Thursday, November 24, 2022

The 3 - November 20, 2022

This week's edition of The 3, featuring three recent stories of relevance to the Christian community, including news of a federal judge's ruling protecting medical professionals from being forced to perform surgeries that presume to change a person's biological sex.  Also, a piece of legislation designed to protect same-sex marriage that also infringes on religious liberties has crossed the 60-vote threshold to move forward in the U.S. Senate.  And, a local judge in the state of Georgia has struck down that state's pro-life heartbeat bill, saying that when the Legislature passed it, Roe v. Wade had not yet been overturned.

Judge rules Title IX cannot be used to force gender surgeries

Title IX is the 50-year-old law preventing discrimination based on sex. There continue to be attempts to expand the definition of "sex" in that law to include gender identity and sexual orientation.  Section 1557 is a provision of the Affordable Care Act that prevents discrimination regarding medical services. 

The Christian Post reported recently, regarding the Department of Health and Human Services...

In May 2021, the HHS announced that it was going to interpret Title IX’s explicit prohibition on sex discrimination to include sexual orientation and gender identity.

Under the new interpretation, the HHS Office for Civil Rights would enforce Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act to protect “the civil rights of individuals who access or seek to access covered health programs or activities” and stop discrimination “against consumers on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.”

So, basically, it would appear that Section 1557 would be interpreted to force medical professionals to perform gender-change surgeries.  And, a Federal judge has said, "no" in a case involving two doctors who had filed a lawsuit. The Christian Post article from last week said:

The case centered on two Texas physicians who filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service’s Notification of Interpretation and Enforcement of Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which interpreted Title IX’s definition of sex to include sexual orientation and gender identity.

The physicians sued, arguing that the Notification forced them to provide services such as body-mutilating surgeries on people suffering from gender dysphoria, such as castration and double mastectomies, and that it violated federal administrative procedures.

In a decision released Friday, U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk of the Northern District of Texas, Amarillo Division, ruled that “Title IX operates in binary terms — male and female — when it references ‘on the basis of sex.’”

Respect for Marriage Act moves forward in the U.S. Senate

On Wednesday, the so-called "Respect for Marriage Act" crossed a critical threshold, acquiring 60+ votes in order to move the bill forward.  Combined with the approval already given by the House, this bill, known as H.R. 8404, not only has placed the principles of the Supreme Court's Obergefell ruling into legislation, but poses a serious threat to religious liberty.

The Daily Citizen quoted from Jim Daly, the president of Focus on the Family, who stated:

Instead of respecting marriage, H.R. 8404 further unravels the historic, cross-cultural and biblical definition of marriage as the life-long, covenantal relationship between a husband and wife.

This measure goes far beyond the Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision, as it enshrines “same-sex marriage” into federal law.

The article notes that:

The Senate moved forward an amended version of the bill, with supposed protections for religious freedom. But Daly said those protections weren’t enough, explaining that the measure only protects religious organizations or people who perform marriages.
Alliance Defending Freedom issued a statement, which included these words from CEO, President, and General Counsel Kristen Waggoner:
Today, the Senate chose to fuel hostility toward Americans who hold beliefs about marriage rooted in honorable religious or philosophical premises. This bill, which provides no protection or benefits that same-sex couples don’t already share, deceptively gives lip service to religious liberty while undermining the First Amendment freedoms that belong to each of us. …

It is shameful that 62 senators chose to ignore the Constitution and sanction discrimination toward these Americans. Make no mistake, this bill will be used by officials and activists to punish and ruin those who do not share the government’s view on marriage.

Judge strikes down Georgia heartbeat bill

In 2019, the Georgia Legislature passed and Governor Brian Kemp signed a bill that banned abortion beginning at the time that a heartbeat is detected in the pre-born child, generally thought to be at about 6 to 7 weeks.  A CBN News online report said that the bill "had been blocked from taking effect until the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the landmark Roe v. Wade decision that had legalized abortion nationwide for nearly 50 years."  It added: "The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had allowed Georgia to begin enforcing its abortion law just over three weeks after the high court's decision in June."

But a Superior Court Judge in Fulton County, which is where Atlanta is located, has struck down that bill, according to the article, which says that Judge Robert McBurney "...ruled that the law which took effect in 2019 was invalid because Roe v. Wade had not yet been struck down. McBurney did leave the door open for the legislature to revisit the ban."

The article notes that: "Andrew Isenhour, a spokesperson for...Gov. Brian Kemp, said McBurney's ruling placed 'the personal beliefs of a judge over the will of the legislature and people of Georgia.'" In a statement, he said: "The state has already filed a notice of appeal, and we will continue to fight for the lives of Georgia's unborn children.  Bill sponsor, state Rep. Ed Setzler, "from the Atlanta suburb of Acworth...said he was confident the state Supreme Court would overrule McBurney and reinstate the ban."

Sunday, November 13, 2022

The 3 - November 13, 2022

This week's edition of The 3 looks back at the mid-term elections and how the life issue factored into the results.  Also, a Christian organization who won a lawsuit against the city of Boston has now received a financial settlement. Plus, a Vermont middle school coach and his high school-aged daughter have been punished as the result of "misgendering" a student, a male identifying as female who was allowed to use the girls' locker room. 

Role of abortion in mid-term elections

After the Dobbs decision from the U.S. Supreme Court, the decision on abortion would be left to the states.  So, in all 50 states in the mid-terms, where state legislators and chief executives across the land were facing electoral contests, you might expect that the candidates' viewpoint on abortion would play a role.  Add to that five states where constitutional amendments were on the ballot, and you certainly had the makings of a potential campaign issue.

How much?  Hard to say. The Christian Post analyzed the role of the issue, and cited exit polling that showed that 27% of voters said that abortion was the most important issue for them, with about 3/4 indicating that they may have adopted a position in favor of abortion.  There was also reported evidence that younger women, perhaps motivated by the Dobbs decision, voted in favor of a pro-abortion position.

But, as The Washington Stand reported, pro-life governors in state after state did well in the election contests. The article quoted Brent Keilen, vice president of FRC Action, an arm of Family Research Council, who said, “You have to play offense to move the ball down the field and score. The same holds true in public policy. The candidates who were proactive on the life issue, defined their pro-life positions, and defined the extreme ideologies they were running against — in most cases legal abortion for any reason up until the moment of birth — did very well at the ballot box. This held true in even traditionally competitive states like Georgia, Florida, Ohio, and Iowa.”

That article, as well as a piece on LifeNews.com, elaborated on pro-life victories; some examples included:

In Texas, pro-life Governor Greg Abbot signed what became America’s first aboriton ban and it successfully saved babies from abortions even befor the Suipreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. bet O’Rourke campaigned almost exclusively on abortion and spend tens of millions to defeat Abbott. He lost by 11%.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill to ban abortions after 15 weeks and championed it during the debate with Charlie Crist. DeSantis blew away Crist on election night, winning by 19%.

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine signed his state’s heartbeat law protecting babies from abortions at 6 weeks and he won easily. Georgia Governor Brian Kemp signed a similar law and handily beat Stacey Abrams 53-45. And in Oklahoma there was significant concern that Governor Kevin Stitt would be unseated because he signed an abortion ban, but he trounced his pro-abortion opponent by 14%.
The article also noted that the outcome of the votes on the five amendments was against the pro-life position. Joy Stockbauer, a policy analyst with the Center for Human Dignity for FRC, stated, "The simple truth is that many voters either abstain or fail to vote their true values because of deceptive wording,” adding, “The millions of dollars poured into ballot initiatives by the abortion industry muddied the waters and misrepresented what the ballot initiatives actually meant. Fundamentally, in a nation that values the dignity of every person, whether or not a human being lives or dies should not be left to a popular vote.”

Religious freedom victory in Boston yields financial compensation

I have reported to you and commented on the three major religious freedom victories emerging out of the previous session of the U.S. Supreme Court.  One of them involved a Christian organization, Camp Constitution, that desired to fly a Christian flag at Boston's City Hall to celebrate a special observance. The city officials chose not to allow this, even though it had not turned down any organization before.

So, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of Camp Constitution, which is directed by Harold Shutleff; recently, a financial consideration to back the decision was announced. The Daily Citizen reported:

Once the high court spoke, it was up to the lower courts to issue the necessary injunctions and deal with an award of attorney’s fees in Shurtleff’s favor. Shurtleff and the city then reached an agreement on attorney’s fees and stipulated to a dismissal of the case.

Shurtleff’s attorneys celebrated the win in a press release.

Liberty Counsel Founder and Chairman Mat Staver said, “We are pleased that after five years of litigation and a unanimous victory at the U.S. Supreme Court, we joined with Hal Shurtleff to finally let freedom fly in Boston, the Cradle of Liberty...

Bruce Hausknecht, judicial analyst for Focus on the Family and writer of the Daily Citizen piece, said...

...when a government entity gets worried it will commit an “establishment of religion” violation by permitting religious speech that might be attributed to the government, and then prohibits such speech – like denying the use of a Christian flag – it sometimes goes too far and commits a free speech violation.

That’s why, once Boston lost its argument that its flag-raising program was “government speech,” not private speech, it was destined to lose the case. And to pay Harold Shurtleff’s attorney’s fees.

The Supreme Court’s decision in Shurtleff’s case and subsequent payment of attorney’s fees will send a strong message to government officials everywhere: Think twice before you discriminate against religious speech. It could cost you.

Father and daughter - coach and student - both suspended for "misgendering" male student who used female facilities

In Vermont, Travis Allen and his 14-year-old daughter Blake have both faced punishment for identifying a biological male in a girls' locker room as, well, a male.  CBN News reported that:

In September, a 14-year-old male student who identifies as female and plays on the Randolph Union High School girls' volleyball team entered the locker room while the girls were changing.

"A male was in our locker room when volleyball girls were trying to get changed," Blake told the Daily Signal. "And after I asked him to leave, he didn't, and later looked over at girls with their shirts off. And it made many people uncomfortable and feel violated. And I left as soon as I could in a panic."

Blake made comments about the fact that the student was male, and CBN reported that, "The school began an investigation into Blake's comments and decided to punish her, claiming the student-athlete violated the school's Harassment, Hazing, and Bullying policy."  

Then, her father, formerly a coach at a middle school in the district, "expressed his views about the incident on a local news station's Facebook page." The article says:
A user identifying as the "mother of the trans student in question" claimed Blake "made up the story for attention," and that the "truth will prevail."

Travis defended his daughter saying, "The truth is your son watched my daughter and multiple other girls change in the locker room. While he got a free show, they got violated."

The district superintendent determined that by writing that comment, the father had "misgendered a transgender student" and suspended Travis from his job as the middle school girls' soccer coach without pay for the rest of the season.

Alliance Defending Freedom has filed a lawsuit against the school district on behalf of Travis and Blake, according to the article.  Blake had been suspended, but that was "lifted" after the lawsuit was filed.

Sunday, November 06, 2022

The 3 - November 6, 2022

In this week's edition of The 3, highlighting three recent stories of impact to the Christian community, a fired high school football coach in Washington state is heading back to work, following the Supreme Court decision upholding his right to pray after games.  Also, a grocery store chain has entered into a settlement with two employees who said that wearing an LGBTQ apron was inconsistent with their religious beliefs and were fired.  And, a UFC fighter from Iran has stood in solidarity with protestors in his home country and testified to his relationship with Christ.

Back to Bremerton for fired praying football coach

Former Bremerton, Washington assistant football coach, Joe Kennedy, after having his right to pray at midfield after football games upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, is returning to work in Washington. The New York Post reported that: "Joe Kennedy and the Bremerton School District both submitted a joint stipulation in US district court...asking Kennedy to be reinstated to his assistant coach position at Bremerton High School on or before March 15, 2023, according to court documents obtained by CBS."

The article goes on to say...

...a clause was included in the record that the district cannot “interfere with or prohibit Kennedy from offering a prayer consistent with the U.S. Supreme Court’s opinion.”

Additionally, the district is not allowed to “retaliate against or take any future adverse employment action against Kennedy for conduct that complies with the terms of the court’s order.”

The New York Post story included a quote from the Washington Examiner from Jeremy Dys, attorney at First Liberty, which represented the coach; he said: "Since the Supreme Court released its decision in June, it was inevitable that Coach Kennedy would be back on the field,” adding, “We’re glad that the school district has agreed that by March 15, 2023, he’ll be back to coaching, just like he wanted when he filed the lawsuit.”

Grocery store chain settles with employees who declined to wear LGBTQ aprons

Two employees at a Kroger store in Conway, Arkansas, who declined to wear aprons that contained LGBTQ imagery have received a settlement from the grocery store chain. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission argued on behalf of the two former employees, according to ChristianHeadlines.com, which reported that:

The apron depicted a “rainbow-colored heart emblem on the bib,” and the two employees believed that wearing it would “violate their religious beliefs,” the EEOC said.

One woman “offered to wear the apron with the emblem covered, and the other offered to wear a different apron without the emblem, but the company made no attempt to accommodate their requests,” the EEOC said.

When the women “still refused to wear the apron with the emblem visible,” the EEOC said, Kroger “retaliated against them by disciplining and ultimately discharging them.”
Even though, as the story relates, "Kroger denies the allegations," the article states:
As part of the settlement, Kroger will pay $180,000 and “create a religious accommodation policy and provide enhanced religious discrimination training to store manage­ment,” EEOC said.

Iranian UFC fighter testifies to relationship with Christ

The death of an Iranian woman, who had refused to wear a headscarf, at the hands of authorities in that nation continues to reverberate, even into the world of UFC fighting.

The Christian Post reported that, following a recent victory, "Iranian UFC fighter Beneil Dariush took a moment during his recent victory speech to share the hope he has in Christ with the people of his country amid weeks of social unrest following the death of Mahsa Amini."  The article reports that Dariush said after the victory:

"...I need to dedicate this fight to my people in Iran," he told the reporter in the ring. "I know you're struggling. I know you're fighting for freedom. I know it's a tough struggle. I want you guys to know we're praying for you, and we love you."

The fighter added:

"This might be the most important thing you'll ever hear: there is true freedom, a freedom that no one can take from you in the name of Jesus Christ, the son of God. Don't ever forget that. If you remember one thing I say, remember that."

The article recounted the series of events involving the death of the 22-year-old in Iran, which has set off protests in the country. It stated:

The demonstrations were prompted by the death of 22-year-old Amini, a young woman arrested by Iran's morality police on Sep.13 for allegedly defying the Islamic government's strict requirement for women to wear hijabs or headscarves. Amini died while in custody three days later, which sparked anti-regime protests across Iran.

Sunday, October 30, 2022

The 3 - October 30, 2022

This week's edition of The 3, highlighting three stories of relevance to the Christian community, includes a development in a court battle between a Christian university who wishes to apply its Christian principles regarding faculty, and the attorney general of the state in which it is located.  Also, another court win was announced recently in a case where a judge found that a venue in Scotland discriminated against a Christian ministry regarding a planned event.  And, a baker in California has received a positive court ruling in her quest to not bake a cake for a gay wedding.

Christian university lawsuit against WA AG dismissed by judge

Unfortunately, we have seen instances of pressure on Christian colleges and universities to abandon the principles they desire to uphold.  A recent instance has to do with Seattle Pacific University, which is associated with the Free Methodist Church. 

Religion News Service reported that at SPU, “employees are expected to refrain from sexual behavior that is inconsistent with the University’s understanding of Biblical standards, including cohabitation, extramarital sexual activity, and same-sex sexual activity.”

Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson launched an investigation into the private university's employment practices, and the university responded by suing the AG. 

Within the past few days, a federal court judge has dismissed the lawsuit filed by SPU.  However, you could say it was thrown out by a technicality. The RNS story stated:

According to a news release from the attorney general’s office, the federal judge ruled SPU’s arguments — which claim Ferguson’s probe infringes on the university’s First Amendment right “to govern itself according to religious principles” — should be raised in state court. The judge said SPU asked for a change in state law the federal court cannot grant.
The university is being represented by the Becket law firm - the article stated: "Lori Windham, Becket’s vice president and senior counsel, said the 'court did not rule on the attorney general’s unlawful investigation.'" 

Evangelistic ministry receives another favorable court ruling in UK

There has certainly has been opposition in the United Kingdom to the work of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, but the BGEA has won a total of five court victories over those who have opposed the efforts there, according to CBN.com, which reported on the most recent victory, coming in a Scottish court.  The article said:

Glasgow’s Sheriff Court found Graham and his organization, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA), were discriminated against when the Scottish Event Campus (SEC), Scotland’s largest event space, canceled a 2020 ministry event.

Franklin Graham was due to be the speaker at the event.  

The judge ruled that the BGEA would receive almost $110,000 in damages. The CBN article stated that the judge "...saw no evidence to back the claims used to cancel the event and wrote the SEC had violated the U.K. 2010 Equality Act when it trumpeted protestors’ views and ignored Graham’s supporters, who wanted to see the event unfold."

Baker wins court case after declining to provide product for gay wedding

The consequences for Christian believers who do not wish to use their creative services to support gay marriage are mixed, with cake baker Jack Phillips winning a decision from the U.S. Supreme Court that critics in Christian legal circles contend does not go far enough, and graphic artist Lorie Smith appealing her court defeats to the high court, with oral arguments scheduled now for December.

The Christian Post reports on a case of a California baker, Cathy Miller, who won a victory after having declined to provide a cake for a gay wedding.  The article states:

A court has ruled that the Christian owner of Tastries Bakery in California acted lawfully when she refused to make a wedding cake for a lesbian couple and instead referred them to a different bakery, citing her sincere religious belief that marriage is intended to be between one man and one woman.
Kern County judge Eric Bradshaw, according to a report by the Bakersfield Californian referenced in the Christian Post article, said that the baker's "only motivation, at all times, was to act consistent with her sincere Christian beliefs about what the Bible teaches regarding marriage...," adding, "That motivation was not unreasonable, or arbitrary, nor did it emphasize irrelevant differences or perpetuate stereotypes..."

Sunday, October 23, 2022

The 3 - October 23, 2022

This week's edition of The 3 includes a story about parental rights legislation that has been proposed in Congress; it may not have much of a chance of becoming law, but it at least could elevate the discussion about this important topic.  Also, a Christian teacher at a child care center in California has lost her job because she wouldn't read LGBTQ-themed books to children 5 years old and below; she is fighting back.  And, a British doctor who was headed for court to defend his right to pray with patients has reached a settlement with health officials.

Parental rights legislation proposed in Congress

From a Biblical perspective, parents have been entrusted by God with the right to direct the lives of their children. And, from a societal perspective, it is important that parents' rights are reinforced. 

The state of Florida addressed the issue in a piece of legislation that upheld parental rights and prevented the teaching of inappropriate sexual material to young children.  

Now, there is parental rights legislation that has been proposed by Rep. Debbie Lesko of Arizona, a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, according to ChristianHeadlines.com.  The article says that:

The first sentence of the amendment states that the "liberty of parents to direct the upbringing, education, and care of their children is a fundamental right."

Will Estrada, the president of ParentalRights.org and a supporter of the proposed amendment, said, "parental rights are just too important to be left to Supreme Court precedent alone."
A number of "religious liberty organizations" supports the legislation, according to the article; that includes Alliance Defending Freedom. Emilie Kao, Senior Counsel of ADF, states: "Sadly, as parents have stood before local school boards and state legislatures across the country to claim that right, they've been met by government officials who declare themselves the ultimate determiners of what's best for children..."

Christian teacher loses job for not reading LGBTQ books, files suit

A teacher at a child care center in California, who had responsibility over children ages 5 and less, lost her job because she would not read LGBTQ-oriented books to the children under her care.  

The Washington Examiner reported that Nelli Parisenkova originally asked for a religious accommodation and received an "informal accommodation," but then the director of the center refused to grant a more formal action.

Parisenkova has filed a lawsuit against the day care center - the article notes:

Reading the books would "violate her religious beliefs and constitute promotion of intimate relationships and choices that are contrary to the teachings of her faith," the complaint reads.

"Parisenkova formally requested a religious accommodation from Bright Horizons that aligned with her prior informally granted request. Bright Horizons responded by categorically denying the request," the suit adds.

The Examiner article says that the center and its director participated in the following: "retaliation, failure to prevent discrimination and harassment, wrongful termination, constructive discharge, religious discrimination, and harassment."

British doctor can continue to pray with patients, based on settlement

Dr. Richard Scott, a medical doctor who practices in southeast England was facing potential disciplinary action for praying with a patient.  However, the National Health Service has settled with the doctor, according to Decision Magazine, which reported:

In 2019, Scott was forced to undergo a six-month “fitness to practice” investigation, following a complaint filed by the National Secular Society (NSS) on behalf of an anonymous patient. According to NSS, the patient was uncomfortable being offered prayer and discussing Christian faith during a consultation with Scott.

Yet Scott recalled that he “only discussed mutual faith after obtaining the patient’s permission.”

“In our conversation, I said that personally, I had found having faith in Jesus helped me and could help the patient,” he said. “At no time did the patient indicate that they were offended, or that they wanted to stop the discussion. If that had been the case, I would have immediately ended the conversation.”

Those comments had been related by the Christian Concern website. The Decision article noted:

NHS lawyers agreed that Scott can offer to pray with patients if done so within agreed General Medical Council guidance. And Scott said he will attend a one-day course related to professional boundaries.
Andrea Williams, CEO of the Christian Legal Centre, which represented Dr. Scott, said:
“It is now a relief to Richard and his family that this case is finally settled,” she said.      "… Secular activists, whether campaign groups or those working within the NHS have been relentless in their pursuit of Dr. Scott. … [He] is a highly experienced NHS doctor whose life and career has been committed to serving his patients and community. … There is no evidence that Dr. Scott’s practice of praying with his patients has in any way interfered with his delivery of excellent medicine—in fact, quite the opposite. He has seen many patients get set from drink and drug addictions and become active members of society through his spiritual care..."

Sunday, October 16, 2022

The 3 - October 16, 2022

This week's edition of The 3, featuring three stories of relevance to the Christian community, features recent instances of companies in the financial services industry that indicated a real concern over examining customers' ideology.  Also, a pro-life group has been exonerated for its free speech activity in front of a Greensboro, NC abortion Clinic.  And, a federal appeals court has upheld the right of a justice of the peace in Texas to host prayers from local ministers at the beginning of court sessions.

Concern over action by financial firms regarding customer ideology

There have been warnings of the possibility of financial services companies taking action against customers who do not hold to an approved ideology.  This is especially concerning in the area of ESG: environmental, social, and governance policies.

The Washington Stand reported that:

At the end of September, popular online payment processor PayPal announced impending updates to their Acceptable Use Policies (AUP). Reported first by The Daily Wire, the policy update stated that it would debit users up to $2,500 if they engaged in banned activity such as “promot[ing] misinformation” or “hate,” effective November 3.
Chris Gacek, senior research fellow for Family Research Council, according to the article, said “People are absolutely correct to be concerned with the proposed policy that was stated,” adding, “I don’t know whether it was accidental or whether it wasn’t. [But] the idea that you could debit a person’s bank account or financial accounts based on some statement or belief that they had that wasn’t in alignment with a company’s view of the world would be not just devastating, it would be devastating in this current environment to conservatives and Christians.”

Then, within days of that announcement, The Christian Post reported that Chase had closed the bank account of a non-profit organization, the National Committee for Religious Freedom, led by former Kansas governor and former Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, Sam Brownback.  The article says:

According to Brownback, after NCRF Executive Director Justin Murff reached out for more information on the move, he was told the decision was made at the “corporate level.”

The article also stated:

After looking further into the issue, a representative from the Chase executive office identified only as “Chi-Chi” contacted Murff and explained that it might be possible to continue the business relationship if NCRF could provide some further details about the nonprofit’s political activities.

Murff told CP that included providing a list of donors who have given more than 10% of NCRF’s operating budget, a list of candidates NCRF intends to support and the criteria which NCRF uses to decide whom it supports politically.

The Christian Post said, "...for Murff, the experience has raised troubling questions about whether this trend could continue — and potentially worsen — in the future."  He asked, “If they can ‘de-bank’ the NCRF, a multi-faith religious nonprofit, what happens when they start 'de-banking' pastors and Christian business people?” 

North Carolina pro-life advocates settle with city over arrest at abortion clinic

A North Carolina-based ministry called Love Life was continuing its pro-life advocacy in front of abortion clinics in the Greensboro area, even during the COVID crisis. City and county officials arrested members of the group, claiming originally that the advocates were violating COVID protocols.  But, as the Alliance Defending Freedom website states:

Love Life members had carefully adhered to all provisions of the proclamation, only engaging in activities that complied with the county’s order. Through the advocacy of ADF, the city finally admitted that “the City of Greensboro issued citations for [Love Life members’] exercise of constitutionally protected First Amendment rights and thereafter arrested [them].”

The city of Greensboro has settled with Love Life, and the ADF website says:

As part of the settlement, the city agreed that the First Amendment protects engaging in pro-life advocacy on public sidewalks and further agreed to uphold citizens’ First Amendment rights in any future proclamation order related to a public-health emergency like COVID-19. Based on the city’s admission of wrongdoing and guarantees of future protections, the pro-life advocates—members of the Christian, pro-life ministry Love Life—agreed to forgo seeking damages from the city. 

Panel of judges defend another judge's right to pray

Wayne Mack is a Justice of the Peace in Montgomery County, Texas, and his practice of inviting community leaders into his courtroom for an opening prayer was challenged by the Freedom from Religion Foundation in 2019, according to a Reuters report cited in a Faithwire article

Recently, a federal appeals court, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, ruled that the judge's actions can continue. Faithwire stated that...

...the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals voted 2-1 in favor of Mack, rejecting the FFRF’s claim that invocations could be viewed as prejudicial. The judges ruled Mack can continue allowing chaplains and ministers to pray at the start of legal proceedings as long as he extends the invitation to leaders from different faith backgrounds and does not impose consequences on anyone who declines to participate.
The story notes that the appeals court decision "...comes years after the U.S. Supreme Court decided 5-4 in May 2014 that prayers before government meetings are constitutional. Presumably, court proceedings would fall under that umbrella."  The article relates:
Mack, for his part, said in a statement he is “eternally grateful” for the circuit court ruling.

“I look forward to continuing to serve the people of Montgomery County,” he said.

Monday, October 10, 2022

The 3 - October 9, 2022

This week's edition of The 3, featuring three stories of relevance to the Christian community, includes a situation in involving a medical professional who lost her job due to not using "gender" pronouns.  Also, there is news out of Texas, where a church held a drag show to raise money for a clothes closet that has "trans" clothing.  And, a judge out of New York has issued a ruling in favor of polygamy.

Physician assistant fired for using improper pronouns

The continued attempts to force people to use pronouns corresponding to one's so-called "gender identity" has become a risk to the livelihood of individuals who choose not to buy into the practice.

Just the News reported on a recent occurrence in Michigan, where a physician's assistant has lost her job. Valerie Kloosterman was a PA at the University of Michigan Health-West until she was terminated. First Liberty is representing her, and sent a letter challenging her firing.  The report says:

The letter claims that Kloosterman declined to use preferred pronouns of transgender people and instead referred to them by their first name. She also was not willing to refer patients for gender reassignment surgery, citing her Christian faith.

The letter claims that the hospital held a July 2021 meeting with the human resources director and other managers, including Thomas Pierce, the diversity program director, to address Kloosterman's refusal to refer to transgender patients by their preferred pronouns.

Kloosterman said she could not because of her religious beliefs and her independent medical judgment, but that she did use the patients' first names.

The next month, Valerie was fired.

Texas drag show at church raises money for trans clothing

A church in Katy, Texas - the First Christian Church - has a rather unique clothes closet: According to an article at the American Greatness website, the "Transparent Closet" "is for 'trans and exploring teens, youth and young adults to have a safe place for clothing needs and beyond,' according to the church’s website.  One type of merchandise that is sold there is what are called "chest binders."

Recently, according to the article, the church held a fundraiser for this "outreach." It was billed as a "family-friendly" drag show; someone who attended the show who "...was able to infiltrate the 'all ages' transvestite bingo event, said it was 'basically a drag show,' and 'kids were handing them money.' The man said 'there were comments made in a sexual manner.'" He said, “It wasn’t overtly sexual, but it was way more than a kid sought to be in the middle of..."

Meanwhile, the article says that the sheriff's office was sent out to keep two groups of people separate: those opposing the show, numbering around 300, and those who supported the church, at 100, according to the Epoch Times, that reported that the drag show supporters were "black-clad antifa counter-protestors."

First SSM, now judge rules that polygamy is legal

As you know, the majority in the U.S. Senate is trying to force a same-sex marriage bill through before the end of year, following the election.  However, as Tony Perkins, President of Family Research Council points out at The Washington Stand, the bill actually had language that legalized polygamy, which was attributed to a "drafting error."

But, a New York judge has issued a decision authorizing so-called "polyamorous unions."  The Washington Stand article said:

The decision by trial court judge Karen May Bacdayan should have been frontpage news. After all, she essentially gave New York’s blessing to polyamorous unions in her September decision, declaring that “… the problem with [previous same-sex marriage rulings] is that they recognize only two-person relationships.”

The article continued:

Bacdayan pointed to two same-sex union cases, New York’s Braschi v. Stahl and SCOTUS’s Obergefell v. Hodges, explaining that both major rulings “limit their holdings to two-person relationships.” Those decisions, she agrees, were “revolutionary,” but they “still adhered to the majoritarian, societal view that only two people can have a family-like relationship.” In other words, “only people who are ‘committed’ in a way defined by certain traditional factors qualify for protection …” As far as she’s concerned, Braschi and Obergefell “open[ed] the door for consideration of other relational constructs — and perhaps,” the judge insisted, “the time has arrived.”
Perkins notes, "The reality is, once a nation rejects God’s design, basic biology, and thousands of years of human history, there are no boundaries. We are a country building its policies on society’s shifting sands, and if we aren’t careful, the end result will be an America we will not — and cannot — recognize."

Saturday, October 01, 2022

The 3 - October 2, 2022

This week's edition of The 3, featuring three stories of relevance to the Christian community, includes actions taken by the governor of California to promote abortion in the state, as well as the response by a high-profile pastor.  Also, a pro-life advocate in Philadelphia was recently arrested in a case involving his involvement in a conflict in front of an abortion clinic.  Plus, a drag show at a Tennessee university has raised concerns.

CA governor signs 13 abortion-related bills into law, major pastor in state calls for his repentance

The Governor of California, Gavin Newsom, is intent on making his state a tourist destination - for women seeking an abortion, and he has launched a cross-country campaign in states with strong pro-life laws in order to attract women to come, offending Christians by using a Scripture reference. He's also been intent on signing legislation to liberalize abortion laws, signing 13 bills into law last week.

CBNNews.com reports that: 
The raft of new abortion laws essentially codifies key parts of the governor's campaign to make California a national abortion hub, but pro-life advocates are condemning the move calling it "horrendous."

"All year we have been fighting these bills to make people understand what is coming down the pike," Greg Burt with the California Family Council (CFC) said on Facebook. "Governor News really wants to make California a sanctuary for the nation's abortions."
The article adds:
The newly signed laws would not only remove all civil and criminal penalties in the deaths of newborn babies, but they set the stage for voters to add additional abortion protections directly into California's Constitution under Proposition 1, come November.

"It protects all abortion, for any reason, up until the moment of birth," Burt explained.

And, like the federal government, the state of California has invested money to establish a website that helps provide information for women on how to get an abortion.

Meanwhile, also this week, Dr. John MacArthur, who pastors Grace Community Church in southern California, who is hear on Grace to You weekday afternoon at 1:30 on Faith Radio, wrote an open letter to the governor, calling out his unbiblical actions, warning him about the consequences of his unbiblical policies, and urging him to repent and surrender to Christ. 

The text of the letter is found on the Grace to You website; the pastor declares:

My concern, Governor Newsom, is that your own soul lies in grave, eternal peril. “Each one of us will give an account of himself to God” (Romans 14:12). One day, not very long from now, you will face that reality. Nothing is more certain. “It is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). You will stand in the presence of the Holy God who created you, who is your Judge, and He will demand that you give an account for how you have flouted His authority in your governing, and how you have twisted His own Holy Word to rationalize it. As you look over the precipice of eternity, what will your answer be?

Toward the end of the letter, he states: 

Our church, and countless Christians nationwide, are praying for your full repentance. Please respond to the gospel, forsake the path of wickedness you have pursued all your life, turn to Christ, ask for forgiveness, and use your office to advance the cause of righteousness (as is your duty) instead of undermining it (as has been your pattern).
Pro-life advocate arrested in raid at home

A Philadelphia pro-life advocate was at home with his family recently when reportedly numerous FBI agents visited his home and arrested him. Live Action News reported:
Mark Houck — a husband, father of seven young children, founder of a men’s ministry, and regular sidewalk counselor at Planned Parenthood in downtown Philadelphia, PA — was arrested Friday morning around 7:00 a.m. when approximately 20+ FBI agents reportedly arrived in 15 units with sirens and lights, fully equipped in SWAT gear with firearms. “He opened the door with hands up, and had AR-15s in his face” with his children present, who were “crying and screaming” and “traumatized,” according to family friend and media spokesperson Brian Middleton.
The FBI has denied that a SWAT team was on the scene and that the number of agents was around 15 or 20.

The article says that:
Middleton told Live Action News that this shocking incident had originally stemmed from an altercation outside Planned Parenthood nearly a year ago on October 13, 2021, in which a regular abortion facility escort is said to have verbally accosted Houck’s 12-year-old son, who was present with his father that day on the public sidewalk. When Houck stepped between the escort (who was not escorting any abortion clients at the time) and Houck’s young son, Houck reportedly had to physically push the escort away to stop the verbal assault on his child.

This "escort" failed to show on numerous occasions for court appearances, and ultimately the case was dismissed.  However, a few days later, Houck was notified he was the subject of a grand jury investigation - his attorneys cooperated, but there was no word from officials until the raid on September 23.  According to Live Action News, "He has been charged with violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act and could be sentenced to as many as 11 years in prison with fines up to $350,000."  Again, this is for a case that was dismissed on the local level. 

And, Live Action News also reports:

A pro-life sidewalk advocate who spends hours praying before a Minnesota Planned Parenthood was recently questioned by two FBI agents, further contributing to fears that the Biden Department of Justice is targeting pro-life organizations.
The article says:
The incident that brought the FBI agents to question the man, known only as Henry, took place several months ago. At that time, it is alleged that a Planned Parenthood client attacked pro-life advocates with a box cutter, attempting to tear and slash at their signs while verbally threatening them. The client eventually fell down, but called police. Henry was charged with assault, but all charges were dismissed.

Drag shows on university campus cancelled

At some point, leadership has to say, "enough is enough."  And, that is what the President of Tennessee Teach University has said and done regarding future drag shows on campus after a recent incident. A CBN News story reported that:

According to the DailyWire, a man dressed as a sad monk comes out onto the stage to a song that mocks faith. The music changes and a drag performer strips down to a bodysuit. Minors with cash in their hand are seen running to the stage and an audience cheers.

The CBN story stated that:

President Phil Oldham of Tennessee Tech University (TTU) issued a statement after a video of a drag show held on campus went viral on Twitter.

"I am disturbed and dismayed about the activities in a video circulating on social media from a recent event on Tennessee Tech's campus," he wrote.

"I do not feel the activities in the video represent Tech's values, and I do not condone explicit activity where minors are present," he added. "I also am offended by disparaging mockery toward any religious group."

The President noted that the event was not sponsored by the university and that there would be an investigation. 

The story related:

TTU frequently hosted drag shows at Backdoor Playhouse theater and advertised them to all ages.

But a video posted on Twitter by child protection advocate Landon Starbuck went viral and caught the attention of the school's president.
The events have not been sponsored by the university: the sponsors are Upper Cumberland Pride, TTU's Lambda Gender and Sexuality Alliance, and TTU's drama club Tech Players.  The Daily Wire reported that future "drag" events by two organizations have been cancelled.

Saturday, September 24, 2022

The 3 - September 25, 2022

This week's edition of The 3, highlighting three stories of relevance to the Christian community, features two stories related to the life issue: a county judge in Ohio has put the state's six-week abortion ban on hold; also, VA hospitals may be performing abortions.  Plus, the issue of religious exemptions in the military about the COVID vaccines has been addressed by an Inspector General for the Department of Defense.

Judge puts Ohio abortion ban on hold

Across America, states that have had pro-life laws that had been passed or so-called "trigger" laws ready to be implemented in the eventuality of Roe v. Wade being overturned have had their laws go into effect following the overturning of Roe by the U.S. Supreme Court in the Dobbs case.  Despite challenges, numerous states now protect life to a greater degree than before the ruling.

But, don't count Ohio as being one of them, at least for now, based on a ruling by a county judge in the state putting the state's six-week abortion ban on hold. The Hill reports that:
Hamilton County Judge Christian Jenkins issued a temporary restraining order that will stop the law’s implementation for 14 days, with pro-abortion activists now asking the judge to issue a preliminary injunction that would further block the law for the duration of the case.

The article notes: 'Jenkins ruled that abortion falls under the constitution’s definition of health care. He also ruled the law discriminates against pregnant women, violating a separate equal protection clause in the state constitution."

Veterans' hospitals possibly on the way to performing abortions

Since the overturning of Roe vs. Wade, there have been overtures that the Federal government would use its properties in order to perform abortions. Earlier this month, the Department of Veterans Affairs announced, according to the language of an article at LifeNews.com, that "it plans to kill babies in abortions in cases of rape or incest or in cases where the mother’s life or health is in danger, even though doctors repeatedly say abortions are never medically necessary."

So, this means, that no matter what a state law may be, VA hospitals, according to the article, "will become abortion centers even in pro-life states that have banned abortions."

But, the article points out there may be a issue with the plan.  LifeNews.com states:

...Biden’s move to expand abortion on demand through the Department of Veteran Affairs breaks federal law. It is in violation of Section 106 of the Veterans Health Care Act of 1992 which specifically prohibits the VA from providing abortion.

“The Biden Administration is once again pushing taxpayer funding of abortion on demand,” said Carol Tobias, president of National Right to Life. “Abortion is not health care, and this rule is in clear violation of existing law.”

Military Inspector General ribs Secretary of Defense on lack of religious exemptions for COVID jabs

One of the unfortunate storylines involving the COVID vaccine has been the attempt to force those who bravely serve in our military to get the vaccine or face the threat of being removed.  Thousands of religious exemptions have been filed by service members who have a conscience objection to the vaccine, but a very small percentage have been granted.

The Liberty Counsel website reports:

The Acting Department of Defense Inspector General (DoDIG) Sean O'Donnell sent a memo to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin that highlights the deliberate violation of federal law within the Department of Defense (DOD) as evidenced in actual denials of religious exemption requests from service members who refused the COVID-19 shot because of their religious beliefs.

The site says that O'Donnell, in his memo, wrote: 

“Religious Liberty in the Military Services’ paragraph 3.2.d requires that ‘officials charged with making recommendations or taking final action on a Service member’s request for the accommodation of religious practices will review each request individually, considering the full range of facts and circumstances relevant to the specific request…. The means that is least restrictive to the requestor’s religious practice and that does not impede a compelling governmental interest will be determinative [Emphasis added.]’”
But, as Liberty Counsel notes, "In actual religious exemption denial letters from the COVID shot mandate sent to service members from the Department of the Air Force and the Department of the U.S. Navy, every letter reveals similar, if not identical, wording."

In a case in which Liberty Counsel is involved on behalf of Navy SEALS, a federal district judge had asked for bi-weekly reports on religious exemptions granted. The website states: "The latest filings received by the court as of February 4, 2022, revealed that out of 24,818 religious exemption requests received, only four were granted, and three of those were questionable since as least two of those service members were already scheduled to leave the military. However, 4,146 medical exemptions have been granted."

Monday, September 19, 2022

The 3 - September 18, 2022

This week's edition of The 3, highlighting three recent stories of relevance to the Christian community, including a court victory on behalf of an adoption agency that decided only to place children in homes of couples in a male-female marriage relationship.  Also, a new pro-life bill has been introduced into Congress that would ban abortion after 15-weeks, which scientific research shows is the point of gestation at which an unborn child can feel pain.  And, an anticipated vote in the U.S. Senate on a bill to strengthen "same-sex marriage" has been postponed until after the election.

NY adoption agency wins court victory

In 2010, in the state of New York, the Domestic Relations Law, according to CBNNews.com, "gave unmarried adult couples and married couples, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, the right to adopt."

The article notes that:

New Hope Family Services said it could only provide adoption services to married heterosexual couples because of religious beliefs after the state amended its Domestic Relations Law in 2010, according to court filings.

The report continued:

As CBN News reported, the New York State Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) issued an ultimatum to the adoption group telling the faith-based organization to revise its "discriminatory and impermissible" policy or stop providing families for children who need them.

In 2018, the Syracuse-based group filed a lawsuit against the OCFS claiming the agency violated their freedom of religion.
Recently, a ruling was finally issued by a federal district court judge, according to CBN, which said that "U.S. District Court Judge Mae A. D'Agostino in Albany cited free speech protections...granting New Hope a summary judgment and ruling the state agency couldn't compel New Hope to provide adoption services to unmarried or same-sex couples."

Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) Senior Counsel, Roger Brooks, said: "Shutting down an adoption provider for its religious beliefs—needlessly and unconstitutionally reducing the number of agencies willing to help—benefits no one—certainly not children," adding, "New Hope's faith-guided services don't coerce anyone and do nothing to interfere with other adoption providers who have different beliefs about family and the best interests of children."

15-week abortion ban introduced into Congress, contrast to lawmakers who favor abortion at any stage of pregnancy

Even though there have been some who disagree with the release of a piece of pro-life legislation, concerned about the possible effect on upcoming mid-term elections, the Daily Caller reports that polling data shows widespread support for a ban on abortion after 15 weeks.

Sen. Lindsey Graham has introduced, and some pro-life groups have supported, such legislation.  The Daily Caller states: "...Sen. Lindsey Graham introduced federal legislation that would ban abortions after 15 weeks with exceptions for for rape, incest and the life of the mother. A combined 62% of registered voters...believed abortion should only be allowed up to 15 weeks or earlier, the WPA Intelligence poll found."  The article said, "Graham’s legislation sparked controversy..." among some "members of Congress, who think the bill could threaten their midterm prospects, according to Politico, but the poll suggests that the legislation is aligned with Americans’ beliefs about abortion."

But one has to question whether or not pro-lifers should take their cues from mainstream media.

Politico quoted Graham as saying: "There is a consensus view by the most prominent pro-life groups in America that this is where America should be at the federal level,” adding, “I don’t think this is going to hurt us." He referred to the potential effect on political opponents "when they try to explain to some reasonable person why it’s OK to be more like Iran and less like France on abortion.”

But, there is widespread support in Congress for unrestricted abortion for all nine months of pregnancy - the Daily Caller pointed out that members of Congress "...have made multiple attempts this year to pass legislation allowing unrestricted abortion nationwide through the first two trimesters and forcing states to allow third-trimester abortions if a health care worker determines that pregnancy would pose a risk to the mother’s mental, emotional or physical health."

Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America was supportive of Graham's legislation, also sponsored by Rep. Chris Smith in the House. President of the organization, Marjorie Dannenfelser, said, "Seventy-five percent of women...support legislation to protect babies by at least 15 weeks. This bill would bring the U.S. in line with 47 out of 50 of our European allies who protect life at this stage or even earlier." The information is from Harvard-Harris poll. The SBA website also noted that 15 weeks is "a point by which science reveals unborn children can feel pain."

There is practically no way for this bill to pass, yet, in an election year, it can be a useful tool to point out the differences between this popular position, which likely is not ideal for most pro-lifers, and the truly "extreme" position of abortion during all nine months of pregnancy.

Same-sex marriage vote in U.S. Senate delayed until after elections

The bill mis-labeled as the Respect for Marriage Act will not be brought before the U.S. Senate until after the midterm elections, according to a FoxNews.com article that stated: 

Sen. Rob Portman Thursday said that the Senate will wait until after the midterms before acting on a bill to codify same-sex marriage protections, after advocates previously hoped to vote on the bill this month.
He said, "We have listened to our colleagues and we have made certain changes on the religious liberty front, which have, I think have been very positive in terms of getting them on board," adding, "But colleagues need a little more time to digest it, which is understandable, and some of the language was still being worked on as of this morning."

The proposed changes in the language, according to the report, still may not have brought the bill to the 60-vote threshold needed for passage. The Washington Stand quoted from David Closson, director of the Center for Biblical Worldview at Family Research Council, “Evidently, Chuck Schumer realizes he doesn’t have 60 votes for the so-called ‘Respect for Marriage’ act." He said that "...senators are hearing from their constituents about the many problems with this bill."

Tony Perkins, FRC President echoed that sentiment and said that, “We’re going to have to be watching this in the lame duck session, so our work is not yet done.”  Sen. Kevin Cramer said to Perkins, "Fortunately, the August recess came along in time for us to go home and hear from our constituents — hear from our priests and our pastors and the praying men and women of our churches...”

Sunday, September 11, 2022

The 3 - September 11, 2022

This week's edition of The 3, spotlight three stories of relevance to the Christian community, includes an instance in which a medical professional who requested a religious exemption from having to provide products that violate her conscience and was fired has filed a lawsuit against her former employer, a major drug-store chain. Also, a Christian school is being harassed for require students to follow a code of conduct that is consistent with Biblical teaching on sexuality.  And, a major social media platform has taken down the account of a provider of online pornography.

Nurse practitioner loses job over contraception flap

We have seen numerous instances in which people of faith, making decisions based on their deeply held religious beliefs, have faced punishment because of these conscience-based actions.

The Christian Post reports on a nurse-practitioner who works for the urgent care arm of CVS Pharmacies.  Her name is Paige Casey, and she had asked for an exemption to company policy that would have required her to provide contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs.  Initially, that request had been granted, but the company reversed course last year; the Post article said: "...the company announced in August 2021 that it would 'no longer accommodate employees with religious convictions against prescribing abortifacients, hormonal contraceptives, and other forms of birth control that can cause abortions.'"  

Casey was fired, and a lawsuit has been filed by Alliance Defending Freedom.  The article relates:

The lawsuit contends that CVS wrongfully refused Casey's request for an exemption to a policy requiring MinuteClinic staff to dispense contraception and abortion-inducing drugs and then fired her for not following the policy.

ADF Senior Counsel Denise Harle said:
"Paige had a spotless record of caring for patients, yet CVS decided to abruptly fire her, solely because of her religious belief that life begins at conception. Virginia law protects the freedom of everyone to work without fear of being fired for their religious beliefs prohibiting participation in abortion."

Christian school stands strong amidst threats

A private Christian school certainly has the right to require that students act in accordance with Biblical principles, but thanks to a national news story on a particular school in Florida attempting to paint the school as being intolerant, the school has come under fire.

The Washington Stand reports that the incident occurred several weeks ago. Barry McKeen is the administrator of Grace Christian School in Valrico, FL; the article says:

The threats came in reaction to an article by NBC News, which published several paragraphs of a June 6 email in which McKeen reiterated to school parents the school’s commitment to biblical sexuality.
Here are some highlights of the e-mail that McKeen sent out:
  • "...one’s biological sex must be affirmed, and no attempts should be made to physically change, alter, or disagree with one’s biological gender..."
  • "...Students in school will be referred to by the gender on their birth certificate and be referenced in name in the same fashion..."
  • “We believe that any form of homosexuality, lesbianism, bisexuality, transgender identity/lifestyle, self-identification, bestiality, incest, fornication, adultery and pornography are sinful in the sight of God and the church."
  • “Students who are found participating in these lifestyles will be asked to leave the school immediately.”
McKeen says he has worked for the school for 21 years. He stated: “We have had these policies in our school since day number one, in the early 1970s,” adding, “God has spoken on those issues explicitly, aggressively.” He said: “it is our policy now. It will be our policy going forward because … God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He does not change.”

Porn site account removed from Instagram

The mainstreaming of pornography on digital platforms has been advancing, but encountered one roadblock in a recent decision by the mammoth social media site, Instagram.  The group, Enough is Enough, reported that:

Pornhub, which had 13.1 million Instagram followers, continues to be the target of numerous lawsuits, survivor accounts and investigative reports alleging it hosts child sexual abuse material, filmed rape and sex trafficking content.

Instagram did the right thing by removing the account, and we are hopeful they will continue to prioritize efforts to protect the innocence of children, youth and all who have been exploited.

It is also our hope other businesses will follow Instagram's lead and join the ranks of Mastercard, Visa and others who have cut ties with Pornhub in a display of corporate responsibility.

National Center on Sexual Exploitation applauded the move, stating on its website that it "...said that Instagram’s decision to remove Pornhub from its platform indicates that the company understands the mounting evidence of Pornhub’s criminality." The site notes that, "The National Center on Sexual Exploitation, along with a group of international advocates and survivors...have been sharing evidence of criminality on Pornhub with Instagram and requested that the social media company remove Pornhub."

Tuesday, September 06, 2022

The 3 - September 4, 2022

On this week's edition of The 3, with three stories of relevance to the Christian community, there is a positive development regarding a Kentucky photographer who did not wish to use her craft to promote same-sex weddings, in light of a Louisville city ordinance.  Also, a court has ruled that churches in California do not have to promote abortion in their health care plans.  Plus, the state of Texas is allowing our national motto, "In God We Trust" to be displayed in public schools throughout the state.

KY photographer gets reprieve from city law that would force endorsement of same-sex marriage

The city of Louisville, Kentucky passed an ordinance that is quite foreboding for Christians who believe in the Biblical definition of marriage and do not wish to apply their skills to promoting "same-sex marriage."  According to the Alliance Defending Freedom website, a local photographer went to court to challenge this ordinance, with a positive outcome.

Her name is Chelsey Nelson, and the site says:

Nelson challenged a city law that required her to create photographs and blogs promoting same-sex wedding ceremonies if she does so for weddings between a man and a woman. As the district court recognized, the case is similar to one now pending before the U.S. Supreme Court—303 Creative v. Elenis—involving Colorado graphic artist and website designer Lorie Smith.
The website also says that, "Louisville’s law had also banned Nelson and her studio, Chelsey Nelson Photography, from publicly explaining on her studio’s own website the religious reasons why she only celebrates wedding ceremonies between a man and a woman. ADF attorneys had asked the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky to stop the city from threatening Nelson and violating her First Amendment rights by forcing her to create messages that go against her faith."

Last week, the court did just that, ruling that, according to ADF, she "is free to use her creative talents to speak messages that align with her religious beliefs about marriage." Alliance Defending Freedom Legal Counsel Bryan Neihart said, “We’re pleased the court agreed that the city violated Chelsey’s First Amendment rights. The court’s decision sends a clear and necessary message to every Kentuckian—and American—that each of us is free to speak and work according to our deeply held beliefs."

Court rules that CA churches do not have to cover abortions

For years we have seen government officials try to force churches and religious organizations to include abortion, which is a clear violation of Biblical principles, in their health care plans. Scores of lawsuits were filed against the so-called "contraception mandate," which would include free birth control and drugs that could cause abortion.  

One of the attempts to make churches line up with the pro-abortion agenda comes out of California.  CBNNews.com reported that it was some eight years ago when several churches filed a challenge to a regulation issued by the California Department of Managed Health Care.  Recently, those churches gained relief.  A Federal district judge ruled recently that the mandate is unconstitutional; the churches were represented by Alliance Defending Freedom.

The article relates that the judge "wrote the DMHC infringed on the churches' First Amendment rights by denying their request for exemption to the abortions being added to their insurance plans. She also directly criticized the department's director, Mary Watanabe."  In the judge's words:
"In sum, the Director has not shown '{she} lacks other means of achieving {her} desired goal without imposing a substantial burden on the exercise of religion by {plaintiffs}," the judge wrote. "The Director's denial of the Churches' request for exceptions to accommodate their religious beliefs, based solely on the fact that those requests did not originate with a plan, was not narrowly tailored to serve a compelling interest."

Texas law allows "In God We Trust" to be displayed in state's schools

A new law has gone into effect in Texas, providing for our national motto, "In God We Trust," to be on display in schools throughout the Lone Star State. The Daily Citizen, the news website of Focus on the Family, stated:

A law, S.B. No. 797, was enacted by the Texas Legislature last year. This new statute governs the placement of the national motto for public elementary or secondary schools, and institutions of higher education.

The law states that these entities “must display in a conspicuous place in each building of the school or institution a durable poster or framed copy of the United States national motto, ‘In God We Trust,’ if the poster or framed copy meets” the following requirements:

1. Is donated for display at the school or institution.
2. Is purchased from private donations and made available to the school or institution.

As The Daily Citizen put it, "In other words, if a private donor donates an 'In God We Trust' poster to a public school, that school must display."

Even though there has been some parental opposition, the new law represents an affirmation of a guiding principle upon which the nation was founded.  The article goes on to say:

Jonathan Covey, Director of Policy at Texas Values, a Focus-allied Family Policy Council, told the Daily Citizen in a statement, “This is about reminding ourselves and our children that the First Amendment right to religious liberty is alive and well in our country.”

Sunday, August 28, 2022

The 3 - August 28, 2022

On this week's edition of The 3, a federal court ruling temporarily prevents a government agency from forcing ER doctors from performing abortions.  Also, the vaccination controversy continues in the military, as new documents emerge that a high-ranking official stated that members of the Navy making a conscience decision not to take the COVID vaccine and requesting a religious exemption did not alter military effectiveness.  Plus, there's an emerging story involving two pro-life groups in Colorado who were removed suddenly from a baseball team promotion the day of the event; the reason: they did not represent family-friendly entertainment.

Court temporarily halts conscience override attempt by federal agency

According to an article at The Daily Signal website, the federal government, specifically the Department of Health and Human Services has attempted to broaden a federal regulation to "force the state’s emergency room doctors to perform abortions—regardless of whether doing so violates their religious beliefs."

The state of Texas and two pro-life groups filed suit, and last week, a federal judge put the policy on hold.  Judge James Wesley Hendrix said, according to the article, that the federal government, including HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra, had expanded the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act, which, according to The Daily Signal, "does not mandate, direct, approve, or even suggest the provision of any specific treatment. It says nothing about requiring abortion."  It goes on to say:

Hendrix pointed this out in his order granting the plaintiffs’ requested relief to Texas and the two medical groups, stating that Becerra’s guidance from HHS:
goes well beyond EMTALA’s text, which protects both mothers and unborn children, is silent as to abortion, and preempts state law only when the two directly conflict. Since the statute is silent on the question, the guidance cannot answer how doctors should weigh risks to both a mother and her unborn child. Nor can it, in doing so, create a conflict with state law where one does not exist. The guidance was thus unauthorized.

Christian Medical and Dental Associations was one of the two groups that had filed a lawsuit against HHS. Its “Senior Vice President of Bioethics and Public Policy Jeffrey Barrows said, "This victory sends a strong message to the federal government that it cannot force healthcare professionals to violate their conscience and perform abortions against their strongly held religious beliefs,” adding, “It clearly shows that this radical trampling of conscience is contrary to our most fundamental, constitutional freedoms of thought, speech and exercise of faith.”

Alliance Defending Freedom represented CMDA and the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists. ADF Senior Counsel Ryan Bangert, who presented the case in front of the court, stated, according to the organization's website, "The Biden administration is needlessly, illegitimately, and illegally working to turn emergency rooms into walk-in abortion facilities. Doctors get into their line of work to save lives and care for people—and that’s exactly what they are ethically, morally, and legally required to do..."

ADF Senior Counsel Denise Harle, who serves as the director of the ADF Center for Life, said, “Emergency room physicians can, and do, treat ectopic pregnancies and other life-threatening conditions. Elective abortion is not life-saving care—it ends the life of the unborn—and the government can’t force doctors to perform procedures that violate their conscience and religious beliefs..."

Vaccine mandate developments in Navy, admiral testifies no threat from unvaccinated

It has been reported that a small percentage of members of the U.S. military who have applied for religious exemptions from the COVID-19 vaccine have actually been granted accommodations. Christian legal groups have been involved in defending military members in their conscience decisions, and there are some possibly promising new developments in a case concerning the U.S. Navy.

FoxNews.com reports that "A Navy admiral who said, during a deposition in a case involving Navy SEALs who refuse vaccination on religious grounds, that COVID-19 shots were a national security matter nevertheless acknowledged that he knew of no cases where it had adversely impacted operations."

First Liberty and another firm representing Navy SEALS who refused to receive the vaccine, filed a brief last week.  The report from Fox stated that:

The filing includes for the first time a deposition, conducted in late June 2022 with William Lescher, vice chief of naval operations. During the deposition, Lescher stated he was "unaware" of any Navy SEAL combat missions that had been negatively affected by COVID-19, despite his earlier claim that the vaccine mandate was necessary for successful Navy operations.
The admiral made that claim before the U.S. Supreme Court, which Mike Berry, General Counsel for First Liberty, finds problematic. He is quoted as saying, "They'll paint this ‘sky falling’ scenario, saying if they're not allowed to separate these [unvaccinated] people, the sky is going to fall. But yet when you look at the evidence, they can't defend their position..."  First Liberty represents 35 SEALS; none of them have been dismissed from the military yet, because of the court case. The article notes that out of over 4,200 religious exemption requests, the Navy has not granted a single one. 

Colorado minor league baseball team abruptly cancels special event sponsored by pro-life group

On Friday, I reported on the removal of a pro-life group, actually two groups, from a minor league baseball promotion, which occurred the morning of the scheduled game.

Live Action News provides some insight into what happened in the situation surrounding the Rocky Mountain Vibes, who play in Colorado Springs, and it seems to be pretty much what we all were thinking - probably.  Its report said:

Save the Storks and Pikes Peak Citizens for Life sponsored a family night at UC Health Park, helping to sell over 3,000 tickets for the game.

According to Diane Ferraro, CEO of Save the Storks, the Vibes reached out to them regarding sponsorship. “So they were very aware of what we do and what we stand for,” she said in an interview with Live Action News. “Normally they’ll have 1,000 people at one of their games, and because we had been helping to promote it, they had over 3,000 tickets sold.”

Initially it seems that UC Health, for which the park is named, was involved in the decision, but details have emerged that indicate it was the decision of the team - alone. The Live Action News article states:

In an update to their Facebook post, Save the Storks noted that they had been contacted by a UC Health representative “at approximately 4:30pm MST” who “stated that they were not one of the Vibes’ sponsors behind this decision. The information regarding the ‘main sponsor’s request and other sponsors’ was provided to us directly by the Vibes organization, which we believed to be a credible resource as they have been our main point of contact.”

The Vibes later came clean and took responsibility for the ill-timed and poorly executed snub.  In a statement, it said:

...While we value all our sponsors and ticket holders, they do not make decisions regarding the nature of our post game entertainment, or groups that come out to our stadium to raise awareness for their causes.

The Vibes made this decision after seeing the proposed assets from the partner in question because they felt that the partner would hinder the team’s mission in providing fun and affordable family entertainment. Any statement placing blame on any outside party for cancellation of tonight’s events is inaccurate.

Ian Miller, writing at Outkick.com, remarked:

This statement is remarkable for several reasons, not the least of which is the offensive suggestion that pro-life groups would “hinder the team’s mission in providing fun and affordable family entertainment.”

How in the world can anyone justify claiming that pro-life groups are not part of “family entertainment?” Would Planned Parenthood displaying pro-abortion materials be considered “family entertainment?”

It’s an absurd, nonsensical defense for cancelling on two organizations due to differing political viewpoints.

If the “assets” were so offensive, how did it take them until the morning of the event to make the decision?

Sunday, August 21, 2022

The 3 - August 21, 2022

After a week hiatus to accommodate the Summer 2022 Christian Product Expo in Kentucky, The 3 is back with three stories of relevance to the Christian community.  I am continuing to keep track of pro-life legislation in the aftermath of the Dobbs decision out of the U.S. Supreme Court: some laws have recently been allowed by courts to go into effect and another was passed recently, the first since the decision. Also, a federal agency has issued a proposal that would force health care professionals to perform gender change treatments.  And, a Texas fire department chaplain has been terminated due to his expression of opposition to biological boys identifying as female competing in firls' sports. 

More pro-life laws overcome court hurdles

After Indiana passed the first pro-life law enacted by a state legislature after the overturning of Roe v. Wade by the U.S. Supreme Court, more states saw pro-life legislation upheld by courts.

Even though the governor of North Carolina seems devoted to so-called "abortion tourism," the state Legislature had other ideas, and a court is letting a 20-week abortion ban go into effect. Alliance Defending Freedom, representing two Tar Heel state legislative leaders, according to its website, reported that: "A federal district court Wednesday lifted an injunction that prevented enforcement of North Carolina’s pro-life law protecting the lives of unborn children after 20 weeks gestation."

The website reports that the law had been placed on hold back in 2019, but with Roe being overturned, ADF had contended there was nothing to keep that prohibition in place.  A federal district court agreed.

In Kentucky, according to the Attorney General's website, last Thursday, "the Kentucky Supreme Court issued an order that keeps Kentucky’s Human Life Protection Act and Heartbeat Law in effect while the case before the Court is pending. With this ruling, the Kentucky Supreme Court has left in place a ruling by the Kentucky Court of Appeals that allowed the laws to be enforced after a Jefferson Circuit Court Judge’s order had temporarily blocked both laws."

The Indiana law was signed into law earlier this month; ChristianHeadlines.com reported on Monday, August 8:
Republican Governor Eric Holcomb signed the bill (Senate Bill 1) into law on Friday, restricting abortions from the moment a fertilized egg is implanted in the uterus. According to CBN News, exemptions are only made in cases of rape and incest or when the mother's life is at risk. At the same time, however, the victim must prove the attack by presenting documentation.
HHS pushes another SOGI policy

For a number of years, municipalities and government agencies have been enacting so-called "sexual orientation and gender identity" laws and policies.  The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has issued a proposed policy that would override the rights of health care providers regarding medical treatment to attempt to change a person's gender.  The National Religious Broadcasters website addresses this change to Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act, reporting:
Under the new rule, “sex” would be redefined to include sexual orientation and gender identity, as well as pregnancy or related conditions, such as “pregnancy termination,” with critical implications for rights of conscience in healthcare.
The article goes on to say: "One of the most notable features of the updated Section 1557 interpretation is the requirement that any healthcare provider receiving federal funding perform gender transition treatment, including those who deem such services clinically inappropriate." NRB states that, in the proposal: "HHS departs from regulating healthcare to regulating the conscience itself, proposing that a healthcare provider who believes gender transitions are never “clinically appropriate”—for religious reasons or otherwise—may not adhere to that particular view or refrain from providing such services under the new Section 1557."   A public hearing period continues through October 3.

TX fire department chaplain pushes back after firing

Andrew Fox was a chaplain for the Fire Department in Austin, TX until he was fired.  A National Review article relates that Fox, in a blog post...

...used the new post to critique the growing trend of biological men transitioning and competing in sports as women. “The issue,” he wrote, “is about gender identity and how ridiculous it is becoming.”

He wrote about fairness as described in the Book of Proverbs. He wrote about the identity of men and women as described in Genesis and “echoed throughout the canon of Scripture.”

And then he was fired.

The reason?  Of course, there were complaints and allegations that he had offended members of the LGBTQ community.  But, Fox is fighting to be reinstated; the article states:

Fox and his lawyers with the Alliance Defending Freedom filed a federal lawsuit against the fire department, alleging the department violated Fox’s First Amendment rights to speak freely about his religious beliefs. They’re asking the court for a declaration that Fox’s rights were violated, and for an injunction ordering the fire department to take him back.

This is yet another case of a Christian being fired for expressing his Christian beliefs.  And as ADF Senior Counsel Ryan Bangert reports, it was outside of his regular on-duty time with the department.  Bangert is quoted as saying: “What they did was they punished him for simply speaking about his theological beliefs on his own personal blog, on his own time, unconnected to his volunteer role with the fire department,” adding, “They punished him for conducting a ministry. He is a minister. And he is talking about theology on a theology blog.”