Sunday, March 07, 2021

The 3 - March 7, 2021

This week's edition of The 3, with three stories of relevance to the Christian community, includes a major shift in the direction of a large Christian adoption agency, which will now work with same-sex couples to adopt children or accept foster care children.  Also, the formation of a new United Methodist denomination has been announced.  Plus, Christian medical organizations are supporting conscience rights for religious people who do not wish to take the COVID vaccine.

Major adoption agency shifts direction to allow LGBTQ adoptions

As the Supreme Court gets ready within the next few months to issue a ruling in a case involving an action taken by government against adoption agency that declines to allow same-sex couples to adopt children, a major adoption and foster care agency has announced that it is now participating in LGBTQ adoptions and foster care placement.

Religion News reports this: "Bethany Christian Services, the country’s largest Protestant adoption and foster care agency, will begin serving LGBTQ couples, a significant change for the evangelical outfit and a sign of the growing cultural shift."

Nate Bult, who is a senior vice president for the agency, said: “This decision implements consistent, inclusive practices for LGBTQ families across our organizations,” adding, “We’ve had a patchwork approach for the last few years.”  Religion News points out:
Many faith-based adoption and foster agencies have come under increasing pressure over the past decade as city, state and federal authorities have added LGBTQ non-discrimination policies.

The article points out that Bethany faced that in 2018 in Philadelphia and made the decision to allow same-sex couples to adopt. That city is where Catholic Social Services lost a contract with the city due to its refusal to do adoptions for LGBTQ couples, prompting that Supreme Court case.

New United Methodist denomination makes launch announcement

It has been quite clear that a new denomination would emerge from the United Methodist Church at some point soon - with the cancellation of last year's General Conference, traditionalists within the denomination who continue to affirm the sinfulness of homosexuality, according to Scripture, have decided they want to wait no longer, since the Conference postponed last year is now scheduled for 2022.  WORLD Magazine reported:

Conservative leaders from the United Methodist Church (UMC) on Monday released the logo, website, and mission of the proposed new denomination, the Global Methodist Church. The reveal comes days after the UMC delayed this year’s general conference until August 2022 due to the pandemic. They had planned to consider the schism over LGBT inclusion for the second time during that conference. But supporters of the breakaway wanted a faster process and asked the church to consider the proposal during an online conference on May 8.

A 17-person leadership team is in place, and one of them, Rev. Keith Boyette of Virginia, is quoted in another WORLD article, saying that the team has requested a special one-day conference on May 8 to discuss and perhaps adopt the formation. The article provides this overview:

Global delegates in 2019 voted 438-384 to strengthen the denomination’s official teachings on Biblical human sexuality and gender. The vote rattled liberal clergy, prompting them to negotiate a denominational split with conservative groups early last year, called the “Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace through Separation.” The protocol allows the formation of a new denomination and gives conservative churches and regional bodies $25 million in UMC funds while allowing them to maintain their property and assets.

Boyette said the breakaway is necessary amid “an increasing system of chaos within [the] church” since liberal clergy no longer abide by Methodist doctrine and are performing same-sex weddings, coming out as gay and lesbian from the pulpit, or entering into same-sex unions themselves.

Medical groups issue statement on freedom of conscience on vaccines

As the now three vaccines are being made available to Americans, there are some who object to the vaccines for various reasons, including the use of embryonic stem cell research in the development of them.

And those who object based on conscience are supported by a new statement by the Christian Medical and Dental Associations and three other organizations, including the American College of Pediatricians.  According to a press release...

...the statement recognizes the highest priority is the vaccination of those at greatest medical risk and those directly involved in the care of the sick. It also stresses the need to respect an individual’s right to accept or decline a vaccine. “There is no justifiable moral obligation to accept vaccination,” the statement reads. “If a vaccine has been developed, tested, or produced with technology that an individual deems morally unacceptable, such as the use of abortion-derived fetal cell lines, vaccine refusal is morally acceptable.”
The release also quotes from the statement, which says, “It is long overdue for researchers to abandon the use of abortion-derived cells. When all approved vaccines are fully ethical, from development to production, our physician-led organizations and like-minded Americans will no longer question their use...."

Sunday, February 28, 2021

The 3 - February 28, 2021

This week's edition of The 3 features more recent headlines from the U.S. Supreme Court regarding COVID restrictions, with a recent high court ruling providing relief in one California county.  Also, I have two recent instances of what is called "cancel culture."  Plus, the U.S. House has passed a new bill that grants special rights based on gender identity and sexual orientation.

U.S. Supreme Court grants relief for CA churches from COVID restrictions

Prior to this past weekend, Santa Clara County in California did not allow indoor worship services whatsoever, according to ToddStarnes.com.  But that has changed as the result of a 6-3 ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court that was handed down within the past few days.

There were five churches represented by Pacific Justice Institute that had filed a lawsuit against COVID restrictions in the county - Gateway City Church, The Home Church, The Spectrum Church, Orchard Community Church, and Trinity Bible Church.  Starnes reported on Saturday:

Last week the churches first sought an emergency stay in the Ninth Circuit, but that request was denied by the three-judge panel hearing motions. Lawyers for the churches filed an application for an emergency writ of injunction with Justice Elena Kagan who is assigned to the West Coast for emergency motions.

Starnes noted that "Justice Kagan ordered the County to file a response and then referred the matter to the entire Court which sat in conference today. In a 6-3 decision, the high court granted the relief."

Kagan, along with Sotomayor and Breyer, dissented from the ruling; Starnes notes: "After the Supreme Court’s order, Santa Clara County said indoor worship services immediately would be permitted at 20% capacity but other indoor gatherings would remain prohibited for now."

Cancel culture strikes again: Book removed, TV program pulled

The Daily Mail reports the book was a bestseller.  John Stonestreet at Breakpoint.org stated: "The most recent book banned by Amazon is among the most scholarly and thoroughly researched on the issue of transgenderism. When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment was written by Ryan Anderson, recently named president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center."

The Daily Mail article says:

A spokesman for Encounter Books which publishes 'When Harry Became Sally,' told the Wall Street Journal it had been removed for violating Amazon's content guidelines.

Amazon describes 'offensive content' in its publishing guidelines: 'We don't sell certain content including content that we determine is hate speech, promotes the abuse or sexual exploitation of children, contains pornography, glorifies rape or pedophilia, advocates terrorism, or other material we deem inappropriate or offensive.'

'This harms the entire culture of book authoring, publishing, and reading--as it will have a chilling effect on all aspects of the book market,' Anderson told The Independent.

The Daily Mail reports that four U.S. Senators: Marco Rubio, Mike Braun, Josh Hawley, and Mike Lee have written a letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos "demanding further information." In a statement, the senators said: "'When Harry Became Sally prompted important discussions in the national media and among policymakers in 2018, and remains one of the most rigorously researched and compassionately argued books on this subject...By removing this book from its marketplaces and services, Amazon has unabashedly wielded its outsized market share to silence an important voice merely for the crime of violating woke groupthink."

Meanwhile, D. James Kennedy Ministries has reported that its television program, Truths That Transform, has been removed from the Lifetime television network, according to CBN.com. Dr. Frank Wright, President and CEO of the ministry, was quoted as saying: "Because of Lifetime's newfound ban on so-called 'controversial' content, D. James Kennedy Ministries has been forced off the cable channel—to which we have paid enormous fees since 2017 to air our program...," and said the ministry will not "cave to the cancel culture." CBN reported:

Lifetime told the ministry it would no longer air programming that addressed issues like abortion or left-wing financier George Soros. And it refused to carry any DJKM programming – even broadcasts celebrating George Washington – unless the media ministry founded in 1974 agreed to Lifetime's sweeping new demands.

Equality Act passes U.S. House - again

For the second time, the so-called "Equality Act" has passed the U.S. House of Representatives by a vote of 224 - 206. ChristianHeadlines.com reports that...
The bill would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 – a law that was passed to confront racial discrimination – by adding “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the list of protected classes for public places, education and employment.

The article also outlines these provisions of this sweeping legislation:

It guarantees that individuals cannot be denied access “to a shared facility, including a restroom, a locker room, and a dressing room, that is in accordance with the individual's gender identity.”

It would force schools to allow biological boys who identify as girls to play on girls’ teams.

Controversially, the bill explicitly forbids individuals from using the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 to sue based on claims within the Equality Act. That 1993 law, signed by President Clinton, prevents the government from “substantially burdening a person's exercise of religion.”

ChristianHeadlines.com also points out: "The Senate has never passed the Equality Act. Politico reported it is unlikely to pass that body in its current form."

Monday, February 22, 2021

The 3 - February 21, 2021

In this week's edition of The 3, highlighting three stories of relevance to the Christian community, all the stories are centered around religious liberty, including the case of a Canadian pastor who was placed in jail last week for violations of health orders concerning COVID and church capacity.  Also, the U.S. House will be considering legislation that poses a threat to religious liberty under the guise of preventing discrimination against LGBTQ individuals.  And, a Christian campus organization is getting involved in a lawsuit in which two secularist groups are attempted to overturn a rule from a federal agency that guarantees religious freedom rights of campus organizations.

Canadian pastor jailed for violation of COVID protocols

While people gathered to pray this past Saturday and attended church in perhaps larger numbers than before on Sunday, Pastor James Coates of GraceLife Church in Edmonton, Alberta remained in prison, according to a story on the CTV News Edmonton website.

The site reported: 

The parking lot at the church west of Edmonton appeared to be more full on Feb. 21 than any of the previous Sundays CTV News Edmonton had attended over four weeks.

At one point, people at the gate were overheard telling incomers that the building's total fire code capacity had been reached, encouraging them to watch the livestreamed service outside.

This comes as churches in the province are allowed to meet at no more than 15 percent of capacity.

The article goes on to say that, "On Saturday, supporters said prayers for Coates outside of the correctional facility."  It reports that:

Coates was taken into custody on Feb. 16. He attended a bail hearing and was set to be released on conditions, but kept in custody overnight "after refusing to agree to those conditions," RCMP said.

RCMP is the acronym for Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

Equality Act re-introduced into the House of Representatives

The legislation known as the Equality Act, which is intended to prevent so-called "discrimination" due to gender identity or sexual orientation has been introduced into the U.S. House, and because of the new makeup of the Senate and support of the White House, it stands a greater chance of becoming law.

Family Research Council issued a press release, in which FRC President Tony Perkins, is quoted; it states:

"To wrest special privileges for sexual orientation and gender identity, the so-called Equality Act would eliminate women's privacy and safety, forcing them to share public bathrooms, locker rooms, showers, and even battered women's shelters with biological males. The harms aren't hypothetical; local laws to this effect have already led to a kindergartener being assaulted in her school restroom, a rape survivor being forced to quit her job, and nine women being harassed in a shelter.

"The bill erodes parental rights and positions the government as lord over churches and other faith-based institutions, potentially dictating how their facilities are used, who they hire, and even punishing them for not falling in step with a view of human sexuality that directly contradicts orthodox biblical teaching. No person of faith or religious institution, whether school, church, synagogue, mosque, business, or non-profit, will escape the Orwellian reach of the Equality Act.

Perkins stated, "The bill would bring a catastrophic loss of religious freedom in America...," and Mary Beth Waddell of FRC said, "It could...be the most pro-abortion legislation to pass the House in a decade, dramatically expanding abortion access and jeopardizing long-standing federal conscience laws."

Christian campus group enters lawsuit filed by secular groups

Ratio Christi Apologetics Alliance, which is a Christian apologetics organization that reaches college students, has announced it will join, as a defendant, a lawsuit filed against a U.S. Department of Education by two secularist organizations, American Atheists and Americans United for Separation of Church and State.  A press release states that:
The lawsuit – brought on behalf of the Secular Student Alliance and one California university student – claims that by ensuring that public universities respect the First Amendment rights of religious groups on college campuses and giving them the same benefits as other campus clubs, the Department of Education somehow discriminates against students of other faiths and non-religious students.
Dr. Corey Miller is President/CEO of Ratio Christi and is quoted as saying, "By bringing this lawsuit against the Department of Education rule, American Atheists and Americans United for Separation of Church and State are in effect doing what they claim to oppose – discriminating against the rights of certain religious students. Disagreement is not denigration. Viewpoint diversity supports rather than undermines the goal of the university, which is the pursuit of truth. Free speech presupposes cognitive liberty." The rule, which went into affect in November of last year, according to the press release, "allows club members to choose only leaders who share the same belief and mission of the club."

Monday, February 08, 2021

The 3 - February 7, 2021

This week's edition of The 3, with three stories of relevance to the Christian community, there is news out of the U.S. Supreme Court, which has lowered the level of restrictions being placed on churches due to the COVID pandemic.  Also, Texas was set to eliminate taxpayer funding of Planned Parenthood in the state during the past week, but a judge stepped in and reversed the plan, albeit on a temporary basis. And, an Illinois student that was apparently being forced to attend a program that presented views of sexuality that contradicted her religious beliefs has been granted a reprieve.

U.S. Supreme Court lowers restrictions on indoor worship in CA

The U.S. Supreme Court has provided a measure of relief for beleagured churches in California that have been desiring to meet indoors, but have been prevented from doing so.  Churches can now hold indoor services, but at only 25 percent capacity, as reported by The Christian Post, which reported that, according to Politico, the ruling came in parallel cases filed by two churches.

The Post article quotes from Justice Gorsuch, who wrote, "We are not scientists, but neither may we abandon the field when government officials with experts in tow seek to infringe a constitutionally protected liberty..." His opinion was joined by justices Alito and Thomas. The article says that Chief Justice Roberts, "took a middle path and voted, along with Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett, to lift the ban on indoor worship while retaining the restriction on singing, according to The Wall Street Journal."

Justices Breyer, Kagan, and Sotomayor dissented from lifting the worship ban. 

TX rejects, court reinstates, Planned Parenthood funding

Last week, it looked as if the state of Texas had successfully eliminated funding for Planned Parenthood under its Medicaid program. However, as KVUE Television reported, that was a short-lived occurrence. The television station's website stated:

Just hours after Planned Parenthood filed a lawsuit on the matter, a state district judge in Travis County has temporarily stopped Texas from removing Planned Parenthood from the state's Medicaid program, according to a report from The Texas Tribune.

The report states Judge Maya Guerra Gamble granted the temporary restraining order and set a hearing for Feb. 17.
The outlet said that "The State's order, which was to go into effect Thursday, left Planned Parenthood patients with 30 days to find a new provider..."

IL school administration accommodates student opting out of gender studies class

A student at the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy, senior Marcail McBridge had requested the ability to opt-out of a "Student Gender and Sexuality Program" at the school, and according to Christian law firm First Liberty, "In November, Marcail’s parents notified IMSA leadership that Marcail could not participate in the program because it forces Marcail to violate her religious beliefs. The IMSA leadership repeatedly denied the McBrides’ request and threatened to punish Marcail if she does not participate in the program."  The First Liberty website says that the program "uses sexual language to identify sexual preferences and gender identity."  

First Liberty attorney Keisha Russell said, “Under Illinois law, schools must provide religious accommodations for their students, and they must also honor requests to excuse students from programs with sexual content...Schools should never violate the religious conscience of their students. We hope President Torres ends the school administrators’ clearly unlawful behavior and protects the religious liberty of every student by granting an accommodation to the family.”

The firm wrote a letter to school officials, and they acted promptly - First Liberty's website says:
After receiving a letter from First Liberty Institute, the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy (“IMSA”) reversed its position and approved senior Marcail McBride’s request for a religious accommodation. Instead of completing the school’s Student Gender and Sexuality Program, the school offered her an alternate assignment.

Sunday, January 31, 2021

The 3 - January 31, 2021

This week's edition of The 3, highlighting three stories of relevance to the Christian community, including developments regarding American taxpayers funding abortion at home and abroad. There is also an instance of web censorship that hits close to home, as a publication of a Faith Radio programmer has found itself suspended from Twitter.  And, a California church faces perhaps a million dollars in fines as the result of challenging state lockdowns.

President authorizes funding abortions outside the country, lawmakers introduce bill to prevent it inside the country

The Mexico City policy prevents the United States from funding international abortions, and has been an off-again, on-again proposition, generally, with Presidents who are pro-life upholding the policy and those who are not, reversing it.

Such was the case this past week when President Joe Biden signed an executive order that ends the policy temporarily - of course, Congress would have to enact legislation to permanently make it U.S. law, which is highly unlikely due to the number of lawmakers who are beholden to the abortion industry and support the taking of unborn life in America, as well as around the world.

CBN.com quoted Jeanne Mancini of the March for Life, which was held virtually last Friday; she said: "Rescinding the Mexico City Policy on the eve of the March for Life is a deeply disturbing move, especially when the president says he wants national unity...The government should never force taxpayers to fund abortions, either here or abroad, but should work to protect the inherent dignity of all persons, born and unborn."

Meanwhile, Sen. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee has joined with other pro-life members of the U.S. Senate to sponsor a bill that would prevent taxpayer dollars from funding abortion through Title X. A press release from her office quotes the Senator: “We must close loopholes that allow for abortion giants like Planned Parenthood to receive federal funding...This legislation will help end taxpayer funded support for the abortion industry and protect the unborn.”  It is certainly a longshot on passage, but it does raise awareness of taxpayer funding being used to take human life.

Major Christian ministry banned from Twitter over transgender comments

The Focus on the Family website, The Daily Citizen, was banned from Twitter recently due to a tweet regarding an appointment by the President, Rachel Levine, who will serve as Assistant Secretary of Health.  The website stated that:

This Daily Citizen tweet linked to an article, which mainly questioned Levine’s suitability for the job because of previous actions as the Secretary of Health in Pennsylvania. Twitter censors alleged that our factual post, stating that a “transgender woman” is a man who believes he is a woman, somehow promoted violence against, threatened or harassed other people.

An organization launched by Focus on the Family, Family Policy Alliance, made this tweet available:

CENSORSHIP ALERT: Twitter banned @FocusCitizen from their platform. The crime? A tweet which identified Asst. Health Sec. Rachel Levine as a biological male. If stating the facts gets you banned, none of us belong here. @Twitter, we’re wondering: #AreWeNext? RT to speak out!

Focus President Jim Daly, in a blog post, stated:

As we noted to Twitter in our appeal (we have since been denied), we were deeply puzzled as to why we’re not permitted to simply acknowledge the definition of what transgender women are – those born male who believe they are a woman, regardless of whether they have had opposite-sex hormones or surgeries.

The article itself had absolutely nothing to do with Dr. Levine’s “trans” identification. It had to do with his fitness for the job based on his previous record.

California church could face over a million dollars in fines, but apparently no jail time

Throughout California, churches have challenged the severe lockdowns throughout the Golden State, which have disrupted the ability of churches to fulfill their missions.  One of them is Calvary Chapel San Jose, which has been holding indoor services in violation of COVID regulations; ChristianHeadlines.com reported on some recent developments:

Attorney Robert Tyler, who is representing Calvary Chapel San Jose and its pastor, Mike McClure, said after a court hearing that the judge said Santa Clara County is “only looking for monetary sanctions” and does not want to place McClure or any other pastors in jail.

“Thank God,” Tyler said. “... That’s off the table.”

According to ABC7, linked to the Christian Headlines article, this case was heard by a county court judge. 

Well, that's good - what's not good is the amount of money that could be used to do ministry work that could be paid to the state. The article says that "Calvary Chapel faces more than $1 million in fines, although Tyler and other supporters of the church hope the court will side with the congregation and rule the fines don’t have to be paid."

Monday, January 25, 2021

The 3 - January 24, 2021

On this week's edition of The 3, highlighting three stories of relevance to the Christian community, I provide some information with regard to the new Administration's views and actions regarding so-called "transgender rights."  Also, there was a positive court ruling recently that protects conscience rights of those in the medical field who do not wish to participate in gender reassignment procedures. And, an Idaho pastor who had been arrested during a local "psalm sing" sponsored by his church for violating COVID regulations has been released from charges.

Gender identity and sexual orientation "rights" front and center in new Administration

There have been concerns for years about granting special considerations for people based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.  The rhetoric in the Presidential campaign indicated that the Biden Administration would be supportive of these special so-called "rights."

Through Executive Orders issued last week, the President showed the direction that he would like to head on gender issues. One of those orders reversed the standing position on allowing males to play female sports and to share bathroom and locker room facilities. The Federalist reported:

President Joe Biden issued an executive order on his first day in office, mandating that any schools that receive federal funding must function as if biological males who claim to be females are the same, and vice versa, or risk losing that funding. This pro-transgender policy extends to male athletes who claim their gender identity as a female should allow them to compete on women’s teams, receive women’s scholarships, and be admitted in women’s locker rooms.

This homogenization of genders extends to a new rule for federal agencies changing the definition of the word, "sex." National Religious Broadcasters called attention to it, saying...

...This executive order directly targets people of faith and religious organizations. Under this order, all federal agencies are required to include “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” in their definitions of sex regarding any policy that opposes sex discrimination.

Tony Perkins of Family Research Council is quoted in the article, saying: "...President Joe Biden has turned 50-year-old civil rights legislation on its head, hollowing out protections for people of faith. President Biden is unilaterally enacting a sweeping policy change that has routinely failed to win the approval of Congress, the body the Constitution tasks with actually passing laws.”

Court decision helps protect conscience rights of medical professionals faced with gender-related procedures

There was some good news recently in the gender arena: a Federal district court in North Dakota issued a ruling temporarily upholding conscience rights for professionals in the medical field.  According to a CBN.com article, "A federal court in North Dakota has struck down a directive known as the 'Transgender Mandate' that required medical professionals and religious healthcare providers to perform gender transition procedures on patients - including children - even when the measure violates their beliefs."

Luke Goodrich, senior counsel at Becket, which filed the lawsuit back in 2016, stated, "The court's decision recognizes our medical heroes' right to practice medicine in line with their conscience and without politically motivated interference from government bureaucrats."

Ryan Anderson, now the head of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, noted, "The cultural moment in which we're living suggests that there's only one allowed conclusion to this question...And the only allowed conclusion is that (gender) transition is the best solution. The biggest data set shows that there's no benefits, psychological benefits, to patients of hormonal and surgical transition."

Idaho pastor arrested for singing outdoors released from charges

Back in September, a church in Moscow, Idaho held a "psalm sing."  It was outdoors and it was unclear, apparently, what COVID restrictions might have been in place.  Nevertheless, three people, including a local pastor and podcast co-host, Gabriel Rench, were arrested.  He is quoted in a Christian Post article:

“We had done the Psalm sing in the past under the same [mask] resolution and we weren’t arrested, we weren’t warned … we were just taking our constitutional liberties to do what we’re allowed to do under the Constitution — worship..."
He said that it looked as if local law enforcement was attempting to "make an example" of the church's "opposition" to COVID laws. 

Thomas More Society Special Counsel Michael Jacques noted, on behalf of Christ Church: "The Moscow City Code allows the Mayor to issue public health emergency orders, but exempts ‘[a]ny and all expressive and associative activity that is protected by the United States and Idaho Constitutions, including speech, press, assembly, and/or religious activity,’” adding, “Mr. Rench and the other worshipers who were arrested had their constitutionally protected liberties violated and their lives disrupted — not only by the inappropriate actions of law enforcement officers, but also by city officials who did not immediately act to correct this unlawful arrest.”

Monday, January 18, 2021

The 3 - January 17, 2021

In this week's edition of The 3, highlighting three stories of relevance to the Christian community, there is a development involving a Western-state governor who has been instructed by the Supreme Court to respond to an appeals court ruling on COVID restrictions in his state.  Also, a Midwestern state has become the first state in the Union that no longer offers abortions.  And, a large organization of Christian broadcasters, while lamenting the violence at the U.S. Capitol, is also criticizing the attempt by tech companies to limit the speech of Christian organizations.

U.S. Supreme Court requests response from NV governor regarding COVID-19 restrictions

Coming in the shadow of its ruling in the Brooklyn v. Cuomo case just before Thanksgiving, which reversed restrictions on worship gatherings in New York state, the U.S. Supreme Court has requested a response from the governor of Nevada, Steve Sisolak, to answer for restrictions in his state.

The Christian Post reports that, "The Lyon County-based Calvary Chapel Dayton Valley has been engaged in a lengthy legal battle with Gov. Steve Sisolak..., Attorney General Aaron Ford, and Lyon County Sheriff Frank Hunewill over worship restrictions imposed in the state as a result of the novel coronavirus pandemic," adding:

The most recent development in the case came in December, when the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down restrictions that prevented the church from holding in-person worship services with more than 50 people in attendance.

The appeals court made reference to the Brooklyn decision and "reversed a lower court decision upholding the restrictions. As a result of the ruling, the church could hold in-person worship at 25% capacity."

Attorneys for the Alliance Defending Freedom, representing the church, said: "After concluding that the Nevada governor treats places of worship less favorably than many secular entities, the court of appeals granted a preliminary injunction allowing Calvary Chapel to meet at a 25% capacity limit, the same as casinos, museums, and some others in the governor’s most recent order … That was error...”

"Show-Me State" sets example on abortion

During this week in which the anniversary of Roe v. Wade is commemorated, there is good pro-life news out of the state of Missouri, which is now the first abortion-free state in the United States, according to Liberty Counsel, which reports that: 

On May 17, 2019, Missouri passed a law that made abortions illegal after eight weeks of pregnancy, with no exceptions for cases of rape or incest.

According to “The Status of American Abortion Facilities in 2020,” a year-end report by Operation Rescue, “Reproductive Health Services Planned Parenthood in St. Louis was the last abortion facility in Missouri.” Despite still remaining open, the report confirmed of “no abortion appointments” being made available at the facility “for months, and none are available anytime in the foreseeable future.”

The article notes that ten states saw a reduction in the number of abortion facilities, while thirteen states, including Alabama, which has a new Planned Parenthood clinic in Birmingham, saw an increase.

Large consortium of religious broadcasters laments censorship

There is widespread condemnation of the lawlessness and violence at the U.S. Capitol recently, but there has also been criticism of the use of that event to censor speech, including religious speech.  National Religious Broadcasters, of which Faith Radio is a member, echoed that sentiment, with CEO Troy Miller rightly saying, "We are shocked and grieved by the violence that took place at the U.S. Capitol. These acts do not represent the character of Christianity or the civility for which America stands."

But, he said, "we are concerned by the growing power of Big Tech and the ability of unelected, unaccountable moderators to control the flow of information based solely on their own interpretations or loosely defined standards." In defending religious organizations who have found themselves being condemned due to incorrect perceptions, Miller says, "Many of our member organizations are dependent on social media and other digital platforms to effectively share the Gospel and continue their work. We have already seen numerous examples of Christian ministries being labeled as 'hate groups' and subsequently being denied access to tech platforms, leaving them unable to fundraise, livestream events, or communicate effectively."

Miller said that NRB is in favor of reforms that would create a "fair and transparent process for moderation."

Monday, January 11, 2021

The 3 - January 10, 2021

The 3 returns this week, with three stories of relevance to the Christian community.  The U.S. Supreme Court has announced it will hear a case out of California, where officials are attempting to force a non-profit organization to reveal information about its donors.  Also, Southern Baptist leaders held a meeting recently dealing with how best to approach race relations within the denomination.  And, a well-known evangelist is calling for healing among political leaders in light of unrest in the nation's capital last week.

High court to hear case of donor privacy

The Thomas More Society is a non-profit organization that is based in Michigan, but it has donors from California, and the state's Attorney General would like to force the Society to declare who its donors are. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, according to Alliance Defending Freedom, "ruled that the organization—and all other nonprofits who solicit donations in California—must disclose the names and addresses of major donors to the California attorney general on an annual basis."  The U.S. Supreme Court has announced it will hear the appeal of the case.

ADF, in another article on its website, says that the Society "defends and promotes religious freedom, moral and family values, and the sanctity of human life—issues that can be quite contentious in our current social climate."

Alliance Defending Freedom says that, "The 9th Circuit’s ruling reversed a district court’s decision, which found following a trial that the California attorney general’s office has no compelling need for the information and has historically handled it with great negligence." ADF Senior Counsel and Vice President of Appellate Advocacy John Bursch stated, “Every American should be free to support causes they believe in without fear of harassment or intimidation,” and added, “The fact that California leaks confidential records like a sieve makes mandatory disclosure of sensitive information especially dangerous for donors and employees of nonprofits like Thomas More Law Center, who have faced intimidation, death threats, hate mail, boycotts, and even assassination attempts from ideological opponents."

Southern Baptist leaders meet to discuss approaches to dealing with racism

The Southern Baptist Convention has been forthright in opposing racism in it midst, and despite growth in the diverse makeup, there has still been disagreement in how to best move forward.  A recent Baptist Press article says:
In the last three decades, while attempting to reckon with racism and race relations, the SBC has grown in diversity. Messengers to the 1995 SBC Annual Meeting issued a resolution on racial reconciliation, acknowledging the role of slavery in its founding, denouncing racism “as deplorable sin, apologizing “to all African Americans for condoning and/or perpetuating individual and systemic racism,” repenting and asking forgiveness.

CRT/Intersectionality rose as a controversial issue in the SBC with the passage at the 2019 SBC Annual Meeting of a resolution that affirmed the sufficiency and supremacy of Scripture and rejected the embrace of CRT as a worldview, while suggesting it “should only be employed as analytical tools subordinate to Scripture.”

A group of six Southern Baptist seminary leaders issued, in late November, a statement, according to the article...

...reaffirming “with eagerness” the Baptist Faith and Message 2000. The seminary presidents’ statement said while condemning “racism in any form,” they agree that “affirmation of Critical Race Theory, Intersectionality and any version of Critical Theory is incompatible with the Baptist Faith & Message.”
The article reports that "the statement was criticized by many Black pastors, who said it minimized the existence of systemic racism." SBC First Vice-President Marshall Ausberry, who leads the National African American Fellowship of the SBC, voiced his concern, and other Black leaders in the convention did the same. Some African-American leaders left the Convention. 

Ronnie Floyd, President and CEO of the Executive Committee of the Convention, called a meeting recently, and Baptist Press reports: 
A multi-ethnic group of Southern Baptist leaders described a meeting Wednesday (Jan. 6) as productive and trust-building, saying although they did not agree on all points, they were committed together to fighting racism and to honoring “our common commitment to the inerrant Word of God and the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”

A statement released by the participants included, in part, these words:

All of us acknowledge that conversations of this nature should have happened ahead of time. The Council of Seminary Presidents regrets the pain and confusion that resulted from a lack of prior dialogue. Together, all of us are committed to condemn and fight racism in every form, personal and structural, in consistency with the 1995 SBC Resolution on Racial Reconciliation and the Baptist Faith and Message. We commit to work together to serve the cause of and to further the work of the Southern Baptist Convention. We will continue these conversations. We are committed to listen to one another, speak honestly and to honor our common commitment to the inerrant Word of God and the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Evangelist calls for healing

Well-known Christian evangelist Franklin Graham is calling for healing in the aftermath of the violence that occurred at the U.S. Capitol this past week.  The Christian Post reported over the weekend that:
Referring to President Donald Trump’s speech calling for “healing and reconciliation,” evangelist Franklin Graham urged the commander in chief to invite President-elect Joe Biden, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and their spouses to the White House “to begin the healing and preparation for a smooth transition.”

“Thank you President Donald J. Trump for your conciliatory words to the nation last night,” Graham, who heads Samaritan’s Purse and Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, wrote on Facebook.

Just days earlier, the evangelist had stated, according to Faithwire: "The division in our country is as great as any time since the Civil War,” wrote Graham, president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association as well as its charitable arm, Samaritan’s Purse. “I am calling on Christians to unite our hearts together in prayer for President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, and for the leadership in both parties.”

“Pray that everyone will stop the finger-pointing and realize that both parties bear responsibility for the problems we face today,” he continued. “Pray that they will come together and work together for the good of the American people.”

Graham said that he was "deeply saddened" about the events at the Capitol and stated, "Our country is in trouble,” adding, “We need God’s healing and we need God’s help. Pray for peace and the protection of our nation. Let’s come together — on our knees.”

Friday, December 25, 2020

The 3 - December 27, 2020

The final installment of The 3 for the year 2020 includes a group of Ohio Christian schools that were shut down by local health officials due to COVID-19.  Also, pro-life bills out of Arkansas were upheld by a panel of a federal appeals court, but a lower court judge stopped them on the same day they had taken effect. And, Big Tech is facing further pushback due to censorship concerns, and a major Christian broadcasters group is supporting Senate efforts to force accountability for social media platforms.

More COVID action against Christian schools

As we continue to follow the case of a Christian school in Kentucky that was temporarily closed due to the state's governor's COVID restrictions, a case turned back by the U.S. Supreme Court because schools in the state are due to reopen Jan. 4 when classes are scheduled to resume, there is a case out of Ohio involving a group of Christian schools threatened by coronavirus orders. 

ChristianHeadlines.com reports that...

...a group of Ohio-based Christian schools filed a lawsuit against the Toledo-Lucas County Health Department (TLCHD) after it ordered the schools to close their physical locations for six weeks in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19.

According to CBN News, the Ohio Christian Education Network (OCEN) and three Christian Schools accuse the order of being unconstitutional. They added that the health department ignores medical data showing that schools are safe for children.
The head of the organization that operates the schools, Aaron Baer, said, "First Amendment freedoms don't go on a holiday break," adding, "The Lucas County Health Department has not only violated the religious liberty rights of Christian schools and students by denying them the right to provide religious instruction, but they've threatened the futures and mental health of Lucas County students." Baer added: "Despite all the medical evidence and experts that continue to say one of the safest places for children to be is in school, Lucas County has taken aggressive action to deny children the right to in-person education,” adding, “Meanwhile, they've let casinos, strip clubs, liquor stores, and concerts continue."

Federal appeals court allows pro-life laws in Arkansas to stand, only to be blocked again

A three-judge panel of U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit had allowed an assortment of  Arkansas laws with abortion-related provisions to stand. The Christian Post reported that the pro-life laws "ban dismemberment abortions, require doctors to inform law enforcement when a girl younger than 16 obtains an abortion, prohibit abortions based on the sex of the unborn baby, and regulate the preservation and disposal of unborn babies’ tissue."

The A.C.L.U. and Center for Reproductive Rights had challenged the provisions in court, and after a lower court ruling had disallowed the laws, the Eighth Circuit set aside the lower court decision.  The challengers had asked for a review by the full court, but that was turned back, paving the way for the provisions to take effect. 

The article says:

In a statement to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Stephanie Sharp, a spokesperson for Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, expressed support for the court ruling: “This is another win validating the pro-life laws in Arkansas.”

The Eighth Circuit’s ruling comes as Americans United for Life has recognized Arkansas as the most pro-life state in the Union. On Wednesday, the pro-life group released its “Life List 2021,” an “annual state ranking based on our comprehensive analysis of each state’s law and policy protections for human life from natural conception until natural death.”

“It is an incredible day in the state of Arkansas to be named the most pro-life state in America by Americans United for Life,” Rutledge said in response to the news.

And, the original federal judge who had put a halt to those laws before, on the same day, last Tuesday, the laws were supposed to take effect, blocked them again, according to the Democrat-Gazette.

Big Tech under fire

Accountability for Big Tech companies is the focus of a bill introduced recently into the U.S. Senate, according to the National Religious Broadcasters website, which says the bill, "the Promoting Responsibility Over Moderation In the Social Media Environment (PROMISE) Act," "is designed to hold Big Tech companies accountable for their promises to not operate their social media platforms with political bias..."

NRB supports the PROMISE Act, and CEO Troy Miller stated, "...We look forward to engaging these conversations in Congress and with the tech community as we seek to advocate for the free speech rights of our members."

In related news, President Trump has vetoed a defense authorization bill because it did not end Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which, according to CNBC, "protects tech giants such as Facebook and Twitter from being held legally liable for what is posted on their platforms."  The Senate and House will consider votes to override the Presidential veto this week, but one key senator, Lindsey Graham, in a Tweet posted in the CNBC article, said he would not vote to override as long as there is no action taken to reduce or eliminate Section 230. Graham has introduced legislation that would end Section 230 by the beginning of 2023.

The President termed the overall bill a "gift" to China and Russia.

Sunday, December 20, 2020

The 3 - December 20, 2020

On this week's edition of The 3, there are new developments out of the U.S. Supreme Court regarding restrictions on religious organizations due to the coronavirus, with two ruling that are favorable toward houses of worship.  There has been another kidnapping by a terrorist organization in Nigeria. And, there is yet another pro-life action taken by the White House, this time regarding conscience protection. 

U.S. Supreme Court issues ruling supporting houses of worship

Early on in the COVID crisis, the U.S. Supreme Court seemed to have not been sympathetic to the concern of churches and ministries who challenged the restrictions placed upon them by seemingly overzealous state leaders.  Now the tide may have shifted.

The Christian Post reports that there were two decisions handed down by the high court recently. In one, the court, according to the article, the court "...issued an order in the case of Robinson v. Murphy vacating an order from Oct. 2 by a district court in New Jersey against a Catholic priest and a Jewish rabbi who sued the state over worship gathering restrictions."

In another, the court "...issued a separate order in the case of High Plains Harvest Church v. Polis, in which a Colorado church challenged the restrictions in that state." The court set aside an August order against the church, but Justice Kagan dissented because she felt the order was moot because Colorado has removed its restrictions on churches.

These orders took their cues from Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn v. Cuomo, the 5-4 decision from just before Thanksgiving, "which centered on New York state restrictions on worship gatherings."

Apparently, this decision has had a ripple effect; KTLA Television reported that: "Los Angeles County health officials reversed a ban on indoor religious gatherings Saturday after the Supreme Court sided with a Southern California church in its challenge to state coronavirus rules."  Health officials said: “Places of worship are permitted to offer faith-based services both indoors and outdoors with mandatory physical distancing and face coverings over both the nose and mouth that must be worn at all times while on site..."

And, the 9th Circuit issued a ruling against Nevada governor Steve Sisolak, which, according to Alliance Defending Freedom, negated Sisolak's "coronavirus restrictions that treat churches more harshly than other venues, such as casinos."

Boko Haram in Nigeria abducts hundreds of students

The terrorist group Boko Haram, which is centered in the African nation of Nigeria, has become known for its brutal activities. WORLD Magazine reported on December 15 that:
More than 330 schoolboys went missing in Katsina state, Nigeria, after gunmen attacked their school on Friday night. On Tuesday, Boko Haram terrorists in an unverified audio message claimed responsibility for abducting hundreds of students, according to the Daily Nigerian.\

A spokesman for Nigeria's president said that officials are "negotiating" with the attackers. The article says that "Katsina Gov. Aminu Masari said security agencies 'deployed for rescue operations have also informed us that they have located their positions.'"  Boko Haram is the same organization that kidnapped 276 girls in Chibok, Nigeria in 2014.

Trump Administration issues order to protect freedom of conscience

Even though there continues to be uncertainty regarding the 2020 Presidential election; nevertheless, the Trump Administration has continued to reinforce its support for the sanctity of life.

At a "Life is Winning" event at the White House last week, which featured Vice President Mike Pence, it was announced that, according to the Susan B. Anthony List, that...

...the Trump administration unveiled steps that the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services and the U.S. Department of Justice are taking to enforce federal conscience protection laws, known as the Weldon and Church amendments, by holding California and Vermont officials accountable for anti-life discrimination.

So what happened in those two states?  The SBA List website says that:

Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced it would take action against California for violating the Weldon Amendment, longstanding federal law that prohibits discrimination against organizations that do not cover abortion in their health care plans.
In Vermont, "the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at HHS announced it would take steps to bring University of Vermont Medical Center into compliance with federal law in the case of a nurse who was forced to assist in an elective abortion."

SBA List President Marjorie Dannenfelser said, in part, "Federal conscience laws are more essential than ever," adding that some "states have tried to force health care professionals and entities, like nurses and insurance providers, to participate in abortion. Abortion is not health care; it is the destruction of innocent human life."

Sunday, December 13, 2020

The 3 - December 13, 2020

This week's edition of The 3, highlighting three stories of relevance to the Christian community, features news of a new breakaway denomination started by former members of the United Methodist Church.  Plus, one governor had harsh words for churches in announcing new COVID restrictions, while another governor deemed worship to be "essential."  And, a bill has been introduced into the U.S. House that would prevent biological males from competing in girls' or women's sports. 

Progressives from United Methodist Church decide not to wait on General Conference, form new denomination

It was set to go down this past spring, with delegates from the United Methodist church formally sealing an arrangement in which the traditionalists in the denomination, who uphold the Bible's teachings on homosexuality, would formally separate from those who would endorse same-sex marriage and the ordination of gay clergy.  But, COVID took care of that, and it seems that the deal will not be confirmed until perhaps Fall of 2021 in a rescheduled United Methodist General Assembly.

But, some of the more so-called "progressives" in the Church have decided they can no longer wait for these changes to occur, so the Progressive Methodist Connexion (with an "x") has been born. ReligionNews.com states:

The Liberation Methodist Connexion describes itself on its website as “a grassroots denomination of former, current, and non-Methodist faith leaders working on the unfolding of the kin-dom of God.”

The article says that Connexion, or LMX...

...seeks to embrace the “full participation of all who are living out their God-given identities and expressions,” according to the site. That includes people of all gender expressions and sexual identities, races and ethnicities, mental and physical abilities, sizes and ages.

Religion News also says that:

Correct doctrine is less important to the new denomination than correct action, collaborators said during Sunday’s presentation. That action includes reparations, caring for the earth, and finding new ways to live together outside of systems like colonialism, white supremacy, patriarchy, clericalism and heteronormativity, they said.

Churches and COVID roundup: Virginia governor critical of churches during COVID, Colorado governor acknowledges churches are essential, California officials levy large fine on San Jose church

When a state governor is announcing his intent to clamp down on churches exercising their religious freedom, the last thing you need is for that official to try to give you a sermon telling you why you're wrong.  Such is the case with Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, who stated, according to Family Research Council:

"This is a holy time for multiple faith traditions," Northam said at his press conference on Thursday. "But this year, we need to think about what is truly the most important thing. Is it the worship or the building? For me, God is wherever you are. You don't have to sit in the church pew for God to hear your prayers," Northam said. "Worship with a mask on is still worship. Worship outside or worship online is still worship."

But, as much as he might have liked to, Northam cannot slap churches with restrictions, based on a Supreme Court decision. Brietbart states:

Northam conceded that he could not legally limit in-person worship ceremonies, noting that the recent Supreme Court decision against the state of New York prevented him from doing that.

But he blamed churches for contributing to the spread of the virus, noting that some houses of worship were not social distancing or wearing masks.

“I have heard reports. They don’t use distancing inside the church. They are not wearing masks. Quite frankly we know that a lot of the spread is coming from this,” he said.
FRC questions that allegation, stating: "No one knows quite how Northam arrived at that conclusion since most of the contact tracing -- at least in overwhelmed cities like El Paso -- has led back to big box stores like Walmart or Costco. If anything, churches have been some of the safest indoor spaces, as pastors go to great lengths -- and expense -- to keep parishioners safe." It also reported on a situation out of California:
While Northam resorts to public pressure, other states are stubbornly slapping churches with outrageous citations. In San Jose, Calvary Christian Fellowship was hit with more than $55,000 fines for meeting indoors. Earlier this week, Pastor Mike McClure was found in contempt of court for exercising his congregation's First Amendment rights.
But there is good news: Liberty Counsel reports that: "Governor Jared Polis has finally dropped Colorado’s COVID unconstitutional limits on religious gatherings and declared that houses of worship are essential and removed attendance caps on worship effective Monday, December 7, at 5:00 PM MT." The statement is linked to the website of the Colorado Department of Public Health, that says:
Worship and ceremonies such as weddings and funerals are classified as essential. This means that they must do their best to follow public health recommendations but may exceed recommended capacity caps if they cannot conduct their essential activity within those restrictions. They still must require masks indoors and other prevention measures like 6 foot spacing between members of different households and appropriate sanitation. Outdoor activities are still strongly preferred.

Bill to ban biological males from participating in female sports in schools introduced into U.S. House

FoxNews.com reported that outgoing Democratic U.S. Representative Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii and Republican colleague, Representative Markwayne Mullin of Oklahoma "...introduced a bill to Congress Thursday that would 'protect women’s sports' based on participants’ biological sex." The report went 
on to say that:

Title IX protects individuals from discrimination based on sex in educational programs or activities that receive federal funding.

Gabbard said the legislation does not discriminate against anyone, rather it “protects the rights of biological females competing in sports against having to compete against biological men who identify as female. It’s not a level playing field. And it’s mind-boggling how quickly people attack those whose positions are based on science and common sense.”

National Review states:

The bill follows a series of court cases and state laws over the past year concerning the issue of transgender women who wish to participate in women’s sports programs. In particular, three female Connecticut high school track athletes have sued the state’s education department to prevent biological males from competing in women’s track competitions.
That story notes that: "There have been attempts in several states to bar biological men from participating in women’s sports through legislation, including Idaho and Arizona. In August, a federal judge issued a temporary injunction on Idaho’s bill on the issue."

Gabbard, by the way, as FoxNews.com reported, "...also introduced a bill mandating care for babies who survive abortions."

Sunday, December 06, 2020

The 3 - December 6, 2020

COVID and the courts is the general topic for two of this week's three stories in The 3, with the U.S. Supreme Court's decision from last week against the Governor of New York's restrictions being deemed unconstitutional now having implications in a case out of California.  Plus, Kentucky's governor is trying to force religious K-12 schools in the state to close due to COVID.  And, a Michigan funeral home has agreed to pay a quarter of a million dollars to the estate of a former transgender employee which it terminated.

Supreme Court gets involved in CA COVID restrictions

The recent decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to override restrictions on religious activity in New York state due to COVID has had implications in California, as Liberty Counsel reports that the high court has agreed to hear the case of two California churches; it also "vacated the lower court orders involving the emergency petition of the churches, and directed the district court to reconsider in light of the High Court’s decision in granting an injunction for churches and synagogues in New York."

The Christian legal organization announced on Friday that, "...Harvest Rock Church and Harvest International Ministry filed a renewed motion for temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction to the federal district court of California regarding Governor Gavin Newsom’s unconstitutional orders..." and pointed out that:

Though both the district court and the Ninth Circuit have previously denied the churches’ requests for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction, and for injunctions pending appeal, the Supreme Court has now vacated all of those previous denials and instructed this court to reconsider its previous rulings in light of the High Court’s decision on behalf of New York City synagogues and Roman Catholic churches in Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn v. Cuomo and Agudath Israel v. Cuomo.

The "Cuomo" referred to is New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who was on the losing end of the Supreme Court's 5-4 decision, in which the Court, according to Liberty Counsel, "ruled that New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s 'very severe' limitations on church attendance in the state’s COVID red and orange zones violate the First Amendment right to free exercise of religion and are not the least restrictive means of preventing infections.  The organization points out, "However, the restrictions against places of worship in California are more severe than those in New York. Governor Gavin Newsom’s orders ban ALL in-person worship for 99.1 percent of Californians."

KY governor attempts to close K-12 religious schools in the state

Meanwhile, the Governor of Kentucky, Andy Beshear, is attempting to shutter private religious schools it the state under his COVID regulations. First Liberty reports that Beshear had issued an "executive order prohibiting private religious schools from holding in-person classes for grades K-12."

The organization's website says that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, also of Kentucky, led 38 U.S. Senators who filed a friend-of-the-court brief with the U.S. Supreme Court "supporting an application urging the Justices to reverse a lower court ruling that upheld" the governor's order.

Here is the timeline of what has transpired in the case, from First Liberty's website on November 30:

On November 18, 2020, Governor Andrew Beshear ordered all “public and private elementary, middle, and high schools,” including religious schools, to cease in-person instruction, while allowing other activities with comparable health risks such as theaters, weddings, bowling alleys, and offices, to remain in-person with restrictions. Pre-schools, universities, and colleges are also permitted to hold in-person instruction. On November 25, the district court granted a preliminary injunction prohibiting the Governor “from enforcing the prohibition on in-person instruction with respect to any religious private school in Kentucky that adheres to applicable social distancing and hygiene guidelines.” Over the weekend, a panel of the Sixth Circuit stayed the district court’s injunction, allowing the Governor’s order to take effect.

Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron, along with First Liberty, asked the high court to "vacate" the Sixth Circuit's action, supported by those 38 senators.

Funeral home in Michigan settles with estate of former transgender employee

The U.S. Supreme Court decision in what is known as the Bostock case, in which the justices issued a 6-3 ruling in favor of three transgender employees at three different companies who claimed they had been terminated because of their "sexual orientation," according to The Christian Post, has proven to be costly for one of the defendants, the R.G. and G.R. Harris Funeral Homes.

The Post reports that the funeral home company, which is located in Michigan, "has agreed to pay $250,000, as part of a legal settlement, to the estate of trans-identified individual that the company fired."  The article says that Harris had fired Anthony Stephens, a biological male who began to identify as "Aimee", "who began dressing as a woman and underwent gender transition to become Aimee. The funeral home had cited their religious objections to transgender ideology as justification for the termination."

The Christian Post stated, regarding the court case: "Justice Neil Gorsuch authored the majority opinion, concluding that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 does apply to sexual orientation and gender identity, even though neither category is specifically mentioned by the law or that Congress had originally intended for that interpretation." Peter Sprigg of Family Research Council said, "We are disappointed the Supreme Court chose to radically re-write the statute by expanding its meaning to cover 'gender identity' and 'sexual orientation'..."

Monday, November 30, 2020

The 3 - November 29, 2020

Two ongoing stories: COVID-19 and election challenges, have a presence in this week's edition of The 3, featuring three stories of relevance to the Christian community.  The U.S. Supreme Court has struck down COVID-19 regulations in the state of New York which treated religious gatherings differently than retail activities.  And, a number of Christian leaders have continued to call for ongoing challenges to the election of 2020 to be explored through legal channels.  Plus, a Tennessee abortion ban centered on Down Syndrome children, as well as decisions regarding race and gender, has been upheld temporarily by a Federal appeals court.

High court overturns New York regulations on COVID disproportionately affecting houses of worship

“Members of this Court are not public health experts, and we should respect the judgment of those with special expertise and responsibility in this area. But even in a pandemic, the Constitution cannot be put away and forgotten..." Those are words contained within the U.S. Supreme Court's 5-4 ruling against COVID restrictions that had been put into place by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, according to a report on The Christian Post website.

Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn and Agudath Israel of America had sued the governor, according to the article, because of "his executive order limiting worship gatherings to 10 people for those in red zones and 25 for those in orange zones." The Christian Post relates that, "The court said that the are likely to succeed in their arguments that the restrictions violate the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment and that they would cause irreparable harm."

The Supreme Court also said, as the article notes, "The restrictions at issue here, by effectively barring many from attending religious services, strike at the very heart of the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious liberty.”

Justice Neil Gorsuch was very direct in his critique of the governor's actions, writing, according to the story, “the only explanation for treating religious places differently seems to be a judgment that what happens there just isn’t as ‘essential’ as what happens in secular spaces.” Gorsuch also said: “Indeed, the Governor is remarkably frank about this: In his judgment laundry and liquor, travel and tools, are all 'essential' while traditional religious exercises are not. That is exactly the kind of discrimination the First Amendment forbids..."

Christian leaders continue to stress importance of counting legal votes in election

The Facebook Live gatherings called the Global Prayer for U.S. Election Integrity have been continuing on a periodic basis since the day after the Election, with the first one actually announced by organizer Jim Garlow on The Meeting House that day.  Another installment occurred Sunday night.

Christian leaders were part of a statement issued Monday, November 23, about which The Daily Signal states: 

Members of the Conservative Action Project—a coalition of American political, economic, and social activists—say they are standing with those refusing to allow the election to conclude “until every legal vote has been counted.”

Among Christian leaders who signed the statement were: Gary Bauer of American Values, Calvin Beisner of the Cornwall Alliance, Marjorie Dannenfelser of the Susan B. Anthony List, former U.S. Senator Jim DeMint of the Conservative Partnership Institute, Kelly Monroe Kullberg of the American Association of Evangelicals, Marc Little of the Center for Urban Renewal and Education, or CURE, Penny Nance of Concerned Women for America, Tony Perkins and Jerry Boykin of the Family Research Council, as well as Ken Blackwell, who serves with FRC and is listed on the letter as being with Constitutional Congress, Inc.  Other signers included: Kelly Shackelford of First Liberty, Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel, and Frank Wright of D. James Kennedy Ministries, who also serves as Treasurer of National Religious Broadcasters.  

The statement from the Project, headed by former U.S. Attorney General, Edwin Meese, also included these words:

Ours is a government of laws. Included in those laws are the processes by which elections at every level of government are conducted. The purpose of subjecting the election process to a legal regime is to ensure that results are, and are accepted as, just and accurate. This system works and all Americans should trust it. But, it must be allowed to fully work.

And, recently, an initiative called the Jericho March announced a national gathering in Washington on Saturday, December 12. This is related to events that have been taking place at state capitols. One of the organizers, Arina Grossu, told CBN: "God was calling us to set up these marches and help mobilize our people – saints and patriots – out around their state capitols, especially in the swing states." She added, "We wanted to encourage people to go and peacefully pray, protest and march around their state capitol seven times every single day at noon in collaboration with everyone else until December 14, 2020, when the Electoral College votes..."  CBN reported that around 700,000 people had been involved in these marches since the election.  

Court rules that state of Tennessee can ban abortions based on Down Syndrome, as well as race and gender

The state of Tennessee will be allowed to continue to ban abortions due to Down Syndrome, as well as race and gender, based a ruling from the Sixth Circuit federal appeals court, according to the website, JustTheNews.com, which reported:

The ruling, issued by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, reversed an earlier court order that put an injunction on the law's "reason bans" while legal suits around it play out.

In addition to forbidding Down syndrome-motivated abortions, the "reason bans" would forbid a doctor from performing an abortion if he were aware that the mother sought it for reasons related to the unborn child's sex or race.

The court did allow a ruling against the state's ban on abortion after 6 weeks of pregnancy to remain in place. 

The article noted: "Research has suggested that as much as 75% of all mothers whose unborn children are diagnosed with Down syndrome will opt to abort those children." 

Sunday, November 22, 2020

The 3 - November 22, 2020

On this week's edition of The 3, with three stories of relevance to the Christian community, there is news regarding the overturning of a ban in a county in Florida on counseling for minors struggling with same-sex attraction.  Also, an author's book on the harmful nature of the transgender agenda was removed from a large retailer, then restored.  And, a large California church that has challenged government restrictions related to COVID has been given a clean bill of health by a public health agency.

Federal Appeals court removes ban on counseling minors regarding same-sex attraction

Robert Otto and Julie Hamilton are Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists in Florida who have been involved in counseling minors struggling with same-sex attraction. The City of Boca Raton and Palm Beach County had enacted ordinances that Liberty Counsel reports "prohibit minors from voluntary counseling from licensed professionals." So, Doctors Otto and Hamilton filed a lawsuit.

A three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit Federal appeals court ruled 2-1 that the bans were unconstitutional; one of the judges wrote, "We hold that the challenged ordinances violate the First Amendment because they are content-based regulations of speech that cannot survive strict scrutiny.” That judge, Judge Grant, also stated, "The First Amendment does not protect the right to speak about banned speech; it protects speech itself, no matter how disagreeable that speech might be to the government. And what good would it do for a therapist whose client sought SOCE [sexual orientation change efforts] therapy to tell the client that she thought the therapy could be helpful, but could not offer it? It only matters that some words about sexuality and gender are allowed, and others are not…" The court pointed out, "What the governments call a ‘medical procedure’ consists—entirely—of words. As the district court itself recognized, plaintiffs’ therapy ‘is not just carried out in part through speech: the treatment provided by Drs. Otto and Hamilton is entirely speech.’"

Liberty Counsel pointed out that, "This is the first federal Court of Appeals decision on such laws since the 2018 U.S. Supreme Court decision in National Institute of Family & Life Advocates v. Becerra (NIFLA)."  NIFLA said on its website that:
In 2018, the Supreme Court issued a historic ruling in favor of the free speech rights of pro-life pregnancy centers and all Americans. In addition to protecting the work of life-affirming pregnancy centers, this landmark ruling also expanded protections for the free speech rights of medical professionals, Christian counselors and churches.

Retail chain removes, restores book warning against transgender agenda

Abigail Shrier has been sounding the alarm about the advance of the cultural embrace of transgenderism, and wrote a book called, Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Girls.  She has even had conversations with what Family Research Council describes in a recent article as "lifelong LGBT supporters" who are "dealing with the fallout of this devastating ideology."

Shirer has written, according to that article:

"Unsuspecting parents are awakening to find their daughters in thrall to hip trans YouTube stars and 'gender-affirming' educators and therapists who push life-changing interventions on young girls -- including medically unnecessary double mastectomies and puberty blockers that can cause permanent infertility."

FRC points out that there are those who wish to silence Abigail, stating:

They bullied Amazon into blocking ad buys for the book. Then, this past week, a single tweet was all it took to persuade Target to pull the title from their shelves. The move hardly came as a shock, since this is the same company that still allows men in their girls' restrooms and changing rooms.

But, the backlash against Target was apparently significant; FRC reports:

Twenty-four hours later, the company released this statement: "Yesterday, we removed a book from Target.com based on feedback we received. We want to offer a broad assortment for our guests and are adding this book back to Target.com. We apologize for any confusion."

Get ready; this battle over normalizing transgenderism will intensify in a projected Biden Administration.  As CBN.com reported, at a town hall meeting during the Presidential campaign, "Biden told a mother who said her eight-year-old daughter was transgender that he supports children who want to change their gender." The article says:

"I would just flat out change the law," Biden replied. "Eliminate those executive orders number one."

"The idea that an eight or 10-year-old child decides you know, 'I decided I want to be transgender. That's what I think I'd like to be. It would make my life a lot easier.' There should be zero discrimination," he continued.
As Michelle Cretella of the American College of Pediatricians stated in a 2017 piece at the Daily Signal website: "...prior to the widespread promotion of transition affirmation, 75 to 95 percent of gender-dysphoric youth ended up happy with their biological sex after simply passing through puberty." She goes on to say that:
Today’s institutions that promote transition affirmation are pushing children to impersonate the opposite sex, sending many of them down the path of puberty blockers, sterilization, the removal of healthy body parts, and untold psychological damage.

These harms constitute nothing less than institutionalized child abuse.

Good news for CA church that has stood against state's COVID restrictions

Grace Community Church in Southern California has continued to challenge public health laws in the state and county and meet together in-person and inside.  This week, according to The Christian Post, the church was found to be in compliance with county health authorities.  The article says:

“We are glad to announce that we received a notice from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health … saying that we have been cleared of COVID-19 outbreak,” the church says on its website.

The article points out that: "L.A. County requires places of worship to report to the Public Health Department when there are at least three COVID-19 cases within a span of two weeks, after which the agency determines whether there is an outbreak."  After three cases were reported last month, the church, pastored by John MacArthur, had restrictions placed on it, but the church has now been "cleared."

Monday, November 16, 2020

The 3 - November 15, 2020

In this week's edition of The 3, there is a development on COVID restrictions being unevenly applied to churches - a lawsuit contends that New York's governor is putting rules into place that restrict worship, but not other similar types of gatherings.  Also, a U.S. Supreme Court justice has spoken out regarding the threat of state coronavirus orders that threaten religious liberty.  And, Nevada voters have decided to change the definition of marriage in its state constitution to include so-called "gay marriage."

Lawsuit filed against NY governor for COVID-19 restrictions on churches

With increased COVID numbers across the country, states that have been under stringent lockdown may continue or intensify their regulations, and states previously under intense lockdown, such as New York, may be expected to introduce or renew COVID restrictions.

The Daily Citizen website of Focus on the Family reports on the efforts of a Catholic diocese in New York to halt Governor Cuomo's attempts to clamp down on church attendance in a more severe manner than other gatherings.  The site reports:

The Diocese argues that Gov. Cuomo “expressly singles out ‘houses of worship’ by that name for adverse treatment relative to secular businesses, and does so in a way that is not narrowly tailored to any compelling government interest, in direct violation of the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause.”

After being rejected in Federal district court and on the appeals court level, the Diocese is now taking its case to the U.S. Supreme Court. The article says:

The petition adds that Governor Cuomo’s order imposes no capacity limits on businesses that are “essential,” like supermarkets, pet stores, hardware stores and brokers’ offices, “even in the most restrictive ‘red’ zones.” Additionally, in the orange zones, even many nonessential businesses, like department stores, can stay open without in-person limits. Churches on the other hand, cannot.

Supreme Court justice warns against violations of religious liberty in COVID regulations

Speaking of COVID and the Court, one of the U.S. Supreme Court justices, Samuel Alito, has made some comments that have gained quite a bit of attention in Christian media. Liberty Counsel, on its website, reported on comments that Justice Alito made at the National Convention of the Federalist Society, where he said: "The pandemic has resulted in previously unimaginable restrictions on personal liberty. We have never before seen restrictions as severe, extensive and prolonged as those experienced for most of 2020. Whatever one may think about COVID restrictions, we surely don’t want them to become a recurring feature after the pandemic has passed,” and he added, “tolerance for opposing views is now in short supply...In certain quarters, religious liberty has fast become a disfavored right. For many today, religious liberty is not a cherished freedom. It’s often just an excuse for bigotry and it can’t be tolerated even when there’s no evidence that anybody has been harmed.”

The justice made reference to two cases on which the high court ruled earlier this year - he was in the minority on both of them. Liberty Counsel says that in these instances, "...the High Court sided with states while claiming the Coronavirus as the reason for restrictions on the size of religious gatherings." These were two 5-4 rulings in which the court upheld coronavirus restrictions by California and Nevada, ruling against churches in those states that had filed Federal lawsuits. 

Nevada voters affirm gay "marriage"

Nevada voters, when they went to the polls on November 3, approved a constitutional amendment that, as Baptist Press states, "institutionalizes in the state’s constitution a right to same-sex marriage regardless of the U.S. Supreme Court decision Obergefell v. Hodges, a 5-4 ruling in 2015 that states must recognize marriages between people of the same sex."  Previously, the state had passed an amendment that would forbid so-called "same-sex marriage in the state."

Nevada Baptist Convention Executive Director Kevin White was critical of the amendment, but did express appreciation that there was an attempt to protect clergy who decline to perform a gay marriage ceremony from facing lawsuits.  White said, “We of course strongly support the biblical description of marriage (between one man and one woman),” adding, “We did appreciate the protections that they were putting for pastors who would refuse to conduct same-sex marriage; but at the same time, we’re deeply concerned that these protections could easily be removed and place biblical pastors in legal battles that could destroy churches financially." White added that the change "...saddens my heart greatly as we move so far away from God and His designed plan for our lives.”