Sunday, June 26, 2022

The 3 - June 26, 2022

On this week's edition of The 3, the U.S. Supreme Court has overturned the faulty Roe vs. Wade decision, and there is news and reaction.  Also, the high court has upheld religious freedom in a case out of the state of Maine concerning parents who, until the ruling, could not use available public dollars to attend religious schools.  And, the White House has issued an executive order that threatens Christian counseling to overcome same-sex attraction and promotes questionable gender-change methods.

Supreme Court strikes down Roe, sending abortion policy to each state

The ruling handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court almost 50 years ago, Roe vs Wade, has now been overturned. CBN News quoted from the majority opinion, written by Justice Samuel Alito:

“We hold that Roe and Casey must be overruled. The Constitution makes no reference to abortion, and no such right is implicitly protected by any constitutional provision..."

In other words, the Constitution doesn't address abortion, and therefore, the majority of the court held that the federal government is out of bounds in setting abortion policy.  Each state has to set its own policy on the topic.  As the CBN story points out:
Joining Alito were Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett. The latter three justices are Trump appointees. Thomas first voted to overrule Roe 30 years ago.

Chief Justice John Roberts would have stopped short of ending the abortion right, noting that he would have upheld the Mississippi law at the heart of the case, a ban on abortion after 15 weeks...and said no more.

CBN reports that 13 states already have trigger laws in place meaning that the laws were set to be implement once Roe was overturned.

Alabama did not have a trigger law, but passed a strong pro-life bill in 2019, the Human Life Protection Act.  WSFA.com reported on Friday that Attorney General Steve Marshall...

...gave notice that the state will “immediately” file motions to dissolve any injunction on state laws dealing with abortion that had been halted by the courts. Among those laws was the Alabama Human Life Protection Act, which was one of the strongest bans on abortion in the country when Gov. Kay Ivey signed it into law in 2019. The law made performing an abortion at any stage of pregnancy a felony unless the mother’s health was in danger. It did not provide any exceptions for rape or incest.
Later in the day, according to the website, "...U.S. District Judge Myron H. Thompson dismissed the lawsuit against the Alabama Human Life Protection Act."  Marshall also called on abortion clinics in the state to cease operations and spoke strongly against acts of vandalism in response to the high court's action.

Christians have been speaking out forcefully against abortion, which is the taking of human life. The CEO of National Religious Broadcasters hailed the ruling; Troy Miller said: “Today’s decision is a great victory for sanctity of life on the federal level. We stand with our members who are on the frontlines of this battle as they pursue laws and reforms at the state level that protect and value life,” adding, “We continue to ask for God’s protection on all Supreme Court justices as they continue in their public service.”

The NRB website featured responses from a variety of Christian leaders, including:

Michael Farris of Alliance Defending Freedom, who said, "The Supreme Court acknowledged that it improperly seized the power of the people and their legislatures half a century ago. Now it has relinquished that power and given it back to the people. That’s a marvel worth celebrating.”

Jim Daly of Focus on the Family, who stated, “This is a day to give thanks to God. It’s also a day to give thanks to the tens of millions who have marched in the snow and cold on the anniversary of Roe these last fifty years as faithful witnesses to the value of human life. It’s a day, as well, to give thanks to those who have committed their lives and their resources to serving mothers and protecting innocent children. We remain dedicated to fostering and furthering a culture of life, which recognizes the dignity of each and every person."  He included that reference to the March for Life, that has been an annual event since Roe was handed down, a peaceful protest of pro-life people that attracted hundreds of thousands to the nation's capital.  There have been Marches in other U.S. cities as well.  News coverage has been scant for these events, which were peaceful and respectful.

The Hill quoted from a statement by March for Life President Jeanne Mancini, who said: “For nearly fifty years, the Supreme Court has imposed an unpopular and extreme abortion policy on our nation, but as the annual March for Life gives witness to, Roe’s allowance of abortion-on-demand, up-until-birth has never represented where most Americans stand on life!” She added, “We are so grateful to the countless pro-life people of goodwill who contributed and sacrificed to make today possible — including the millions of those who have marched for life over the years — and we recognize that this is just the beginning of our work to advance policies that protect life..."

Religious students can now participate in Maine program allotting public funds for public and private schools

There was other good news from the Supreme Court last week.  The justices, in a 6-3 ruling, put an end to a program that offered residents of Maine in remote areas the opportunity to receive public funds, to be applied to public and private schools, but not religious schools. First Liberty, one of the firms involved in a challenge to the law, stated in a press release last Tuesday, "For school districts that do not maintain a high school, Maine pays students’ tuition at the public or private school of the family’s choice. Until today’s ruling, families were prohibited from using the scholarship program to attend religious schools."

Kelly Shackelford, who serves as President, CEO, and Chief Counsel for First Liberty Institute, stated, “We are thrilled that the Court affirmed once again that religious discrimination will not be tolerated in this country. Parents in Maine, and all over the country, can now choose the best education for their kids without fearing retribution from the government. This is a great day for religious liberty in America.”

Gender identity agenda reflected in executive orders

The Bible speaks plainly to issues surrounding sexuality: for instance, we are told in Scripture that God created male and female. The Bible also describes homosexual behavior as sinful.  Yet, in this age of so-called "gender identity," "gender fluidity," and "sexual orientation," we have seen a flurry of actions that have been taken, including attempts to change one's gender. It has also become popular to try to persuade people that sexual orientation cannot be changed. 

In a sweeping attempt to exert federal control over these personal matters, the White House issued an executive order.  According to the Alliance Defending Freedom website, the order "villainizes and grossly misrepresents religious Americans and others holding to commonsense American values and violates their constitutionally and legally protected freedoms."

ADF Senior Counsel Julie Marie Blake stated, in part:

“Every American is protected under the Constitution to freely live and work according to their religious beliefs, and President Biden can’t remove those fundamental rights with a stroke of his pen. It is a gross overreach of his authority, for example, to mandate what Christian counselors can say, or not say, in private conversations with their clients, as is the case with our client Brian Tingley in Washington state, or demand faith-based foster care and adoption homes, like our client Holston United Methodist Home for Children in Tennessee, violate their religious beliefs or lose needed funding to help children find a forever home. Further, with this new order, the president is threatening to erase the entire category of women’s sports—egregiously, on the cusp of the 50th anniversary of Title IX, the civil rights law designed to protect fair competition for women..."

Speaking of Title IX, The Christian Post reported:

The U.S. Department of Education has unveiled proposed changes to federal civil rights law to clarify that protections against sex discrimination "include discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity."

The proposal sparks concerns from conservative groups, female athletes and civil rights groups that the Biden administration is working to redefine "sex" over half a century after Title IX was enacted to protect women from discrimination in education. Progressive organizations celebrated the rule proposal as a "critical step" in protecting LGBT students from discrimination.

Back to that executive order; Christian Medical and Dental Associations Senior Vice President of Bioethics and Public Policy Jeff Barrows stated that the Executive Order "claims to be safeguarding health care and preventing youth suicide, but medical research shows it will do the exact opposite,” adding, “It’s not protecting children, and it’s certainly not safeguarding their health care; instead, it is a prescription for bad medicine.”  

For instance regarding what is called, Conversion Therapy, the CMDA statement says: "Bans against counseling choice are one-sided ideology that places our patients and our children squarely against the tide of science and evidence-based healthcare. The federal government should be supporting change-allowing therapy instead of suppressing it."  Unfortunately, bans on this therapy would likely include talk therapy by Christian counselors. 

Regarding so-called "gender-affirming care," CMDA states: "Bans against counseling choice are one-sided ideology that places our patients and our children squarely against the tide of science and evidence-based healthcare. The federal government should be supporting change-allowing therapy instead of suppressing it."

Monday, June 20, 2022

The 3 - June 19, 2022

This week's edition of The 3, with three stories of relevance to the Christian community, includes a brief recap of action taken at the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention last week in California. Also, a Christian denomination has identified homosexuality as sin that should be confessed. And, a state Supreme Court has reversed a ruling from several years ago that found there was a constitutional right to abortion.

Southern Baptist representatives gather to elect new officers, establish sex abuse prevention measures, and more

The annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention took place last week in Anaheim, and the story making headlines going into the annual meeting was the report issued by a company called Guidepost Solutions that highlighted instances of sexual abuse and alleged attempts by SBC leadership to cover up sexual abuse episodes.  The costly report consisted primarily of instances that had already been made public, and made recommendations about how to deal with the issue of sexual abuse in SBC churches.

The task force appointed following last year's convention made recommendations based on the Guidepost report, and CBN.com summarized those in this manner:

Representatives from local churches, known as "messengers," approved two recommendations from the denomination's sexual abuse task force: to create an abuse reform implementation task force to study further changes as outlined in the recent Guidepost study, and to create a website to maintain a list of pastors, staff, and volunteers who "have at any time been credibly accused of sexual abuse."

The implementation task force will be appointed by new President Bart Barber, a pastor in Farmersville, TX.  Barber won convention president by almost a 61-39 margin on the second ballot after a runoff with Cape Coral, Florida pastor Tom Ascol, who had the support of the Conservative Baptist Network, which was formed to address what its members have identified as spiritual drift in the convention.

An unexpected flashpoint at the convention had to do with the issue of women serving in pastoral roles in convention churches.  While local churches are autonomous in the SBC, a church's adherence, or lack of it, to the Baptist Faith and Message document could result in a church being disfellowshipped. A motion had been made to enact such discipline on a large church that had ordained three women into ministry and given them the title of "pastor."  The committee to which the motion was referred had initially recommended a committee be formed to investigate how the Baptist Faith and Message really addresses the issue, a recommendation later withdrawn. Therefore, no action was taken regarding the church.

What seems to be a yearly controversy over the public policy arm of the SBC, the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, was manifested this year in a vote taken by messengers on whether or not to dissolve the body - the motion failed after brief discussion, but there has been concern over the organization's purpose and effectiveness, with some churches having designated their funds sent to the Convention to not be used to fund the ERLC.  The body didn't do itself any favors by adopting a new slogan stating that it wanted to make abortion "unnecessary."  

Christian denomination votes to affirm homosexuality as sin

Meanwhile, as United Methodist churches strategize on how to "disaffiliate" from the denomination as a result of long-standing disagreements over policy, with issues surrounding homosexuality at the core, a smaller denomination has taken a bold stand on Scripture.

ReligionNews.com reports that: "The Christian Reformed Church, a small evangelical denomination of U.S. and Canadian churches, voted...at its annual synod to codify its opposition to homosexual sex."  It went to state:

The 123-53 vote at Calvin University in Grand Rapids, Michigan, caps a process begun in 2016 when a previous synod voted to form a study committee to bring a report on the “biblical theology” of sexuality.

The vote, following a long day of debate, approves a list of what the denomination calls sexual immorality it won’t tolerate, including “adultery, premarital sex, extra-marital sex, polyamory, pornography and homosexual sex.”

The University is described as the "flagship university" for the CRC, but that could be changing. As the article points out, this move could result in faculty members leaving. The story says:

The university is known in the larger Christian higher education world for its supportive and pastoral approach to LGBTQ students. It allows a student group, the Sexuality and Gender Alliance, to function on campus and in the 2020-21 school year the university did not challenge an openly gay student body president.
However, the article says, "This year it did not renew a professor’s two-year appointment after he agreed to officiate a same-sex wedding. That wedding also led the university to cut ties with its longtime research center, The Center for Social Research, where one of the marriage partners was working."

There is certainly an upheaval in Christian higher education. Another example can be seen at Seattle Pacific University, where recently the school trustees continued to uphold the policy banning staff from being in involved in same-sex relationships, according to Newsweek, an action to which students responded by giving LGBTQ flags to the acting president of the school during graduation.

Iowa Supreme Court reverses itself, declares there is no constitutional right to abortion

In 2018, the Iowa Supreme Court, according to Alliance Defending Freedom"in Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, ...declared abortion 'a fundamental right' and struck down a 72-hour waiting period that ensured women have the opportunity to receive and evaluate important health information before proceeding with an abortion. The state legislature later passed a 24-hour waiting period, the subject of the present litigation." 

That case is also known as "PPH II," and late last week, the state's high court reversed that ruling; ADF states: 

In Friday’s opinion, the court emphatically overruled PPH II, concluding that the decision “lacks textual and historical support,” and that its “constitutional footing is unsound.” The opinion continued, “textually, there is no support for PPH II’s reading of the due process clause as providing fundamental protection for abortion.”
The court stated: "Historically, there is no support for abortion as a fundamental constitutional right in Iowa."

Sunday, June 12, 2022

The 3 - June 12, 2022

This week's edition of The 3, featuring three stories of relevance to the Christian community, includes the story of five courageous baseball player who refused to bow the knee to the LGBTQ+ agenda by refusing to wear special "Pride Night" gear.  Also, the challenge filed by parents in a Virginia school district against policies that serve to separate students based on race has been turned back.  Plus, apparently, an attack on a church in Nigeria is yet another incident involving the persecution of Christians in that nation.

Baseball players opt out of team's "Pride Night" gear

The month of June has become a reminder of the demands of the LGBTQ+ community that their lifestyle choices be supported in a special way. An, unfortunately, this behavior, which runs counter to Scriptural teaching, is nothing to be proud about.

That is the perspective, it seems, of five players on the Tampa Bay Rays, who decided that wearing gear celebrating so-called "gay pride" at the team's recent "Pride Night" was a bridge too far. The Daily Citizen of Focus on the Family reported that:

Rays’ players were supposed to wear both a “rainbow burst” logo on their sleeve as well as a special “Pride” cap rather than their standard ball cap.

At least five players, with the permission of the ball club, chose not to wear the Pride emblems, and a spokesman for the group attributed their actions to their Christian faith.

According to TMZ Sports, Jason Adam, Jalen Beeks, Brooks Raley, Jeffrey Springs and Ryan Thompson – all pitchers – were the five players who opted for standard uniforms rather than donning the special “Pride Night” gear.

Spokesman for the five players, Jason Adam, stated:

“But when we put it on our bodies, I think a lot of guys decided that it’s just a lifestyle that maybe — not that they look down on anybody or think differently — it’s just that maybe we don’t want to encourage it if we believe in Jesus, who’s encouraged us to live a lifestyle that would abstain from that behavior, just like (Jesus) encourages me as a heterosexual male to abstain from sex outside of the confines of marriage. It’s no different..."

The article also noted:

In a message to Tampa news station WFLA, pitcher Ryan Thompson said, “those of us who decided not to wear the patch or hat spent a couple weeks in prayer and a deep dive into scripture on the subject at hand to come to the decision that we did.”

He added, “If I believe the Bible is infallible and that everlasting life is attainable yet I bow down to public opinion in the name of tolerance, is that love? I don’t think so.

The writer of the article, Bruce Hausknecht, who has been a guest on The Meeting House multiple times, said:

While Rays management’s consideration of the five players seems gracious and reasonable, it only does so because of how unreasonable the demands of LGBT politics have gotten today. They allow no room for dissent. But there is no virtue in not forcing people to follow wokeness and proclaim something they do not believe. It is called freedom of conscience and it is a fundamental human right.  

I agree with Bruce, and while the team did allow the players to "opt-out," you have to question the purpose for a "Pride Night" in the first place.  I wonder how many potential fans stayed away from the game that night because of the promotion?  I think back about advice given by a PR firm called the Zeno Group to large companies regarding the upcoming Roe v. Wade decision, which is applicable here, as well, I think.  This is from Newsweek:
"Do not take a stance you cannot reverse, especially when the decision is not final. This topic is a textbook '50/50' issue," the email reportedly said, according to the report. "Subjects that divide the country can sometimes be no-win situations for companies because regardless of what they do they will alienate at least 15 to 30 percent of their stakeholders... Do not assume that all of your employees, customers or investors share your view."

Challenge by parents to school's policies dismissed

Parents in Albemarle County, Virginia have found that their religious views are being disregarded and filed a lawsuit to challenge the policies of the school district.  Alliance Defending Freedom had reported earlier this year that the lawsuit was filed on behalf of "an ethnically and religiously diverse group of nine parents and their children;" the circumstances in the district were outlined on the ADF website:

In 2019, the school board enacted a policy based in critical race theory, a radical ideology that requires students and teachers to view everything and everybody through the lens of race. The policy violates students’ civil rights by treating them differently based on race and by compelling them to affirm and support ideas contrary to their deeply held moral and religious beliefs. The school district goes so far as to declare that every core subject must include teaching through its new ideological lens that emphasizes racial and religious stereotypes. It then squelches debate on the issue by mislabeling any opinion not aligned with its radical ideology as “racist” and threatens to punish dissent based on its redefinition of “racism.”
ADF reported recently that the case had been dismissed by a Virginia judge. Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Kate Anderson, director of the ADF Center for Parental Rights, stated: “The court’s dismissal of the valid concerns of parents and students challenging the Albemarle County School Board’s racially discriminatory policy is disappointing, but the case will continue on appeal. Every student deserves to be treated equally under the law, regardless of their race, ethnicity, or religion. Public schools cannot attack or demean students based on these or any other characteristics. We look forward to continuing to represent these parents and students as they stand up against a school district that continues to ignore their legitimate interests and legal rights.”

The Virginia Circuit Court judge said, "the Court finds that Plaintiffs lack standing to bring their claims, and that Plaintiffs have not stated a cause of action arising under Virginia law because their claims under the Constitution of Virginia are not self-executing and the statute on which they rely does not create a private cause of action."

Nigeria church attack is stark reminder of persecution of Christians in that country

Perhaps you caught my recent conversation with Lela Gilbert of Family Research Council, who provided details of an attack on a church in Nigeria on Pentecost Sunday - the death toll was announced at around 50, but the numbers keep changing.  She wrote at The Washington Stand of Family Research Council:

The best-known extremist groups in Nigeria are the notorious Boko Haram, which has recently merged with Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP). Meanwhile, radical Islamist Fulani tribesmen have been slaughtering Christian villagers in increasing numbers for several years. These Fulani radicals attacked St. Francis Church in the horrifying Pentecost Sunday incident, arriving on motorcycles and armed with guns and explosives.

The article quotes David Curry, President and CEO of Open Doors USA, who said

"...I think the key thing here is that these extremists have been allowed to flourish in the north and the government has not taken strong responsive action. I think they’re culpable in these kinds of attacks because they’ve allowed the Fulani terrorist groups to grow. They’ve let them attack, murder, and seize villages without any sort of retribution or punishment.”

As Lela Gilbert points out:

In 2021, an FRC analysis of Nigeria’s agonizing struggle reported that around 12,000 Christians had been killed for their faith since 2015. More recently, Open Doors International, monitoring global Christian persecution, stated that “…In Nigeria, a Christian is killed for their faith every two hours; that’s nearly 13 Christians a day and 372 Christians a month...
In 2020, the State Department placed Nigeria on its list of Countries of Particular Concern, but it was removed in 2021. Curry, who was just placed on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, has asked the President to restore that designation. Nigeria is #7 on the Open Doors World Watch List, identifying the countries who are the leading persecutors of Christians.

Monday, June 06, 2022

The 3 - June 5, 2022

This week's edition of The 3, featuring three stories of relevance to the Christian community, includes a report on a new initiative designed to measure the commitment to free speech and religious freedom among large corporations.  Also, a provocative new film regarding gender ideology has been released that disputes the promotion of so-called "gender identity."  And, an attempt to place the United States under the authority of the World Health Organization regarding public health crises - real or perceived - has been turned back.

New effort highlights corporate commitment, or lack thereof, to freedom of speech and religion

There have been concerns expressed about companies being threatened if they do not exhibit certain ideologies.  The changing of corporate logos and LGBTQ-affirming statements during so-called "Pride Month" is one area where there are plenty of examples.  The judging of companies based on their ESG scores, standing for "environmental, social, and governmental," is another area. And, as Jeremy Tedesco of Alliance Defending Freedom brought out on The Meeting House recently, there are ideologues who are forcing financial institutions to restrict donors in donor-advised funds from donating to charities, which poses a danger to Christian charities.

Alliance Defending Freedom recently posted a piece on its website about a new project called, "the ViewpointDiversityScore.org website and annual Business Index." It states that:

The initiative is a joint venture of ADF and Inspire Investing, a Christian investing and financial technology firm informing investment decisions on billions of dollars around the globe. Examining 50 companies on the Fortune 1000 list, the Business Index is the first comprehensive benchmark designed to measure corporate respect for religious and ideological diversity in the market, workplace, and public square.
The article goes on to say: "As leaders from ADF and Inspire Investing explain in an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, the Business Index focuses on industries that have the greatest potential to impact free speech and religious freedom. These include industries that provide essential banking, payment processing, and cloud services, or that serve as platforms for third-party expression in the digital space."

ADF notes: 

Benchmarked companies scored an average of 12% overall on respecting religious and ideological diversity in the market, workplace, and public square. While no industry performed well, a handful scored particularly poorly. The two industries with the lowest overall scores were computer software at 6%, and internet services and retailing at 7%. The financial and data services industry (8%) also scored poorly. The lackluster results paint a grim picture of corporate America’s respect for religious and ideological diversity.

Walsh promotes Biblical view of sexuality in new movie, bookseller's employees protest his books

Author and social commentator Matt Walsh posted a tweet four years ago, according to a piece on The Daily Citizen website.  He wrote:

It occurred to me that the statement ‘I identify as a woman’ doesn’t mean anything if the person making the statement, or the people telling us to take the statement seriously, aren’t able to define the thing that the person is identifying as.

To coincide with the June 1 beginning of "Pride Month," Walsh, of The Daily Wire, released a documentary film called, What is a Woman?  The article says that Walsh, at the beginning of one of his podcasts, had noted that "the film would expose the confusion of gender ideology."

The following day, the writer of the original article, Jeff Johnston, from Focus on the Family, related his observations. He wrote:

What Is a Woman? is intense, with moments of deep pathos, as when it showed the devastating damage to individuals and families – the direct result of gender theories that are completely disconnected from reality and truth.

He went on to say: 

I’d written about some of these people, but it’s different watching them tell their stories onscreen. The documentary is not for the faint of heart.

One devastating testimony came from a Canadian father who “misgendered” his 13-year-old daughter. He was imprisoned for the offense. A Canadian court mandated male hormones for the young girl, over his objections.

Another poignant story was told by a woman who had hormones and surgeries to “transition into” a man. Scott Newgent’s body, health, finances and family have been devastated by surgeries and synthetic hormones.

Other highlights:

  • When asked, “What is a woman?”, people can’t say, are afraid to say, or don’t know how to answer the question.
  • Many gender dogmatists are angry and defensive about being asked simple questions about their beliefs – even ones they’ve seen before the on-camera interview.
  • For many, “a woman” is however someone identifies. But what is it they are identifying as? Evidently “woman” is different for everyone and can’t be defined.
Johnston noted: "Gender activists felt so threatened by the documentary that they used a cyberattack on The Daily Wire’s website to keep people from watching the film."

Meanwhile, CBN.com reported that:

Some disgruntled Amazon employees at the company’s Seattle headquarters staged a so-called “die-in” protest during a “Pride” event in response to conservative author Matt Walsh’s book sales on the website.

Some 30 employees draped themselves in blue, pink, and white transgender “pride” flags, laid on the ground during the “Pride” flag-raising ceremony, and reportedly refused to move.

American attempt to place itself under authority of WHO fails

I have reported to you about efforts by the current U.S. Administration to subject public health policy under the authority of the World Health Organization, which has enormous implications not only for national sovereignty, but for religious freedom.  The National Religious Broadcasters website stated, regarding a series of amendments that had been proposed by the U.S.:

These amendments would cede greater authority to WHO and enhance the opportunity for future public health crises (or events that the governing body deems as such) to advance the interests of a globally-controlled and funded governing body and undermine the rights of citizens. A threat to national sovereignty is a threat to individual freedom, inevitably giving rise to incursions on the conscience rights and religious freedoms that Americans cherish—and organizations like NRB exist to protect.

Liberty Counsel reported that "All 13...amendments designed to cede sovereignty to WHO were rejected by objecting member nations." Liberty Counsel stated that the amendments "sought to give the WHO Director-General sweeping power to declare a 'public health emergency' over any issue he chooses, without consulting the member nations.? One example:

...WHO’s Director-General would have the power to effectively close or open borders. If the “offending” country refuses to agree or comply with such a directive, the Director-General can compel other nations to stop trade and travel to and from the offending country. Shipments of food, medicine and consumer goods would be affected.
But, as Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel warns: "...the plan to cede American sovereignty to the United Nations and its associated globalist health group continues."

Thursday, June 02, 2022

The 3 - May 29, 2022

The most recent edition of The 3, featuring three stories of relevance to the Christian community, includes response by Christians to the tragic event in Texas at an elementary school, in which 19 children, 2 teachers, and the alleged shooter, lost their lives. Also, Southern Baptists are continuing to process the findings of a task force report on sexual abuse and how leadership dealt with it. Plus, the state of Virginia has a new law that strengthens language on protecting religious freedom.

Christian organizations minister to families of victims in Texas school shooting

People are continuing to respond to the tragic shooting in Uvalde, Texas, in which 19 elementary school students, 2 teachers, and the 18-year old young man responsible for the shooting lost their lives. Families are continuing to grieve and people across the nation are asking, "why?" and there is a search for answers.

In a piece at The Christian Post, Greg Laurie, who is heard on Faith Radio, shared that there is an even greater question; he writes:

At a time like this, we all collectively ask, "Why?"

Why did God allow this to happen?

The simple answer is, I don't know.

But here is what I do know — There are evil people who do incomprehensively evil things every day BECAUSE WE live in a fallen, sinful world. MOMENTS LIKE THESE ARE A REFLECTION ON THE EVIL OF MANY, NOT THE GOODNESS OF GOD.

He writes:

When I find myself not knowing why bad things happen, I fall back on what I do know.
THAT IS BECAUSE IN A MOMENT LIKE THIS THE MOST IMPORTANT QUESTION IS NOT “WHY?” BUT “WHO?” — WHO CAN WE RUN TO FOR HELP IN THE MIDST OF THIS BROKEN WORLD?

CBN reported that:

Churches in and around Uvalde have opened their doors to the grieving community. "I want you to know that we love you," said Pastor Tony Gruben of Baptist Temple Church.

Nathan Lorick of the Southern Baptist Convention of Texas told CBN's Faith Nation, that they're sending ministers to Uvalde. "We have deployed some staff members and chaplains," Lorick said. "We have a disaster relief feeding unit on the ground."

Billy Graham Rapid Response Team chaplains have also deployed to Uvalde to offer comfort and counsel to the families and other residents.

At BillyGraham.org, a story quoted a local pastor, who said: “It’s strange, but somehow I feel guilty that my granddaughter is alive, when so many other children died. But God knows why everything happened this way...” Those were the words of Pastor José René Martínez, who was allowed to take his granddaughter home from school before the shooting happened.  The article goes on to say:

Like Pastor Martínez, most Uvaldians are struggling to make sense of the horrific tragedy that took place on Tuesday when an 18-year-old walked into an elementary school in this quiet Texan town and killed 19 fourth-graders and two teachers.

In this small town of just over 15,000 people, the shocking news has affected everyone, and crisis-trained chaplains from the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team (BG-RRT) are there to offer spiritual and emotional support for the community.
In a crisis, we are reminded how Christians can represent Jesus and show His love. The story at the Billy Graham website shared the story of chaplain Jose Mena, who drove from San Antonio - he led a man to Christ at the city's Civic Center. He is quoted as saying: “People in Uvalde and in the whole world need to hear that the enemy is doing exactly what Jesus said he would do: steal, kill and destroy,” adding, “And they also need to hear that there is a God who loves them, who sees their tears and feels their pain, and who has sent His Son to die for us so that we don’t have to live in this valley of death forever.”

Southern Baptist Task Force on sex abuse releases report, Executive Committee responds

For years, Southern Baptist Convention leaders have been calling attention to the issue of sexual abuse within the denomination.  At last year's annual meeting, the SBC voted to establish a Sexual Abuse Task Force to study the actions of the SBC Executive Committee over the last 20+ years concerning the issue.  The report was issued on Sunday, May 22, and Baptist Press quoted from the report, conducted by a firm called Guidepost Solutions, hired by the task force.  The report stated, "Our investigation revealed that, for many years, a few senior EC leaders, along with outside counsel, largely controlled the EC’s response to these reports of abuse. They closely guarded information about abuse allegations and lawsuits, which were not shared with EC Trustees, and were singularly focused on avoiding liability for the SBC to the exclusion of other considerations..."  Baptist Press notes:

The report says that for the two decades within the scope of the investigation, survivors of abuse and other concerned Southern Baptists have been met with “resistance, stonewalling, and even outright hostility from some within the EC.”

One of the notable aspects of the report had to do with a list that was being kept by Executive Committee staff; Baptist Press says: "The report says that though high-level EC staff kept a list of reports of abuse among possible SBC pastors, it had no plans to act on behalf of survivors." The Baptist Paper reported on the release of that list last week - it quoted from a statement by Rolland Slade, SBC Executive Committee chairman, and Willie McLaurin, interim president and CEO of the SBC Executive Committee, that said, "Each entry in this list reminds us of the devastation and destruction brought about by sexual abuse. Our prayer is that the survivors of these heinous acts find hope and healing, and that churches will utilize this list proactively to protect and care for the most vulnerable among us.” 

The Baptist Paper noted that the list had over 700 names on it, with just over 400 either definitely or possibly being "SBC-affiliated." That article says, "Our investigative team reviewed the list and conducted significant research to assess whether any of the alleged abusers were still associated with an SBC church. Based on these efforts, it appears that nine (9) people remain in active ministry or connected to ministry. Two (2) of those people appear to be associated with an SBC church. The remaining seven (7) appear to be associated with churches that are not SBC-affiliated. We will provide this information to the Credentials Committee for further review, including whether the seven additional churches mentioned above are in fact non-SBC affiliated."

Law enforcement certainly has a role in dealing with sexual abusers.  So does the local church.  It has been pointed that the Southern Baptist Convention supports autonomous local churches, so it would appear that primary responsibility for handing sex abuse claims would be local congregations, working in tandem with law enforcement. 

Several of the people mentioned in the report have already issued statements challenging how they and their actions were portrayed in it. 

The Task Force/Guidepost report offered several courses of action, likely to be taken up at the annual meeting of the SBC in Anaheim in about two weeks.  Some of the recommendations include, according to Baptist Press:

  • "an Abuse Reform Implementation Task Force, to "be appointed by the next SBC president to assist with the implementation of reform initiatives in our convention for a period of three years."

  • the hiring of "a subject matter expert(s) to receive calls, provide initial guidance for reports of sexual abuse, and work with state conventions for training and educational opportunities."

  • the recommendation that "all entity boards and standing committees have training regarding sexual abuse prevention and survivor care, as well as background checks as part of their orientation and selection."

Virginia religious freedom bill signed into law

Last last week, Governor Glenn Youngkin of Virginia signed a bill that, according to Alliance Defending Freedom's website, "clarifies that, under certain commonwealth statutes, the definition of 'religion' includes not just belief but expression and action as well..."

ADF Senior Counsel Gregory S. Baylor said that the bill, "provides a necessary and helpful clarification in the law to help ensure Virginians won’t face discrimination simply for outwardly expressing their religious beliefs." He went on to say:
"...Virginia law forbids discrimination on the basis of religion in multiple contexts yet fails to define the actual term ‘religion,’ which can leave Virginians vulnerable to hostile reactions to expressions of their faith. We commend Gov. Youngkin and the Virginia General Assembly for resolving this ambiguity so that Virginians can freely live out their faith without fear of government punishment."

Sunday, May 22, 2022

The 3 - May 22, 2022

This week's edition of The 3 includes legislation that has passed one chamber of the U.S. Congress that would penalize faith-based organizations by not upholding their freedom of religion.  Also, two airline flight attendants are claiming their freedom to practice their faith has been violated for comments they made contrary to their employer's position on a LGBTQ-friendly bill.  And, the Disney company has doubled down on its support for the gay agenda by release a line of clothing that promotes so-called LGBTQ+ "pride."

House votes to deny religious freedom protections for faith-based organizations to serve their communities

On The Meeting House program on Faith Radio, I have documented the trend in which people in power have attempted to restrict or eliminate the freedom of people of faith, including Christians, to practice that faith freely.  The Bill of Rights calls it the "freedom of religion," and we have seen respect for it waning.

Alliance Defending Freedom reports on yet another instance, stating that on May 13, the U.S. House of Representatives approved "a bill that eliminates religious freedom protections for faith-based participants in the Community Services Block Grant program."

ADF Senior Counsel Gregory S. Baylor notes that, "Faith-based organizations contribute significantly to their communities by providing compassionate care to the most vulnerable among us. That’s exactly why faith-based social service providers participate in the Community Services Block Grant program."

Baylor continues: "Forcing faith-based organizations to choose between providing vital social services and operating according to their sincerely held religious beliefs only jeopardizes the communities these organizations serve. Further, the bill’s vague language regarding how funds may be used to ‘address health needs’ opens the door to allowing funding of organizations that perform abortions and surgeries designed to alter one’s biological sex."

Flight attendants fired for voice opposition to Equality Act file court challenge

The House has, on two occasions, passed legislation known as the Equality Act, the name of which is a misnomer - it provides special treatment for people based on their so-called "gender identity" or "sexual orientation."  Fortunately, it doesn't have the votes in the Senate to move forward.  By showing preference to LGBTQ+ individuals, it actually discriminates against people of faith who do not approve of the gay lifestyle.  A recent article at The Christian Post quotes from a previous column from Robert Netzly, the CEO of Inspire Investing, who said that the Act "...cancels by name specific provisions of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, putting religious employers such as churches and private religious schools, hospitals, adoption agencies, and others at severe risk of lawsuits."

That recent Christian Post article reports on a lawsuit filed by two former flight attendants of Alaska Airlines, which fired them because they broke ranks with their company, criticizing it on an internal message board for supporting the Equality Act. The article says that "Marli Brown and Lacey Smith accused Alaska Airlines of religious discrimination. The lawsuit also lists the flight attendants' union, the Association of Flight Attendants." It goes on to say:

Stephanie Taub, senior counsel with the First Liberty Institute, which is representing the flight attendants, said in a statement Tuesday that this was "a blatant violation of state and federal civil rights laws."

"Alaska Airlines 'canceled' Lacey and Marli because of their religious beliefs, flagrantly disregarding federal civil rights laws that protect people of faith from discrimination," Taub said.

Disney doubles down on LGBTQ+, launches gay-friendly clothing line

The pushback has been forceful against the Walt Disney Company, since the corporation decided to oppose Florida's new law protecting the rights of parents and the minds of children against ideas regarding sexuality.  It was reported that high-ranking Disney officials stated their support for the gay agenda, and LGBTQ-friendly employees put pressure on company leadership.

But Disney appears to have doubled-down on this agenda in a new way. CBN.com has reported that:

Disney has released their new "Pride Collection," a clothing line for children that comes on the heels of the entertainment company's adversarial response to Florida's new parental rights in education bill and amid its escalating attempts to include LGBTQ themes and characters in children's animated series and other programming.

The new clothing line, which had previously been referred to as the Rainbow Disney Collection, launched on Monday. All of the products in the new Disney collection are emblazoned with the LGBT movement's rainbow pride flag. It comes out prior to the month of June, which LGBT advocates celebrate as a so-called pride month.

CBN quoted from a statement from the company, stating, "We stand in solidarity with our LGBTQIA+ community everywhere." The statement also noted: "The Walt Disney Company will be donating all of our profits from the Disney Pride Collection sales now through June 30, 2022, to organizations that support LGBTQIA+ youth and families. This includes sales of Pixar, Marvel, and Star Wars Pride Collection merchandise..."

Sunday, May 15, 2022

The 3 - May 15, 2022

This week's edition of The 3, highlighting three stories of relevance to the Christian community, includes the failure of a bill in the U.S. Senate that would legalize abortion nationwide and supersede pro-life bills passed by state. Also, a bill that is designed to protects minors in Alabama from surgeries and treatments to attempt to change their gender has been put on hold by a federal judge.  And, six Christian universities are under scrutiny for upholding Christian principles in their policies. 

Pro-abortion legislation that would overturn state pro-life laws fails to advance in U.S. Senate

In a brazen attempt to react to the impending reversal of Mississippi's 15-week abortion ban and possible overturning of Roe v. Wade, the U.S. Senate took up legislation that would not only codify that Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion in the nation, but would also negate pro-life laws passed by the states throughout the country.

ChristianHeadlines.com reports that West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, who was one of 51 senators voting against moving the bill forward - 60 were needed. He said, according to a quote from the Townhall.com Twitter feed: "It wipes 500 state laws off the books; it expands abortion...We should not be dividing this country further than we're already divided, and it's really the politics of Congress that's dividing the country." The article reported that he would have voted for a piece of legislation that would "codify" Roe v. Wade.

The article quotes from Denise Burke, senior counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, who said that the purpose of the legislation was to "entrench unrestricted abortion access until birth." She said, "The so-called 'Women's Health Protection Act' would have prohibited most – if not all – of the reasonable state laws related to abortion that are currently in place to protect the health of pregnant mothers, the dignity of unborn children, and the integrity of the medical profession," adding, "... We commend the members of the Senate who took a stand against this destructive legislation, and we will continue to fight alongside them to ensure policies are enacted that truly support women and protect innocent life."

The Christian Headlines story adds:

Lila Rose, president of the pro-life group Live Action, said the bill would have "mandated abortion on demand through all nine months of pregnancy nationwide."

"The vast majority of America opposes this kind of radical legislation," she tweeted.

Federal judge partially blocks enforcement of Vulnerable Child Compassion and Protection Act

With great determination, brave lawmakers in Alabama passed the Vulnerable Child Compassion and Protection Act, also known as VCAP, which would have outlawed treatments and surgeries that are intended to help minors change their gender.  The bill went into effect last week, and over the weekend, a federal judge temporarily blocked enforcement of part of the law.  

USA Today reported that:

U.S. District Judge Liles Burke issued a preliminary injunction to stop the state from enforcing the medication ban, which took effect May 8, while a court challenge goes forward. The judge left in place other parts of the law that banned gender-affirming surgeries for transgender minors, which doctors had testified are not done on minors in Alabama. He also left in place a provision that requires counselors and other school officials to tell parents if a minor discloses that they think they are transgender.
The article notes that: "The state attorney general’s office argued that the use of the medications is unsettled science, and thus the state has a role in regulation to protect children..." The story added, "Alabama lawmakers, who approved the bill this spring, said decisions on the medications should wait until adulthood."

Meanwhile, a federal judge held a hearing recently that would force Christian health professionals to be involved in surgeries and treatments intended to change a person's gender. Alliance Defending Freedom represents Christian Employers Alliance in the case, which is described on its website as "a challenge to two Biden administration mandates that force religious nonprofit and for-profit employers to pay for and perform surgeries, procedures, counseling, and treatments that seek to alter one’s biological sex—actions that violate their religious beliefs."

Federal government harasses Christian schools for affirming Christian principles

There has been a steady stream of instances throughout the last few years of the federal government attempting to force Christian organizations to violate the beliefs they uphold.  Examples include the contraception mandate forcing faith-based organizations to include drugs that could cause abortion in their health care plans, a more recent attempt to force males and females to share private spaces in dorm rooms, and this, from The Daily Citizen, a website of Focus on the Family, which reports:

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights is investigating six Christian universities for allegedly violating the rights of LGBT-identified students by upholding Christian teaching on sexuality, relationships and marriage.

The Daily Citizen article relates:

The attack on religious freedom began when an anti-religious freedom organization, the Religious Exemption Accountability Project (REAP), filed a lawsuit against the DOE on behalf of 33 LGBT-identified students who were either enrolled in or alumni of Evangelical Christian or Mormon colleges.
The complaint, Elizabeth Hunter et al. vs. U.S. Department of Education, alleges that universities that believe and practice God’s design for sexuality, relationships and marriage discriminate against LGBT-identified students.
Now, the DOE has been investigating these colleges - three more were just added to the scope: La Sierra University, Azusa Pacific University, and Liberty University. Others were already being investigated and have been allowed to join the lawsuit and defend their policies are Clarks Summit University, Lincoln Christian University, and Colorado Christian University.

According to The Daily Citizen: "The DOE has reinterpreted Title IX, the 1972 act which banned discrimination in education on the basis of sex – being male or female. The government agency holds that sex discrimination includes “sexual orientation” and “gender identity,” two subjective, ever-evolving terms that relate to how people think, feel, identify and act, rather than to their biological status as men or women."

Sunday, May 08, 2022

The 3 - May 8, 2022

This week's edition of The 3, with three stories of relevance to the Christian community, concentrates on the response to the leaked document containing what is called a "draft opinion" on Roe v. Wade, allegedly written by one of the U.S. Supreme Court justices.  Also, after a string of delays, a new Methodist denomination launched on May 1st.  Plus, there are more limitations on religious expression in China, with a popular Christian website apparently experiencing being removed.

Opinion from Supreme Court justice leaked, debate on abortion intensifies

The leak of a document attributed to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito that gives insight into the possible Court vote regarding the Roe vs. Wade has resulted in enthusiasm from those who are pro-life and consternation from those who favor abortion. It has been referred to as a "draft opinion."

Despite the unfortunate set of circumstances leading to the disclosure of this information, it has provided a reality check, in a sense, that U.S. law surrounding abortion is about to change dramatically.  As Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel, stated: "Though we want to celebrate the apparent victory of the High Court overturning Roe v. Wade, it is concerning that confidentiality would be breached in this situation by someone inside the Supreme Court. For many years, I have confidently said that I will live to see the Supreme Court overturn Roe v. Wade. We are now witnessing an historic event that will reverberate around the world."

Liberty Counsel's website stated:

In the apparent draft labeled the “Opinion of the Court,” Justice Alito wrote, “Roe was egregiously wrong from the start. We hold that Roe and Casey must be overruled. It is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives.”

CBN News quoted Brad Lingo, executive director of the Robertson Center for Constitutional Law at Regent University: "We now have confirmation. There are five votes to overturn Roe v. Wade clearly and unequivocally, there is a draft opinion...Nothing is final until opinion comes out. With abortion, a case of this magnitude, you never say never, but it would be very surprising if anyone changes their votes at this time." The article quoted from Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who said, "it is our intention for the Senate to hold a vote on legislation to codify the right to an abortion in law...," but pointed out it would take 60 votes in order to bring the legislation to the Senate floor, unless it votes to abandon the filibuster. 

Family Research Council reported that its President, Tony Perkins, and a consortium of 32 policy organizations from states across America, wrote to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and other House leaders, saying that any commitment made to America as the nation awaits the U.S. Supreme Court's impending decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization 'must include a bold strategy to protect unborn life.'"

The letter stated:

"There has never been a better time to protect life. Americans support the pro-life policies we have worked to enact in the states by large margins. A majority of Americans support prohibiting taxpayer funding for abortion, requiring clear health and safety standards for chemical abortion, providing immediate medical care for infants who survive abortion, and protecting unborn children from the horrors of abortion as early as the first trimester.

"Even if the Supreme Court overturns Roe this year, a strong congressional plan to protect unborn life will be needed...

One of the signatories is Julaine Appling of Wisconsin Family Action.  Sadly, its headquarters were attacked over the weekend. FRC President Tony Perkins responded, saying, in part that the...

"...violence and intimidation designed to silence the voice of Americans who stand for life will not succeed; it will fail. The violent and illegal actions of abortion supporters only reveal the true nature of abortion to America. Abortion on demand until birth unleashed violence and a culture of death.

"Abortion is not a political issue, and it's not even a policy issue at its core. Abortion is a profoundly moral and spiritual issue that cuts to the heart of who we are as a people.

New Methodist denomination launches

After years of wrangling within the United Methodist denomination regarding the authority of Scripture, especially as it relates to sexuality, and after several delays in calling a meeting to provide an amicable separation between the denomination and those who wish to leave it, the Global Methodist Church on May 1 launched.

ReligionNews.com reported:

After decades of rancorous debate over the ordination and marriage of LGBTQ United Methodists, a special session of the United Methodist Church’s General Conference and three postponements of a vote to formally split the denomination, the schism finally came “without fanfare, but full of hope, faith, and perseverance.”

That’s how the Rev. Keith Boyette, chairman of the Transitional Leadership Council of the Global Methodist Church, described the launch of the new denomination in a statement published days earlier on its website.
Boyette had told Religion News that the launch “was very definitely driven by practicality and the fact that the postponement of General Conference moved many people to say they were tired of waiting and tired of the conflict not being addressed and resolved by the United Methodist Church.”

The Daily Citizen reported: "The UMC has 12.5 million members worldwide, with 6.8 million in the U.S. Around the world, the largest membership is in African countries. The international churches are generally more orthodox, holding to biblical teaching about marriage and sexuality." It went on to say:
United Methodist churches in Africa, most of which are expected to join the GMC, applauded the move, saying:
We joyfully welcome the birth of the GMC. We celebrate and congratulate everyone who has been a part of this process, whom God has used to create a safe space where believers in Jesus Christ from across the global Community-Africa, Asia, Europe, South America, North America and Australia can commit to making disciples of Jesus Christ, and expressing the love of God to all humanity through our services to the church and society.

Meanwhile, in the greater Atlanta area, a large congregation that has found itself at odds with the United Methodist bishop for its region, but a settlement appears to be in the works, according to EastCobbNews.com.

China blocks popular Christian website

The nation of China continues its assault on religious freedom, and a recent story from The Christian Post provides yet another example.  The report says that:

The people behind the popular Christian website, “Jona Home,” have put a notice on the Home page, which reads, “Due to reasons known to everyone, from now on our site can no longer serve brothers and sisters in Christ. Thanks to all for your company and support in the past 21 years!” U.S.-based persecution watchdog International Christian Concern said.

The notice further reads, “The disappearance of a website is merely a disappearance of a website, it does not carry any meaning. Except that the website link can no longer be opened, there is nothing else which stopped at that moment; Need not to be concerned, and just keep walking.”
The article notes that, according to Bitter Winter, a new law called, Administrative Measures for Internet Religious Information Services, went into effect on March 1st. The Post says:
The law mandates an “Internet Religious Information Service License” for any religious group that wants to disseminate religious content on the internet. But it says only “legally established” organizations can do so, which practically means only groups that are part of the five authorized religions in China can use the internet to distribute religious content.

And even the five preferred religious groups face scrutiny; the law says:

“[T]hey can broadcast sermons and lessons, but these would be checked by the authorities for their ‘Sinicized’ content, making sure they promote socialist values and support the party, and are not intended as proselytization tools. Religious universities and colleges may disseminate content via the internet only to their students. Any attempt to spread religious content to minors or ‘induce minors to believe in religion’ will lead to the termination of the license.”

Sunday, May 01, 2022

The 3 - May 1, 2022

This week's edition of The 3, featuring three stories of relevance to the Christian community, includes arguments before the nation's highest court on the case of a high school football coach who was fired because he would go to midfield after football games to pray.  Also, a South Carolina church is the latest to announce a "drag queen" show.  Plus, there is more legislation that is now law designed to preserve parental rights and to protect children from harmful gender ideology.

High court considers coach's defense against being fired for post-game prayers

Joe Kennedy, a football coach in Bremerton, Washington, lost his job back in 2015 because of his practice of walking to midfield following the local high school's football games to pray.  His case has gone up and down through the federal court system, and last week, the coach had another day in court, before the U.S. Supreme Court. 

The Christian Post reported that former U.S. Solicitor General Paul Clement, in defense of the coach, "said that the coach’s prayers were 'doubly protected by the Free Exercise and Free Speech Clauses” of the First Amendment of the Constitution.'" He said:

“When the school district fired him for that fleeting religious exercise out of endorsement concerns, it not only violated the First Amendment, but it ignored a veritable wall of this court’s precedents that make it clear that a school does not endorse private religious speech just because it fails to censor it...

The article examined exchanges between justices and the attorneys on both sides of the case.  Here are a couple of examples:

Justice Sonia Sotomayor pressed Clement about when a school official’s religious practices can be considered private and when they are considered public, such as if a teacher is reading the Bible aloud before class begins.

Clement answered that if a teacher read her Bible “before the bell” or “after the bell” and did so “either silently or barely audibly,” that would be protected as “private speech.”

Also:

Justice Elena Kagan expressed concern with Kennedy’s prayers putting “a kind of undue pressure, a kind of coercion on students to participate in religious activities when they may not wish to.”

Clement countered that the school district did not cite “coercion concerns” when they punished Kennedy years ago but instead expressed concern over “endorsement” issues.

Drag shows spread from public libraries to...churches

For years, we have seen public libraries host so-called Drag Queen Story Hours, which one particular conservative commentator had described as an expression of free speech. Is it certainly the type of behavior that people want to have in their communities?  It's another example of the deviant LGBTQ agenda being sold to young children.  

And it certainly isn't something that we want in our churches!  But, a church in South Carolina begs to differ: CBN.com reports that "Trinity Lutheran Church of Greenville, South Carolina has announced a 'Drag Me to Church' event..."  The article quotes from the church's Facebook page, which says: "You'll be endlessly entertained" by the drag queen, who would present "...her unique style of worship which includes as many laughs as it does amens!"

Writer Gary Lane states:

Yes, God loves everyone, including drag queens, but he wants us to come into a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

It's not about being entertained by a drag queen, or anyone else. Churches should be holy temples – places where we bring honor and glory to Him, not to us.

How does a man dressed as a woman, strutting his stuff in a church bring glory to God? Isn't it really a slap in His face?

It's saying, "God You may be the Creator of the universe, but when You created me, You made a mistake – I really feel like I'm a woman, not a man."

This follows on the heels of an incident in Georgia last fall, which, according to CBN.com, was presented by the Emory Pride group, an LGBTQ+ organization from Emory University, at a United Methodist Church in Atlanta.  The article says that:

Tom Greenler, a senior attending the school, hosted the event dressed in drag.

Greenler told Campus Reform that "there is something very subversive about hosting a drag show at a church, especially a Methodist church like Glenn Memorial."

"The UMC has officially adopted some anti-LGBT stances in recent years," he continued "but I think it says a lot about Glenn Memorial as an individual church that it has continued to welcome the drag show in their space."

"I personally think it's kind of punk, to be a queer person hosting an unapologetically queer event in a church like this — I feel like this kind of breaking barriers is what drag is all about," Greenler added.

More bills in effect to protect children and parental rights

There is a trend of policy moves that have occurred upholding parental rights and protecting children from harmful ideologies centered around gender.  For instance, in Georgia, the Legislature passed, and the governor signed a package of bills, according to a Daily Caller article published at The Stream:

The bills included the Georgia’s Parents’ Bill of Rights or HB 1178, which “provides greater transparency to parents and legal guardians regarding what their student is being taught in school and protects the fundamental right of moms and dads across this state to direct the education of their child,” according to a press release. Another bill, the “Protect Students First Act” or HB 1084, prohibits “divisive concepts” such as the belief that one race is inherently superior to another race, the U.S. is fundamentally racist country or that an individual, “by virtue of his or her race, is inherently or consciously racist or oppressive toward individuals of other races.”
The article also notes, "The law also allows the state athletic association to pass a law prohibiting 'students whose gender is male from participating in athletic events that are designated for students whose gender is female.'"

And, in Arizona, according to Alliance Defending Freedom, the Legislature passed and the governor signed "HB 2161, a bill that builds on Arizona’s existing Parental Bill of Rights to ensure that parents are free to direct the upbringing, care, and education of their children..." ADF Senior Counsel Matt Sharp stated, in part: "We’ve seen growing instances nationwide of public school and government officials actively seeking to replace parents as the ultimate determiners of what’s best for children, so we are thankful that Arizona is taking the lead in guaranteeing that parental rights are protected."

Sunday, April 24, 2022

The 3 - April 24, 2022

The 3 offers three stories of relevance to the Christian community, and in this week's edition, there is news from Florida regarding new guidelines on attempts to change a person's gender. Also, a Federal appeals court has sided with the challengers of speech codes on the University of Central Florida campus. Plus, a man preaching God's Word in public in the U.K. has been acquitted of charges that he broke the law.

Florida health department takes steps to protect children from gender change treatments and surgeries

The pushback to the real-life harmful consequences of pushing the LGBTQ agenda on children continues in Florida.  Just weeks after Alabama passed a bill criminalizing the use of so-called "gender change" treatments and surgeries, which proponents are now calling, "gender-affirming," the Department of Health of the state of Florida, which is certainly on a mission to stop the advance of this agenda, issued a set of guidelines regarding attempts to change one's gender.

Liberty Counsel reported that:

In a press release from the DOH, Florida Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo stated, “The federal government's medical establishment releasing guidance failing at the most basic level of academic rigor shows that this was never about health care. It was about injecting political ideology into the health of our children. Children experiencing gender dysphoria should be supported by family and seek counseling, not pushed into an irreversible decision before they reach 18.”

The article goes on to say:

Florida’s DOH further stated that “current evidence does not support the use of puberty blockers, hormone treatments or surgical procedures for children and adolescents experiencing gender dysphoria considering:
  • 80% of those seeking clinical care will lose their desire to identify with the non-birth sex,
  • the importance of puberty to brain development, with the pre-frontal cortex (which is responsible for executive functions, such as decision making) continuing to develop until approximately 25 years of age,
  • and the potentially irreversible consequences such as cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, infertility, increased cancer risk, and thrombosis.”

But there are Biblical answers to gender dysphoria, answers that some policymakers want to ban.  Liberty Counsel points out that it...

...represents licensed therapists who provide life-saving counseling to minors who desperately desire to conform their attractions, behaviors, and gender identities to their sincerely held religious beliefs. In Otto v. City of Boca Raton, FL, a three-judge panel of the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals struck down a city and county ordinance that banned counselors from providing minor clients with help to reduce or eliminate unwanted same-sex attractions, behaviors, or gender confusion. The appeals court found that the laws were both content and viewpoint based and violate the First Amendment right to free speech.

Federal appeals court sides with challengers on speech codes

We have seen instances in which colleges and universities have attempted to limit the speech of individuals and groups, including Christians, by implementing stiff regulations, including speech codes and small "speech zones," where free speech is permissible. The Christian Post has reported that at the University of Central Florida, a speech code had been put in place, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit has recently found it to be unconstitutional.

The article notes:

In February 2021, Speech First filed a lawsuit against university officials on behalf of students seeking to engage in debates over hot-button issues.

According to the complaint, the university policy was “overbroad” because it punished students who engaged in “verbal acts, name-calling, [or] graphic or written statements (via the use of cell phone or the internet)” that other students may find “humiliating” or offensive.

The lawsuit expressed concern over UCF’s bias response team, which according to the lawsuit, could discipline behavior done on or off campus “without regard to whether the act is legal, illegal, intentional, or unintentional.”

The article says that a three-judge panel ruled unanimously against the university, overturning a lower court decision.  The case has been sent back to the lower court. 

Alliance Defending Freedom had filed a "friend-of-the-court" brief in the case; Vice President of Appellate Advocacy and Senior Counsel John Bursch said, in part:

“...We are pleased the 11th Circuit continues to protect this fundamental right and has affirmed freedom for all students at the University of Central Florida. Universities ought to encourage a diverse set of viewpoints and perspectives, not stifle those opinions with which they disagree. As the 11th Circuit rightly pointed out, some regulations that appear well-meaning—like the university’s anti-harassment, anti-discrimination policy in question—can be so vague and broadly applied, that students simply wishing to share their religious or ideological views are chilled into silence. That is a violation of the freedoms protected by the First Amendment for every American.”

British street preacher accused of "hate speech" acquitted

A man in the United Kingdom who was exercising his free speech rights by preaching in public has been acquitted. Christian Headlines reported that:

According to the website Conservative Woman, Pastor John Sherwood of the Penn Free Methodist Church of Penn, England, was acquitted of the charges by the Uxbridge Magistrates' Court on April 7.

As Christian Headlines previously reported, Sherwood was arrested in April 2021 at the center of Uxbridge, London, for preaching on the biblical definition of marriage as outlined in the book of Genesis.

The article goes on to say:

According to CBN News, Sherwood's trial was filled with Scripture to drive home the point that his preaching is grounded in the Word of God. "Pastor Sherwood was determined to impress upon the prosecution that everything that he ever preaches upon is grounded in the final authority of God's word, the Bible," his colleague, Pastor Peter Simpson, wrote in the Conservative Woman article.

Christian Headlines also notes: "Sherwood, who asked to be sworn in with his own Bible, argued in his defense that he has a right to freedom of expression as outlined in Article 10 of the U.K.'s 1998 Human Rights Act."

Monday, April 18, 2022

The 3 - April 17, 2022

This week's edition of The 3, with three stories of relevance to the Christian community, includes two veto overrides in the state of Kentucky, including pro-life bill and a bill that prevents biological males from participating in girls' sports.  Also, DC police said that five babies whose bodies were among waste removed from an abortion clinic were not viable, but pro-lifers are telling a different story.  Plus, a well-known sports commentator and former NFL coach has responded forcefully to criticism for supporting a Florida law that is designed to promote fatherhood. 

Bluegrass state lawmakers override gubernatorial vetoes on pro-life, trans sports bills

It's no secret - the (blue) grass roots for religious freedom are strong in the Bluegrass state, but between the limitations placed on a county clerk who did not wish to grant same-sex marriage licenses to the oppression of churches during the pandemic, some higher authorities have not been respectful of the freedom to practice one's faith.

And, Governor Andy Beshear was caught recently pushing progressive causes, such as the participation of biological males in female sports and the advocacy for abortion - the Legislature, however, said "no."

Alliance Defending Freedom reports that the Legislature voted to override the veto of a bill that is "designed to protect athletic opportunities for the state’s female athletes." ADF Senior Counsel and Vice President of Advocacy Strategy Emilie Kao said that "Kentucky now joins a strong coalition of states that have acted to preserve fair competition for all female athletes, whether in grade school or in college, ensuring they will not face the losses that come with allowing males to compete in women’s sports. We are grateful for the Kentucky legislators who took a strong stand for female athletes by overriding the governor’s veto.”

Susan B. Anthony List reported on another veto override on strong pro-life legislation, which "protects unborn children from painful late abortions, stops dangerous mail-order abortion drugs, and more. Science shows unborn children can feel pain by 15 weeks and that chemical abortion poses a growing public health threat."

SBA List President Marjorie Dannenfelser said that “Beshear is an extremist who regularly sides with the abortion lobby against constituents and must be held accountable. Like most Americans, Kentuckians want commonsense safeguards for unborn babies and their mothers and reject abortion on demand. We thank all our allies who fought to get this legislation across the finish line, and we hope the U.S. Supreme Court will soon allow the people and their legislators nationwide to enact laws that save lives.”

Bodies of over one hundred babies who were aborted found, five could have lived outside the womb, pro-lifers claim

A convoluted series of events in Washington, DC involving pro-life advocates and an abortion clinic has resulted in a groundswell of concern for the lives of unborn babies. The Standing for Freedom Center reports that according to the activists, the bodies of 115 aborted children "including the five third-trimester children, were provided to them by a truck driver who had come to pick up 'biomedical waste' from the Washington Surgi-Clinic...," which is a local abortion clinic.

The website says that the activists "alerted the D.C. Metropolitan Police to the fact that they had recovered the remains of five late-term fetuses who may have been illegally killed at the Washington Surgi-Clinic." But, there were nine members of the group, the Progressive Anti-Abortion Uprising, who were "arrested on federal charges, not for having possession of the fetal remains but for having allegedly illegally entered the Washington Surgi-Clinic in violation of federal law in October 2020." And, as the Center relates, "The D.C. police have not investigated the case of the five fetuses, but they say the children died as a result of abortion 'in accordance with D.C. law.'"

The abortionist at this clinic is Dr. Cesare Santangelo, who has been likened by pro-life advocates to the well-known abortionist Dr. Kermit Gosnell, who is serving a prison sentence of life without parole.

Standing for Freedom says that "PAAU and other activists are calling on the U.S. Department of Justice to take over the investigation from the D.C. police and to prosecute Santangelo for violating the aforementioned federal laws."  The Center notes that "Nearly 70 members of Congress...are calling on the Justice Department to investigate and determine if any federal laws were violated. Prior to that, another 23...sent a letter to D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and D.C. Chief of Police Robert J. Contee III, demanding that the D.C. police conduct an investigation, compete [sic] with autopsies. They also sent a copy of the letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland."

A Twitter hashtag has been launched: #JusticeForTheFive. The article notes that March for Life tweeted: “These five children, like all children, have inherent value and deserved better than abortion – they deserved life. But at a minimum, they deserve to have their deaths investigated to ensure that no D.C. or federal laws were broken.”  The article also notes that:
Allie Beth Stuckey responded to the tragic find by writing a lengthy feature article for World. She stated, “While there are lingering unknowns surrounding this story, the heartbreaking images remind us of this incontrovertible truth: Abortion is a horrifying, grotesque, and evil tragedy. There is no nuance here. No caveats. It is not possible to be ‘personally pro-life’ but politically pro-abortion. There is no ‘pro-life ethic’ that does not include legal opposition to abortion.”

Lila Rose of Live Action tweeted: "The abortionist, the industry he works in, and the government of D.C. think that if they can just ignore this scandal long enough, it will go away. I can promise them that they are wrong. We will not stop demanding justice for these children until true justice is achieved.”

Legendary coach responds to critics over support of Florida fatherhood bill

Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida has continued to receive hostility for his actions - for instance, he has come under fire for his support of the commonsense bill protecting the rights of parents and the hearts and minds of young children regarding teaching about gender and sexuality.  He has been a leading voice for freedom during the coronavirus pandemic. The New York Post reports that DeSantis "signed a 15-week abortion ban into law," and noted that Florida had joined other states "that have imposed similar restrictions on the procedure."  The Post states:

The new law — which will go into effect July 1 — would prohibit abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, a dramatic cut from the current limit of 24 weeks.

It does not allow for exemptions for pregnancies causes by rape, incest or human trafficking. However, it does permit the procedure when an abortion is deemed necessary to save the mother’s life, prevent serious injury or if the fetus has a fatal abnormality.

The article noted that Oklahoma and Kentucky recently implemented pro-life legislation. 

And,Gov. DeSantis just signed a bill that allots public dollars to support the institution of fatherhood in the state.

At the bill-signing ceremony, there was an appearance by former Super Bowl-winning coach Tony Dungy. ChristianHeadlines.com reports that, "Social media was filled with criticism of Dungy for appearing alongside DeSantis.  The article reported that Dungy tweeted out, “2 days ago, I spoke on behalf of a Florida bill that supports dads & families, and it offended some people,” adding “14 yrs ago, Pres Obama said the same things almost verbatim. I’m assuming people were outraged at him too. I am serving the Lord, so I’ll keep supporting dads and families.” The article says that:

Dungy, in the tweet, referenced a quote by Obama where the former president said, “children who grow up without a father are five times more likely to live in poverty and commit crime, nine times more likely to drop out of schools and 20 times more likely to end up in prison.”

As Fox 13 Tampa Bay noted, the organization that Dungy founded, All Pro Dad, will benefit from this new program.