Sunday, April 23, 2017

The 3 - April 23, 2017

On this week's edition of The 3, highlighting three stories of relevance to the Christian community, there is news out of Egypt - again - regarding ISIS and terror, as a Greek Orthodox monastery faced a recent ISIS assault.  Also, a Christian holding the principal leadership role in Indonesia's capital has been defeated in his bid for another term.  And, the U.S. Supreme Court held oral arguments just this week in a key religious liberty case.

3 - Greek Orthodox monastery victimized by ISIS in Egypt

The extreme terrorist organization ISIS is continuing to wreak havoc, and while its involvement in high-profile targets, such as the attack in Paris this past week, seems to garner headlines, you can still keep in mind that ISIS is committed to carrying out attacks on Christians.

Just two weeks after the deadly Palm Sunday attacks on two Coptic Christian churches in Egypt, a Greek Orthodox monastery suffered an attack, with the responsibility claimed by ISIS, according to a report on the Christianity Today website.  The attack occurred at the ancient monastery of St. Catherine on the southern Sinai peninsula.  The article states:
One policeman was killed and four injured during an exchange of gunfire at a checkpoint about half a mile from the monastery entrance. Police were eventually able to gain control and force the militants to flee, according to the Ministry of Interior as reported by Ahram Online.
A Coptic tour guide, Ibrahim Morgan, is quoted as saying, “Of course if you hit the Sinai and St. Catherine’s, tourists will stay away,” adding, "But I think this is a message also for the pope.”  Pope Francis is scheduled to visit Egypt in the coming week.

The CT article notes that St. Catherine's was named for a fourth-century martyr from Alexandria, and states: 
In the mid-19th century, the fourth-century Codex Sinaiticus was discovered in St. Catherine’s ancient library, at the time the oldest near-complete text of the Bible. The library boasts more than 8,000 early printed books, and is considered second only to the Vatican in collection of early biblical manuscripts.
2 - Christian governor in Indonesia defeated

Basuki Tjahaja Purnama is the first Christian governor of the city of Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia. His effort to win a second term, however, was unsuccessful, as he was defeated by his Muslim opponent, Anies Baswedan, according to a report on the Mission Network News website.

Basuki was reportedly leading throughout much of the election season, but he had been accused of blasphemy by radical Muslim groups. He will be facing a trial in Indonesia on blasphemy charges.

The MNN article states:
...analysts say this recent election may signal a growing confidence in the use of religion as a political weapon by the Muslim-majority population. And a local news outlet calls this latest election in Indonesia the “dirtiest, most polarizing and most divisive the nation has ever seen.”
Basuki had been accused of speaking against Islam as the result of his words apparently being incorrectly related.  An earlier report on the website, which had been linked to on the Christianity Today site, stated that;
Buni Yani, communications professor at the London School of Central Jakarta, is accused of having manipulated the words of the Christian governor of the capital to make them offensive to Islam. He defended himself by saying I did it "by mistake", but public opinion has it that it opened an investigation.
1 - U.S. Supreme Court hears major religious liberty case; is another on horizon?

The U.S. Supreme Court held oral arguments this past week in the case of a church that wished to participate in a Missouri program that offers opportunities for non-profit organizations to obtain resurfacing materials made from recycled tires.  The church, even though it apparently qualified, was denied from benefiting from it because it was a religious organization.

The church, Trinity Lutheran Church in Columbia, MO, filed a lawsuit and was turned back at the Federal district and appeals court level.  So, the high court took up the case.

WORLD Magazine has a report on Wednesday's hearing.   The article opened this way:
Supreme Court justices on both sides of the ideological spectrum seemed concerned about the state of Missouri’s decision to exclude a church from a neutral government subsidy program, a positive sign for religious liberty advocates watching today’s oral arguments. But the justices also suggested the case might be moot due to recent state policy changes, leaving court-watchers uncertain about whether the justices will rule at all.
Those new developments?  The new Republican governor of Missouri has enacted a change in policy that prevents religious groups from being omitted from the program.  But, David Cortman of the Alliance Defending Freedom, which is representing the church, according to WORLD:
...told the justices there is no assurance the state will retain its new policy after Greitens leaves office. He said this new policy, which Greitens announced on Facebook, can just as easily be switched back when the political winds shift. Since the Missouri Supreme Court already ruled against Trinity, someone is sure to challenge the new policy, he added.
One of the elephants in the room regarding this term of the U.S. Supreme Court, at least in the eyes of the SCOTUS Blog, seems to be the case of a Colorado cake baker who declined to provide products for a same-sex wedding.  At the beginning of April, the site reported:
The justices have now considered the petition for review in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission at five consecutive conferences without acting on it. The custom-cake business owned by Jack Phillips, who describes himself as a “cake artist,” argues that Colorado’s public accommodations law violates the First Amendment by requiring Phillips to create custom wedding cakes for same-sex weddings, in violation of his religious beliefs. As is their practice, the justices have not explained why they have not yet ruled on Phillips’ petition. The electronic docket for the case has not yet been updated, but if – as expected – the case is once again scheduled for consideration at the justices’ next conference, on April 13, we could hear something on Monday, April 17.
Make that seven conferences, apparently, since the high court passed on the case on the 13th and met on Friday, April 21 in another conference, but did not accept any new cases. 

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