3 - International Religious Freedom Act signed by the President
On Friday, President Obama signed the Frank R. Wolf International Religious Freedom Act, which had been approved by the U.S. House the preceding Tuesday, just three days after the Senate approved an amended version of the bill, according to a report on the Christianity Today website. The amended bill had been approved by the House and Senate without opposition.
The bill is named for the Frank R. Wolf, a former Congressman from Virginia who championed the cause of religious freedom. The bill, according to the Christianity Today story, would promote religious liberty, by, among other things:
- Requiring the ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom to report directly to the secretary of State;
- Establishing an "entities of particular concern" category—a companion to the "countries of particular concern" classification used for nearly 20 years by the State Department—for non-government actors, such as the Islamic State (IS) and the Nigerian terrorist organization Boko Haram.
- Instituting a "designated persons list" for individuals who violate religious freedom and authorizing the president to issue sanctions against those who participate in persecution.
This newly passed and signed bill updates a 1998 bill establishing a religious freedom office in the State Department, as well as an independent panel, called the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF). Wolf sponsored that bill.
Paul Coleman, deputy director of Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) International, is quoted as saying that the bill "demonstrates that the US is serious about the importance of religious freedom both for those who are suffering and for all those who love freedom in general." Bill sponsor Rep. Chris Smith noted, "From China and Vietnam to Syria and Nigeria, we are witnessing a tragic, global crisis in religious persecution, violence and terrorism, with dire consequences for religious believers and for US national security." He added, "Ancient Christian communities in Iraq and Syria are on the verge of extinction and other religious minorities in the Middle East face a constant assault from the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and Syria."
2 - Judge orders Charlie Brown Christmas poster does not have to be removed
A Texas judge has ruled in favor of - Linus from A Charlie Brown Christmas - in a recent row involving the state's Killeen Independent School District. Well, in a sense. Todd Starnes reported on his website that the judge issued a temporary restraining order against the district, which had backed a principal's decision that a door-length poster that was created by Dedra Shannon, an aide in Patterson Middle School’s nurses office, had to come down.
The poster featured Linus, the famous Christmas tree from the iconic television program, and Linus' famous words: "For unto you is born this day in the city of David a savior which is Christ the Lord. That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown."
Starnes reported that the school district had said, "...employees are not permitted to impose their personal beliefs on students.” The judge did say that the poster did have to include these words: “Ms. Shannon’s holiday message,” according to a report by the Killeen Daily Herald News.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton contended that the position of the school district violated the Texas "Merry Christmas" law, which was passed in 2013. Starnes says that law "stipulates that no school official in Texas can silence a Biblical reference to Christmas." Paxton did not mince words in a statement, in which he said: “Religious discrimination towards Christians has become a holiday tradition of sorts among certain groups,” adding, “I am glad to see that the court broke through the Left’s rhetorical fog and recognized that a commitment to diversity means protecting everyone’s individual religious expression.”
1 - OH Governor Kasich signs one pro-life bill, vetoes stronger ban on abortion
Ohio Governor John Kasich apparently had the choice to sign one or two pro-life bills recently, and he chose to join a host of other states in restricting abortion to under 20 weeks, rather than the approximately 6 weeks gestation provided for in the other.
According to LifeNews.com, Kasich made this statement: “I agree with Ohio Right to Life and other leading, pro-life advocates that SB 127 (a 20-week ban) is the best, most legally sound and sustainable approach to protecting the sanctity of human life..."
Ohio Right to Life thanked the governor and stated, "Ohio Right to Life supports Governor Kasich’s decision to bypass the heartbeat legislative approach at this time. While it must have been difficult, the current make-up of a radically pro-abortion Supreme Court required the Governor to exercise great restraint. Further, filling the current vacancy on the Court by our next President will still leave the court with a pro-abortion majority...”
But, Dr. James Dobson of Family Talk took the governor to task for not signing the more stringent bill. He is quoted on his website as saying:
I want to congratulate the Ohio legislature for passing the 'Heartbeat Bill' and I commend their commitment to protecting the constitutional rights of the unborn.
Now, I join with millions of Evangelicals and Catholics in condemning Gov. John Kasich's veto of the bill. This was a cowardly and shameful action. Signing the bill would have been the constitutionally correct thing to do; it would have also been morally correct to do. Governor Kasich has sent a message to voters in Ohio–and across the nation–that the Governor isn't as committed to life as he professes to be.Dobson called on the Speaker of the House in Ohio to immediately call for a vote to override the governor's veto of the "Heartbeat Bill." LifeSiteNews.com reports that a coalition of pro-life organizations in the state are echoing that call for a veto override.