, Abedini said he has his suspicions, but “they didn’t’ talk about money.”
“We call them terrorists and I don’t believe they are going to use this money for building orphanages, which I was arrested for, but I prefer that the politicians answer this question.”
He used that occasion to call attention to the conditions of other prisoners in Iraq.
In the Baptist Press article, he related that he is concerned that Iran continues to persecute Christian converts there, that it has initiated active legal cases against about 1,000 members of the church he founded, and that Iran has executed at least two prisoners whom he led to Christianity while he was held captive (a three-and-a-half year period). He is quoted as saying on August 4: "After this deal the human rights situation got worse in Iran. Some of my friends in prison two nights ago got execution and they hanged them up in prison, which I know them personally."
2 - After-school club sponsored by the Satanic Temple receives pushback
News has been circulating about a new after-school club being sponsored by the Satanic Temple. But, the head of Liberty Counsel says it's a sham. Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of the legal advocacy organization says that: "The so-called Satanic Temple group is a handful of atheists masquerading as so-called Satanists. This group is not legitimate. Its only reason to exist is to oppose the Good News Clubs. The Good News Clubs teach morals, character development, patriotism and respect from a Christian viewpoint. Public schools welcome these clubs because they improve the behavior of the students and the Supreme Court has sided with these clubs." He goes on to say that, "Schools do not have to tolerate groups which disrupt the school and target other legitimate clubs..."
Just like the Good News Clubs, which are sponsored by Child Evangelism Fellowship, the Satanic club requires a parental permission slip. In 2001, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Good News Clubs have a First Amendment right to meet on campus after school. Liberty Counsel represents CEF nationwide and has never lost a CEF case.
Douglas Messner, co-founder and spokesperson of the Satanic Temple, who goes by the name Lucien Graves, told The Christian Post that there was a need for a "counter-balance in the extracurricular options." He said the clubs would focus on "arts projects and education with no religious opinion inserted."
1 - U.S. Supreme Court puts VA transgender bathroom law on hold
This past Wednesday, the U.S. Supreme Court announced that it would put on hold a ruling out of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that directed a local school district to allow transgender students to use the bathroom of the gender with which they identify (rather than their biological one).
WORLD Magazine reported that the Gloucester County School Board in Virginia had asked the high court to put the appeals court ruling on hold as school begins this fall and its attorneys prepare a full appeal of the lower court ruling.
The WORLD story stated that, "gay rights groups noted the court’s action shouldn’t be interpreted as an indication of what it might do in the future with challenges to policies requiring schools and businesses to open restrooms based on gender identity and not biology." It went on to say:
Three of the justices—Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan—would have left the lower court ruling in place, indicating how they might vote when the case eventually comes before them. Justice Stephen Breyer sided with the justices willing to put the order on hold, but only “as a courtesy.” Court-watchers already speculate Breyer would side with the liberal justices to uphold transgender-friendly restroom policies.
The Gloucester County case involves Gavin Grimm, who is biologically female but identifies as male. Grimm had filed suit against the school board over its policy requiring students to use the restrooms that correspond to their biological sex. As the article points out, Grimm had filed the lawsuit prior to the Obama administration directive to every school district in the country saying Title IX, a federal law to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex for federally funded education programs, included gender identity and schools needed to update their policies to reflect the new interpretation. So far, 23 states have filed suit against the order.