This week's edition of The 3, featuring three stories of relevance to the Christian community, includes a story out of Zambia, where a new government position overseeing religious affairs has brought concern from Christian leaders. Also, news from Washington, DC, this week involves possible contempt charges against an organization that has partnered with Planned Parenthood in trafficking fetal body parts. And, a Christian legal advocacy organization has recently filed lawsuits on behalf of artists who believe that laws are harming their freedom of expression, forcing them to use their talents to promote same-sex marriage.
3 - Zambian Christian leaders express concern over new proposed government oversight
Protestant and Catholic leaders in the African nation of Zambia are speaking out against actions to create a new government department in that country that could result in the state exercising control over religion, according to a story on the ChristianToday.com website.
The President of the nation, Edgar Chagwa Lungu Lungu appointed a Pentecostal pastor from the capital of Lusaka, Rev. Godfridah Sumaili, as head of the new ministry of religious affairs last week.
The head of the Evangelical Fellowship of Zambia, Rev. Pukuta Mwanza, is quoted as saying that it would "promote Christian values and give more meaning to the declaration of Zambia as a Christian nation".
However, the Zambia Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Council of Churches in Zambia, which represents Protestant Churches, have announced their opposition to the initiative. In a joint statement, the entities called for "genuine dialogue", saying: "This requires sustaining a healthy Church-State relationship, with the Government not favouring only those groups that praise every decision it makes and every plan it follows."
Regarding the statement, the article said:
It warned against attempts by the state to control the Church, saying that the Church "derives its authority, mission and structure from God and this must not be confused with temporal order of political governance". Churches, it said, would not be "intimidated" in acting as the conscience of the nation and calling for social justice.
2 - House committee votes to hold participant in fetal tissue trafficking scheme in contempt
The U.S. House Select Committee on Infant Lives voted earlier this week to hold a company called StemExpress and its CEO, Cate Dyer, in contempt for refusing to provide requested information to the committee in its investigation of trafficking of fetal body parts.
A LifeNews.com article said that:
StemExpress, an organ procurement company, was under investigation by the Select Panel due to its financial and professional relationship with Planned Parenthood and other abortion businesses. Evidence released by the Center for Medical Progress last year indicated that Planned Parenthood illegally profited financially from the sale of aborted baby remains to StemExpress and other organ procurement organizations.
The efforts by the panel had taken eight months and according the story, requests for accounting documents were responded to by summaries, or the committee was referred to other organizations. The Chair of the Select Panel, Rep. Marsha Blackburn, believes, according to the article, "they have reached an impasse, which is impeding the Panel’s ability to conduct the investigation with which it was tasked."
The contempt resolution will now go to the full Committee on Energy and Commerce. If approved, it will be referred to the Speaker of the House Paul Ryan for certification. The act of contempt, in this case, would be a Class A misdemeanor, carrying a maximum penalty of $100,000.
1 - Colorado graphic designer, Arizona calligraphers challenge laws that force them to promote gay marriage
In news concerning religious freedom, there are two interesting developments recently, involving people in creative professions who do not wish for the artistic expressions to be used to promote so-called "same sex marriage." In Colorado, according to Alliance Defending Freedom, attorneys filed a "pre-enforcement challenge" on behalf of a website and graphic designer, Lorie Smith, and her studio, 303 Creative, challenging a portion of Colorado’s Anti-Discrimination Act. According to ADF:
The Colorado Civil Rights Commission has construed CADA to force artists like Smith to create objectionable art even though Smith happily serves everyone and decides what art to create based on the art’s message—not her client’s personal characteristics. The law also prohibits artists from expressing any religious views about marriage that could make someone feel “unwelcome, objectionable, unacceptable, or undesirable” because of their sexual orientation.
As ADF points out, this is the same law that has been used against a baker in Colorado, Jack Phillips of Masterpiece Cakeshop. He has filed an appeal before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Also, according to the Alliance Defending Freedom website, ADF attorneys have filed an appeal asking an Arizona appeals court to temporarily stop the city of Phoenix from "applying an ordinance to an art studio specializing in hand-painting, hand-lettering, and calligraphy for weddings and other events because the ordinance conflicts with free speech."
The attorneys contend that the ordinance forces the two female owners of the studio, which is called Brush and Nib, to use their artistic talents to promote same-sex ceremonies. The ordinance also keeps the studio and its proprietors from, according to ADF, "publicly expressing the Christian beliefs that prevent them from doing so and that require them to create art celebrating only marriages between one man and one woman." A trial court judge already decided not to issue and order preventing the city from enforcing the ordinance on the studio or its owners while the lawsuit continues to move forward.