Sunday, September 19, 2021

The 3 - September 19, 2021

This week's edition of The 3 highlights two examples of "cancel culture," with a pro-life organization's ads banned from a social media site and two flight attendants fired because they dared share their beliefs on an issue that disagreed with the company line.  Also, there is a case out of Texas in which the U.S. Supreme Court became involved, in which a convicted criminal's death was postponed because a requested religious accommodation was not granted. 

Pro-life organization's ad banned by Google

The pro-life ministry of Live Action, which was founded by Lila Rose, has long been known for its devotion to protecting the lives of the unborn.  One way, as highlighted by a Live Action News story, is to reverse the effect of the so-called "abortion pill."  As the news article related:

On May 10, 2021, Live Action placed strategic ads on Google that informed women of the possibility of reversing the abortion pill process, which involves treatment with a safe pregnancy hormone called progesterone, which has been safely used for decades as standard treatment to prevent miscarriages. The APR treatment’s goal is to outcompete the progesterone-blocking effects of mifepristone, also known as the abortion pill. The treatment has reportedly saved the lives of over 2,500 children and has a 68% success rate.

However, Google made the decision recently to pull the ads.  The story says:

On September 13, without warning, Google “disapproved” all of Live Action’s Abortion Pill Reversal ads. The ads had been approved by Google and running for over four months, spending over $170,000 and directing thousands to the abortion pill reversal hotline.

This was followed by a story described by Live Action as a "hit piece" on the Daily Beast website

The article goes on to say:

As Live Action founder and president Lila Rose notes, Google continues to run advertisements for the abortion pill. She noted on Twitter, “Meanwhile, Google is permitting abortion facilities to advertise next-day abortions & abortion via mail. This is a blatant, political double standard: Google is ok with ads promoting life-ending drugs, but not life-saving treatments. Where’s the “choice?” for women, @Google?”

Flight attendants claim they were fired for opposing Equality Act

Corporate advocacy for unbiblical positions seems to be a growing concern.  One such example involves two flight attendants for Alaska Airlines.  Seems the airline placed a statement supporting the Equality Act, which opens the doors to all sorts of special treatment for LGBTQ individuals at the expense of people who embrace deeply held religious beliefs. The airline also asked for comments, and a CBN.com story says that these flight attendants responded:

Flight attendant Lacey Smith posted a question, asking, "As a company, do you think it's possible to regulate morality?"

In the same forum, First Liberty's second client, who remains anonymous, asked, "Does Alaska support: endangering the Church, encouraging suppression of religious freedom, obliterating women's rights and parental rights? …." She then copied and posted information about the Equality Act that she received from the Heritage Foundation.

First Liberty says both clients were subsequently investigated, questioned by airline officials, and fired from their jobs.

The article says that the law firm First Liberty has filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, stating: "Alaska Airlines discriminated against them on the basis of religion, perpetuated a hostile work environment, failed to grant them a religious accommodation allowing them to express their opinions on the same basis as other protected classes, and retaliated against them." 

U.S. Supreme Court to review religious accommodation for death penalty inmates

While quite a bit of attention among members of the Christian community has been focused on the U.S. Supreme Court hearing a case soon that considers the ban on abortion after 15 weeks enacted by the state of Mississippi, it has been pointed out that there is a "religious freedom" case that bears watching.

FoxNews.com reports on a death row inmate in Texas, John Henry Ramirez, who requested a touch from a member of the clergy prior to his execution. The article reports that the attorney for the convicted murderer...

...had argued the Texas Department of Criminal Justice was violating the death row inmate’s First Amendment rights to practice his religion by denying his request to have his pastor touch him and vocalize prayers when he was executed. He called the ban on vocal prayer a spiritual "gag order."
In court documents, he had said, "It is hostile toward religion, denying religious exercise at the precise moment it is most needed: when someone is transitioning from this life to the next..."

The Supreme Court stayed the execution by lethal injection and said it would be receiving briefs in the case soon. The Fox story notes: 
In recent years, the Supreme Court has granted stays halting several executions in Texas and Alabama over the presence of clergy or spiritual advisers in the death chamber. The only execution stays the Supreme Court has granted in recent years have been related to issues of religious practice or discrimination.

The article says that:

Dana Moore, Ramirez’s spiritual adviser the last four years, said the request to let him touch Ramirez was about letting the inmate practice his Christian faith and treating him "with a certain amount of dignity."

Current Texas law allows a member of the clergy to be in the chamber, but physical contact and prayers are not allowed.  

Sunday, September 12, 2021

The 3 - September 12, 2021

This week's edition of The 3 includes the recent announcement of a new faith advisory board for a former U.S. President, and the story of one of several former officials who were asked to resign their posts on behalf of U.S. service academies. Plus, a Satanic organization that uses abortion in its rituals has come out in opposition to the Texas Heartbeat Bill.

Former President assembles faith advisors

The former President of the United States, Donald Trump, had assembled a team of faith leaders during his campaign for the 2016 election, and kept a faith advisory committee active during his Presidency; a number of those members were evangelical Christian leaders.

Now, as WORLD Magazine reports, the President has assembled another group of faith leaders, called the National Faith Advisory Board. It is comprised of over 70 "executives," according to the article, which concludes by saying that at the end, "...meeting organizer David Kubal of Intercessors for America unmuted all the attendees’ microphones and everyone prayed out loud...Kubal urged attendees to return weekly for more prayer."

On Saturday, a video with comments from Mr. Trump was shown at the "Let Us Worship" event on the National Mall in Washington.  His representative, Liz Harrington, related some of the comments on Twitter, including:

"I want to thank Let Us Worship for calling Americans to 21 days of prayer in the coming weeks. America is a Nation strengthened and sustained by God and the prayers of all His children."

Harrington retweeted Natalie Harp of One America News, who tweeted out this excerpt:

“Your faith is a force that our enemies can never extinguish. Your love of God, Family, and Country is more powerful than any adversary’s hatred, or malice, or scorn.”

Former OMB director subjected to religious questioning in Senate hearing asked to resign from military board

Does the name Russell Vought ring a bell?  He was the former Director of the Office of Management and Budget under the Trump Administration.  During his confirmation hearing for the role of Deputy OMB Director, according to a Family Research Council press release, Vought's religious beliefs were questioned by Senator Bernie Sanders.  The release quotes FRC President Tony Perkins:

"It was a shocking moment to watch a United States Senator declare that holding to a central tenet of Christianity that Jesus is the only way of salvation is enough to render a well-qualified nominee unfit for public service. Vought's biblical view of salvation is no different than what Billy Graham preached for more than six decades.

"Thankfully, 49 senators and Vice President Pence in his tie breaking vote sent a message that public servants can express their biblical views on salvation without fear of being held to an unconstitutional religious test.

Vought is back in the news now, as one of over a dozen former Trump officials who were asked to resign from positions on the boards of military academies, according to Politico, which reported:

On Wednesday, Cathy Russell, the director of the White House’s Presidential Personnel Office, sent letters to 18 individuals on three different boards, asking for them to resign. The list includes the Board of Visitors to the Air Force Academy, Military Academy and the Naval Academy, the White House said.

In one letter to Russell Vought, the former director of the Office of Management and Budget in the Trump administration, Russell advised him that he’d be fired from his post on the Naval Academy’s board of visitors unless he chose to resign.

The article goes on to say: "Vought, who earlier this year founded the Center for Renewing America, tweeted out his refusal to comply. 'No,' he responded. 'It’s a three year term.'  Other former officials who received similar letters include H.R. McMaster, Jack Keane, Kellyanne Conway and Sean Spicer. 

Independent Women's Forum quoted Meaghan Mobbs, who was likewise asked to resign; she said, "When I was first appointed to the board, there were four Obama appointee holdovers that were there serving out their three-year terms. I was graciously welcomed. I was treated with dignity and respect. That type of non-partisan engagement is exactly what we need in America right now." 

Satanic church protests new TX abortion law

The Texas bill protecting life in the womb once a heartbeat is detected is intended to save lives, but it has already generated its share of controversy.  It has even brought a negative response from The Satanic Temple, according to CBN News, which reported:

The TST argues the law imposes an "undue burden" on any of its members to undergo its "satanic abortion ritual."

"The Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act (TRFRA) provides a mechanism to seek an exemption from any law that restricts the free exercise of religion," the organization posted in a statement to its website. "Because S.B. 8 imposes an undue burden on the ability of TST members to undergo the Satanic Abortion Ritual, the first step in defending the rights of its members is to seek an exemption under TRFRA. If the state declines to provide such an exemption, TST can then seek judicial relief from the law."
The article notes that, "TST claims their abortion ritual as practiced by its members is exempt from the existing abortion regulations on the basis of religious liberty." They cite the 2014 Hobby Lobby decision by the U.S. Supreme Court. CBN states, "TST says all abortions by its members are religious acts of Satanism and protected under the ruling."

Sunday, September 05, 2021

The 3 - September 5, 2021

In this week's edition of The 3, highlighting three significant stories of relevance to the Christian community, pro-life people and groups across America are celebrating the Texas law banning abortion after a heartbeat is detected, which was allowed by the U.S. Supreme Court to be implemented this past week.   And, the southern California church pastored by John MacArthur received financial compensation from county and state officials after the church faced opposition for its rejection of COVID protocols and was open for a number of months during the pandemic.  And, two teachers in Virginia would would not call students by pronouns not corresponding to their biological gender are seeking relief in the court system in the state; one recently received a positive ruling from the VA Supreme Court. 

Texas abortion law goes into effect; SCOTUS rejects appeal

As planned, the bill passed by the Texas Legislature that would prevent abortion from the moment that a heartbeat can be detected in an unborn child, somewhere around 6 weeks' gestation, went into effect on September 1, despite a last-ditch effort by abortion advocates to have the U.S. Supreme Court prevent its implementation.

FoxNews.com story featured comments from both sides of the debate. Jeanne Mancini, President of March for Life, stated: "The law currently in effect in Texas highlights the humanity of children in the womb who have a detectable heartbeat by six weeks of development," adding, "States have the right to act on what science and ethics clearly tell us, which is that these children have their whole life ahead of them and deserve our protection. Pro-life legislators in Texas and Governor Abbott deserve credit for their efforts to defend vulnerable human life."

Opponents of the bill swung into action. LifeSiteNews.com reported that:

Web domain hosting giant GoDaddy is deplatforming a website run by Texas Right to Life through which people can submit tips about violations of the Lone Star State’s robust new pro-life law that protects babies with beating hearts from being aborted.

A GoDaddy spokesman said in an email to the New York Times and The Verge, “We have informed prolifewhistleblower.com they have 24 hours to move to another provider for violating our terms of service.”

And, President Biden, who has experienced setbacks at the high court due to actions the court has found to be unconstitutional, has unleashed Justice Department to try to blunt or shut down the law, according to LifeSiteNews.com, which reports that: 

During a press conference at the White House, Biden noted that he has asked his Justice Department to investigate whether the federal government can restrict a provision in Texas’ new fetal heartbeat law that allows private citizens to sue anyone who facilitates an abortion after six weeks of pregnancy.
The President, who had previously said the Texas law was an “unprecedented assault on a woman’s constitutional rights under Roe v. Wade...," also noted, “I respect those who believe life begins at the moment of conception,” adding, “I don’t agree, but I respect that. I’m not going to impose that on people.”

MacArthur's church to receive $800,000 payment over COVID debate

The congregation of Grace Community Church in southern California, pastored by John MacArthur, who is heard weekdays at 1:30pm on Faith Radio, believing the state's restrictions on public gatherings due to COVID were unconstitutional, had met for several months during the pandemic, which placed the church at odds with public health officials. ReligionNews.com reported that the church's actions were indeed allowable under a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in February. The article said that Los Angeles County and the state of California would each be paying the church $400,000, and related:

This agreement, county officials said, was reached in the context of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in February that told California it couldn’t enforce a ban on indoor worship because of the coronavirus pandemic. LA County modified its health order and lifted the indoor worship ban after the ruling.

The story, released last week, stated: 

MacArthur on Sunday said the settlement money would go to the Thomas More Society, which represented the church in this court case.

“Nothing will come to us except the affirmation that the Lord preserved and protected us through this,” MacArthur said.

Virginia Supreme Court sides with teacher who stood against transgender pronouns, another case on the way

Teachers who have taken a stand against calling students by pronouns based on their so-called "gender identity," rather than their biology, are now working through the court system in Virginia.

Tanner Cross of Loudoun County received a major victory from the Virginia Supreme Court, according to the Alliance Defending Freedom, which is representing him.  The ADF website reports that: 

The Virginia Supreme Court issued an order Monday that affirms a lower court’s decision to temporarily reinstate Leesburg Elementary School physical education teacher Tanner Cross after Loudoun County Public Schools suspended him for voicing objections to a proposed policy during the public comment period of a school board meeting. The lower court ruled that the school district’s actions were likely unconstitutional, and the state high court agreed.

ADF has added two other teachers as plaintiffs in their challenge to the policy, which was approved by the local school board.

Meanwhile, a case involving a teacher in the County of King William, Peter Vlaming will be heading to the state's Supreme Court after his case was dismissed by a lower court. Alliance Defending Freedom reports that: 

The West Point School Board fired Peter Vlaming, who taught French in the district for seven years, after he stated he couldn’t in good conscience comply with the superintendent’s order to refer to a female student as a male. Vlaming consistently used the student’s preferred name instead of the student’s given name, and although he attempted to avoid the use of any pronouns in an effort to accommodate the student, he was nonetheless directed to cease “avoiding the use of male pronouns” to refer to the student, even when the student wasn’t present.

Sunday, August 29, 2021

The 3 - August 29, 2021

This week's edition of The 3 reminds of persecution - and prosecution - of pro-life individuals in the United States and religious persecution in China.  In between, there's an update on how Christians and Christian groups are involved in helping people escape from Afghanistan.

Court victory for pro-life protestors outside Brooklyn abortion clinic

One could call activity in front of an abortion clinic a "protest" because of what goes on inside, but you could also use the term, "sidewalk counseling," because you will find people who stand in front of clinics have also been known to compassionately share information with women who are there in order to get an abortion.

At a facility in Brooklyn in New York City, people have been doing just that, according to CBNNews.com, which stated:

Reuters reports members of Brooklyn's Church@TheRock, were accused by the state of violating laws meant to ensure patients' access to abortion clinics without interference or harassment.

The Thomas More Society, representing the ten church members and their pastor, Rev. Kenneth Griepp, said their clients only offered information on life-affirming alternatives to abortion-bound women which is their right under the First Amendment.

And, just last week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit upheld the pro-lifers right to stand in front of the clinic and to, as the article says, "peacefully protest." 

Thomas More Senior Counsel Stephen Crampton characterized the prosecution as "about politics," stating, "The New York Attorney General has wasted hundreds of thousands of dollars of taxpayer money pursuing bogus claims and persecuting law-abiding Christians. The real crime here is not the actions of the defendants, but the actions of the Attorney General in ever filing this case."

Christian groups involved in evacuating people from Afghanistan

While it seems like a significant number of Americans and sympathetic Afghan partners apparently remain trapped in Afghanistan ahead of the Tuesday deadline for withdrawal set by the Taliban, Christian groups and groups with Christian participation are going in to extract those in need.

FoxNews.com reported on the activities of recent Meeting House guest Victor Marx and his ministry,  All Things Possible, which was successful in getting a family of eight converts from Islam to Christianity out of the country. He said, "I'm thankful for everyone involved," adding, "We may be running point on some operations, but it's a huge network and it's a lot of people that care to get these people out." He also stated, "We were able to be part of a mission that got the children safe, got the moms freed, put them together, and then they came to our safe house in Iraq..." Fox adds:

In Afghanistan, All Things Possible is still working to evacuate more people – including a group of 300 orphans that made it all the way into the Hamid Karzai International Airport earlier this week but remains trapped in Kabul after the plane scheduled to carry them out wasn’t able to land.

Another group of refugees attempted to reach the airport and ATP warmed them about the high-risk situation outside one of the airport’s gates. They stopped about 300 meters away before the bombs went off.

In total, Marx and a partner group, Save Our Allies, have helped some 5,000 people escape.

One of the partners in Save our Allies is the Mighty Oaks Foundation, headed by another former Meeting House guest, Chad Robichaux. Including refugees, the group has extracted more than 12,000 people.

Samaritan's Purse reports on its website:

These Islamic extremists are poised to force Afghanistan back into a dark and brutal state where Christians, anyone who associated with Americans, women, and others face severe persecution and death. Some of our brothers and sisters in Christ are running from place to place, trying to stay safe.

Samaritan’s Purse has been partnering with organizations on the ground to get men, women, and children out of this horrific situation. We have been able to sponsor flights that have brought hundreds to safety—one of our partners made three trips that brought out 700 people in one day! We have also supported the evacuation of 80 missionary families via land routes.

And, Free Burma Rangers reports on its Facebook page

Right now we are praying for the Afghans and we are coordinating with like-minded friends to get people out and assistance in. Thank you for all your prayers and your help in this as well as our ongoing missions to the people of Burma, Iraq and Syria. I am including some pictures of our family in Afghanistan a few years ago when we were visiting friends there. We love the Afghan people and are helping and will stand with them as God leads us.

The movie spotlighting the work of that organization in Burma, or Myanmar, and beyond, will be in theaters on September 13, including the AMC Festival Plaza in Montgomery.

More trouble for Chinese church

While we remember the Christians who are in danger in Afghanistan, we also continue to focus on the persecution of the Church in China.  The government there has targeted a congregation called Early Rain in Chengdu; International Christian Concern reports on its website that it "has learned that on August 22, the heavily persecuted house church, Early Rain Covenant Church (ERCC), was once again violently raided by the local authorities in Chengdu, China. Twenty-eight members from a small group were taken away during a worship service." The article goes on to say: "An ERCC member told ICC that many people were beaten by the police in detention. When the children were rowdy, the police officers threatened to hit them on their heads."  The pastor who brought the message that day and his brother were placed in "administrative detention" for 14 days.

The Evangelical Focus website shared that 10 children were among those detained. It also shared this information:

Children ages 6 - 14 years of age are requires by the Chinese government to join a group called Young Pioneers of China, which is sponsored by the Communist Youth League.

China Aid President Bob Fu explains that "no one under the age of 18 is allowed in a church building, or they will face serious consequences. In every school, children are not allowed to get any religious education or participate in religious activities".

This is not the first skirmish with Early Rain, according to Evangelical Focus; it states:

Chinese authorities had already shuttered the 5,000-member church ERCC over two years ago. They broke down the doors of church members’ and leaders’ homes, and arrested more than 100 people, including main pastor Wang Yi and other leaders.

Wang was later sentenced to nine years in prison on charges of subversion of power and illegal business operations.

The ICC website reports:

Gina Goh, ICC’s Regional Manager for Southeast Asia, said, “The latest raid against ERCC, though nothing novel, shows a worrying trend that house churches are frequently subjected to harassment like this in the name of ‘law enforcement,’ where legally flawed Revised Regulations on Religious Affairs have been employed by Beijing to crack down on house churches around the country. The Chinese Communist Party’s constant fear of unregistered churches is both pathetic and preposterous, as it underscores President Xi’s insecurity toward any critical mass. There is absolutely no regard for religious freedom.”

Sunday, August 22, 2021

The 3 - August 22, 2021

We live in a world that is full of conflict, and this week's edition of The 3 reminds us of turbulent circumstances that Christians face.  In Afghanistan, the Taliban is ramping up its mistreatment of Christians as it spreads its territory across that nation.  In the state of Virginia, Christian teachers are standing up a against a new policy that grants special privileges to LGBTQ students.  And, a major retailer has just been fined thousands of dollars in a case involving an employee who demanded that he be allowed to use the women's restroom at a store location.

Christians' lives in danger under Afghanistan Taliban rule

We continue to observe the situation halfway around the world, as the United States and other nations struggle to extract their citizens out of the quagmire known as Afghanistan.  And, an already tenuous situation for Afghani Christians has intensified in this latest round of violence

The Christian Post reports that Frontier Alliance International shared a statement sent to the organization by an underground church leader in the country. It says: “The Taliban has a hit list of known Christians they are targeting to pursue and kill. The U.S. Embassy is defunct and there is no longer a safe place for believers to take refuge," adding, “All borders to neighboring countries are closed and all flights to and from have been halted, with the exception of private planes. People are fleeing into the mountains looking for asylum. They are fully reliant on God, who is the only One who can and will protect them.”

Also, the statement said, "...the Taliban are going door-to-door taking women and children."

The article also quoted from SAT-7 President, Rex Rogers, who stated, “We’re hearing from reliable sources that the Taliban demand people’s phones, and if they find a downloaded Bible on your device, they will kill you immediately..." He went on to say, "It’s incredibly dangerous right now for Afghans to have anything Christian on their phones. The Taliban have spies and informants everywhere."

The Christian Post also noted that:
...World Evangelical Alliance Secretary General Bishop Thomas Schirrmacher stressed that “we should not pretend as if everything was well in Afghanistan before the Taliban taking control of the country.” Schirrmacher asserted that because “the constitution of 2004 stated that Afghanistan is an Islamic republic with Islam as its state religion,” religious minorities never fully received equal rights in the country.

Lawsuit against VA county over new LGBTQ-friendly regulations expands

Loudoun County, Virginia, to a certain extent, has become "ground zero" regarding the attempt to inject ideology into the public schools that has motivated parents and teachers to stand up and speak up. WUSA Television reported that new regulations friendly to transgender students, which had already resulted in a teacher who spoke up against the policy being suspended temporarily, also yielded a resignation from another teacher. Laura Morris announced, "School board, I quit. I quit your policies. I quit your trainings and I quit being a cog in a machine that tells me to push highly politicized agendas on our most vulnerable constituents -- the children..."

The board passed the new policies by a 7-2 vote; it also discussed mask mandates and critical race theory at the meeting.

Now, Alliance Defending Freedom reports on the addition of new plaintiffs to a lawsuit that it had filed on behalf of the previously suspended teacher, Tanner Cross. The teachers are Monica Gill and Kim Wright; ADF has now expanded the suit to challenge the new policy; the site relates:

The amended complaint filed with the Loudoun County Circuit Court in Cross v. Loudoun County School Board, pending the court’s approval, explains that if Gill, Wright, and Cross were to comply with the school board’s demands, “they would be forced to communicate a message they believe is false—that gender identity, rather than biological reality, fundamentally shapes and defines who we truly are as humans, that our sex can change, and that a woman who identifies as a man really is a man, and vice versa. But if they refer to students based on their biological sex, they communicate the views they actually believe—that our sex shapes who we are as humans, that this sex is fixed in each person, and that it cannot be changed, regardless of our feelings or desires.”

Court rules against Hobby Lobby in transgender bathroom case

Meanwhile, a state appeals court in Illinois has fined craft store chain Hobby Lobby in excess of $200,000 in a case in which an employee identifying as a gender other than his biological one claims he was not able to use the women's restroom at the store at which he was employed.

CBN.com stated:

Bloomberg reports the Second District Appellate Court ruled the retailer violated the Illinois Human Rights Act by not allowing Meggan Sommerville, a biological man, to use the women's restroom at the East Aurora store where Sommerville is employed.

The court ignored biology and plainly stated that Sommerville "is female." The article says:

Sommerville, who still works for the retailer, filed a complaint with the Illinois Human Rights Commission eight years ago after being disciplined for using the women's restroom. The store management told the transgender employee to use the unisex bathroom instead.

The commission later ruled the company's policy was against state law, awarding Sommerville $220,000 for emotional distress and attorney's fees in 2019.

That fine was upheld by the state appeals court.  

Meanwhile, the Montgomery City Council defeated a proposal to implement a so-called "non-discrimination" ordinance, which grants special rights based on sexual orientation and gender identity.  For the past decade or so, the city has experienced dynamic economic growth, yet now there seems to a belief that not endorsing homosexuality and transgenderism, the city is no longer deserving of future growth.  That's the essence of a Montgomery Advertiser article about the 5-4 vote defeating the ordinance, which would provide for a 10-member commission to provide special protection for homosexuals and transgender individuals, but apparently not for people of faith who believe that this behavior is contradictory to Scripture. This seems to be a city-level attempt to enact the same agenda that is being tried on the Federal level with the so-called "Equality Act," which tramples on religious freedom and introduces harmful policies that ignore science and perpetrate a radical LGBTQ agenda.  

Sunday, August 08, 2021

The 3 - August 8, 2021

This week's edition of The 3, with three relevant stories to the Christian community, includes the latest from a Christian college that received a negative court ruling for enforcing its own employment policy, in the case of a professorial candidate who admitted that she disagreed with some of the faith beliefs of the college.  Also, there were a number of Christian Olympians who have given glory to God for their athletic achievements. And, it's up to two media hosts who have been suspended by Twitter for calling biological males who identify as women biological males.

Massachusetts college asks SCOTUS to uphold employment policy

Gordon College is located in Massachusetts, near Boston. According to the Alliance Defending Freedom website, "the college requires students and faculty alike to sign a statement of faith and agree to abide by biblical standards of living. Professors are the primary means through whom Gordon teaches the faith to its students, and those professors must integrate Christian teaching into every academic discipline."

In 2016, Margaret DeWeese-Boyd, who was an associate professor at the time, applied for a full professorship and was denied "because her performance fell short of the college’s expectations for faculty scholarship and institutional service."  She also said that she disagreed with some of the college's beliefs.  She sued, and according to ADF:
The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court concluded that Gordon College can indeed require her, as with other Gordon professors, to be a genuine Christian teacher and scholar, yet the court concluded that it was not necessary for her position to perform functions that are sufficiently religious, in the court’s view, and ruled in her favor. It did so even though Gordon’s professors are required to train their students in the Christian faith, and despite clear precedent from the U.S. Supreme Court in Our Lady of Guadalupe School v. Morrissey-Berru and Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church & School v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that such a narrow definition of an employee’s “ministerial functions” at a religious educational institution is unconstitutional.
I checked - the Our Lady of Guadalupe School decision was just handed down last summer. Gordon College recently announced it would be seeking relief from the high court. 

Christian Olympians testify to faith in Christ

The Tokyo Olympics have concluded and a number of the world's best athletes compete in the Games, which were delayed by a year due to COVID.  There are a number of athletes who are known to be Christians, and they have handled their athletic achievement by giving testimony to the One who had gifted them.

Some of the highlights include:

Allyson Felix, whose bronze medal on Saturday gave her the title, according to Sports Spectrum, of "the most decorated female Olympian ever."  Her 10 medals is the most for any track-and-field Olympic competitor, male or female.  The article about her said, "The bronze, to go with six previous golds and three silvers, gave her 10 Olympic medals, surpassing Jamaica’s Merlene Ottey, who won three silvers and six bronzes from 1980 to 2000." Before the Games, Felix wrote on Instagram: “It might sound cliche, but getting to that starting line is an incredible victory for me,” adding, “I’ve experienced the hardest years of my life in this journey and by God’s grace I’m here. With a heart full of gratitude I’m taking space to remember all it took to get here.

I mentioned gold medalist Sydney McGlaughlin last week; Sports Spectrum reports that she wrote on Instagram:

“Let me start off by saying, what and honor it is to be able to represent not only my country, but also the kingdom of God,” she wrote. “What I have in Christ is far greater than what I have or don’t have in life. I pray my journey may be a clear depiction of submission and obedience to God. Even when it doesn’t make sense, even when it doesn’t seem possible. He will make a way out of no way. Not for my own gratification, but for His glory.

On a Front Room original commentary last week, I featured U.S. runner Keni Harrison and swimmer Caeleb Dressell.  Here's an excerpt:

...we shouldn't allow the "distractions" to keep us from rejoicing with athletes who profess Christ who have exhibited and attained incredible achievement.

One example is U.S. runner Keni Harrison, who won the silver medal in the 100-meter hurdles. A Christian Headlines article reports:
After the race, Harrison ran around the track draped in an American flag, wearing a big smile. Despite owning multiple medals in other world races – including the world record at 12.21 seconds – it was her first Olympic medal.
"I learn from my mistakes," she told NBC in a post-race interview. "For this to be my first Olympics and to come here on this world stage, and represent my country to the best of my ability – all the glory goes to God just to have this opportunity. … Just to get a silver medal at this stage, it's amazing."
Her story includes being adopted and surviving a health scare early in life.

Then, there's swimmer Caeleb Dressel, who garnered five gold medals at this year's Olympics. CBN.com relates that:
A large eagle tattoo covers the top of his left shoulder, which represents one of his favorite Bible verses, Isaiah 40:31, which says, "But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint."
"It's the reason I'm in the sport — not just to go fast times, but to inspire people and show them where I find my happiness with what God's given me," Dressel said after the 2015 U.S. Nationals, via the Baptist Standard.

Other professing Christian athletes featured over the past few weeks by SportsSpectrum.com include:

Jrue Holliday, who won Olympic gold with the men's basketball team after winning the NBA Championship with the Milwaukee Bucks.

U.S. wrestler Kyle Snyder, who won silver.

And, the website profiled the "Christian core" of the silver medal-winning U.S. softball team, stating: "The U.S. squad is led by a strong core of outspoken Christians, including two of its standout performers in the gold-medal game: pitcher Cat Osterman and outfielder Janie Reed."

"Misgendering" will yield social media penalty

Earlier this year, the Twitter account from The Daily Citizen, a website of Focus on the Family, was suspended because it issued this tweet: “On Tuesday, President-elect Joe Biden announced that he had chosen Dr. Rachel Levine to serve as Assistant Secretary for Health at the Department of HHS. Dr. Levine is a transgender woman, that is, a man who believes he is a woman.”

On The Meeting House, I have talked about Christians being banned from social media, and this is one example.  It seems that the subject matter - of men identifying as women - is too much for the overlords of the Twitterverse.  Just last week, a well-known commentator and podcast host, who is a Christian and has appeared at the last two National Religious Broadcasters conventions, Allie Beth Stuckey, found herself in what she calls "Twitter jail."

CBNNews.com reported that: 

Stuckey’s offense was an Aug. 2 tweet in which she commented on New Zealand Olympic weightlifter Laurel Hubbard, a biological male who identifies and competed in the Tokyo Games as a female. In the offending tweet, the “Relatable” host referred to Hubbard using male pronouns.

Upon her return, she tweeted out, according to the article:

"Remember, you can threaten, dox, harass, post porn, spread Chinese propaganda and tweet as a member of a terrorist regime here on Twitter, but you cannot call a man, “he,” because that is 'promoting violence.'”

The article says that she told Faithwire in an e-mail: “As a Christian, I know two things to be true...One, all people are made in God’s image, no matter their stated identity and, therefore, have immense value and, two, men are men and women are women.”

Well, it's happened again - to a professing Christian talk show host based in Atlanta, Erick Erickson. Not the Bee reported

All he said was "Laurel Hubbard is a man even if Twitter doesn't like it." He had to delete the tweet to even regain access to his account and he's banned from tweeting to his 200K followers for 12 hours.

As, Newsbusters.org related, Erickson was actually tweeting on Stuckey's suspension.  The article quotes Erickson: 

“Well, it seems post-modernity has caught up to me. Twitter has suspended me for a statement of fact that Twitter’s woke employees do not like,” Erickson said. “In defending Allie Beth Stuckey, who was previously suspended from Twitter for a statement of truth, I reiterated that, in fact, the New Zealand transgender weight lifter is a man.”

“Twitter has suspended me for stating the truth,” he added.

Sunday, August 01, 2021

The 3 - August 1, 2021

This week's edition of The 3, featuring three relevant stories to the Christian community, highlights recent action in Congress, where legislation has progressed that would authorize taxpayer funding of abortion.  Meanwhile, a church in Washington state has received court relief from having to provide abortion in its health care plan.  Plus, a web designer in Colorado has been denied in her quest to be exempted from a law which could force her to display messages that violate her religious beliefs.

U.S. House not allowed to vote on taxpayer funding of abortion, House votes to fund abortion in other countries

For some 45 years, year after year, on a bi-partisan basis, members of Congress would agree not to allow taxpayer funding of abortion.  But no more, apparently.  According to LifeNews.com, for the 52nd time just over the previous month alone, the request to vote on what is known as the Hyde Amendment was turned back by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her allies. 

The bill in question would, according to the story, "would make the Hyde Amendment permanent law and protect taxpayers from being forced to fund the killing of unborn babies in abortions." The article goes on to say:
The Hyde Amendment, which has strong public support, prohibits taxpayer funding for elective abortions in Medicaid and other federal programs. Since 1976, it has saved an estimated 2.4 million babies’ lives, including about 60,000 each year, according to the Charlotte Lozier Institute.

And, the story relates that the budget submitted by the President for 2022 excludes the Hyde Amendment.  

Furthermore, there are members of Congress who want you to fund abortions overseas.  Again, from LifeNews.com, a State Department funding bill passed the House last week that "removes or weakens four longstanding pro-life protections, including the Helms Amendment, which prevents taxpayer funding from being used to fund abortion overseas."

As LifeNews pointed out, John McCormack of National Review indicated that it would still take 60 votes in the Senate to move forward legislation that would not include the Hyde or Helms Amendment.

Federal appeals court says a church does not have to include abortion in health insurance coverage

A church in Washington state has been released by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit from having to fund abortion in its health insurance plans, according to the Alliance Defending Freedom website, which states:

The 9th Circuit recognized that Cedar Park Church, represented by Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys, suffered an injury after Washington state Senate Bill 6219 was signed into law in March 2018. The law requires Cedar Park to provide coverage for abortion if the church also offers maternity care coverage to its employees or face fines and criminal penalties, including imprisonment.
With this affirmation in hand, the church and its attorneys now return to district court; the ADF site states that the appeals court said that the "lower court was wrong to dismiss the church’s free-exercise claim." ADF Senior Counsel and Vice President of Appellate Advocacy John Bursch said, “Today’s decision is a big step forward in preventing the government from targeting churches and we look forward to continue challenging this law at the district court.”

Web designer cannot refuse to display pro-gay messages, federal appeals court says

Lorie Smith is a web designer in Colorado, who owns 303 Creative. She believed that the so-called Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act could force her to display messages that violate her deeply held beliefs, so she, aided by Alliance Defending Freedom, filed a lawsuit, seeking a religious exemption from the Act.  Christian Today stated that:

303 Creative had wanted to put a notice on its website stating that it would not make websites for same-sex weddings, but the court concluded this would amount to "unlawful discrimination", and was not covered by free speech protections in the First Amendment.

The ruling was handed down by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, according to ADF
which quoted the Chief of the 10th Circuit Timothy Tymkovich, who wrote, “The Constitution neither forces Ms. Smith to compromise her beliefs nor condones the government doing so,” adding, “In fact, this case illustrates exactly why we have a First Amendment. Properly applied, the Constitution protects Ms. Smith from the government telling her what to say or do..."

Christian Today quoted from Judge Mary Beck Briscoe, who said, "Colorado has a compelling interest in protecting both the dignity interests of members of marginalized groups and their material interests in accessing the commercial marketplace."

Sunday, July 25, 2021

The 3 - July 25, 2021

This week's edition of The 3, with three stories of relevance to the Christian community, includes a court ruling against a law in California that imposes punishment for "misgendering" a person, i.e., calling that person by a pronoun other than his or her preferred one.  Plus, a man fined for preaching on the streets of London has been exonerated.  And, a Texas judge has had his religious freedom affirmed by a federal appeals court.

California "misgendering" court decision a mixed bag

At first glance, a ruling by a California court struck down a law that prevented someone from calling another person by a pronoun other than his, or her, or whatever, so-called "preferred gender" might have seemed to be a positive one.  But, as The Daily Citizen from Focus on the Family points out, look again.

But first some history - its article on the ruling says that:

In 2017, the California legislature passed SB 219, the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Long-Term Care Facility Residents’ Bill of Rights. This “misgendering” law criminalized the speech of employees of such facilities who on more than one occasion use a pronoun not in keeping with a patient’s “preferred pronouns.”
A group called Taking Offense sued, and the state appeals court said that, as the Daily Citizen puts it: "...once the government starts regulating the content of speech, only the most compelling government interests will survive, and even then, only if the law is narrowly tailored to achieve those interests." That law didn't meet that standard, according to the article.

But, as the court stated, "...we recognize the State has a compelling interest in eliminating discrimination against residents of long-term care facilities. However, we conclude the pronoun provision is not narrowly tailored to achieve a compelling government objective because it burdens speech more than is required to achieve the State’s compelling objective."

So far, so good - the law is out, but...

The bottom line, according to the Daily Citizen analysis by Bruce Hausknecht: "This decision, which could still be appealed to the California Supreme Court by either side, merely faults the state legislature for going too far in criminalizing someone who violates the law. The legislature has other, less severe, options for punishing people who 'misgender' someone, the justices wrote."

British street preacher exonerated

Joshua Sutcliffe is a 31-year-old man who proclaimed the gospel on the streets of London during the COVID lockdowns. According to The Christian Post:

Sutcliffe was detained and surrounded by four police officers as he was preaching and handing out leaflets in North London’s Camden area on Good Friday last April. He was told he was in breach of COVID-19 lockdown regulations by being outdoors without a reasonable excuse.

Sutcliffe explained to the officers that he was a pastor and worship leader and was outdoors to provide charitable services. However, he was cautioned and received a fixed penalty notice of $80 (£60), according to Premier Christian News.

For $80, one could say he could pay the fine and head home. But, he challenged the ruling, and, according to the Post, the London Magistrate Court determined he was: "'not guilty' as he 'was outside and that he had a reasonable excuse as he was traveling to his place of work, as a worship leader,' said Christian Legal Centre, which supported the preacher, in a statement released Friday." The article quotes Andrea Williams, the chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre:

Christians in the U.K. have been “easy targets” for the police during the pandemic “while other groups gathering in significant numbers have been favored by the police..."

Prayers still allowed in Texas courtroom

A judge in Montgomery County, Texas, Justice of the Peace Wayne Mack, can continue to have a volunteer chaplain offer prayers in his courtroom to open sessions, according to a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, which is allowing the practice while a lawsuit filed against the judge by the so-called Freedom from Religion Foundation progresses, according to a story at CBNNews.com.

The article says:

The legal battle over Mack's tradition of prayers in the courtroom, which has been fought for years, reached a high watermark last month when U.S. Southern District Judge Kenneth Hoyt ruled prayers before court proceedings were unconstitutional, saying they violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

But the Fifth Circuit wrote Judge Mack "has made a strong showing that the district court erred" in siding with Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) in its lawsuit against the Montgomery County judge.

CBN News adds: "In his role as Justice of the Peace, Mack, a Christian, allows the multi-faith, volunteer chaplains to open his courtroom ceremonies with a brief invocation and the pledge of allegiance in order to honor their service. Mack allows those in attendance to leave the courtroom if they do not want to participate in the prayer."

Sunday, July 18, 2021

The 3 - July 18, 2021

This week's edition of The 3 includes appeals court action that was favorable to Christian student groups on a university campus who wanted to make sure their leaders affirmed the Christian faith. And, a full appeals court upheld the "ministerial exemption," giving a religious organization the right to determine its own employment policies. And, a well-known evangelistic organization has received positive action in the case of a UK city that banned signage promoting one of its events.

Appeals court finds university was wrong to prevent Christian group from selecting leaders based on faith

Christian groups at the University of Iowa have encountered a double standard at the school, and courts are attempting to straighten out the mess. The Christian Post reported that a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit ruled in favor of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship and InterVarsity Graduate Christian Fellowship, which were not permitted by the university to choose their leaders because of Christian faith standards.

This is the second similar ruling by the appeals court - a three-judge panel had ruled earlier this year that the school unfairly discriminated against Business Leaders in Christ, "which turned away a student because the student, who was openly homosexual, did not want to adhere to the group’s statement of faith."  Interestingly enough, as the Christian Post points out, the gay student then formed a group that "requires its members and leaders to sign a ‘gay-affirming statement of Christian faith,’” according to the judge who heard the InterVarsity case.  The university did not take action against that group.

In the InterVarsity case, according to the Post:
Circuit Judge Jonathan A. Kobes authored the panel opinion, concluding that he was “hard-pressed to find a clearer example of viewpoint discrimination.”

“Of course, the University has a compelling interest in preventing discrimination. But it served that compelling interest by picking and choosing what kind of discrimination was okay,” wrote Kobes.

“Basically, some [registered student organizations] at the University of Iowa may discriminate in selecting their leaders and members, but others, mostly religious, may not. If the University honestly wanted a campus free of discrimination, it could have adopted an ‘all-comers’ policy …”

Church autonomy in hiring and firing upheld in appeals court ruling

The ability of a church or ministry organization to determine its employment criteria and practices was the key issue in a recent case before the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit recently, the totality of which reviewed a ruling by a three-judge panel of the court in the case, Demkovich v. St. Andrew the Apostle Parish. The panel had ruled against the Archdiocese, which was the defendent in the case.

Liberty Counsel reported that the court "ruled in favor of a Roman Catholic church in Chicago after a former music director sued the church when he was fired for violating Catholic doctrine and his employment agreement by entering a same-sex union. The court ruled that the First Amendment protected the church’s freedom to hire and fire the music director under the 'ministerial exemption,' and that the court had no business adjudicating claims regarding a 'hostile environment.'”

The website states:

Liberty Counsel Founder and Chairman Mat Staver said, “This court decision upholds First Amendment ‘ministerial exception’ that prevents the government from interfering with churches and religious organizations with respect to certain employment decisions. The Supreme Court also has held that these decisions regarding employment are protected under the ‘ministerial exception’ in order to safeguard the autonomy of religious organizations."

Violating religious freedom may cost the government - UK case rewards Franklin Graham and his organization

We have seen governmental entities who have been directed to pay churches for violating their religious freedom for their overreach in COVID-19 regulations. Now, in a story out of the UK, a city has admitted its wrongdoing in the promotion of an event involving evangelist Franklin Graham.

The BillyGraham.org website reported that:

The case centers on the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association’s Lancashire Festival of Hope, which took place in Blackpool, England, in 2018. Simple bus ads that read “Time for Hope” were taken down because of Franklin Graham’s religious beliefs on traditional marriage.

In April, a U.K. judge ruled that Blackpool Borough Council and Blackpool Transport Services Limited were wrong in their decision to remove the advertisements, which she determined violated the Equality Act and the Human Rights Act.
In addition to a public apology, the city agreed to pay 70,000 pounds, or over $96,000, plus "(plus an amount to cover applicable tax) to cover legal costs incurred by the Festival, and, as the BGEA says, "most significantly," 25,000 pounds, or over $34,000, in "'just satisfaction' damages," which the Association says is "a clear message that this type of treatment to Christians will not be tolerated."

Franklin Graham said, “This is an important moment for religious freedom in the U.K.,” adding, “We’re grateful to God for the final outcome of this case, and for what it will mean for churches and Christians across the U.K. in the years ahead.”

Sunday, July 11, 2021

The 3 - July 11, 2021

Non-profit organizations have been making headlines, and in this edition of The 3, I share information about a Christian group that had initially been denied non-profit status, but had that denial reversed. And, a U.S. Supreme Court decision has stated that non-profits do not have to release names of their donors.  Plus, 20 state attorneys general have reached out to the Biden administration, challenging policies announced by two federal agencies regarding special considerations based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

IRS changes course, grants non-profit status to Christian group

The Internal Revenue Service a number of years ago was chastised for punishing Christian and conservative groups.  One group was the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.  A 2012 USA Today article stated:

In a blistering letter to President Barack Obama, the Rev. Franklin Graham said the IRS targeted the two non-profits he heads with an audit last year after the organizations took out ads urging people to support biblical principles on marriage and in choosing political candidates.

In the letter, dated Tuesday, Graham said in light of recent revelations that the Internal Revenue Service targeted conservative groups with "tea party" or "patriot" in their names, he does not believe the audit was "a coincidence — or justifiable."

Does it sound like history may be repeating itself?  The BGEA publication Decision Magazine reported recently on the case of a Christian organization that had applied for 501(c)(3) non-profit status.  According to the magazine's website: 

In May, IRS Exempt Organizations Director Stephen A. Martin rejected Christian Engaged’s application to become tax-exempt, saying the group’s “Bible teachings” on abortion, marriage and other issues were primarily affiliated with the Republican Party, and therefore disqualified the organization from receiving nonprofit status.

But, there is good news - the IRS reversed that decision. Decision reported that, "Religious freedom law firm First Liberty Institute represented Christians Engaged in its appeal, and on July 7, announced that the IRS had done an about-face and had granted the organization tax-exempt status." The organization's President, Bunni Pounds, is quoted as saying, “I am incredibly thankful to the IRS for doing the right thing, and we look forward to continuing our mission of educating more followers of Jesus to pray for our nation and to be civically engaged. When we stand up, our republic works for all Americans.”

High court says non-profit organizations should not be forced to disclose donor information

And, at least at this point, based on a U.S. Supreme Court decision, Christians Engaged and other non-profit organizations will not have to disclose sensitive donor information. 

Alliance Defending Freedom reported on its website about a Michigan-based organization, the Thomas More Law Center, which has roughly 5% of its donors in California. Back in 2012, "the Attorney General’s Office began to harass the center, demanding the names and addresses of its largest financial supporters."

ADF notes that "A district court trial showed that the office leaked such information like a sieve and created a perfect target for hackers by storing confidential donor information on the internet, where the data could be easily discovered."

The case went all the way to the high court, which said, according to the Alliance, "The court determined that state governments cannot impose blanket donor-disclosure requirements forcing charities and other nonprofit organizations to disclose their donors, which would thereby subject them to the possibility of adverse treatment simply for supporting causes with which some people may disagree."

ADF Senior Counsel and Vice President of Appellate Advocacy John Bursch stated, “Potential givers to charities have good reason to fear being doxed—that is, having their public information spread for malicious purposes...Too many are quick to ostracize, lambast, and threaten those with whom they disagree. Everyone should condemn this behavior—often described as ‘cancel culture’—and we’re pleased the Supreme Court did so today.”

Over 20 state attorneys general call out Administration's LGBTQ policies

In the U.S. Supreme Court's Bostock decision, according to a ChristianHeadlines.com article, "the justices ruled that federal law prohibits discrimination in employment based on sexual orientation and gender identity."  Now, Federal agencies are apparently rushing headlong to broaden the narrow decision.

The article relates that 21 state attorneys general are pushing back against Administration attempts to apply the ruling in areas that the high court may have not intended and have sent a letter to that effect.  For instance, the AG's highlight recently released guidance in response to Bostock.  The article states:
The attorneys general letter charges that the EEOC guidance “appears to ignore” two of three “protections provided to religious employers.” Those two are Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which has “express statutory exception for religious organizations” and the First Amendment’s protections of “the employment relationship between a religious institution and its ministers,” the letter says.
The letter also notes that, according to Christian Headlines: "A Q&A on the EEOC website says that 
'use of pronouns or names that are inconsistent with an individual’s gender identity' can be 'considered harassment' in 'certain circumstances.'"

And the article notes that: "The letter also accuses the Department of Education of violating federal law related to sports and the usage of locker rooms and restrooms."  

The letter was issued on letterhead from the Tennessee Attorney General's office and included signatures from the AG's of Alabama and Georgia.  

Tuesday, July 06, 2021

The 3 - July 4, 2021

This week's edition of The 3 includes news from the U.S. Supreme Court, including the rejection of two cases involving a violation of God's view of sexuality, as stated in His Word: a floral designer in Washington state who would not provide creative products for a same-sex wedding ceremony has found her case rejected by the high court and the high court also rejected the case of a Virginia biological female identifying as a male who demanded that her school district accommodate her in private spaces, such as restrooms.  And, the U.S. State Department has invented a "third" gender option on passport applications. 

Floral designer's case will not be heard by high court

After around eight years of bouncing up and down the Washington state and federal court systems, Barronelle Stutzman, described as a "floral artist" on the Alliance Defending Freedom website is no closer to finding relief in the courts after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear her case.

As the ADF website states, a longtime customer of Stutzman's shop, Arlene's Flowers, came to the store one day with a request to provide flowers for a same-sex wedding ceremony.  The site says:

...when Rob asked her to design floral arrangements to celebrate his same-sex wedding, Barronelle knew that because of her Christian beliefs about marriage, she couldn’t agree.

So, she walked Rob to a quiet part of her shop, took his hand in her own, and gently told him why she couldn’t do what he asked. Barronelle then referred Rob to three local floral artists who she knew would do a good job. They chatted a few more minutes about Rob’s wedding plans, hugged, and then Rob left the shop.
Unfortunately, Rob's partner wrote about the encounter on social media, the Washington Attorney General got involved, and filed a lawsuit.  The Washington Supreme Court ruled against her in 2017, and that year, "Barronelle appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. It then sent her case back to the Washington Supreme Court in June 2018 after the decision in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case."  The Washington high court against ruled against her, prompting the appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, which refused to hear the case. 

High court also sides with biological female identifying as male in case involving use of private spaces

Another repeat performance at the Supreme Court occurred within the past week.  A case the high court had heard several years ago, in which it had offered a stay on a lower court action, came before the justices again, and this time, the case of a biological female identifying as male was rejected.

The Christian Post reports that:

In 2015, Grimm, born female but identifies as male, filed a lawsuit against Gloucester County Public Schools. The student claimed that policies preventing trans-identified students from using bathrooms and sex-specific changing areas that correspond with their gender identity violated Title IX civil rights law.

At issue was the preference of Grimm to use the boy’s restrooms and locker rooms, despite being biologically female.

Later that year, a federal district court judge ruled against Grimm, but a three-judge panel of the Fourth Circuit ruled in favor of the student the next year.  The Supreme Court put that ruling on hold and sent it back down to the appeals court, it went back to the district level, then to the Fourth Circuit, which ruled against the school district yet again last year; the case was turned back by the Supreme Court this past week. It is worth noting that the high school Grimm attended had actually constructed single-use restrooms in order to accommodate Grimm. 

State Department to issue "third-gender" option

More gender-related confusion is on the way, this time from the U.S. State Department, which has announced it will offer a third option on passport applications in the future.

ChristianHeadlines.com reports that:

Secretary of State Antony Blinken made the announcement in a statement, saying the change is part of the Biden administration’s commitment “to promoting the freedom, dignity, and equality of all people – including LGBTQI+ persons.”

“We will be updating our procedures to allow applicants to self-select their gender as ‘M’ or ‘F’ and will no longer require medical certification if an applicant’s self-selected gender does not match the gender on their other citizenship or identity documents,” Blinken said.

The State Department, Blinken said, has begun moving toward “adding a gender marker for non-binary, intersex, and gender non-conforming” persons applying for a passport or Consular Reports of Birth Abroad (CRBA).

This prompted Franklin Graham to post on Twitter, according to the article:

This administration seems to have declared war on common sense, & they want everyone to go along w/a lie. This is another reminder of the desperate need for Christians to PRAY for our nation & all those in leadership—whether we agree with them or not. We need God’s mercy & help.

Sunday, June 27, 2021

The 3 - June 27, 2021

In this week's edition of The 3, with three stories of relevance to the Christian community, a Louisville police officer who prayed at an abortion clinic has been reinstated after initially being suspended. And, an Army chaplain facing a suspension will not be facing punishment.  Plus, a Colorado mayor stirred up a controversy when he announced a ban on the Pledge of Allegiance at government meetings.

Louisville police officer back on the job after suspension for praying at abortion clinic

In Louisville, KY back in February, an off-duty police officer and his father prayed in front of an abortion clinic in the city; according to Kentucky Today, this resulted in disciplinary action against the officer.  The article states:

Shortly after starting his regular patrol duty later that morning, the officer was ordered to return to his division’s office, where he was placed on administrative leave with pay, pending an investigation. The decorated 13-year veteran had no prior disciplinary violations.
The Thomas More Society went to work on behalf of the officer, and he was reinstated after it was pointed out that he did not violate any department rules and that officers who had participated in protests related to other causes had not been disciplined. Attorney Matt Heffron said, “We are happy for the officer that the Louisville Police Department finally did the right thing and put a good policeman back on the streets,” adding, “But it is astounding to those of us defending him – shocking actually – that the police department would treat a hardworking, loyal officer this way. They left him twisting in the wind for four months because of off-duty prayer.”

Army chaplain who shared beliefs re: LGBTQ will not be punished

And, there's more good news about someone who perhaps would be facing a reprimand or dismissal because of speaking out consistent with his Christian views. In this case, it's an Army chaplain named (Major) Andrew Calvert.  

CBN.com related:

As CBN News reported in May, the Army harshly reprimanded a Calvert for an old post on his personal Facebook page supporting the Department of Defense's (DOD) exclusion of transgender service members, which was DOD policy at the time the post was made.

Calvert was punished after expressing his religious beliefs in a news article in support of the DOD policy.

Calvert was suspended, but it was announced last week that the chaplain, with 16 years of service, would not be reprimanded, which, as CBN notes, "clears the way for Chaplain Calvert's record to be cleared, resulting in the possibility of future promotions and assignments." First Liberty represented the chaplain.

Colorado mayor bans Pledge of Allegiance at public government meetings

The mayor of a small Colorado city with a population of less than 600, Shane Fuhrman of Silverton, made the announcement recently that the Pledge of Allegiance would no longer be said before government meetings. The Christian Post related that the mayor said, “Due to direct and indirect threats, inappropriate comments in and out of public meetings, and the general divisiveness this is creating in our community, we will not be doing the Pledge of Allegiance during town of Silverton Board of Trustees meetings, and it’s removed from agendas and or protocols until such time that we can discuss this at a board retreat or workshop..."

At the meeting, one of the city's residents who was there for the public comment period said: “I would like to make one comment. I would like to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance..." The Post reported, "A few of the board members and those attending the public meeting defied the mayor's order and recited the pledge anyway."

Even Franklin Graham spoke out against the mayor's actions. He said on Facebook, “When they were finished, Mayor Fuhrman said they were out of order and that they would be asked to leave if they did it again,” adding, “I think this mayor is the one who is out of order! It’s a shame that an elected official would feel this way about the Pledge of Allegiance. It’s important that we take time to recognize and honor our country’s flag — a flag that represents the freedom that so many fought and died for. I’m proud of these citizens and trustees for standing up for that. Silverton may need to re-think who they select for mayor."

Thursday, June 17, 2021

The 3 - June 20, 2021

This week's edition of The 3, highlighting three stories of relevance to the Christian community, spotlights developments from the recent Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Nashville, the country's high court has issued a ruling in favor of a foster care agency that would not place children in the homes of LGBTQ couples, and a Colorado cake baker who won a victory several years ago before the high court received a negative ruling from a federal court in another case.

SBC annual meeting takes unexpected turns

The annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention occurred last week in Nashville, and over 15,000 messengers were registered for the event, the first since the Birmingham convention in 2019 - there was not a meeting last year due to COVID-19.

Prior to the convention, there was an expectation that the issue of critical race theory would be a major flashpoint.  And, the influence of the new organization calling Southern Baptists to adherence to Scripture on that and other issues, would be tested.

Coming out of the convention, a number of major issues had emerged, based on media reports from a variety of sources, including The Tennessean and The Baptist Paper.

The Conservative Baptist Network endorsed candidates for President, 1st Vice-President, and 2nd Vice-President of the Convention.  Of those three, African-American Lee Brand won the 1st VP slot.  Presidential candidate Mike Stone lost narrowly to Ed Litton.  While some hailed these as well as other policy matters as defeats for the CBN, members on social media seemed to be positive about the strength of the organization.

The CRT situation was handled by a combined resolution by the Resolutions Committee that did not mention critical race theory by name, but supported racial reconciliation, decried racism, and rejected views in this area that did not line up with Scripture.  The resolution passed, but those who would have liked CRT to be named were not pleased with it.  

The SBC is a collection of autonomous churches who have decided to affiliate ideally because Convention membership can produce greater fruit for the gospel.  The Convention rejected elements "top-down" leadership in the Nashville meeting, approving a resolution to override a decision by the Executive Committee to appoint a third-party organization to investigate the Committee's actions on sexual abuse and taking that appointment out of the hands of the EC.  A recommendation of greater financial oversight of the Committee was rejected by convention messengers.  And, Stone, the most recent EC President was rejected in his bid for Convention President.

Litton, who has participated in racial reconciliation efforts in Mobile, Alabama, but who has spoken dismissively of the impact of critical race theory, according to Newsweek, was elected Convention President in a runoff.  He is thought by some to be the less theologically conservative of the two remaining candidates, but insists that he is someone who can build bridges in an admittedly fractured Convention.

Those fractures were apparent at the Convention and on social media leading up to the annual meeting. Now, Southern Baptists have a chance to refocus on missions and evangelism, maximizing adherence to Scripture while minimizing divisiveness.  While media like to focus on the national organization, which is important for a number of reasons, including accountability and allocation of resources to do Kingdom work, there is tremendous potential for impact through each local church - and that is applicable regardless of denomination.

U.S. Supreme Court favors adoption agency in LGBTQ-related challenge

In a unanimous ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of Catholic Social Services in Philadelphia, in a case that was spurred on by the city's termination of its contract with the agency because CSS would not place foster children in the homes of same-sex couples.

CBN.com reported that the court stated: "The refusal of Philadelphia to contract with CSS for the provision of foster care services unless CSS agrees to certify same-sex couples as foster parents violates the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment."

The report quotes Jeff Medefind, President of the Christian Alliance for Orphans, who said: "This Fulton ruling means that people of diverse convictions can still serve side by side for the good of vulnerable children in our communities..."

As CBN pointed out:
The city of Philadelphia created an issue where there wasn't one because Catholic Social Services says no same-sex couples ever asked to work with them. CSS says if that did happen they would refer the couple to another group. Due to its biblical beliefs, the Catholic agency also does not certify unmarried couples.

Colorado cake baker faces fine for refusal to bake gender transition cake

Yet again, Colorado baker Jack Phillips of Masterpiece Cakeshop went before the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, the group that was charged with religious hostility by a Supreme Court justice in the Masterpiece case before the high court. 

The Daily Citizen reports on a recent decision by a federal judge, resulting from a request from a transgender individual, Autumn Scardina, to bake a cake celebrating his gender transition. Phillips refused, the individual filed a complaint, but the Commission chose not to go after Jack again. So, Scardina filed a federal lawsuit.  According to the website: "The court’s decision, dated June 15, rejects Jack’s defense that Scardina’s request would prompt him to have to violate his conscience and create a cake with a message he disagreed with."

The article stated, "Jack’s lawyers at Alliance Defending Freedom have already announced their intent to appeal Judge Jones’ decision to the Colorado Court of Appeals. Jones imposed the maximum fine allowable under the Colorado statute: $500."

Sunday, June 13, 2021

The 3 - June 13, 2021

This week's edition of The 3, featuring three new stories relevant to the Christian community, includes more state-level pro-life legislation, this week with a North Carolina bill prohibiting abortion "based on race or a disability," and a Louisiana bill that provides for women who have taken the the first dose of an abortion bill to be informed about reversing the process.  Also, the suspension of a Virginia teacher who spoke up against school board policy regarding the use of gender identity pronouns has been temporarily halted.  And a Nevada church has received thousands of dollars from a state agency due to the state governor's overreach in unfairly placing COVID restrictions on churches that we stricter than comparable secular venues.

More pro-life legislation on the state level: NC, LA

Last week, the Susan B. Anthony List reported that 89 pro-life bills had become law during the year 2021 alone.  And, that was before North Carolina passed a piece of legislation that would, according to the organization's website, prevent abortion "based on race or a disability such as Down syndrome."

The article quotes Tami Fitzgerald, Executive Director of NC Values Coalition, who said:
“The North Carolina Values Coalition backs this bill because every child should have the chance to live a full, happy life. We look forward to North Carolina joining the leading edge of states enacting protections against the discrimination of unborn children.”
Tara Sander Lee of the Charlotte Lozier Institute, the research arm of the SBA List, and Katie Shaw, described as an "anti-discrimination advocate," testified before the state Senate, saying:
Sixteen states have enacted bans on one or more types of discrimination abortion – including 12 states that protect unborn children diagnosed with Down syndrome. Polling shows that 70% of oppose abortion based on the expectation that an unborn child may have Down syndrome.
National Right to Life reported on a recent bill out of Louisiana that "...informs women who have taken the first pill in a chemical abortion that, if they regret their decision, there may be options available to sustain their pregnancy and they should contact their physician immediately."

Court reverses suspension of teacher speaking out against gender pronouns in VA

The PE teacher in Loudoun County, Virginia who was suspended because he spoke out against school board policy forcing teachers to use pronouns corresponding to a student's so-called "gender identity" has been reinstated, at least temporarily. Alliance Defending Freedom announced this past week that  the "retaliation" against teacher Tanner Cross has been put on hold while his legal action against the board continues.

Cross was suspended, according to the ADF website, "for speaking against two proposed policies during the public comment period of a school board meeting." The Christian legal advocacy group was pleased that Loudoun County Circuit Court had ruled in favor of Cross, with President and CEO Michael Farris saying: "Educators are just like everybody else—they have ideas and opinions that they should be free to express. Advocating for solutions they believe in should not cost them their jobs. School officials singled out his speech, offered in his private capacity at a public meeting, as ‘disruptive’ and then suspended him for speaking his mind. That’s neither legal nor constitutional."

NV church to receive payment as a result of COVID restriction overreach

It has now become costly for states to have clamped down on church gatherings during the height of the COVID crisis while allow secular gatherings to have fewer restrictions.  In Nevada, according to an article at The Christian Post, the Nevada Board of Examiners agreed to pay $175,000 to Calvary Chapel Dayton Valley. The church had sued the state in May of last year, claiming that the Governor, as the article notes, was "treating churches worse than secular institutions in the state's COVID-19 rules."

For instance, as the Post states, "while churches could only have 50 people in attendance regardless of the size of the building, secular businesses like casinos and gyms could operate at 50% capacity."  A lower court judge had ruled against the church and the U.S. Supreme Court had allowed that ruling to stand.

However, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit had ruled in favor of the church in December. The Post says that, "Judge Milan D. Smith Jr. wrote in the panel opinion that the church 'has demonstrated a likelihood of success on the merits of its Free Exercise claim.'” 

The Board of Examiners awarded $175k to the church in order to provide for legal fees in accordance with court requirements.