Sunday, June 18, 2017

The 3 - June 18, 2017

In this week's edition of The 3, highlighting three stories of relevance in the Christian community, I highlight another graduation controversy, this one involving a Pennsylvania high school senior whose message including faith statements was rejected by school officials.  Also, a pro-life Congressman suffered the most severe wounds in the recent shooting at a Congressional baseball practice, an event that led members of Congress from both parties to pray together.  And, the Southern Baptist Convention met in Phoenix this past week; a look at some major developments is coming up.

3 - Graduation controversy in PA

That series of weeks toward the end of a student's term in school can bring so much joy and anticipation of the future, but we have seen throughout the years that sometimes graduates have felt the heavy hand of school officials telling students what they can and cannot say, especially when it comes to religious statements.

There was a situation in Beaver, PA, involving senior Moriah Bridges, who wanted to offer thanks to God for her graduating class during her school's graduating ceremony, according to a piece by Todd Starnes on the Fox News website.

Moriah had submitted her planned remarks to the school district, which, according to Starnes, "notified the teenager that her prepared remarks were unlawful, unconstitutional, and therefore, impermissible."

Principal Steven Wellendorf, in a letter to the student, wrote: “The selected students may still address their class and indicate the things that they wish/hop for their class, but they may not do it in the style of a prayer and most certainly may not recite a prayer that excludes other religions (by ending ‘in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ” or “in the matchless name of Jesus...'"

Moriah is quoted as saying: "I was shocked that the school said my personal remarks broke the law and I was saddened that I could not draw upon my Christian identity to express my best wishes for my classmates on what should’ve been the happiest day of high school..."

Starnes spoke with Jeremy Dys, an attorney with First Liberty Institute, who said: "In short, school officials – in violation of the First Amendment – forced Moriah to censor her personal remarks during the closing exercise of her commencement ceremony merely because of the religious viewpoint of her remarks,” adding, "Because of Dr. Rowe’s instructions, Moriah was muzzled and restrained by school officials on the penultimate day of her high school career."  Dr. Carrie Rowe is the district's superintendent.

And, Starnes a "long-standing policy" of the U.S. Department of Education on free speech rights of students.  The policy reads: "Where students or other private graduation speakers are selected on the basis of genuinely neutral, evenhanded criteria and retain primary control over the content of their expression, however, that expression is not attributable to the school and therefore may not be restricted because of its religious (or anti-religious) content..."

2 - Members of Congress pray after shooting

There was a spiritual reaction to the tragic incident in Alexandria, Virginia, in which U.S. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise was critically injured.  According to a TIME Magazine story, Speaker Paul Ryan said, "We do not shed our humanity when we enter this chamber," adding, "For all the noise and all the fury, we are one family."

The story stated:
Republican Rep. Martha McSally said Republican and Democratic House members joined hands and prayed after learning of the shooting. "Holding hands and praying together, I haven’t seen a moment like that since I’ve been here," she said. "So perhaps this can serve, even though it was intended for evil, it can serve as a wake up call for all of us to think about how we’re vilifying and engaging with people who disagree with us."
Faithwire reported that: "Doctors say he was at 'immediate risk of death' when he made it to the hospital shortly after getting shot while practicing for a charity softball game..." The article quoted from CBS News, including this from Dr. Jack Sava, director of trauma at MedStar Washington Hospital Center, who said, in a briefing on the congressman’s condition, "When he arrived, he was in critical condition with an imminent risk of death...He will certainly be in the hospital for a considerable period of time, presumably weeks."  Sava stated that Scalise's condition had stabilized and that "an excellent recovery is a good possibility."  According to the report from CBS:
A single bullet traveled across Scalise’s pelvis when he was shot Wednesday, fracturing bones, injuring internal organs and causing severe bleeding, Sava said. He was transported in shock to the medical center. reported that:
Congressman Scalise is a prominent pro-life Advocate in Congress with a longstanding record fighting abortion.
He led the effort calling on the Obama Administration to reverse its unconstitutional mandate forcing religious organizations to include drugs that can cause abortion and birth control in the health care plans of their employees.
The website also notes that Scalise, "has also strongly supported efforts to defund the Planned Parenthood abortion business."  He had told LifeNews: “The right to life is our most precious gift from God, and it is offensive and unacceptable that a single cent of taxpayer dollars would be sent to an organization that systematically aborts infants and sells their body parts. House Republicans will continue to promote a culture that respects life at every stage."

1 - Southern Baptists commit to evangelism, show disdain for "alt-right"

The latest Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting occurred in Phoenix, as some 5,000 registered messengers gathered to conduct business and fellowship together.  According to
Baptist Press:
Appointment of a task force to study how Southern Baptists can be more effective in evangelism and a resolution decrying "alt-right white supremacy" were among highlights of the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting June 13-14 in Phoenix.
The "alt-right" resolution received the most attention - it was submitted to the Resolutions Committee and initially not allowed to go to the convention floor.  Then, it was brought up to the full convention twice and failed to garner the two-thirds required majority.   Finally, the Resolutions Committee asked the full convention to allow the resolution to progress to the floor, and that was granted. The Baptist Press report said that,
A resolution on "the anti-gospel of alt-right white supremacy" decried "every form of racism, including alt-right white supremacy, as antithetical to the Gospel of Jesus Christ" and pledged to pray "both for those who advocate racist ideologies and those who are thereby deceived."
Southern Baptist Convention President Steve Gaines of Bellevue Baptist in Memphis was re-elected to another term, and he "recommended creation of the evangelism task force to study how Southern Baptists can be more effective in personal soul winning and evangelistic preaching." The committee will be chaired by legendary Southern Baptist leader Paige Patterson, President of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.  There will be 19-members, including Patterson, Gaines, and such Southern Baptist notables as J.D. Greear, Jeff Iorg, and James Merritt.

The article also says that, "The annual Crossover evangelism emphasis and the tandem Harvest America crusade yielded 3,549 professions of faith."

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