Sunday, February 28, 2016

The 3 - February 28, 2016

On this week's edition of The 3, there was news out of Charlotte, where the City Council approved an ordinance granting special status based on sexual orientation and gender identity.   Also, there is good news about the number of abortion clinics that have closed in the past 5 years, according to a report released this week.  And, religious broadcasters and media professionals met together in Nashville this past week at the NRB International Christian Media Convention.

3 - Following Jacksonville's rejection of LGBT ordinance, Charlotte city council approves similar law

After three hours of testimony by 140 citizens opposing a so-called "non-discrimination ordinance" in Charlotte, NC, and in light of over 21,000 area residents signing a petition against it, the City Council voted 7-4 for the proposed expansion of the city ordinance, according to  The ordinance will now have additional provisions for homosexuals and those who identify as the opposite sex, according to the website.

Mayor Jennifer Roberts stated: “I’m pleased that Charlotte has sent a signal that we will treat people with dignity and respect, even when we disagree."

However, North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory had already warned that state legislators will likely move to overturn the law.  From an e-mail the Sunday before the vote, he is quoted as saying: “[T]his action of allowing a person with male anatomy, for example, to use a female restroom or locker room will most likely cause immediate state legislative intervention which I would support as governor.”

House Speaker Tim Moore told the Charlotte Observer on Tuesday: “The Charlotte City Council has gone against all common sense and has created a major public safety issue by opening all bathrooms and changing rooms to the general public,” adding, “This ordinance is impossible to regulate as intended, and creates undue regulatory burdens on private businesses. I join my conservative colleagues and Gov. McCrory in exploring legislative intervention.”

The previous week, according to the Liberty Counsel website, the Jacksonville, Florida City Council voted to withdraw two bills which would have added the new categories of "sexual orientation" and "gender identity or expression" to Jacksonville’s longstanding nondiscrimination ordinance.

2 - New report shows abortion clinics closing at a relatively rapid rate

This week, a story was released on the Bloomberg website that shows that a significant number of abortion clinics have closed over the past five years.  Business Insider, reporting on the Bloomberg study, stated that 162 abortion providers have closed their doors and only 21 have opened. Furthermore, in this same period, states have passed more than 200 new abortion restrictions – more than the previous 10 years combined, according to a 2014 report from the Guttmacher Institute, which is described as a reproductive health research institute.

The article referred to the upcoming case before the U.S. Supreme Court, about which oral arguments are scheduled to be held this week, involving a Texas law that strengthened regulations for abortion providers.  The Business Insider story referred to such laws as "TRAP" laws, or Targeted Regulation of Abortion Provider laws. The story asks the question, "So are TRAP laws responsible for the plunging number of abortions?" The response:

Not necessarily. Almost 40 of the 162 providers, or roughly 25 percent of all closed clinics, shut down due to business or financial reasons. In other words, the demand just wasn’t there.

The story quotes an Associated Press survey released last year, showing that the number of abortions performed has decreased by 12 percent nationwide since 2010.  The Business Insider story says: "This drastic decrease is easily explainable, say abortion rights activists: women are deterred from receiving an abortion if they have to pay too much or drive too far to a clinic. Thus, the more TRAP laws, the fewer abortions."  But the story adds: "...a closer examination of the data paints a more nuanced picture."

Could it be that solid information given to abortion-minded women and overall strong pro-life trends in the culture are contributing to a lessened "demand" for abortions?   So, it's not as much of a matter of access as it is a desire to terminate the life of a pre-born child.  Some interesting trends, indeed.

1 - Religious broadcasters convene in Nashville

This past week, thousands of representatives of Christian media organizations converged at the Gaylord Opryland Resort in Nashville for the National Religious Broadcasters International Christian Media Convention.  Faith Radio was well-represented at the event, which featured a number of different components.

Sessions. There were a number of general sessions, as well as smaller, topic-focused meetings designed to give information on a variety of concerns, ranging from broadcast regulations to public policy.  General sessions featured an impressive list of speakers, including Rick Warren, Roma Downey, H.B. Charles, Jr., and NRB President and CEO Jerry Johnson.

There were a variety of other special events, including dinners featuring the Green family of Hobby Lobby and Museum of the Bible, and the closing event with Anne Graham Lotz.  Two Presidential candidates, Dr. Ben Carson and Ted Cruz, responded to invitations issued to all candidates to be part of a Q&A session at NRB.

Summits.  Again this year, NRB featured a series of summits that were specific to various forms of media, including radio, television, and church media.  The convention opened with the Digital Media Summit, teaching Christians involved in media how to better use technology, including social media.

Conversations.  NRB is a wonderful gathering place, and Faith Radio and The Meeting House recorded conversations in the exhibit hall, where our broadcast center was set up, as well as in the NRB Media Center.  Interviews were held with the Benham Brothers, Dr. Tony Evans, Ken Ham, June Hunt, Dr. Satish Kumar (pastor of the largest church in India), Joni Eareckson Tada, and many more.

Networking.  The National Religious Broadcasters convention is a place to fellowship with like-minded believers and to learn about how God is at work through a variety of ministries.  Faith Radio sees a tremendous benefit in attending and relating content generated at the annual NRB event.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

The 3 - February 21, 2016

In this week's edition of The 3, another state legislature and governor has decided to strip taxpayer funds from the nation's largest abortion provider.  Also, over four thousand churches were anticipated to sing a reimagined hymn during Sunday services this weekend.  Plus, a funeral service for a Supreme Court justice took place amidst a debate about who his successor might be, his or her judicial philosophy, and whether or not a successor would have a chance at confirmation.

3 - Planned Parenthood funding in Wisconsin halted by governor

Wisconsin lawmakers had passed two measures aimed at reducing taxpayer funding of Planned Parenthood, the nation's largest abortion provider, and those two bills were signed into law by Governor Scott Walker this week.

According to WORLD, those two bills are:

AB 310, which mandates state funds designated for family planning and health services go only to centers that do not provide abortions, make referrals for abortions, or have affiliates that provide or make referrals for abortions.

SB 238 will cut another $4.5 million from Planned Parenthood’s bottom line by requiring billing for prescription drugs to be for the actual acquisition costs and dispensing fees.

WORLD says that the two measures are designed to eliminate a total of $8 million in taxpayer funds from going to Planned Parenthood.   The article states that governors in Alabama, Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Texas, and Utah have signed bills over the past six months defunding Planned Parenthood in their states.

And, on Sunday, the Alliance Defending Freedom reported that Republican presidential contender Gov. John Kasich, governor of Ohio, has signed a bill to defund Planned Parenthood in that state.

As WORLD points out, though, unfortunately, when challenged in court, in most of those cases, Planned Parenthood has won and received at least temporary relief.

2 - Thousands of churches sing Gettys' evangelistic hymn

A remarkable worldwide event took place in churches around the world over the weekend, as over 4,600 churches had signed up, indicating that they were planning to sing the new hymn from Keith and Kristyn Getty, Facing a Task Unfinished.  That is according to the Gettys' Twitter feed,   One Tweet, from the partnering missions organization, OMF International, said that 100 countries were involved.

According to their Twitter feed, the Gettys were in Southern California singing the hymn, at Grace Community Church, where Dr. John MacArthur is the pastor.  The event was live-streamed.

Christianity Today provided a story about the hymn.  It reported that in 1920, missionary Frank Houghton travelled east with China Inland Mission, now OMF International.  Almost 10 years later, the missions agency issued a call for 200 missionaries to minister in China - the song aided the ministry in recruiting its 200 missionaires. OMF International asked the Gettys to update the hymn as part of the organization's 150th anniversary.

1 - Funeral held for Supreme Court Justice Scalia; ideological balance of the court at stake

The religious faith of Antonin Scalia was honored and emphasized at a Washington funeral service on Saturday at the largest Roman Catholic church in North America, the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.   Religion News Service featured a story on the event.  It said that the former Supreme Court justice's body, laying in a casket covered by a white-and-gold pall, led a procession to the altar with his family during the opening hymn of “O God Our Help in Ages Past.”

His son, the Rev. Paul Scalia, was one of the speakers.  He is quoted as saying: “We are gathered here because of one man. A man known personally to many of us, known only by reputation to even more. A man loved by many, scorned by others. A man known by man for great controversy, and for great compassion," adding, "That man, of course, is Jesus of Nazareth.”

The report said:

...Scalia spoke of his father’s legacy — as a man of faith, if not the law — but also of his uncompromising temperament that became an essential part of his public image.

The story also related:

Justice Clarence Thomas, Scalia’s closest ally on the bench, and Leonard Leo, executive vice president of the conservative Federalist Society, read the scripture passages at the liturgy.

A separate, more secular memorial service for family and friends will be held March 1 at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, the Scalia family said Saturday (Feb. 20).

Thousands of Scalia’s devoted fans — his expansive family, current and former Supreme Court justices, nearly 100 former law clerks and guests, including Vice President Biden and his wife, Jill — filled the romanesque-style church for the funeral Mass on a cloudy, breezy, warm winter day.

The article also reported that on Friday, more than 6,000 people paid their respects as Scalia’s body lay in repose at the Great Hall of the Supreme Court. President Obama paid his respects on Friday and was later seen carrying a binder with information about potential nominees for weekend reading.

No doubt the President will be submitting a Supreme Court nominee to Congress to replace Scalia. There had been initial indications that Republicans in the Senate would block any nominee.  The likelihood of a liberal jurist who would be ideologically aligned with the President receiving the nod by the Senate is not particularly strong, with Republicans holding the majority in the upper chamber. The addition of another liberal judge would create a solid majority of those with a liberal judicial philosophy, with five justices, as opposed to three conservatives and then justice Kennedy, long regarded as a swing vote.

Regarding Scalia's philosophy on the bench, the RNS story added:

His defense of originalism (that is, reading the Constitution literally, not expansively) and textualism (reading government statutes the same way) changed the way cases were debated and, in some cases at least, won or lost.

The 79-year-old justice also will be remembered as one of the most gifted writers in the court’s history and a fierce debater from the bench who changed the nature of oral arguments. His many lectures, speeches and interviews helped to educate and energize younger generations of conservative legal thinkers who will carry on his legacy.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

The 3 - February 14, 2016

As I begin this edition of The 3, I do want to say a word about the death of U.S. Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia, who died in his sleep over the weekend.   There are two elements that I will be exploring here in the week to come:

1) the incredible legacy of this man, a man who held to conviction, shaped by his faith, and to the Constitution, which he held in high regard, and

2) what happens next - President Obama has already indicated that he would be appointing a nominee, and the Senate would be then charged with confirming that nomination.   Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has already says that the next President should make the selection.

Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel said this: “Our prayers are with the family of Justice Scalia..." He added:

“With the passing of Justice Scalia, the future of the High Court and the future of America is hanging in the balance. The Senate must not confirm any nominee to the Supreme Court from President Obama. The Senate must hold off any confirmation until the next President is seated. Unfortunately the presidential debates have been more theater and less substance about the real issues surrounding the Supreme Court. The election of the next President has now taken on even greater importance. The future of the Supreme Court and America now depends on the Senate blocking any nominee by President Obama and the people electing the right person to occupy the White House."

In this week's installment, there are new developments concerning the Wheaton College professor who said Christians and Muslims worship the same God.  Also, a major Christian evangelist stepped in to play a key role in ending the standoff in Oregon.  And, the news emerged that a major Christian pastor in China has been arrested, presumably for speaking out on the removal of crosses from church buildings.

3 - Wheaton College, professor agree to separate, scholarship established in professor's name

The professor at Wheaton College in Illinois who had ignited a controversy over her contention that Christians and Muslims worship the same God has reached a settlement under which she would leave the university, according to a report on the website from the WORLD News Service.  Leaders at the school this week announced at a news conference that an endowed scholarship, named for professor Larycia Hawkins, will be established for interns working on peace and conflict projects.

University president Phillip Ryken, noting that Wheaton and Hawkins are moving forward in "genuine" friendship, said: “We want to learn everything that we can from this situation,” adding, "We hope to become a better, stronger community with a shared understanding of academic freedom in the context of Christian convictions.”

On Feb. 6, the day that the agreement was announced, Ryken said he had asked the school’s board of trustees to conduct a review of the process for addressing faculty and personnel issues in the future, especially when it comes to possible violations of the school’s statement of faith.

2 - Franklin Graham plays role in ending Oregon standoff

Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount that, "Blessed are the peacemakers."  This week, Franklin Graham put that into practice in attempting to resolve the standoff at an Oregon federal wildlife refuge. Religion News Service reports that Mr. Graham played a role in the negotiations with the final four protestors who were challenging federal land-use policies.

On his Facebook page, Graham wrote:

This is a complicated controversy with the government that has roots going back many years. Praying that now their grievances will be heard and addressed through the right channels. We owe a huge debt of gratitude to all the law enforcement–FBI, State Police, Sheriff's Department, and other agencies for all they have done.

He also wrote on Facebook that:

I had been asked by the FBI to help in the negotiation process and had been talking with the hold-outs by phone every day for about a week, encouraging them to do the right thing. We continually pleaded with them to just listen and do what they were told. At the end of the day, I can’t tell you how thankful I was that Jeff Banta, Sean and Sandy Anderson, and David Fry did just that and came out safely. They did the right thing by surrendering and coming out with their hands up. We’ve seen too many unnecessary shootings in this country. I believe that some of these, though not all, could be avoided if people would only listen and obey law enforcement.

He had also posted that he had been on the phone with the protesters for several hours on Wednesday night and was able to have prayer with them.  They said that they would come out the following day, which did happen.

Also, this week, Franklin Graham was involved in 2 Decision America prayer meetings at state capitols in Georgia and South Carolina. reports that almost 14,000 people came out to the two meetings.   Graham is planning to visit all 50 states, and he will be in Alabama on April 14.

1 - Chinese megachurch pastor faces charges, another Christian pastor released

The news emerged this week that the pastor of China's largest government-sanctioned church has been removed from his post.  The China Aid website posted a report from the Guardian, reporting that authorities in Zhejiang province arrested the Rev. Gu Yuese on February 6, according to government documents. He had been detained in late January, accused of embezzling funds. The pastor's supporters said that the government had arrested him on trumped-up charges and was punishing him for publicly opposing the removal of church crucifixes. Authorities have taken down hundreds of crosses in Zheijiang, a province on the east coast often described as China’s bible belt.

China Aid director Bob Fu was quoted in the piece, saying: "They want to send a message that if you show disloyalty to the party’s religious policy, this is what is going to happen." Fu claimed that the arrest was a violation of religious freedom and rule of law.

Worthy News reports that Chinese authorities have again resumed removing crosses from churches in Zhejiang province. The report says that:

According to ucanews, in addition to the more than 1,500 crosses removed from Protestant and Catholic churches in Zhejiang since the end of 2013, 13 more crosses were forcefully removed last week. To facilitate these removals, the Communist government has tried to stop congregations from even discussing its anti-cross campaign during Mass.
This refers to a time period during the first week of February.

There is some good news regarding a Chinese pastor.  Christianity Daily reported that a Chinese pastor who was arrested for protesting against removal of crosses in Zhejiang province has been released from 'black jail', according to China Aid. Pastor Huang Yizi had organized a prayer vigil against demolitions of crosses in China's eastern province. He was denied access to a lawyer, but was allowed to return home last week after about five months behind the bars.

Sunday, February 07, 2016

The 3 - February 7, 2016

On this week's edition of The 3, my week-in-review feature, I relate news about more violence in Nigeria at the hands of terrorists there.  Also, the Iowa caucuses have come and gone, and the evangelical vote was key on the GOP side.  Plus, the President spoke at the annual National Prayer Breakfast this week, the day after he spoke at a mosque.

3 - Reports emerge of brutality toward children in Nigerian village

The brutality of the terrorist organization Boko Haram in Nigeria was on display just over a week ago, according to WORLD Magazine, which reported that even children were burned alive in an attack.  Boko Haram, in fact, had spent four days last week brutalizing villages across northern Nigeria. The article says that by last Sunday afternoon,  Nigerian workers had collected 86 bodies from Dalori village, which is around three miles from the city of Maiduguri.  Boko Haram terrorists had invaded the Muslim village on Saturday night, throwing firebombs into homes and gunning down fleeing victims.

These attacks came just three days after suspected Boko Haram militants reportedly entered the Christian village of Chibok, disguised as women carrying babies on their backs. The terrorists carried bombs and set off multiple explosions that killed 18 people in the village, from which terrorists kidnapped some 200 girls from a school there nearly two years ago.

WORLD reports that the Nigerian military has made Maiduguri its headquarters for fighting Boko Haram, but soldiers initially couldn’t thwart the assault on the nearby villages. The article points out that the attacks "underscored Boko Haram's ongoing vendetta against Muslims who don’t embrace the group’s deadly agenda."

2 - Evangelical vote is critical in Iowa caucuses

The Iowa caucuses are now history, and even though he was trailing Donald Trump in polls leading up to the event, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz won the Iowa caucuses, with Trump in second and a surging Sen. Marco Rubio in third.

There were two pieces of data in the entrance polls that can illustrate what helped Cruz to win. According to a piece at the National Review website that cited the data, from Edison Research, caucus-goers were asked: What quality is most important to you in a candidate? Respondents had options — “Can win in November,” “Shares my values,” “Tells it like it is,” and “Can bring needed change.” 42 percent said, "Shares my values.” Ted Cruz won 38 percent of those voters, followed by Marco Rubio at 21 percent, Ben Carson at 15 percent, and Rand Paul at 7 percent.

With regard to evangelical turnout, the National Review piece stated that the final Des Moines Register/Bloomberg Politics survey before the caucuses projected that just 47 percent of GOP participants would be Evangelical. But, the entrance polls showed that 62 percent of Republican caucus-goers considered themselves Evangelical or born-again Christians, compared to just 38 percent who didn’t — that was a net increase of eight points from 2012. Among that group, Cruz won easily, earning 33 percent of the vote while Trump and Rubio took 21 percent apiece.

1 - President visits mosque; speaks at National Prayer Breakfast

Just a day after addressing Muslim-Americans at a controversial mosque in Baltimore, President Obama took the stage at the National Prayer Breakfast and offered a message about fear, saying, according to a report on the Christian Examiner website: "Like every president, like every leader, like every person, I've known fear, but my faith tells me that I need not fear death – that the acceptance of Christ promises everlasting life and the washing away of sins."

The President said that he has spent time over the past year reflecting on 2 Timothy 1:7.  That Scripture says that God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and a sound mind.

The Christian Examiner points out that:

The president's address to the gathering this year took on a decidedly Christian tone compared to previous years, and especially to last year when he focused on the suffering caused by the Catholic Church during the Crusades. His mention of the centuries old crusades and failure to mention the rise of radical Islamism (ISIS and Al Qaeda) was widely criticized as both pandering to the Muslim community and patronizing to the Christian community.

The President also devoted a portion of his address to Christian persecution in the Middle East, saying that Pastor Saeed Abedini, who has now been released and is back home, had been imprisoned by Iran "for no other crime than holding God in his heart."

The day before the prayer breakfast, the President addressed the Islamic Society of Baltimore and, according to the article, called for greater acceptance and dialogue between Muslims and Christians. In that address, he said religious liberty guarantees Muslims the right to practice their faith, but he also called for the Muslim community to distance itself from Islamic extremism.

WorldNetDaily had reported that the mosque was affiliated with the Islamic Society of North America, which, according to the  report, was started by members of the international Muslim Brotherhood in the 1980s. The Brotherhood, founded in Egypt in 1928, is banned in many countries as an extremist organization.  Investigative Project on Terrorism founder and executive director Steve Emerson told WND his organization was told by FBI sources that Obama was presented the evidence against the Islamic Society of Baltimore.