On this week's edition of The 3, highlighting three stories of relevance to the Christian community, I provide an update on some recent instances of persecution of Christians in China. Also, the health care bill passed by the U.S. House on Thursday contained a provision to limit funds going to Planned Parenthood. And, Thursday was proclaimed as the National Day of Prayer by President Trump, a day on which he signed a religious freedom executive order.
3 - China detains church members, incidences of religious persecution reported
Even as the United States seeks to retool its working relationship with China, especially with regard to North Korea, Christians in that country are continuing to face instances of persecution. A story on the Christian Headlines website from WORLD News Service opens up by stating:
Amid increasing attempts to suppress religious activities, Chinese authorities have detained, fined, and imprisoned Christians for public worship, buying and selling devotionals, and group Bible study.The article mentioned several occurrences. In one, according to the story, "a court in Xinjiang convicted five Protestants who attended a Bible study in 2016, charging them with 'gathering a crowd to disrupt social order,' Asia News reported." In another, authorities raided a Christian concert, according to China Aid, which also reported that more than 80 people were arrested earlier this year in Xinjiang as a network of house churches was targeted. And, a Christian human rights lawyer Li Heping has been convicted for "subverting state power." He stays out of prison if he doesn't do it again.
And, recently, according to the China Aid website, just this week:
Police officers raided a house church meeting in China’s southern Guangdong province on Wednesday evening, detaining 30 of the members in attendance including the pastor and an American couple with two children.The story also states that:
Because an American couple and their two children in attendance at the meeting, authorities accused the church of “accommodating foreigners” and “illegally gathering” because the church was not a registered meeting place.By the way, beginning this Wednesday, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association will host a summit in Washington, DC concerning the persecuted church.
2 - How to defund Planned Parenthood - health care revision best
It was a lengthy process, although not as long as the time period it took for the original Affordable Care Act to pass. The American Health Care Act offers revisions in that legislation, also known as Obamacare, and passed by a slim 217-213 margin in the U.S. House of Representatives. It now goes on to the Senate, where wholesale changes are expected.
Pro-life advocates were pleased that this bill contained a provision to defund Planned Parenthood. According to Live Action News, "the U.S. House voted to strip Planned Parenthood’s Medicaid funds for one year. The year will begin immediately on the day President Trump signs the bill, if the Senate also passes it." The report also states:
Since the defunding is coming through a reconciliation bill, 51 votes will be needed for passage in the Senate. The defunding will redirect approximately 80 percent of the abortion chain’s taxpayer funding and send it to the comprehensive health care centers around the nation that outnumber Planned Parenthood by the thousands.Disappointment had been expressed because the omnibus budget bill that was passed last week continued to fund Planned Parenthood, the nation's largest abortion provider. But, as Speaker of the House Paul Ryan had pointed out and the Family Research Council agreed, the Obamacare route was a more practical path, because it only required 51 votes in the Senate, rather than the 60 that it would take for the funding to be eliminated in the omnibus bill. an FRC post said, "When people blasted House leaders for not defunding Planned Parenthood in the omnibus, he [Ryan] reminded them that the reconciliation bill -- the same one that rewrites Obamacare -- is our best hope for that." The piece included a quote from Ryan that the Hyde Amendment riders continued to be in the omnibus budget bill.
1 - Administration declares support for religious liberty in prayer proclamation, executive order
The greatly anticipated executive order on religious freedom was signed by President Trump on the National Day of Prayer Thursday. And, in the evangelical community, there has been a wide variety of opinion, from enthusiastic embraces to expressions of disappointment. In reading a number of quotes, I would say that even some who were critical of the order saw it as a "first step."
The order included language that stated an overall pledge of support for religious liberty, relief from punishment under the Johnson Amendment, which limits what pastors can say in the pulpit about political candidates, and relief for religious organizations suffering under the HHS contraceptive mandate. The order stopped short of protecting business people who do not wish to participate in activities that do not align with their values, such as florists or cake bakers who decline to provide products or services for gay marriage ceremonies, which is what many were looking for.
Paul Weber, President and CEO of Family Policy Alliance is quoted on the organization's website:
“The previous Administration’s hostility toward the right to freely live out one’s faith was no secret,” he explained. “American employers and even faith-based charities were forced to choose between their faith and contributing to the good of our country’s economy and welfare.
“President Trump must continue to work to protect religious freedom. Family Policy Alliance and our network of 40 state-based family policy councils will work with families across the country to restore a nation where religious freedom flourishes.”The article described the order as a "first step." That article also called attention to the President's National Day of Prayer Proclamation, and included these words from it:
“We are also reminded and reaffirm that all human beings have the right, not only to pray and worship according to their consciences, but to practice their faith in their homes, schools, charities, and businesses – in private and in the public square – free from government coercion, discrimination, or persecution. Religion is not merely an intellectual exercise, but also a practical one that demands action in the world. Even the many prisoners around the world who are persecuted for their faith can pray privately in their cells. But our Constitution demands more: the freedom to practice one’s faith publicly.”To hear analysis from Stuart Shepard, Executive Producer of Creative Communications for the Alliance, when he appeared on The Meeting House on Faith Radio on Friday, you can go to FaithRadio.org.