WORLD News Service – July 18 2014

                                                                                                                                   

Plan to Overturn Hobby Lobby Ruling Stalls Although they didn’t have enough support to bring the measure to the floor, 56 senators voted to force employers to pay for abortifacients

Will Sociologists be Brave Enough to Study Same-Sex Divorce?

Hobby Lobby Critics Target Green Family’s Bible-based Projects

 

Judge Rules Florida Same-Sex Couples Can Marry in the Keys

The Big Bang’s Big Problem Bedevils Researchers

 

Christian College Loses City Contract Over Biblical Teachings About Sexuality

Will More Funding Help California’s Foster Kids?

Dutch Official Pleads with Britain to Keep Euthanasia Illegal

 

Court Rules for Christian College in Transgender Dispute

 

Texas Church Takes in Chinese Refugees

 

Senate Democrats Try to Kill State Pro-life Laws

 

Government Survey: Gay Population Smaller Than Previously Thought

NATIONAL BRIEFS

 

INTERNATIONAL BRIEFS

 

                                                                                                                                   

Plan to Overturn Hobby Lobby Ruling Stalls

 

Although they didn’t have enough support to bring the measure to the floor, 56 senators voted to force employers to pay for abortifacients

By J.C. Derrick

(WNS)--A bipartisan attempt to overturn the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision has failed—for now.

The Senate on Wednesday afternoon fell short of the 60 votes needed to move forward with the Protect Women’s Health From Corporate Interference Act, in a 56-43 vote on bringing the measure to the floor. The bill would have overruled the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA)—the law the Supreme Court cited when it ruled the federal government cannot force a family-owned business to provide contraceptive coverage that goes against its religious beliefs.

The bill also would have required employers to cover all forms of contraception and other healthcare mandated in the Affordable Care Act, regardless of conscience objections.

“The federal government doesn’t have the right to force Americans to violate their faith,” said Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., who voted against bringing the measure to the floor for consideration. “The bill put forward by Senate Democrats is nothing more than a political charade, designed to falsely suggest to the American people that employers can deny their employees access to birth control.”

It wasn’t only Democrats who supported a floor vote for the bill: Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, Mark Kirk, R-Ill., and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska., joined 51 Democrats and two independents to try to move the legislation forward. For procedural reasons, just before the vote closed, Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., changed his vote, which leaves the door open for reconsidering the bill at a later date.

Supporters cast the legislation as a “fix” for the ruling they said ran counter to the original intent of RFRA, which received overwhelming bipartisan support and was signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1993.

“The court’s decision in Hobby Lobby was an unprecedented move allowing employers to use their religious beliefs to deny their employees a benefit that they are guaranteed by federal law to receive,” said Laura W. Murphy, director of the American Civil Liberty Union’s Washington legislative office. “A small number of senators chose politics over women’s health today.”

Republicans have introduced legislation that would “clarify” the high court’s decision, noting it didn’t prevent anyone from accessing any kind of birth control, including abortifacient drugs—despite Democratic claims.

Reps. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., and Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., have introduced companion legislation in the House, but it is expected to go nowhere in the Republican-controlled chamber.

House Republicans have excoriated Senate Democrats for not moving faster to take up legislation, but in this case, the Senate showed it is capable of moving at remarkable speed. After the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties on June 30, Sens. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Mark Udall, D-Colo., unveiled their legislative response on July 9. Only one week, later the Senate voted on cloture (a procedural move to end debate).

“Senate Democrats and a few wayward Republicans just voted against religious freedom for their constituents and all Americans,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of Women Speak Out PAC, a partner of the Susan B. Anthony List. “This bill would pave the way for taxpayer funding of almost all abortions as ‘preventive services.’”

Democrats, who also call the bill the “Not My Boss’ Business Act,” hope to turn the Hobby Lobby decision into a campaign issue in the midterm elections, furthering their “war on women” narrative against Republicans.

Dannenfelser said her organization will use Wednesday’s vote to expose the “extreme abortion position” of several Democrats up for reelection this fall in conservative states: Sens. Kay Hagan of North Carolina, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, and Mark Pryor of Arkansas. The Washington Post's current predictions suggest Landrieu and Pryor will lose.

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, said lawmakers have much more pressing issues they should be focused on: “The world is falling apart, along with the U.S. economy, and yet Senate Democratic leaders think the future of the free world hinges on employers being forced—under the threat of crippling fines—to provide drugs that have the potential to kill an unborn child.”

President Barack Obama gave his strong support to the bill before the vote.

Will Sociologists be Brave Enough to Study Same-Sex Divorce?

 

By Kiley Crossland

(WNS)--A judge in Indiana granted the state’s first same-sex divorce earlier this month.

The divorce concludes a six-year legal battle between the couple, Angela Summers and Melanie Davis, and the state, as Indiana claimed it could not grant the same-sex couple a divorce because it does not recognize same-sex marriage. Other states with traditional marriage laws are facing similar battles as residents who entered into same-sex marriages in other states want to divorce in their home state.

At the time of their marriage, Melanie Davis was David Summers, a man, according to a USA Today article. Monroe Circuit Judge Valeri Haughton first ruled that she could not divorce the couple because according to Indiana’s laws, the couple’s marriage was voided when Davis legally became a woman. But the Indiana Court of Appeals overturned the judge’s ruling, saying the marriage was legally between a man and a woman when it began and therefore could be dissolved. Haughton granted the divorce in early July.

Research on rates of divorce among same-sex couples is preliminary, and some sociologists warn more research will be stunted by a growing stigma associated with sociologists who raise questions that counter the gay agenda.

Often-cited research released in 2011 said the rate of same-sex couples divorcing in the United States is slightly lower than the rate of heterosexual couples, according to a study released by the Williams Institute. Some argue that the comparison is skewed by the fact that gay marriage is a recent development in the United States.

But studies looking at same-sex divorce in northern Europe, where same-sex unions have been legal for two decades, conclude same-sex relationships dissolve more often than heterosexual relationships, said Jason Richwine, a former policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation, in an article for National Review.

He points to three studies from Scandinavia, the Netherlands, and England. After controlling for age, region, country of birth, education, and duration of partnership, Richwine says the Scandinavian study found that out of 1,500 same-sex unions, “male couples in Sweden were 35 percent more likely to divorce than heterosexual couples, and lesbian partners were over 200 percent more likely to divorce. Whether the couples had children made little difference in the relative rates.”

Though the United States seems ripe for more research as marriage laws evolve, Steven Hayward from the American Enterprise Institute argued in an article for Power Line blog that solid scientific studies might be hard to come by.

Citing the witch hunt against Mark Regnerus, a sociologist at the University of Texas at Austin whose research on children in same-sex marriage households has been dismissed and denounced by the “liberal establishment,” Hayward said he has a hunch about the future of research into same-sex divorce: “Social science research into gay marriage will be discouraged, when it is not suppressed or demonized because any findings that might deviate from the current triumphalism will be politically incorrect. … This will become another area marked off-limits.”

Hobby Lobby Critics Target Green Family’s Bible-based Projects

 

By Andrew Branch

(WNS)--In the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of Hobby Lobby in its fight with the government over the contraceptive mandate, critics in the media and atheist groups have zeroed in on the Green family’s plans for a Bible museum and public school curriculum.

Some cheered Wednesday when editors at the nonprofit Museum of the Bible announced that a Bible elective in an Oklahoma school district will be postponed until at least January. Steve Green, Hobby Lobby’s president, has been a proponent of teaching the Bible in public high schools nationwide.

“This nation is in danger because of its ignorance of what God has taught,” Green said last year to the National Bible Association, announcing his plan for the high school course. " There are lessons from the past that we can learn from, the dangers of ignorance of this book. We need to know it, and if we don’t know it, our future is going to be very scary.”

The Green family has been using its $3 billion-plus net worth since 2009 to obtain biblical manuscripts and artifacts for a planned museum. The Museum of the Bible now has 40,000 items, the world’s largest private collection. Its exhibits have traveled around the United States and Israel. But the Greens’ want a permanent museum in Washington, D.C., and hope to roll out a government-approved Bible course in schools by 2017.

The public Mustang School District near Hobby Lobby’s Oklahoma headquarters was set to beta-test part of the curriculum this fall. But Jerry Pattengale, editor for the four-year course, cited “unforeseen delays” for pushing the launch back a semester. It’s not clear whether the postponement came from increased publicity—and criticism—following the Supreme Court ruling. 

More than 200 pages of the curriculum’s first year course have been made public. Atheist groups claim it’s unconstitutional. Some of the criticisms include leading questions like, “How do we know the Bible is historically reliable?” rather than, “Is the Bible historically reliable?” Other accusations seem to equate the term “reliable historical document” with promoting biblical inerrancy. 

The Supreme Court ruled in 1963 that Bible courses can be “presented objectively as part of a secular program of education.” The Freedom From Religion Foundation decries the Greens’ efforts, implicitly arguing that only non-believers can be objective. 

Pattengale has acknowledged some of the course’s criticisms, and editors have worked to correct some “overreaching.” The museum board also changed its mission statement from “to inspire confidence in the absolute authority and reliability of the Bible” to a less-pointed “to invite people to engage with the Bible.” 

City officials in Washington, D.C., are likely to approve the final museum design by the end of the month, The New York Times reports. Two blocks from the national mall, it will replace the Washington Design Center, an eight-story structure from the 1920s the public is ready to see renovated. The Green family bought the building in 2012 for $50 million. Final renovations and the artifact collections could put the museum’s total price tag at $800 million.

Judge rules Florida same-sex couples can marry in the Keys

(WNS)--A county judge in the Florida Keys ruled July 17 that same-sex couples could marry in his jurisdiction starting next week. Circuit Judge Luis M. Garcia agreed with plaintiffs who argued Florida’s voter-approved constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman treats gay couples as second-class citizens. Florida voters approved the ban on same-sex marriage in 2008. Attorney General Pam Bondi said the state of Florida, as opposed to individual counties, has sole authority to define marriage in the state.

The Florida ruling puts couples in the Keys in a similar position to those in parts of Colorado, where a county clerks have been issuing marriage licenses to gay couples despite an in-place state ban on same-sex marriage. Colorado differs slightly because a federal judge there has already ruled the state’s ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional and stayed the ruling pending appeal.

The Big Bang’s Big Problem Bedevils Researchers

 

By Julie Borg

(WNS)--If the Big Bang theory is correct, our universe should not exist, according to research published last month by physicists at King’s College in London. The shocking discovery implies the universe should have collapsed less than a second after it exploded into existence.

Christians are divided on whether or not the Big Bang theory fits with the biblical description of creation. But the theory has been an enormous concession for many secular scientists. For years they clung to belief in a universe that was steady and that had existed indefinitely. But recent advances in physics have forced most scientists to admit that the universe had a beginning and that it has been expanding ever since by a process dubbed cosmic inflation. 

For Christians, the universe having a beginning point is no new discovery. These scientists were upstaged more than 2,500 years ago by Job, Moses, David, and other Bible authors, said Hugh Ross, astrophysicist and founder of the Reasons to Believe ministry. The Bible confirms explicitly and repeatedly the two most fundamental properties of the Big Bang theory: There was a definite, finite beginning and the universe is undergoing continual expansion. For example, said Ross, in Isaiah 42:5 both properties were declared: “This is what the Lord says—He who created the heavens and stretched them out.”

The researchers of the current study combined data from observations made possible by the BICEP2 telescope with new information developed from the discovery of the Higgs Boson, a particle thought to be responsible for the mass of everything that exists. The scientists said the universe lies in a valley of the Higgs Field, an energy field that exists throughout the universe. It contains the Higgs Boson particle and sets the limits on its behavior. The universe is prevented from entering an even deeper valley by a large energy barrier that can be thought of as a giant hill separating the two valleys. But, according to the Big Bang theory, the researchers say cosmic inflation would have kicked the universe over the hill and into the deeper valley where it would have collapsed in less than a second. 

Bewildered secular scientists are scratching their heads at the new findings. “We have to extend our theories to explain why this didn’t happen,” said Robert Hogan, a doctoral student at King’s College who led the study, in the Royal Astronomical Society. The researchers conclude there must be some process yet undiscovered.

Someday the scientists seeking explanations of why there was no big collapse immediately after the universe came into existence may well have to contend with the concept of a creator. 

“For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream,” said Robert Jastrow, founder of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies and a self-proclaimed agnostic. “He has scaled the mountains of ignorance, he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.” 

Christian College Loses City Contract Over Biblical Teachings About Sexuality

 

By Sarah Padbury

(WNS)--A Massachusetts Christian college is facing a backlash for supporting religious exemptions to a proposed presidential order that would add sexuality to the anti-bias policy applied to all federal contractors.

The mayor of Salem, Mass., ended Gordon College’s contract to operate the city-owned Old Town Hall this week when the school’s president, along with 13 other religious leaders, signed a public letter to President Barack Obama asking him to include a religious exemption from a new executive order expected to require all federal contractors and subcontractors to hire LGBT persons, regardless of the organization’s religious stance on homosexuality.

White House officials announced in June that Obama planned to sign the executive order, although no details have been released. The president does not have the authority to extend the order to all employers, but he can take unilateral action that affects federal contractors and subcontractors, which make up nearly one-quarter of the US workforce, according to The Boston Globe. Religious leaders worry the order could drive faith-based organizations out of federally contracted work, including disaster relief, janitorial service, technology support, adoption assistance, preschool education, and prison ministry.

The order also may affect colleges that use federal funding for student financial aid. Gordon College, located just south of Salem in Wenham, is a Christian university that requires its employees and students to follow biblical “behavior expectations,” including not tolerating “homosexual practice.”

Gordon President Michael Lindsay signed the letter to Obama, as did a broad group of Christian leaders, including Q Ideas President Gabe Lyons, Catholic Charities CEO Larry Snyder, Center for Justice CEO Stephanie Summers, and well-known pastors Rick Warren and Joel C. Hunter. The July 1 letter followed a June 25 letter signed by more than 150 conservative religious groups and leaders, including many major evangelical associations.

Michael Wear, who served as the national faith vote director for the Obama 2012 campaign, helped write the letter. He told The Boston Globe the letter’s intent is to find a way to protect LGBT rights, but also assure religious organizations that hire “according to their religious identity” will not automatically be disqualified from competing for federal contracts.

But for Gordon College, consequences for signing the request began just days after the letter went public. Salem Mayor Kimberly Driscoll exercised an early termination option in the city’s contract with the school to operate Old Town Hall. Since 2008, the school has been contracted to maintain, operate, and assist in the preservation and improvement of the historic building, according to its website.

“I am truly disappointed in the stance you have taken, which plainly discriminates against the rights of LGBT individuals, both on and off campus,” said Driscoll in a letter to Lindsay posted on the city’s website. “These actions fly in the face of the City of Salem’s non-discrimination ordinance, which prohibits our municipality from contracting with entities that maintain discriminatory practices.”

The school’s Facebook page has become a battleground between alumni and students who oppose the school’s stance on homosexuality, and those who support it. Some students are organizing a White House letter campaign of their own—in support of requiring Christian colleges to hire LGBT people.

Lindsay posted a letter on the school’s website July 8, apologizing for the confusion and hurt feelings caused by his actions.

“My sole intention in signing this letter was to affirm the college’s support of the underlying issue of religious liberty, including the right of faith-based institutions to set and adhere to standards which derive from our shared framework of faith, and which we all have chosen to embrace as members of the Gordon community,” Lindsay said.

Will more funding help California’s foster kids?

 

By Emily Scheie

(WNS)--In an interview posted on YouTube by Courageous Connection, a California nonprofit organization for foster youth, Anthony talks about his five placements, three schools, and four years in foster care. Many foster children come from homes marked by neglect and abuse, and many move from house to house with no place to truly call home.

“I was just getting drug around like a piece of paper… just a blank piece of paper basically,” Anthony says in the video.

Foster students have the lowest graduation rate of all of the at-risk student groups in California, according to a 2013 study by WestEd, a nonprofit research agency. California is home to almost one-fifth of U.S. foster children, and the California government will now include them, along with students from low-income families and students learning English, in a funding program designed to improve their school performance.

Statistics show only 58 percent of 12th graders in foster care graduate, compared to 84 percent of California youth overall. Foster youth lag in language arts, performing similar to English learners and students with disabilities, and have the lowest math proficiency rate of all of the at-risk subgroups.

In attempt to confront the low performance of students in foster care, California is designating funds to foster students through a program called the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF). Districts will receive money based on how many low-income, English learning, and foster-care students they have. The Los Angeles Unified School District has designated $9.9 million to hire 92 guidance counselors, behavior specialists, and other positions to help foster students.

Molly Dunn, a lawyer from the LA-based Alliance for Children’s Rights, supports the new state policy: “That’s only right because these are our kids, the state’s kids, and they are doing the worst.” But Mike Jones, a former high-school science teacher and current executive director of Courageous Connection, doubts how much of an effect the large amounts of money will actually have. “You can’t fund love or doing the right thing,” he told me.

Jones, who works one-on-one with high-school foster kids in the Elk Grove Unified School District, talked about how they are so used to being ignored and invisible that they want to be recognized as individuals with unique needs. Sometimes it means helping them get simple things like a bus pass, yearbook, or prom dress. State funds won’t buy those things, but they help the foster youth get up and go to school in the morning.

“Each individual kid needs to be looked at and understood,” Jones said. More money won’t necessarily fix the problem, he said, because “you can’t pay someone to care.”

Dutch Official Pleads with Britain to Keep Euthanasia Illegal

 

By Andrew Branch

(WNS)--Less than six weeks after Quebec legalized euthanasia, Britain’s House of Lords is considering its own euthanasia endorsement. Brought by Lord Falconer, the Assisted Dying Bill would allow doctors to administer poison to terminally ill patients given less than six months to live. Lawmakers will debate the measure during a second reading Friday.

But the bill won’t pass without a fight. Bioethicist Theo Boer, once a supporter of euthanasia in the Netherlands, the world suicide capital for 12 years, told the chamber last week the evidence shows he “was wrong, terribly wrong.”

Boer, who sits on a Dutch government committee that reviews all euthanasia cases, said his native country may top 6,000 assisted suicides this year. In comments reprinted by The Daily Mail, Boer pleaded with parliamentarians, “Don’t do it, Britain.” The very existence of a euthanasia law seems to be “an invitation to see assisted suicide and euthanasia as a normality instead of a last resort,” he said.

The practice has been legal in the Netherlands since 2002, and Boer was a vocal supporter in 2007 as numbers stabilized at roughly 2,000 euthanasia deaths per year. His colleagues believed they had achieved the regulatory balance that, as American abortion supporters say, made the practice safe, legal, and rare.

But the yearly numbers have more than doubled. Today, nearly 1 in 7 deaths in the Netherlands happens at doctors’ hands. At least 3 percent of deaths come by direct euthanasia, The Daily Mail reports, and another 12 percent come from passive euthanasia, when a person is sedated and starved to death.

Boer cited a rapid increase in doctors killing the mentally ill, the depressed, and the lonely elderly. The Dutch have also authorized traveling euthanasia units, morbid house calls that bypass doctors with knowledge of the pressures or motives behind a patient’s suicide decision.

Pressure from relatives or fears of being a burden are documented factors people give for choosing euthanasia in the Netherlands. “Not even the review committees, despite hard and conscientious work, have been able to halt these developments,” Boer said. The professor of ethics, bioethics, and theological ethics at Utrecht University and Protestant Theological University, said euthanasia “is on the way to become a ‘default’ mode of dying for cancer patients.”

Britain’s Dignity in Dying group claims Boer’s concerns are invalid because the proposed law is limited to the terminally ill. A similar law in the U.S. state of Oregon “has been working safely for over 17 years” and still only applies to the terminally ill, a spokesman told The Daily Mail.

But Boer says activists won’t rest until lethal pills are freely available to anyone over 70. And back in Oregon, some Medicaid patients have received letters implying the program wouldn’t pay for life-prolonging treatments prescribed by their doctors, but would pay for lethal prescriptions. “Some slopes truly are slippery,” Boer said.

The slopes are already well-greased in Britain. The British Supreme Court in June upheld the current euthanasia ban, but a majority of judges suggested Parliament change the law. Furthermore, judges ruled a ban is likely “incompatible” with Europe’s human rights law. Activists told the Guardian they’re looking forward to further court rulings, and they’re disappointed the Falconer bill only covers the terminally ill. They are “the lucky ones,” one activist said.

 

Court Rules for Christian College in Transgender Dispute

 

By Lynde Langdon

(WNS)--A Christian university in Oregon can keep the rooming restrictions it has placed on a transgendered student, without risking any penalty from the federal government. The U.S. Department of Education granted George Fox University a religious exemption from Title IX, which prohibits schools that receive federal funding from discriminating on the basis of sex.

George Fox is a private, Christian university, but does receive some federal funding. In April, a student referred to in legal documents as Jayce M. filed a discrimination complaint against George Fox for not allowing him to live in an on-campus apartment with other men. Jayce was born female and registered as such when first admitted to George Fox. Last Spring, Jayce completed the legal process of reassigning his gender from female to male, although he hadn’t at that time had any operations to change his anatomy.

Because student housing at George Fox is single-gender, campus officials proposed Jayce live alone on-campus for the upcoming school year. Campus officials said they spent hours meeting with Jayce to work out a solution. With the help of Portland attorney Paul Southwick, who is also an LGBT activist and a George Fox alumnus, Jayce filed the discrimination complaint and launched an online petition to pressure the university to honor his housing request. As of Wednesday, the petition had more than 21,000 signatures.

“George Fox sought a Title IX exemption to protect it from being forced to act in a manner inconsistent with the university’s religious convictions,” university officials said in a statement. “That exemption was granted in May 2014. The complaint was closed without action. George Fox never received the complaint nor received official confirmation of its dismissal.”

The statement from George Fox pointed out the uncertainty among educators and regulators about how Title IX applies to transgender students. The Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) ruled in April that Title IX protections extend to students who could be discriminated against on the basis of gender identity as well as biological sex. But it’s not clear how the OCR will enforce that rule. Will universities be required to let males who identify themselves as females play on women’s sports teams? “OCR has failed to explain what its new interpretation of Title IX actually requires,” George Fox officials said.

The website Inside Higher Ed reported that another transgender rights case in which Southwick was involved was recently resolved in favor of California Baptist University. That university rescinded the 2011 acceptance of a male student who applied as a female. According to Inside Higher Ed, last week a California judge ruled the university had the right to expel the student, but not to ban the student from campus.

Texas Church Takes in Chinese Refugees

 

By Ryan Hill

(WNS)--On July 4, while Americans launched bottle rockets and grilled burgers to celebrate their liberty, a Chinese court fined Christian pastor Zhang Shaojie more than $16,000 and sentenced him to 12 years in prison for disturbing the public order. Local officials first detained him and more than 20 members of his state-sanctioned church in November.

Shaojie lost his liberty in a land where believers disappear into extrajudicial “black jails” and soldiers protect state employees who tear down crosses and demolish churches. But this week, his daughter found sanctuary at a church in Midland, Texas.  

Zhang Huixin, along with her husband and 18-month-old daughter, landed Tuesday morning at the Midland airport, 330 miles west of Dallas. Members of the 3,000-person First Baptist Church Midland greeted the couple and child with songs at 10:30 a.m. as they stepped off the plane. In June, Chinese officials blocked the young parents from flying out of Beijing to the United States. With the help of ChinaAid, a Midland-based ministry, they fled the country through an underground network. 

The week of her father’s first arrest, Huixin received anonymous phone calls from people threatening to wipe out her entire family, and local officials held her overnight for interrogation. In April, after an unsuccessful visa appointment, security guards at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing forced her and her infant from the building. 

First Baptist moved Huixin and her family into one of the church’s guest homes, where they will stay as long as they need to, probably at least 6 months, said Pastor Randel Everett. They are sharing the space with a Chinese human rights lawyer who fled from China to Midland several weeks ago after defending Shaojie in court. Everett withheld the lawyer’s name to protect him, but said, “We call him Edward. … I actually had the privilege of baptizing him.” 

In addition to taking English lessons, Edward has offered to help the church however possible. “I’ll even mop floors if you want me to,” he told Everett. His presence as a fellow countryman in the home with Huixin and her family will be a service of its own. For now, a language barrier may keep the couple from full participation in the First Baptist community, but Everett said the baby would enjoy the church preschool program. 

God has a way of drawing persecuted Christians to Midland. Everett recently met an Ethiopian Christian, Getaneh M. Getaneh, who heads a Midland ministry that focuses on praying for oppressed followers of Jesus around the world. Getaneh suffered persecution decades ago at the hands of Ethiopian Communists, who hanged him upside-down and poured boiling oil over his body. Before reaching Midland, Bob Fu, president of ChinaAid, spent time in prison with his wife for leading a Chinese house church. 

“For these two very prominent Christians who have escaped persecution to be living in Midland, Texas—it’s either an awfully strange coincidence or it’s just in God’s providence,” Everett said.

Next month, Everett will step down as First Baptist’s pastor to launch the Wilberforce Institute, a national network of churches committed to imitating Jesus’ ministry in Luke 4:18—good news for the poor, sight for the blind, freedom for prisoners and the oppressed.

“I never wanted to leave the security of a wonderful pastorate like here to start something new, and I’m almost 65 years of age, but it’s been a God thing,” he told WORLD. “It was one of those situations my wife and I couldn’t avoid. We either had to do this or we would be disobedient.”

Senate Democrats Try to Kill State Pro-life Laws

 

By Rikki Elizabeth Stinnette

(WNS)--North Carolina gynecologist Monique Chireau called a nearby abortion center after one of her patients came to her with a perforation in her uterus from a botched, late-term abortion. When Chireau asked the abortionist about the incident, he told her he knew about his mistake but didn’t want to send the patient to the emergency room.

“That’s really malpractice,” Chireau said.

Chireau was one of several panelists and lawmakers at a Tuesday Judiciary Committee hearing who condemned the bill proposed by Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., that would overturn pro-life state legislation limiting abortion.

Carol Tobias, president of the National Right to Life Committee, challenged the senators to bring the bill to the Senate floor so the American voters would know where its lawmakers stand. She also encouraged them to vote on a bill from Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., that would ban abortion after 20 weeks.

“Let the American people see which bill reflects the values of each member of the United States Senate,” Tobias said.

Tobias added that Blumenthal’s bill, called the Women’s Health Protection Act of 2013, is really bad advertising. Instead, it should be called the “Abortion Without Limits Until Birth Act.”

Blumenthal introduced his bill in November in response to what he called a “cascading avalanche” of state restrictions that lead to abortion center closings.

Among other things, the bill would overturn state laws requiring abortion centers to have admitting privileges to a local hospital. If Blumenthal’s bill became law, women would not be required to view ultrasounds of their unborn babies or have a waiting period before having an abortion, reversing two decades of successful pro-life efforts on the state level.

This year alone, states have already enacted 21 abortion restrictions. The pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute said recent pro-life advances threaten abortion centers in Texas and Mississippi—but this might all change if Blumenthal’s bill becomes law.

Members of Congress at the committee hearing sharply questioned how the bill would protect women.

“This bill is a weak political opportunity before the midterm elections,” said Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa. “In reality, the bill disregards popular and common-sense laws.” He predicted the American people would never support the legislation.

Others suggested the bill threatens state freedom. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, asked the committee if it could name any other time the government has forbidden states to pass legislation about a certain category of activities: “Why is abortion so unique that Congress has this authority in this area but not in any other?” No one answered.

Panelist Willie Parker, an abortionist who flies from Chicago to work at Mississippi’s last abortion center, said the facility could close if courts do not overturn a state law passed last year requiring abortionists and abortion centers to register for admitting privileges at a local hospital. Parker applied for admitting privileges to 13 hospitals only to be turned down.

Admitting requirements are necessary for patient safety, Chireau said, based on her experience as a gynecologist. Many abortion centers that cannot get hospital privileges are kept out because they have dangerous practices. “If you are caring for a patient, you need to be responsible for that patient,” she said.

While the entirety of the Judiciary Committee’s Democrat majority co-sponsored this bill, only one Democrat besides Blumenthal arrived to ask questions of the panelists. The rest who attended the hearing, all Republicans, criticized the measure. Even if Democrats get enough votes to pass it in the Senate, the law has no chance of getting past the Republican-dominated House.

Rep. Diane Black, R-Tenn., spoke as a panelist about her experiences as a former nurse. She held up an ultrasound picture of her grandson three months before he was born, saying that abortion is not like any medical operation: “Abortion is brutal to both the mother and the child. It is not healthcare.”

 

 

Government Survey: Gay Population Smaller Than Previously Thought

 

By Rachel Lynn Aldrich

(WNS)--Less than 4 percent of the U.S. population identifies as gay, lesbian, or bisexual, a surprisingly small number given the outsized influence they have had on the nation’s cultural and legal landscape.

Based on 2013 data collected by the government in The National Health Interview Survey, 1.6 percent of adults identify as gay or lesbian and 0.7 percent identify as bisexual. The numbers were lower than earlier approximations, which placed gay and lesbians at closer to 3 percent of the population. More than 96 percent identified as straight, and 1.1 percent did not provide an answer or said they were “something else,” or “I don’t know the answer.”

This is the first time since its inception 57 years ago that the NHIS has included sexual orientation in its questions. The survey documented many of the setbacks and disparities faced by individuals who identified as something other than heterosexual. The survey was considered a victory by members of the LGBT community and an important step for understanding health needs. But the results didn’t paint a rosy picture.

“We saw some differences by sexual orientation, but there is no clear overall pattern,” Brian Ward, lead author of the report and a health statistician for the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics, told HealthDay News. “You can’t say gay, lesbians and bisexuals have poorer health overall.”

The report he authored, however, implies differently. “Across most of these outcomes [health conditions, health behaviors, and healthcare access], sexual minorities tend to fare worse than their non-minority counterparts,” the report summarized.

The survey found most respondents who identified as homosexual or bisexual were between 18 and 44. They were least likely to be over 65, implying a shorter lifespan. 

The survey found bisexual women were more likely to experience psychological stress (10.8 percent compared to 4.5 percent). Adults who identified as homosexual or bisexual were more likely to binge drink or smoke. But gay men were less likely to be obese than straight ones.

The survey was based on interviews with 34,557 people, making it a large-scale statistical sampling. Due to the small percentage of those who identified as gay, lesbian, or bisexual, researchers say the health statistics for that group are somewhat unreliable. 

 

NATIONAL BRIEFS

Gay Marriage Passes First Appeals Court Test

 

(WNS)--A federal appeals court declared Utah’s same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional in the first appellate ruling on state marriage laws as the issue makes its way to the U.S. Supreme Court. The three-judge panel of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decided the issue by a 2-1 vote, with Judge Paul J. Kelly Jr. dissenting.  “We should resist the temptation to become philosopher-kings, imposing our views under the guise of the Fourteenth Amendment,” Kelly wrote in the dissenting opinion. The 14th Amendment guarantees all persons equal protection under the law. The 10th Circuit includes Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Utah, and Wyoming. All of those states except New Mexico also have bans on same-sex marriage. The decision will not take effect immediately because the court stayed its ruling until the nation’s highest court can consider the case.

Democrats Unveil Legislation to Overturn Hobby Lobby Ruling

(WNS)--Barely a week after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the federal government cannot force closely held corporations to pay for employees’ abortifacient drugs in violation of their religious beliefs, Senate Democrats on Wednesday announced legislation to reverse the Hobby Lobby decision. “After five justices decided last week that an employer’s personal views can interfere with women’s access to essential health services, we in Congress need to act quickly to right this wrong,” said Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., who crafted the legislation with Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo.  The Protect Women’s Health From Corporate Interference Act would override the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA)—legislation that passed the House unanimously, passed the Senate 97-3, and was signed into law by Democratic President Bill Clinton in 1993. The new bill would require most for-profit businesses to provide health insurance covering all forms of contraception mandated in the Affordable Care Act, regardless of religious objections. It would exempt houses of worship and some religious nonprofit organizations.

Nonprofits Win Contraceptive Mandate Reprieve

 

(WNS)--Right before the July 4 holiday weekend, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a significant order that escaped much notice: It granted Wheaton College, the best known evangelical Christian university, an emergency injunction against the contraceptive mandate. Injunctions from the Supreme Court are quite rare, and this injunction established a pattern for all other nonprofits seeking injunctions while their cases are pending. Justice Sonia Sotomayor in a dissent called the order “as rare as it is extreme.”

Colorado Traditional Marriage Law Latest to Fall

(WNS)--A state judge in Denver overturned Colorado’s traditional marriage law in early July, but he put same-sex marriages on hold pending an appeal. Judge C. Scott Crabtree said the state’s voter-approved ban “bears no rational relationship to any conceivable government interest.”  Attorney General John Suthers plans to appeal, but a three-judge panel of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals already staked its position on the issue when it ruled last month on Utah’s marriage case. Utah officials announced yesterday they plan to take their appeal directly to the U.S. Supreme Court, rather than asking the full 10th Circuit to rehear its arguments.

 

Episcopalians in South Carolina Take Their $500 Million Property Fight to Court

(WNS)--About 50 churches from the Diocese of South Carolina went to court in July in an attempt to keep their name, seal, and $500 million in property following their split with The Episcopal Church (TEC). “At no point in our history has the national church contributed financially to the building or maintenance of any of our church buildings, facilities, or ministries,” said the Rev. Ken Weldon, rector of St. John’s Church in Florence. South Carolina’s withdrawal is the most recent in an exodus of members and congregations from TEC in recent years. The denomination has spent millions of dollars fighting individual congregations to keep buildings and property.

INTERNATIONAL BRIEFS

                 

Copyright to the preceding content is held by WORLD Magazine, except where noted. Copyrighted stories for which the copyright is held by others must be printed with copyright information. These stories may not be reprinted, broadcast, made available through electronic retrieval systems, or put to any commercial use except by paying subscribers of the WNS Service. WNS Service subscribers are licensed for print rights only. However, these stories may be posted to a subscriber’s web-site or electronic or broadcast medium with prior written consent. WNS is delivered every Friday – except Christmas and 4th of July week -- via e-mail to subscribers. For information on becoming a licensed subscriber, write to: WORLD News Service, 4701 Beech Crest Place, Charlotte, NC 28269. You can reach us by phone at (704) 661-9137 (USA), or by e-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . 

WORLD News Service – July 11 2014

                                                                                                                                   

Gay Marriage Passes First Appeals Court Test:  10th Circuit rules Utah's same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional but stays ruling ahead of Supreme Court hearing

 

China Beachhead:  Pro-life efforts are growing in the nation with the most abortions. But saving lives in the womb is an enormous challenge—even within the church

Democrats Unveil Legislation to Overturn Hobby Lobby Ruling:  The Protect Women’s Health From Corporate Interference Act would override the Religious Freedom Restoration Act

Nonprofits Win Contraceptive Mandate Reprieve:  The Supreme Court’s order blocking the contraceptive mandate for Wheaton College is rare and wide-reaching

Doug Phillips Leaves Church He Founded:  In an announcement, Boerne Christian Assembly says Phillips left without following the procedures he emphasized during his ministry

                                                                 

Colorado Traditional Marriage Law Latest to Fall

Episcopalians in South Carolina Take Their $500 Million Property Fight to Court

What’s Next for Baker Who Refused to Make Cake for Same-Sex Wedding?  An interview with Jack Phillips and his attorney Nicolle Martin

Saving Sons and Daughters from Radical Islam

NATIONAL BRIEFS

 

INTERNATIONAL BRIEFS

 

                                                                                                                                   

 

Gay Marriage Passes First Appeals Court Test

 

10th Circuit rules Utah's same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional but stays ruling ahead of Supreme Court hearing

(WNS)--A federal appeals court declared Utah’s same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional in the first appellate ruling on state marriage laws as the issue makes its way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The three-judge panel of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decided the issue by a 2-1 vote, with Judge Paul J. Kelly Jr. dissenting. 

“We should resist the temptation to become philosopher-kings, imposing our views under the guise of the Fourteenth Amendment,” Kelly wrote in the dissenting opinion. The 14th Amendment guarantees all persons equal protection under the law.

The 10th Circuit includes Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Utah, and Wyoming. All of those states except New Mexico also have bans on same-sex marriage. Wednesday’s decision will not take effect immediately because the court stayed its ruling until the nation’s highest court can consider the case.

Utah was one of the first states in which a federal judge overturned a ban on same-sex marriage, citing the U.S. Constitution’s equal-protection clause. Judge Robert Shelby issued his ruling in late December. Six months later, judges in Oklahoma, Virginia, Texas, Kentucky, Michigan, Idaho, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin have issued nearly identical rulings. 

After Shelby’s ruling, the 10th Circuit denied Utah’s request to for a stay while it appealed the decision. Utah sent an emergency request to the Supreme Court, which unanimously issued a stay. Analysts say that decision indicates the court wants more discussion about states’ roles in defining marriage. The issue likely will be the highlight of the next Supreme Court term, which starts this fall.

Meanwhile, federal district courts continue to weigh in on same-sex marriage state-by-state. A federal judge in Indiana on Wednesday also struck down its ban on gay marriage. Indiana outlawed same-sex marriage by statute in 1997, but has never passed a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman. 

“These couples, when gender and sexual orientation are taken away, are in all respects like the family down the street,” U.S. District Judge Richard Young wrote in his opinion. “The Constitution demands that we treat them as such.” The clerk of Marion County, home to Indianapolis, said the office would immediately start issuing marriage licenses to gay couples. The Indiana attorney general’s office plans to appeal the ruling. 

China Beachhead

Pro-life efforts are growing in the nation with the most abortions. But saving lives in the womb is an enormous challenge—even within the church

By June Cheng

CHINA—The smell of steamed rice and stir-fried beef waft into the simple warehouse converted into a church in northern China. Fans mounted on the walls breathe air into the warm room, as gracious hosts hand visitors cups of boiling water, the drink of choice no matter the weather. As two pastors—one American, one Chinese—finished teaching on the sanctity of life, women and men of all ages stood up, sobbing and praying for repentance: “Lord, forgive me for aborting my child; I didn’t know it was murder. Lord, forgive me for shedding innocent blood.”

For most in the room, this was the first time they had seen photos of fetal development, learned about what abortion entails, and studied what the Bible says about the sanctity of life. A middle-aged Chinese woman with cropped hair approached me with a nervous smile afterward. “Where do the [aborted babies] go?” she asked, eyes watering. “I’ve had it done before and was wondering if I’d ever see them again.” I mumble in broken Chinese that the babies go to heaven, telling her the story of King David’s child. “Oh, that’s so good to hear,” she said.

In China abortion is “as common as drinking water,” one woman told me, with the official tally at 13 million babies aborted each year, by far the highest in the world. For many, abortion is viewed as the preferred method of birth control, with ubiquitous ads on buses and billboards touting quick, cheap, and pain-free abortions. Few people, including Christians, are knowledgeable about life inside the womb or understand the abortion procedure, a fact attributed to the government’s desire to continue its population control policies. Yet it’s not just the one-child policy causing women to abort; more and more single women are also aborting as the younger generation’s lax view of sex clashes against traditional stigmas against having children out of wedlock.

In the past few years, Chinese Christians are starting to take a stand for life, both by teaching about abortion from the pulpit, and working with women to find oftentimes unconventional ways to protect life. Some originally hear the pro-life message from U.S.-based ministries, some through the internet or overseas teachings, while others are convicted through reading the Bible. From there, the message has spread to tens of thousands of churches around the country, and resulted in mothers holding giggling babies that otherwise wouldn’t be born, women saved from forced abortions, and churches growing stronger as they repent and help their own.

Yet still only about 1 percent of all the churches in China have heard what the Bible has to say about life, according to the pro-life group China Life Alliance (CLA). And with cultural, governmental, and practical roadblocks hindering their message, the Chinese pro-life movement still has a long way to go.

 

IT’S MIDMORNING, yet inside the dingy illegal medical clinic in Southwest China, light seems impenetrable. Next to a room lined with thin, musty cots and IV stands, a stout female doctor sits behind her desk, bragging to me about her experience performing abortions. She’s done abortions for 40 years now both at a hospital and at the clinic (where she makes much more money) and promises that it’s a very typical operation–one girl had eight abortions done, and she’s doing fine.

While China’s law forbids late-term abortions, she said she would do the abortion regardless of the delivery date, “even if [the baby] comes out crying.” An abortion at three months would cost merely 1,000 yuan ($160), and the patient could be in and out of the clinic in two hours. She then showed me where the operation is performed, a locked back room that reeked of chemicals and death. In one corner stood a rusting operating chair with stirrups, which the doctor quickly walked toward to toss out blood-stained tissues from her last operation, an 18-year-old who was five months pregnant. Tucked between a cot and table was an illegal ultrasound machine covered with a piece of cloth, which the abortionist offered to use to help determine the sex of the baby. Sex-selective abortions are illegal in China, as the preference for sons has skewed the country’s sex ratio.

Yet about a block away from the clinic stands a police station, deliberately oblivious to the illegal activity down the street. Mark Li (not his real name), an American missionary who founded CLA, said the police secretly appreciate these clinics because they lower the official number of abortions in the country. While the government counts 13 million abortions a year, the actual number including unreported abortions could be as high as 30 million.

In China sex education is not taught in school, as teachers are embarrassed to discuss it. Parents also don’t talk to their children about sex, so children learn from media, including sexually explicit Western movies, music, and TV shows. As a result, more than 70 percent of Chinese engage in premarital sex, a 30 percent increase from 20 years ago.

For unmarried girls who get pregnant, abortion often seems like the only option. Unwed mothers bring shame to the families, so parents pressure their daughters to abort. If a single woman keeps her baby, she’s without a support system and could lose her job, get kicked out of school, and have difficulty getting married in the future. Also, the child would be unable to get hukou, or household registration that allows people to go to school, travel, or get a job. Placing the child for adoption is also difficult, as the government has restricted private adoptions, leaving only a complicated and arduous legal adoption process. So for many, the optimal solution to the problem is to slip over to the hospital or illegal clinic, spend two hours and 1,000 yuan and return back to normal life.

Married couples often see abortion as their only choice as well under the one-child policy. While the law has become less strictly enforced in some areas—with exemptions for ethnic minorities and parents where one is a single child—couples who have a second child are often forced to pay a fine between three and 10 times the average after-tax income in the city where they live. For those who work at government-run workplaces, having a second child leads to job loss, as it sets a bad example for the rest of society. While the government officially bans forced abortions, the practice continues in rural areas where local officials don’t understand the law.

EVEN THE CHINESE CHURCH, which has been growing exponentially since China opened up in 1979, has kept silent about abortion. Peter Wang (not his real name), a former house church pastor who now spends his time training churches like the one mentioned above in northern China, said he’s met pastors who have had abortions themselves or given money to parishioners to help pay for their abortions. Some pastors, especially those in rural areas, have never been taught that abortion is wrong or why it’s wrong. Others keep quiet because they feel that the topic is too sensitive and don’t want another excuse for the government to persecute their church. 

But lately the tide is turning, as more Christians see the need for a Chinese pro-life movement. Li started CLA in 2010 to create a decentralized network of churches and ministries all with the goal to share the pro-life message and help women keep their babies. By linking resources from the experienced American pro-life movement to the leaders of the Chinese church, CLA was able to equip local believers quickly to start their own ministries. The group has launched a network of safe houses for pregnant women, abortion rescue teams, a Christian legal aid ministry, a Chinese resource website, and a pregnancy help center. Li said that so far about 20,000 churches have heard of the pro-life message, and each church that hears the message goes on to save two to five babies a year. 

Pro-life solutions offered to mothers need to be altered to deal with Chinese culture. So in CLA, the on-the-ground work is being done and funded by locals, like Sarah Huang*, a cheerful house church pastor in her 30s with quirky expressions like “It’s so hot I could spit blood.” After almost aborting her son in 2012, she saw the importance of protecting life and started working for CLA. Since then she’s started her own one-woman ministry that has saved 50 to 60 babies.

In the afternoon we spent together, Huang’s two cell phones kept ringing as mothers needed her help: “What do I do about my second baby?” “I’m pregnant and I don’t have money to take care of this child.” “The officials are forcing me to have an abortion, can you help?” Most calls deal with one-child policy problems, and Huang assertively douses the fires by challenging churches to help families pay the fine, find safe houses to keep the pregnant woman away from the pressures of relatives, or threaten to report family-planning officials who continue to practice forced abortion. For those who still can’t pay the exorbitant fines, families can have the baby and then buy hukou for their child in the black market for a fraction of the price.

THROUGHOUT THE SPRAWLING sprawling house church networks, leaders are rising up independent of any overseas ministries. In Chengdu, Jonny Fan, a 27-year-old at the 500-member Early Rain Reformed Church, saw images of abortion on a blog in 2012 and felt convicted about the high abortion rates in the country. So for the past three years, he and his fellow church members have passed out brochures urging mothers not to abort on June 1, which is Children’s Day. Using his background in marketing, Fan created polished pamphlets explaining the scope of abortion in China, the hope found in the gospel, and contact information for his church. Last year, he expanded his campaign to include bus ads, and authorities arrested him and a few others for printing unapproved material. This year, Fan printed 50,000 fliers for his church to pass out, and police officers beat one church member for passing out the fliers.

At Early Rain, the focus on protecting life is noticeable in the number of families sitting in the service with two kids. Fan said that most of the second children don’t have hukou, and they aren’t sure yet what they will do in the future. Besides buying hukou, families can also wait until the national census, when officials will sometimes register children for free to make their own job easier. One upside is that Early Rain has its own private Christian school and seminary, so the lack of hukou wouldn’t stop them from getting an education.

During the rest of the year, Fan leads a pro-life small group that focuses on educating church members about abortion and has expanded into adoption care. Last year, one church member passing out fliers outside a hospital convinced a young women to keep her baby. Fan connected her with a family who was willing to adopt the child privately, and realized this would be the next big need in his ministry.

His June 1 campaign has inspired others to use the day to talk about abortion: This year Peters and Wang started a month-long campaign ending June 1 to train church leaders to spread the word about abortion within their church networks. About 8,200 pastors ended up preaching about abortion in their churches, according to Wang. Fan said that while others have approached him asking about pro-life work, he’s not an expert, he’s just a Christian acting on his convictions.

“I do this because I see China’s rate of abortion is growing too fast; it’s frightening,” Fan said. “This is what I believe: We cannot murder. But Chinese people have sinned in this way. I don’t want to let the next generation live in an environment like this.”

 

June Cheng is a writer reporting from China.

 

WORLD used pseudonyms to protect the lives of these sources.

Democrats Unveil Legislation to Overturn Hobby Lobby Ruling

The Protect Women’s Health From Corporate Interference Act would override the Religious Freedom Restoration Act

By J.C. Derrick

(WNS)--Barely a week after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the federal government cannot force closely held corporations to pay for employees’ abortifacient drugs in violation of their religious beliefs, Senate Democrats on Wednesday announced legislation to reverse the Hobby Lobby decision.

“After five justices decided last week that an employer’s personal views can interfere with women’s access to essential health services, we in Congress need to act quickly to right this wrong,” said Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., who crafted the legislation with Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo.

The Protect Women’s Health From Corporate Interference Act would override the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA)—legislation that passed the House unanimously, passed the Senate 97-3, and was signed into law by Democratic President Bill Clinton in 1993. The new bill would require most for-profit businesses to provide health insurance covering all forms of contraception mandated in the Affordable Care Act, regardless of religious objections. It would exempt houses of worship and some religious nonprofit organizations.

“This bill would help close the door for denying contraception before more corporations can walk through it,” said Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., called the Hobby Lobby ruling “outrageous” and promised to fast track the legislation. It could come up for a vote as early as next week, but even with a Democratic majority, several members running for reelection in conservative states this fall may be reluctant to vote for it. Some of Murray’s embattled Democratic colleagues, including Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, were noticeably absent from her list of supporters.

Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, called the Democratic effort sad and lamentable. “RFRA was passed with huge bipartisan majorities in both houses,” Moore told me in an email. “Now, some would jeopardize religious freedom in order to fight their culture war. Religious liberty is too important to everyone in this country to see it end up a dead trophy on the wall of the sexual revolutionaries.”

The Hobby Lobby decision has also drawn criticism from gay rights groups, who say it will be used to discriminate against homosexual employees.

House Democrats are preparing companion legislation that is virtually assured of going nowhere in the Republican-controlled chamber. GOP House leaders praised the high court’s decision for preserving religious liberty, saying people of faith should be able to practice their beliefs in all areas of their lives.

“Hobby Lobby never argued against the ability for women to access contraceptives—they simply do not believe in being forced by the federal government to cover abortifacients,” said Rep. James Lankford, R-Okla., the fifth-ranking House Republican.  

He pointed out that RFRA was designed to combat a Supreme Court decision limiting religious freedom. Lankford told WORLD he would oppose efforts to roll back those advances: “All members of Congress are free to introduce legislation as they wish, but I will continue to stand with conservatives in the House to oppose legislation like this that seeks to limit First Amendment rights to religious freedom for Americans and their family-owned businesses.”

Nonprofits Win Contraceptive Mandate Reprieve

 

The Supreme Court’s order blocking the contraceptive mandate for Wheaton College is rare and wide-reaching

By Emily Belz

(WNS)--Right before the July 4 holiday weekend, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a significant order that escaped much notice: It granted Wheaton College, the best known evangelical Christian university, an emergency injunction against the contraceptive mandate. Injunctions from the Supreme Court are quite rare, and this injunction established a pattern for all other nonprofits seeking injunctions while their cases are pending. Justice Sonia Sotomayor in a dissent called the order “as rare as it is extreme.”

The order answered some questions that hung in the air about the fate of nonprofits after the court’s June 30 ruling in favor of for-profits, like Hobby Lobby, that object to the mandate. The reasoning in the Hobby Lobby v. Burwell ruling made lawyers for nonprofits nervous because the ruling relied on the current accommodation offered to objecting nonprofits to show the government had a workable alternative it could offer objecting for-profits. But the opinion emphasized that even though the court saw the nonprofit accommodation as a better alternative than nothing, the court was not giving the nonprofit accommodation its stamp of approval. With its recent injunction for Wheaton, the court underlined that the constitutionality of the nonprofit accommodation is an open question.

Currently the federal government offers religious nonprofits who object to the contraceptive mandate a complex accommodation, different from the full exemption from the mandate that churches receive. A nonprofit must sign a form certifying to its insurance company that it objects to the mandate, a form that authorizes its insurance company or a third party administrator to provide the contraceptives and abortifacients to employees ostensibly without using the nonprofit’s money. The certification is more complicated when an organization is self-insured, as many are. Nonprofit plaintiffs object to the accommodation, saying they are culpable by signing the form authorizing contraceptive coverage. Wheaton’s insurance covers all contraceptives except Plan B and Ella, which it believes can act as abortifacients. A federal district court and the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals both denied an injunction to Wheaton, pending a ruling on the merits of the case.

Then on July 3, the Supreme Court stepped in with its startling order, saying that Wheaton qualified for an injunction simply by filing its lawsuit, which served as a notification to the federal government that it objected to the mandate.

“The applicant has already notified the government—without using EBSA Form 700 [the certification form]—that it meets the requirements for exemption from the contraceptive requirement on religious grounds,” the court wrote. “Nothing in this order precludes the government from relying on this notice to the extent it considers it necessary, to facilitate the provision of full contraceptive coverage under the act.”

In other words, the court created a middle ground accommodation: Wheaton does not have to sign the objectionable form and can have an exemption from the mandate, but the government has the freedom to try to provide Plan B and Ella to Wheaton employees on its own. The court said the order should not be read as a ruling on the merits of Wheaton’s case, but the order indicated a potential solution for all the other nonprofit cases.

It’s not clear how most plaintiffs will react to this middle ground accommodation. It isn’t a full exemption, but it also puts the burden of arranging contraceptive coverage on the government instead of the nonprofit. Wheaton, for its part, celebrated the injunction. But several of the major law firms representing nonprofits did not return requests for more detailed comments on the Wheaton order. The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty declined my interview request with an attorney, pointing me instead to its press release. The injunction is good news for our clients,” said Greg Scott, spokesman for Alliance Defending Freedom, which represents a number of nonprofits challenging the mandate. Jones Day, the firm handling most of the Catholic nonprofit cases, could not be reached. Normally, the firms are eager for interviews. One explanation is many staff and lawyers are on vacation. Another is that the firms aren’t sure what posture to take toward the court’s new proposal.

Typically Supreme Court orders are issued without comment, but this one was important enough to elicit a 15-page dissent from Sotomayor, which Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan joined. Sotomayor recognized the importance of what the majority of the court had done.

“[B]ecause Wheaton is materially indistinguishable from other nonprofits that object to the government’s accommodation, the issuance of an injunction in this case will presumably entitle hundreds or thousands of other objectors to the same remedy,” she wrote in a footnote.

The dissenters argued that the current nonprofit accommodation should be sufficient religious freedom protection. Sotomayor called the form authorizing contraceptive coverage “minimally burdensome.”

Sotomayor herself handled a Supreme Court injunction back in January on behalf of Little Sisters of the Poor, another nonprofit objecting to the mandate. She submitted the Little Sisters appeal to the court and the court issued an order granting an injunction without any dissents. Seven months later in her dissent from Wheaton’s order, Sotomayor said Wheaton’s case was “crucially unlike” Little Sisters for technical reasons, because the two nonprofits have different types of insurers. But the Little Sisters order, though shorter and less detailed, was almost a carbon copy of the Wheaton order. Little Sisters was required only to inform the government of its objection, and it received an injunction. With two rare orders establishing this route for nonprofits, we have what journalists call a trend.

Lower courts will move forward to decide the merits of these cases, but now Wheaton and Little Sisters have the protection of an injunction. 

Doug Phillips Leaves Church He Founded

 

In an announcement, Boerne Christian Assembly says Phillips left without following the procedures he emphasized during his ministry

By Jamie Dean

(WNS)--In a rare public statement regarding former Vision Forum Ministries president Doug Phillips, the leaders of Boerne Christian Assembly (BCA) announced Phillips had joined another church without receiving a letter of transfer from BCA. Millions of Americans change churches without such a letter, but Phillips previously had emphasized the importance of following church procedures. The July 6 church statement called the development “a matter of great concern” to the BCA.

Phillips resigned as president of the Christian organization Vision Forum Ministries (VFM) in October, admitting to a lengthy, inappropriate relationship with an unmarried woman. (Phillips is married and has eight children.) Two weeks later, the board of VFM announced the ministry would close immediately.

Phillips is also a founder and former elder of BCA—an independent, Baptist congregation north of San Antonio. (Phillips resigned as an elder in January 2013.) During his ministry, he emphasized the importance of accountability and submission to church leaders. He remained a member of BCA after he publicly confessed his sin and acknowledged he “behaved without proper accountability.” On Monday, the church announced Phillips’ departure:

“As previously noted, Boerne Christian Assembly has sought to exercise oversight and accountability with our former elder, Doug Phillips, who last year publicly confessed to an inappropriate, long-term relationship with a woman other than his wife and verbally expressed his repentance for his behavior. Recently, contrary to the position established many years ago at Boerne Christian Assembly under his eldership and which he reaffirmed on multiple occasions, Doug Phillips has left Boerne Christian Assembly and advised that he has become a member of another church without a letter of transfer from Boerne Christian Assembly. This is a matter of great concern to the body at Boerne Christian Assembly and we are attempting to work through this entire situation in a manner that would be honoring to our Lord. We continue to pray for restoration, wisdom, and grace as we determine how we should proceed.”

WORLD has reached out to Phillips for comment and will offer an update with any response.

The church news comes as Phillips faces a lawsuit related to his extra-marital relationship.

In April, the woman with whom Phillips had the relationship filed suit in a Texas court against Phillips, VFM, and Vision Forum Inc., the for-profit company Phillips owns. The complaint identified the woman as Lourdes Torres-Manteufel, a former member of BCA while Phillips was an elder. The Bexar County Court website lists the case’s status as pending.

Colorado Traditional Marriage Law Latest to Fall

(WNS)--A state judge in Denver overturned Colorado’s traditional marriage law in early July, but he put same-sex marriages on hold pending an appeal.

Judge C. Scott Crabtree said the state’s voter-approved ban “bears no rational relationship to any conceivable government interest.”

Attorney General John Suthers plans to appeal, but a three-judge panel of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals already staked its position on the issue when it ruled last month on Utah’s marriage case. Utah officials announced yesterday they plan to take their appeal directly to the U.S. Supreme Court, rather than asking the full 10th Circuit to rehear its arguments.

The Utah case could be the one to settle the marriage issue nationally. It also set the precedent for putting same-sex marriages on hold after the U.S. Supreme Court issued an emergency stay at the beginning of the year. Lower court judges who have overturned traditional marriage laws since then, including Crabtree in Colorado, followed suit.

“The final chapter of this debate will undoubtedly have to be written either in Denver, Colorado, or Washington, D.C.,” he wrote in his opinion. “While the striking down of laws banning same-sex marriages has been progressing at a rapid rate, it will take time for this issue to be finally resolved.”

But another judge in Boulder County ruled today a clerk who's so far issued about 100 marriage licenses to same-sex couples can continue authorizing the unions, in violation of federal rulings. Judge Andrew Hartman said County Clerk Hillary Hall isn't harming anyone by issuing the licenses, although he warned couples who get them run the risk of having them invalidated. After the U.S. Supreme Court ordered a halt to gay marriages in Utah, state officials said they would not recognize the nearly 1,000 marriages that took place there following a federal judge's ruling to strike down the state's traditional marriage law. But the Obama administration said it would recognize the unions, giving same-sex couples a tax incentive to get a marriage license if they can.

 

Episcopalians in South Carolina Take Their $500 Million Property Fight to Court

By Rachel Lynn Aldrich

(WNS)--About 50 churches from the Diocese of South Carolina are going to court this week in an attempt to keep their name, seal, and $500 million in property following their split with The Episcopal Church (TEC).

“At no point in our history has the national church contributed financially to the building or maintenance of any of our church buildings, facilities, or ministries,” said the Rev. Ken Weldon, rector of St. John’s Church in Florence.

South Carolina’s withdrawal is the most recent in an exodus of members and congregations from TEC in recent years. The denomination has spent millions of dollars fighting individual congregations to keep buildings and property.

In a letter read aloud in South Carolina congregations on Sunday, Bishop Mark Lawrence emphasized that while the split was made to protect their members and legacy, “it is of fundamental importance to keep in mind that ours is more than a clinging to heritage for the sake of the past. It is also for the sake of our future mission.” 

Prior to the split, the diocese included about 30,000 parishioners, with congregations dating back to before the Revolutionary War. The Diocese of South Carolina was one of the original groups that came together to form TEC.

The congregations’ theological concerns are not limited to TEC’s ordination of gay bishops and approval of gay marriages. The rift with the national denomination is driven by several decisions, including an attempt to remove Lawrence, South Carolina’s elected bishop, according to an article on the diocese website. That last move prompted the Diocese of South Carolina to disassociate with TEC in October 2012, after which 80 percent of the diocese’s members voted to remain with their diocese rather than the national denomination. 

Only about 20 churches chose to stay with TEC. On Tuesday, those congregations announced they had granted priests permission to bless same-sex couples in committed relationships, although they are not required to do so.

State court decisions in property fight disputes have been varied as to whether the denomination or congregations own their buildings. A conservative congregation in northern Virginia lost its historic building in March after the U.S. Supreme Court left in place a lower court ruling for the national church, ending a seven-year fight. 

But the Episcopalian Diocese of Olympia in Seattle reached a settlement on Monday with two Anglican churches that left in 2004, making it possible for all parties to continue their ministries. And in Texas, the state Supreme Court sided with about a dozen congregations in the Fort Worth area last month. TEC is appealing that ruling.

What’s Next for Baker Who Refused to Make Cake for Same-Sex Wedding?

An interview with Jack Phillips and his attorney Nicolle Martin

By Warren Cole Smith

(WNS)--Jack Phillips’ bakeshop in Lakewood, Colo., has become a frontline in the battle for religious liberty. Phillips, the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, recently refused to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex wedding. The couple filed a complaint against the bakery, which has been in business for more than two decades. I spoke with Phillips and his attorney, Nicolle Martin of the Alliance Defending Freedom, in the dining area of Masterpiece Cakeshop in the Denver suburbs.

 

A couple of years ago in 2012, a situation happened here in your bakeshop. Would you describe what has happened since then? I had two guys come in that wanted me to make them a wedding cake. I declined to make a cake for a same-sex wedding. I informed them that I'd make all their other products, birthday cakes, shower cakes, cookies, and brownies, but that was a product that I didn't do. They left and sent out a message to all their Facebook friends or whatever, and soon phone calls started coming and emails and a lot of hate mail. Pretty vile phone calls … and then it just got pretty crazy after.

 

Talk to me about that very first interaction. I had two girls working for me, and it would have been their job to do that first. But they were both tied up, so I'm third in line. They indicated that they were both busy, and could I take care of that. I went over to the desk. The two guys introduced themselves. I introduced myself. They said what they were here for. I declined to make that, and they said, “What?” and I said, “I’ll make your other stuff,” and then they stomped out.

 

Was this something that you had predicted might be a decision you would have to make in your future, or had you actually had other couples come in, in the past? Yes, we’ve run across this in the past, but I don’t make any judgment because two girls could come in, and they're just good friends and one of them is the bride, you know, and the other one is a friend. So I don’t determine that. But first thing they said was, “We’re here to get a wedding cake. It’s for our wedding.” They let me know it right off.

 

You and Nicolle Martin, with Alliance Defending Freedom, spoke, and things didn't go away. No, it did not. They proceeded and set a hearing date, determined that there was cause for a trial, and so then we had a trial.

 

You still have an opportunity to appeal, but there has been, more or less, a final adjudication, right? Yes, the judge’s ruling. He determined that I violated the public accommodations statute, and I guess that was sent back to the Civil Rights Commission for them to make a ruling. They finalized their ruling a couple weeks ago.

 

The consequences to you are that you have to file quarterly reports. Quarterly reports. I have to cease and desist my practices, change my policies, retrain my employees.

 

Are you going to do any of that? You know, I have to talk with my attorneys and see how that plays out.

 

I’ve heard from media reports that, since this situation has gone public, it has actually helped your business. Is that accurate? It is. A number of things have happened since then that have increased our business because of people hearing about it. A whole lot of local people didn’t know we were here, so they come by and order cakes. More than that, it is people from all over the place that will just come in and want to show their support and buy some cookies or brownies and say they’ve been here.  Yesterday, I had a family … on vacation from Michigan, and they didn’t want to go to the coast of Florida or something like that, but this year they wanted to go to Colorado. They went to the zoo, … Glenwood Springs, and Masterpiece Cakeshop. That was a destination.

 

Down in New Mexico, where aphotographerfaced a similar trial, there have been nasty threats, letters, and voicemails. You said you got some of those in the beginning. In the case of the photographer down in New Mexico, it actually put them out of business. Clearly that’s not happening here, but is it a concern of yours that, maybe after the publicity has gone away and all of the well-wishers forget you, that things could change?  I’ve given that up to the Lord. If that’s what he wants to do here, it’s his business, and he already knows if I can win it or not, so just take it as it comes.

Nicolle, legally, you don’t really know what's going to happen next. Is that correct? Yes.  In order for the Commission to enforce this order, it has to go to the District Court, a court of record, because … even though the Colorado Civil Rights Commission sits as prosecutor, judge, and jury to order Jack to do all this stuff, they have no authority to make him do it. They would have to go and have that order enforced in the District Court. At that point, if and when that were to happen, district courts, courts of record, have broad contempt powers.

You mean that if Jack doesn’t comply, they could find him in contempt of court? That’s correct.

So what’s next? Right now we are considering all of our legal options, which would include an appeal, and weighing that decision. Jack is considering his next steps.

From where you sit, as an affiliated attorney with Alliance Defending Freedom, where is Jack’s case relative to other cases of this kind? Could we end up with law, with precedent, that could dictate how companies all across the country are going to be forced to behave? Sure, that’s the precipice that we’re on. In New Mexico, there’s certainly a bad precedent with Elane Photography. If I was an artist living in New Mexico, I would be greatly concerned about my First Amendment rights. What we’re about to do is force gay print shop owners to make the signs for the Westboro Baptist Church. I think most of your listeners are probably astute enough to know what those signs say. … Or the gay printer might be compelled to print the literature and marketing collateral for the National Organization for Marriage. Are we now to force a pro-life photographer to film Planned Parenthood’s annual gala? That’s where we’re at. What I call the captains of diversity, that’s what they don't seem to understand is that this tolerance agenda goes both ways. Unfortunately, right now, we’re seeing it used against mainly Christians, but all people of faith are at risk.           

Saving Sons and Daughters from Radical Islam

By Ryan Hill

(WNS)--Chris Boudreau, a grieving mother from Canada, traveled to Europe this last week to learn about ways to spare other families whose children risk the same fate as her son. Damian Clairmont died in January at age 22 while fighting for the jihadist group Jabhat al-Nusra in Syria. Clairmont, Boudreau said, converted to Islam to help him recover from depression after he attempted suicide when he was 17. He eventually told his mother he was leaving for Egypt to learn Arabic and study as an imam.

Two recent German initiatives could be helpful in keeping disaffected young men like Clairmont from entering Islamic terrorist groups. Clairmont’s story is not that rare. According to the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation (ICSR) at King’s College London, jihadis in Syria have enticed as many as 11,000 recruits since 2011.

Wegweiser, German for “signpost,” and Hayat, Arabic for “life,” both run hotlines for the friends and family of radical Islamic converts. Boudreau met with counselors from the first group, which opened centers this April in three German cities with large Muslim populations. Social workers operating from these centers intervene when they spot radical recruiters talking to teenagers at playgrounds, football fields, or market squares.

The German state government in North Rhine-Westphalia launched Wegweiser in response to the local growth of Salafi Islam, a Sunni sect often prone to violence. Nearly one third of Germany’s 6,000 Salafi Muslims live in the state. As many as 240 Germans have linked up with terrorist cells in Syria, according to ICSR.

“Salafism is a lifestyle package for young people because it offers them social warmth, a simple black-and-white view of the world, recognition by their peer group–basically everything they lack in real life,” said Burkhard Freier, chief of North Rhine-Westphalia’s intelligence service.

Three staff members keep the phone lines open 24/7 at Hayat, which grew from founder Bernd Wagner’s work to rehabilitate neo-Nazis. “We saw a parallel between Islamism and the far right,” he said this week, noting the 528 right-wing extremists and dozens of violent Muslims his organizations have managed to help de-radicalize to date.

Wagner makes no mention of the God who is faithful and just to forgive confessed sins, but he seems at least to understand the power of confession. He told the Goethe Institute in 2012 about a crucial step for recovering neo-Nazis. “We take anyone, though it is important for people to be honest,” Wagner said. “They must also tell us about any criminal or shameful acts they have committed—that’s an absolute prerequisite.”

Anne Speckhard, author of Talking to Terrorists, spoke to the psychology of radical Islam in an interview with WORLD News Group. “It gives a course of action, it gives a rationale for revenge, and it gives an out,” she said, adding that jihadis tend to feel extreme calm and endorphin-driven euphoria after swearing to kill infidels or even themselves. “I call it short-term psychological first aid,” Speckhard said. She interviewed more than 400 detained terrorists in Iraq between 2005 and 2007.

Groups like Wegweiser and Hayat ought to be ready to criticize jihadi doctrine, said Speckhard, but understanding radical Islam as an emotional crutch for aimless men or depressed youth like Clairmont is equally important: “No one just adopts a militant ideology out of the blue.”

Angel Rabasa said it boils down to a sense of adventure for some extremist recruits. An expert on radical Islam at the RAND Corporation, he told WORLD about his friend who left Malaysia as a young man to fight with Afghan jihadis against the Soviets. The friend repented of his violence years later and told Rabasa why he embraced it in the first place, saying, “Well, I was a very young man, I was bored in this small village, and it was a chance to see the world.”

NATIONAL BRIEFS

Historic Leave-Taking

 

(WNS)--The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)–in a move long expected but nonetheless momentous for the 1.8-million-member denomination, the nation’s sixth largest—approved full endorsement of same-sex marriage with passage of two overtures on June 19.   First, the commissioners voted to approve an Authoritative Interpretation of the constitution, giving PCUSA pastors discretion to conduct same-sex ceremonies in states where the practice is legal. The results were not close: 371 (61 percent) to 238 (39 percent). This action goes into effect immediately.  Next, the assembly approved an amendment to the Book of Order, changing the definition of marriage from “a woman and a man” to “two people.” This vote was even more lopsided: 429 (71 percent) to 175 (29 percent). The amendment now goes out to the denomination’s 172 presbyteries for ratification, a process that normally takes a year.

Pro-lifers Win Supreme Court Buffer Zone Case

 

(WNS)--The U.S. Supreme Court spoke plainly and unanimously in striking down a Massachusetts law placing a 35-foot buffer zone around abortion centers: The law “violates the First Amendment.” The zone excluded anyone but abortion center employees and clients. Chief Justice John Roberts, writing the decision for the court, refused to describe buffer zones in general as unconstitutional, leaving an earlier Supreme Court decision upholding buffer zones in place for now. Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas, and Samuel Alito wrote concurring opinions arguing that buffer zones should be declared unconstitutional altogether.

 

Conservatives Lobby for Religious Exemptions in LGBT Anti-Bias Policy

 

(WNS)--Rather than fight President Barack Obama’s planned executive order against LGBT bias in the workplace, religious conservatives are rallying to persuade him to include an exemption for religious employers. “We want it to be on record,” said Stanley Carlson-Thies, president of the Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance, which is circulating a petition that now has 140 co-signers. “We want to give him the opportunity to do the right thing.”  Obama

WORLD News Service – June 27 2014

                                                                                                                                   

Historic Leave-Taking

 

Pro-lifers Win Supreme Court Buffer Zone Case: Justices unanimously strike down a Massachusetts law creating bubbles of ‘protection’ around abortion centers

 

Conservatives Lobby for Religious Exemptions in LGBT Anti-Bias Policy

 

Georgia Republican Set to Lead Party’s Conservative Caucus

 

Colorado Christian University Wins Contraceptive Mandate Reprieve

 

Petition Urges Air Force Academy to Honor Religious Liberty

 

New Mexico Scientists Fight Taxpayer-Funded Evolution Celebration

 

Popular Financial Guru Charged with Defrauding Christians

 

Feds Open Taxpayer-Funded Insurance to Sex Change Surgery

Childish Tendencies: A window into the self-absorbed hipster, Obvious Child is painful to watch

NATIONAL BRIEFS

 

INTERNATIONAL BRIEFS

 

                                                                                                                                   

 

Historic Leave-Taking

 

By Scott Lamb & Paula R. Kincaid

(WNS)--The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)–in a move long expected but nonetheless momentous for the 1.8-million-member denomination, the nation’s sixth largest—approved full endorsement of same-sex marriage with passage of two overtures on June 19.

First, the commissioners voted to approve an Authoritative Interpretation of the constitution, giving PCUSA pastors discretion to conduct same-sex ceremonies in states where the practice is legal. The results were not close: 371 (61 percent) to 238 (39 percent). This action goes into effect immediately.

Next, the assembly approved an amendment to the Book of Order, changing the definition of marriage from “a woman and a man” to “two people.” This vote was even more lopsided: 429 (71 percent) to 175 (29 percent). The amendment now goes out to the denomination’s 172 presbyteries for ratification, a process that normally takes a year.

Coming after a long period of debate on the floor of the Assembly and an even longer period of debate within the denomination, the historic nature of the vote was not lost on participants and observers alike. 

During the Fundamentalist-Modernist controversy of the 1920s and 1930s, Princeton Seminary professor J. Gresham Machen wrote in his book Christianity and Liberalism: “We would not indeed obscure the difference which divides us from Rome. The gulf is indeed profound. But profound as it is, it seems almost trifling compared to the abyss which stands between us and many ministers of our own Church. The Church of Rome may represent a perversion of the Christian religion; but naturalistic liberalism is not Christianity at all.”

As Donald Fortson, professor of church history at Reformed Theological Seminary wrote in response to the General Assembly’s June decision, “These words penned almost a century ago are a fitting summation of what transpired last week.” 

Machen’s warnings against liberalism culminated in his suspension from Presbyterian ministry in 1936, which led to the formation of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. He led the founding of Westminster Theological Seminary in 1929. Later turning points came with the PCUSA’s “Confession of 1967,” which said, “The Scriptures, given under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, are nevertheless the words of men, conditioned by the language, thought forms, and literary fashions of the places and times at which they were written. … The church, therefore, has an obligation to approach the Scriptures with literary and historical understanding.”

Alarmed by the new view of Scripture, the Presbyterian Lay Committee (PLC) formed to sound a warning, and—refused advertising space in denominational periodicals—bought full-page ads in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, protesting the “obscure language” making it “possible to rationalize almost any point of view the reader seeks to establish.”

After the vote in Detroit, the PLC board published a “letter of repudiation,” calling the PCUSA decision “an abomination.” They urged Presbyterians to voice dissent and refuse to financially support the denomination. “We have arrived at the place where the original members of the Lay Committee warned about,” current PLC president Carmen Fowler LaBerge said. “The PCUSA has set itself as an authority above the Scriptures in determining for herself what is and what is not sin. She has sided with those who want the liberty to live as they so choose and in so doing, she has set herself in opposition to the revealed will of the Holy God.”

The PCUSA has lost over 500 congregations since 2007. The decision in Detroit is likely to escalate the rate of exits, leaving the General Assembly perhaps devoid of conservative voices to oppose further flights from orthodoxy.

Laymen and political leaders took note too. Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., spoke against the same-sex marriage endorsement as “a lifelong member of the Presbyterian Church USA” in a June 24 speech on the House floor. 

“I feel increasingly alienated from this rich faith tradition, which includes John Witherspoon, the only active clergyman to sign the Declaration of Independence,” Wolf noted. “It has long been clear that our culture is in the throes of a seismic shift on this issue,” he said, “But perhaps most troubling is that increasingly this is happening within the church itself, which has historically served a bulwark against the cultural whims of the day.”

Pro-lifers Win Supreme Court Buffer Zone Case

 

Justices unanimously strike down a Massachusetts law creating bubbles of ‘protection’ around abortion centers

By Emily Belz

(WNS)--The U.S. Supreme Court spoke plainly and unanimously in striking down a Massachusetts law placing a 35-foot buffer zone around abortion centers: The law “violates the First Amendment.” The zone excluded anyone but abortion center employees and clients.

Chief Justice John Roberts, writing the decision for the court, refused to describe buffer zones in general as unconstitutional, leaving an earlier Supreme Court decision upholding buffer zones in place for now. Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas, and Samuel Alito wrote concurring opinions arguing that buffer zones should be declared unconstitutional altogether.

Even in the January arguments, the lawyer for the pro-life counselor challenging the law did not ask the court to overturn its own precedent—but he probably hoped they would anyway.

Roberts kept the ruling limited to the Massachusetts law but called into question any buffer zone laws that restrict access to public areas. He said public areas and sidewalks have special protection under the First Amendment.

“It is no accident that public streets and sidewalks have developed as venues for the exchange of ideas,” he wrote in the unanimous opinion. “Even today, they remain one of the few places where a speaker can be confident that he is not simply preaching to the choir. With respect to other means of communication, an individual confronted with an uncomfortable message can always turn the page, change the channel, or leave the website. Not so on public streets and sidewalks.”

The opinion said the Massachusetts law, passed in 2007, burdened pro-life counselors’ speech because they did not want to yell at the women they were trying to counsel. And at such a distance from the centers, counselors could not distinguish passersby from those heading to the center. At one center, women seeking abortions could park within the buffer zone, and never encounter the counselors. The court suggested a number of “less restrictive alternatives” Massachusetts could adopt to ensure safe access to abortion centers while preserving free speech, like passing a law along the lines of an existing federal statute that forbids obstruction of abortion centers. Roberts tried to clarify that the court was not giving constitutional approval to the suggested alternatives.

Though the ruling was unanimous in striking the law, Scalia wrote a concurrence that sounded a lot like a dissent, saying Roberts’ reasoning was alternately “feeble” and “fanciful,” and the majority “specious.”

“Today’s opinion carries forward this court’s practice of giving abortion-rights advocates a pass when it comes to suppressing the free-speech rights of their opponents,” he wrote, in a concurrence that Thomas and Kennedy joined. “This is an opinion that has something for everyone, and the more significant portion continues the onward march of abortion-speech-only jurisprudence.”

Scalia is referring to a large section of Roberts’ opinion where the chief justice argues the buffer zone law is “content-neutral”—not targeting a certain group’s speech—and therefore is not subject to strict scrutiny, the toughest legal standard. If a buffer zone law were subject to strict scrutiny, all buffer zone laws likely would fall as unconstitutional. Roberts’ opinion dodged that broader ruling.

“Every objective indication shows that the provision’s primary purpose is to restrict speech that opposes abortion,” Scalia said.

The opinion leaves murky the status of other buffer zone laws. A case is pending in Wisconsin on the issue, and New Hampshire recently passed a 25-foot buffer zone law. What the unanimous court made clear Thursday is that such laws cannot restrict access to public streets and sidewalks. 

 

Conservatives Lobby for Religious Exemptions in LGBT Anti-Bias Policy

 

By Andrew Branch

(WNS)--Rather than fight President Barack Obama’s planned executive order against LGBT bias in the workplace, religious conservatives are rallying to persuade him to include an exemption for religious employers.

“We want it to be on record,” said Stanley Carlson-Thies, president of the Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance, which is circulating a petition that now has 140 co-signers. “We want to give him the opportunity to do the right thing.”

Obama announced June 16 he would ban federal contractors from discriminating because of sexual orientation or gender identity. The convictions of religious business owners aside, faith-based organizations with contracts include adoption agencies, disaster relief groups, and drug and prison ministries. The order is a response to House inaction on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which the Senate passed in November. ENDA would apply to most businesses, with religious exemptions that fail to satisfy many conservatives.

But even ENDA’s exemptions—let alone those of the still-undrafted executive order—are convoluted. The looming U.S. Supreme Court decision on Hobby Lobby’s challenge to Obamacare’s contraceptive mandate could provide some clarification. But even with a favorable decision for Hobby Lobby, an Obama order codifying LGBT conduct as equal to issues like race could affect future court decisions, Carlson-Thies told me. Motivated by that worldview, the government has a compelling interest to prevent injustice over any religious claim.

The uncertainty has conservative groups concerned. American Family Association President Tim Wildmon warned that existing civil rights orders require affirmative action for protected groups. But most conservatives are waiting to see what the order says before they take decisive action. LGBT lobbyists have told conservatives their reservations are unfounded. Fred Sainz, with the Human Rights Campaign, told the Christian Post religious liberty concerns are “premature” without seeing a draft of the order.

But a wait-and-see approach is certainly not the stance LGBT activists are taking. Interfaith Alliance President C. Welton Gaddy looked forward to “working with the president” to ensure “religion should never be legitimated as a license to discriminate.” 

Despite soft-pedaling the issue to the Christian Post, Sainz made his group’s intent clear to LGBT newspaper The Washington Blade. “We believe that when taxpayer funds are being used, the federal government should prevent discrimination,” he said. “LGBT workers should be treated the same as other categories already protected by the existing executive order.” Those are race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. Former President George W. Bush clarified rules for religious contractors, allowing them to hire based on their religion and mission. Obama’s order could remove the Bush exemption or encode a contradiction that leaves the courts to decide whether religion can include sexual conduct.

While LGBT activists are lobbying for the order, powerful congressional Republicans have been mostly silent. Only Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, has demanded the same religious protections provided in ENDA. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, had no comment for the Huffington Post. “Cultural conservatives appear to be fighting the battle without the help of elected Republicans,” the Post crowed.

That’s why some groups have decided to directly petition the White House. Nathan Diament, executive director for public policy for the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, called on the president to include ENDA-like protections. Jerry Johnson, president of the National Religious Broadcasters, asked Obama to drop the executive order altogether. In the only collective effort, Carlson-Thies is compiling signatures from faith-based organizations, pastors, and constitutional law experts to shed light on what’s at stake.

Disaster relief organization Catholic Relief Services, for example, had more than $230 million in U.S. government grants and contracts in 2013 and $350 million in 2011. The Department of Health and Human Services has already refused to contract with Catholic groups not willing to provide contraception or abortion counseling, Jesuit analyst Thomas Reese said. Funding revocations at the state level over LGBT issues have led dioceses to shutter adoption services in at least four states since 2006. “It would be really impossible to replace many of these Catholic organizations with new secular ones,” Stephen Schneck of The Catholic University of America told Reese.

Carlson-Thies told me Obama is waiting to hear whether he will get pushback, and conservatives should not confirm his agenda by silence: “It’s not a letter approving an executive order, but it’s just saying if there is an executive order, it should have very strong religious freedom protections.”

The letter asks for ENDA-like protections for religious organizations’ conduct and preservation of Bush’s exemption. And given the big-picture precedent the order sets, Carlson-Thies wants Obama to clarify that LGBT conduct does not trump religious freedom. “At the end of the day, we have no idea whether the president will listen—take some of our advice, none of it, a little bit of it,” Carlson-Thies said. “But I think when we have an opening to speak up, it’s incumbent on us to speak up and not let the opportunity pass by.”

Colorado Christian University Wins Contraceptive Mandate Reprieve

 

By Rachel Lynn Aldrich

(WNS)--Colorado Christian University scored a victory for religious liberty last week, winning a preliminary injunction from a Denver federal judge against the government’s contraceptive mandate. The ruling prevents the Department of Health and Human Services from enforcing provisions of Obamacare that require the school to offer contraceptives that could induce abortions. 

“It’s a terrific victory,” said school President William Armstrong. “It’s a huge victory for us, but more importantly, it’s a victory for the cause for religious freedom.”

The judge determined the mandate, which required the school to provide Plan B (the so-called “morning after” pill) and Ella (the “week after” pill), infringed on the private university’s freedom of religion, noting that if CCU either did not provide health insurance to its employees, or “did not include the coverages required by the mandate, CCU would be subject to significant—if not ruinous—financial penalties.” 

The penalties would have amounted to millions of dollars in annual fines, beginning July 1.

The judge concluded that the pressure to violate the school’s religious beliefs violated the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, according to the Beckett Fund, which supported CCU’s case. 

“We are rejoicing,” Armstrong said. “We’re praising the Lord and thanking the Beckett Fund and thankful that we live in a country where the courts can protect us against these kind of things.” 

Armstrong noted that while a final injunction may be waiting on the U.S. Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision, which he “earnestly hoped” turned out in the Christian-owned craft chain’s favor, he fully expected to receive the injunction either way. CCU’s case is significantly different from Hobby Lobby’s, because it is a religious institution while Hobby Lobby is a for-profit business. The high court is expected to rule on the Hobby Lobby case tomorrow, or Monday at the latest.

“This is an important win for religious liberty,” said Beckett Fund attorney Eric Baxter, who represents CCU in its case. “A university like CCU, whose employees and students share its religious convictions concerning the sanctity of life, should not be forced against its beliefs to distribute drugs that it deems to be morally wrong.”

Petition Urges Air Force Academy to Honor Religious Liberty

 

By Kristen Eicher

(WNS)--The Restore Military Religious Freedom Coalition teamed up with the Family Research Council on Wednesday to deliver a petition with 105,000 signatures to the Air Force Academy seeking to have First Amendment freedoms, particularly religious liberty, restored to its cadets.

Religious freedom and the First Amendment have been a source of recent conflict at the Academy. In 2011, administrators issued an apology for mentioning the organization Operation Christmas Child. Most recently, in March of this year, a cadet leader voluntarily removed a Bible verse from the whiteboard on his dorm room door after someone complained to the Military Religious Freedom Foundation and Air Force Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson. The verse, Galatians 12:20 reads, “I have been crucified with Christ therefore I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.”

The petition delivered Wednesday directly relates to the Bible verse controversy. It voices concern about the culture of fear produced by eradicating religion and any other source of discomfort. “If cadets are taught to be afraid of Bible verses, how will they respond against terrorists who are willing to die for their cause?” the petition asks.

Mikey Weinstein, president and founder of an organization devoted to strictly limiting religion in the military, argued that the presence of the Bible verse “pours fundamentalist Christian gasoline” on an Air Force Academy religious culture he believes is “raging out of control.”

But Lt. Gen. (Rt.) Jerry Boykin, Family Research Council’s executive vice president, disagrees. He wants the religious problems within the Academy sorted out in a way that benefits the cadets to prevent further damage. “The Academy’s recent actions and policy pronouncements, unless quickly corrected, will continue to chill speech among cadets, harm morale, and create unnecessary confusion,” he said.

Lawmakers in Congress have not remained silent on the issue. Rep. John Fleming, R-La., praised the petition.

“We need this kind of resounding effort by the American people echoing that message to the Air Force,” he said. “I believe we will make progress on this issue, and the efforts of citizens speaking out are playing a leading role in that fight.”

Travis Weber, director of the Center for Religious Liberty at the Family Research Council, believes the petition speaks for many people in the military worried about their First Amendment rights. “To remove a Bible verse from that whiteboard that the cadet would want to put on there is something that is seriously concerning,” he said. 

The petition shows people outside the military also support the ability of soldiers to freely express their religion while in uniform, Boykin said. With the more than 100,00 signatures, the American people “have spoken out loudly against such efforts to suppress speech and belief,” Boykin said.

Georgia Republican Set to Lead Party’s Conservative Caucus

 

By Ryan Hill

(WNS)-- If Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., is swinging a sword against government spending with his 2015 budget proposal, which boasts total cuts of $5.1 trillion, Rep. Rob Woodall, R-Ga., must be holding a chainsaw. In April, Woodall crafted another GOP budget plan with Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., that would reduce federal spending by $7.4 trillion.

Woodall’s plan debuted when Scalise served as chairman of the Republican Study Committee (RSC), a 176-member caucus of conservative House Republicans. Woodall currently leads the RSC’s Budget and Spending Task Force, but with the recent chain reaction of Republican succession, he is almost certain to land in Scalise’s former shoes, at least for a few months.

After challenger David Brat took House Majority Leader Eric Cantor by surprise in the Virginia Republican primary, Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., won a June 19 party election to become the new majority leader. Scalise then emerged victorious from a three-way race to replace McCarthy as majority whip. When he takes office on Aug. 1, the RSC will have a hole in its leadership.

Scalise was prepared to appoint Woodall as the RSC’s interim chairman this Wednesday, but committee members opted to wait two weeks for a formal vote. They hesitated out of respect for procedure rather than scruples about Woodall.

“I’m very glad that my friend and fellow Georgian will take the helm of the RSC during this transition period,” said Rep. Tom Graves, R-Ga. “He’s a strong conservative and will provide the steady leadership the organization needs in the coming months.” Graves lost to Scalise in the 2012 contest for RSC chairman.

Woodall awaits election on July 9 to become temporary head and caretaker of the RSC. He will defer to a new full-time chairman serving the standard two-year term after a second round of elections in November.

Of all the items on his legislative agenda, Woodall is “most passionate” about the FairTax bill. First introduced to the House in 1999 by former Rep. John Linder, R-Ga., the act has languished in Congress for 15 years. It would abolish the income tax, disband the IRS, and apply a 23 percent consumer tax to all new purchased goods and services.

This month, Woodall introduced a House bill with Rep. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., to rein in franking, the Congressional mailing privilege that cost nearly $8 million in taxpayer funds last year.

Woodall began his political career in 1994, dropping out of law school at the University of Georgia to become a legislative correspondent for Linder. He finished his law degree in 1998 and was promoted to Linder’s chief of staff in 2000.

“Rob Woodall is a very thoughtful, upbeat, and knowledgeable member of Congress and is particularly well versed on spending issues,” said Rep. Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo.

New Mexico Scientists Fight Taxpayer-Funded Evolution Celebration

 

By Dick Peterson

(WNS)--Two New Mexico scientists hope next year’s Darwin Days celebration at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science may evolve into a more civilized affair. If their challenge to the state’s use of its publicly funded institution and taxpayer money to denigrate religion and promote atheism can gain traction with state officials, media, and the public, the event could include talks on intelligent design and creation.

A flier promoting Darwin Days at the museum in February listed New Mexicans for Science & Reason, Humanist Society of New Mexico, and Freedom From Religion, Albuquerque as museum co-sponsors, stoking the anger of James Campbell and Michael Edenburn. “It is my understanding that the religion clauses of the First Amendment require that states ‘pursue a course of complete neutrality toward religion,’” Campbell wrote in a letter to the governor of New Mexico on Feb. 3.“Is it appropriate for a state-funded museum to join forces with organizations such as the Humanist Society and the Freedom From Religion group to promote an anti-religious agenda?”

Four days later, a letter from the Cabinet Secretary for the New Mexico State Department of Cultural Affairs assured Campbell the apparent collaboration was a misunderstanding. But sensing a coverup, Campbell and Edenburn attended the Darwin Days lectures, found them to be true to their billing, and submitted a Freedom of Information request for emails and documents produced in planning the Darwin Days celebration of the birth and life of evolutionist Charles Darwin.

The documents showed the museum actively solicited and recruited pro-evolution atheist groups to help plan its 2014 Darwin Day events and made no attempt to involve religious groups or those skeptical of Darwinian evolution. The museum worked closely with atheists to plan the Darwin Day events that included anti-religious lectures and attacks against intelligent design and creationism. And once Campbell filed his inquiry with the governor’s office, the planning team attempted to cover up the collaborations and offered false information about what really happened, the scientists said.

“The emails showed a clear participation between museum staff and atheist groups in planning the presentations given on Feb. 12,” Edenburn said. “I am angry because a public institution in New Mexico used taxpayer money to plan and promote an event that denigrated religion. This is wrong and should not be allowed to continue.” 

Edenburn said he and Campbell sent press packets to 11 major news outlets in New Mexico informing them of the issue, but have yet to spark any interest. The two have a scheduled meeting with the museum staff July 2. It’s the only response from the governor’s office since the two sent a letter detailing the museum’s participation in selecting the talks and speakers.

“I would like to urge everyone to keep in touch with Darwin Day programs offered by state institutions,” Edenburn said. “Challenge them if they participate in viewpoint discrimination or programs that promote anti-religious or atheistic views.”

 

Popular Financial Guru Charged with Defrauding Christians

 

By Rachel Lynn Aldrich

(WNS)--A former financial advisor who allegedly defrauded megachurch parishioners out of more than $11 million was arrested and indicted June 17 by a federal grand jury. Ephren Taylor, 31, and business partner Wendy Connor are charged with conspiracy and multiple counts of fraud. 

Taylor, former CEO of City Capital Corporation, and Connor are accused of swindling churchgoers across the country, often by convincing them to make fraudulent investments in small businesses, and using their money to pay personal expenses. Between April 2009 and October 2010, the two defrauded hundreds of investors out of millions of dollars, according to prosecutors. Taylor traveled across the country giving “Building Wealth Tour” seminars at churches, telling investors a portion of their profits went to charity. 

According to ABC News, the Department of Justice reported more than 80 people from Georgia alone “lost more than $2 million because of Taylor’s scheme.” Investors included congregants from Bishop Eddie Long’s New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia, Ga., and Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church in Houston.

Prosecutors also said Taylor pushed investments in sweepstakes machines loaded with games allowing players to win cash prizes, telling victims they would generate 300 percent returns. He claimed the machines were 100 percent risk-free. Accusations also include convincing victims to use self-directed IRAs to make investments, then using their money to pay business expenses, personal expenses, and returns to other investors. 

The Securities and Exchange Commission filed a complaint in April 2012 accusing Taylor and Connor of defrauding investors out of more than $11 million. A federal judge ordered City Capital to hand over nearly $15 million in profits, interest, and civil penalties.

Taylor’s attorney, Jane Bruno, said her client surrendered to authorities after learning of the indictment and is anxious to address the charges. 

Cathy Lerman, a Florida attorney representing some of Taylor’s alleged victims, said she is pursuing third parties and has been after Taylor since 2007, although she had no idea how large the case would become. 

“As a lawyer with 30 years of experience, this is the first time I’ve ever had to talk clients out of committing suicide,” Lerman said. Dozens of clients have faced foreclosure and unexpected medical bills after losing their life savings and unwittingly destroying their families’ financial stability, she said.

Joann White, 67, from Belleville, Mich., is one of Lerman’s clients. She saw Taylor on television talking about his book, and invested in what she thought was a laundry service run by college students and an alternative fuel source gas station. Instead, her retirement savings vanished and her family almost became homeless because they couldn’t pay their mortgage. 

Feds Open Taxpayer-Funded Insurance to Sex Change Surgery

 

By Andrew Branch

(WNS)--Taxpayers could soon be paying for federal employees’ sex reassignment surgeries after the Office of Personnel Management lifted its ban on insurance coverage for the procedures.

The June 13 directive surfaced quietly as a letter to insurance providers, citing an “evolving professional consensus” on whether the surgery is “medically necessary.” Carriers of Federal Employee Health Benefits plans have until June 30 to decide whether to change their policies regarding the procedures, which can cost up to $50,000.

The bureaucratic change came just two weeks after the Department of Health and Human Services authorized Medicare to cover the same surgeries. For men, they can involve castration and genital reconstruction. For women, they can involve mastectomy and the implantation of a prosthetic.

LGBT activists praised the ruling, but some argued that giving providers a choice isn’t good enough. “We think it’s illegal sex discrimination if they exclude care for trans people that they allow other people to have,” said Mara Keisling, executive director for the National Center for Transgender Equality. Failing to cover the procedures, Keisling and other activists say, would be at odds with executive orders that attempt to rewrite anti-discrimination laws.

President Barack Obama touted his administration’s continued activism Tuesday before 550 supporters at a Democratic National Committee gala for LGBT donors. The raucous crowd gave the president a standing ovation for a new executive order banning anti-LGBT bias among federal contractors. “Sometimes you guys were a little impatient,” Obama said. “Sometimes I had to say, ‘Will you guys just settle down a bit?’”

Obama proclaimed June 2014 “LGBT Pride Month,” and as it passes the halfway mark, LGBT activists are moving to silence opposition. The Wall Street Journal came under fire for publishing a June 12 op-ed criticizing the transgender movement. “Policy makers and the media are doing no favors either to the public or the transgendered by treating their confusions as a right in need of defending rather than as a mental disorder that deserves understanding, treatment, and prevention,” wrote Paul McHugh, a former psychiatrist in chief at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

McHugh has long protested sex reassignment surgery as a treatment for transgender feelings, successfully shutting down the Johns Hopkins Gender Program in the 1970s. He likens the surgery to performing liposuction on an anorexic girl who thinks she is obese.

Data show up to 80 percent of people who profess transgender feelings—especially children—will change their minds, McHugh said. He advocates “devoted parenting,” not growth-stunting and puberty-delaying hormone treatments that come “close to child abuse.” Furthermore, he writes, post-surgery transexuals have suicide rates 20 times that of non-transgender people.

GLAAD president Sarah Kate Ellis accused the Journal of rejecting “best practices” for reporting on transgendered people. “They are sacrificing accuracy and integrity," Ellis said. LGBT activists are quick to dismiss McHugh for his Roman Catholic faith and his disagreement with colleagues at the American Psychiatric Association and the American Psychological Association, which support sex reassignment surgery.

The heart of the issue, though, is that of worldview, McHugh said. “‘Sex change’ is biologically impossible,” and people can only become “feminized men or masculinized women.” McHugh has long disdained the liberal sector of his discipline, calling it “the captive of the culture” in a 1992 essay. By failing to study transgender feelings to learn to treat them, he wrote, doctors “abandon the role of protecting patients from their symptoms and become little more than technicians working on behalf of a cultural force.”

Childish Tendencies

 

A window into the self-absorbed hipster, Obvious Child is painful to watch

By Emily Belz

(WNS)--Obvious Child is an independent “romantic comedy” starring internet darling and brief Saturday Night Live cast member Jenny Slate as Donna, a stand-up comedian living in Brooklyn who has a one-night stand that turns into a pregnancy. Unlike the moms in the hits Juno or Knocked Up, Donna quickly decides to have an abortion.

“I’m pregnant and I’m having an abortion,” a teary Donna tells her Manhattanite mom late in the film.

“Thank God,” the mom replies. “I thought you were going to tell me you were moving to L.A.”

Even in Manhattan, very few people in the theater laughed. The abortion aside, the comedy is painful to watch. (Its R-rating applies mostly to the crude comments from Donna.)

The film, which scored the highest per theater earnings in the country in its very limited initial release in New York and Los Angeles, has received positive reviews presumably for its “bravery” of showing a woman having an abortion instead of a baby. Making a moving, realistic movie about a woman getting an abortion is theoretically possible; after all, at least a million children are aborted in the United States every year. That movie wouldn’t be a romantic comedy. In this “abortions have a happy ending” story, Donna finds approval for her decision from all of her family and friends, and her one-night stand turns into real romance. The father, Max (Jake Lacy), shows up outside her house with a bouquet of flowers to go with her to her abortion appointment. The film closes with Donna, post-abortion, curling up with Max to watch a movie.

Unlike Juno MacGuff, Obvious Child’s Donna never wonders what stage of development the baby is in or whether to abort. When Donna’s friend recounts when she had an abortion, Donna asks if she had regrets. The friend says sometimes “I feel sorry for my teenage self.” In one reading, this is a film about self-involved millennials, like Lena Dunham’s show Girls. Both Girls and Obvious Child take place in Williamsburg, the ultra-hipster neighborhood of Brooklyn, and center on single 20- and 30-somethings (my generation).

In Girls, I can never tell if Dunham is critiquing the self-involved world of 20-somethings or if she is telling everyone else to understand and accept millennials for who they are. The same is true here with Gillian Robespierre, the writer and director of the film. Donna is a realistic character who makes terrible decisions, who isn’t successful in her career, who shares awkward details about her relationships in her stand-up routines, even announcing her decision to have an abortion from the stage. Donna is also the embodiment of the millennial tendency to act as if nothing is a big deal: She affects ambivalence about both the thrift store sweater she wears and her decision to have an abortion. Apparently if you act like a millennial, you live happily ever after—an ending even Lena Dunham doesn’t allow on her show.

Despite Obvious Child’s attempt to be a gritty, independent film, the realism is limited to Donna’s millennial attitude. Here Juno distinguishes itself again. Juno, which won an Oscar for best original screenplay, allowed its story to remain first. The writer, Diablo Cody, wasn’t a pro-life lobbyist with a checklist. But in Obvious Child, the story is reduced to a Planned Parenthood public service announcement. Planned Parenthood’s logo even appears in the abortion center scenes, on bulletin boards or wall hangings, like a product placement.

The dialogue, usually believable, turns staged when the abortion issue comes up, checking off all the “Frequently Asked Questions” about abortion: Does it hurt? (No!) Is the recovery difficult? (No!) A Planned Parenthood employee explains to Donna how much abortions cost and then adds that there is financial assistance for those without means. No wonder Planned Parenthood and other abortion groups are promoting the film. The organization said it “consulted closely” with the filmmakers and it shows. Robespierre not only misfired with her message; she made a bad film.

NATIONAL BRIEFS

IBLP: Gothard was Inappropriate, not Criminal

 

(WNS)--Former ministry leader Bill Gothard acted inappropriately, showing a “lack of discretion and failure to follow Christ’s example of being blameless and above reproach.” Those are the findings of an internal investigation conducted by the board of directors of the Institute of Basic Life Principles (IBLP), the ministry Gothard founded. The investigation followed accusations that Gothard, over several decades, made inappropriate sexual advances toward young women involved in the ministry. Watchdog group Recovering Grace has been gathering and publishing accounts of Gothard’s alleged behavior on its website for the past three years. The board placed Gothard on administrative leave in February. He resigned his position from the ministry in March, which coincided with the launch of the board’s investigation.

Supreme Court Confirms First Amendment Protections for Whistleblowers

 

(WNS)--In a decision that could give more rights to public workers who speak out against government corruption, the U.S. Supreme Court on June 19 ruled unanimously in favor of whistleblowers. The court decided that when employees of public entities testify in court, they do so as a citizens, not as representatives of their employers. Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote the decision, declaring, “there is considerable value … in encouraging, rather than inhibiting, speech by public employees.”

Conservatives Gain Voice in House Leadership

 

(WNS)--House Republicans elected a new majority leader and whip June 17, completing a leadership shakeup that began when Majority Leader Eric Canter lost his primary. Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., ascended from majority whip to majority leader with a first-ballot victory over conservative challenger Rep Raúl Labrador, R-Idaho. Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., also registered a first-ballot victory in a mild upset, defeating Deputy Majority Whip Peter Roskam, R-Ill., and Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-Ind., in a three-way race to replace McCarthy as the party’s No. 3. McCarthy and Scalise will assume their new roles on July 31, when Cantor has said he will step down. 

INTERNATIONAL BRIEFS

Canadian Lawyers Rally Against Christian Law School Grads

(WNS)--By a 3-to-1 margin, member lawyers of the Law Society of British Columbia voted June 10 to reverse a previous decision to recognize future graduates from the planned Trinity Western University School of Law. Although thousands of lawyers participated in the nonbinding vote, it was a purely symbolic measure: The ultimate decision to approve Trinity Western’s law school lies in the hands of the society’s governing “benchers,” who are similar to a board of directors. In April, the benchers voted 20-6 to authorize the country’s first Christian law school, even though the university requires all students, faculty, and staff to sign a community covenant restricting sexual activity to traditional marriages. Religious liberty advocates in the United States and Canada believe the fate of Trinity Western’s law school is a bellwether for religious freedom in North America.

                 

Copyright to the preceding content is held by WORLD Magazine, except where noted. Copyrighted stories for which the copyright is held by others must be printed with copyright information. These stories may not be reprinted, broadcast, made available through electronic retrieval systems, or put to any commercial use except by paying subscribers of the WNS Service. WNS Service subscribers are licensed for print rights only. However, these stories may be posted to a subscriber’s web-site or electronic or broadcast medium with prior written consent. WNS is delivered every Friday – except Christmas and 4th of July week -- via e-mail to subscribers. For information on becoming a licensed subscriber, write to: WORLD News Service, 4701 Beech Crest Place, Charlotte, NC 28269. You can reach us by phone at (704) 661-9137 (USA), or by e-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . 

                                              

           

 

WORLD News Service – June 20 2014

                                                                                                                                   

 

IBLP: Gothard was inappropriate, not criminal: Watchdog group Recovering Grace calls the ministry's internal investigation a ‘severe disappointment’

Supreme Court Confirms First Amendment Protections for Whistleblowers

Marchers Unite for Marriage: People of many faiths and cultures gathered at the nation’s capital to rally support for traditional marriage

Conservatives Gain Voice in House Leadership: Establishment Republicans keep control, but conservatives get a foot in the door

Unequally Yoked: Can Christian publishers owned by secular companies maintain their Christian distinctives?

U.S. Lawmakers Try to Reignite Outrage Over Kidnapped Schoolgirls

Canadian Lawyers Rally Against Christian Law School Grads

North Korea Deserves Unrelenting Attention for Unrelenting Atrocities

NATIONAL BRIEFS

 

INTERNATIONAL BRIEFS

 

                                                                                                                                   

IBLP: Gothard was inappropriate, not criminal

 

Watchdog group Recovering Grace calls the ministry's internal investigation a ‘severe disappointment’

By Warren Cole Smith

(WNS)--Former ministry leader Bill Gothard acted inappropriately, showing a “lack of discretion and failure to follow Christ’s example of being blameless and above reproach.” Those are the findings of an internal investigation conducted by the board of directors of the Institute of Basic Life Principles (IBLP), the ministry Gothard founded.

The investigation followed accusations that Gothard, over several decades, made inappropriate sexual advances toward young women involved in the ministry. Watchdog group Recovering Grace has been gathering and publishing accounts of Gothard’s alleged behavior on its website for the past three years. The board placed Gothard on administrative leave in February. He resigned his position from the ministry in March, which coincided with the launch of the board’s investigation.

A statement released Tuesday by the IBLP board said “no criminal activity has been discovered. If it had been, it would have been reported to the proper authorities immediately, as it will be in the future if any such activity is revealed.”

The board, despite its findings of indiscretion, did leave open the possibility that Gothard could return to the ministry: “We believe God still desires to use Bill Gothard for His work in the Kingdom of God, but we also believe it is important that he be held to the high standards clearly taught in the Scriptures and upheld by this ministry. At this time the Board unanimously agrees that Mr. Gothard is not permitted to serve in any counseling, leadership, or Board role within the IBLP ministry.”

The IBLP board also said it was working toward reconciliation with the women toward whom Gothard acted inappropriately, and their families: “We want to encourage reconciliation within families and are very supportive of efforts toward reconciliation with Mr. Gothard or with IBLP. The Board is asking that Mr. Gothard submit to and cooperate with a team of Christian leaders who will direct his reconciliation process.”

Recovering Grace, the group that brought the allegations against Gothard to light, expressed its concern with the board’s findings. In a 3,000-word statement released today, the group said the board report was a “severe disappointment” that minimized the “exploitation of innocent young women” for the sake of “saving the organization above all else.” Recovering Grace called the board statement an exercise in “choosing self-preservation, ignoring the abuse and broken lives left by a predatory leader.”

Recovering Grace also questioned whether the investigation was truly independent, noting that David Gibbs Jr., who led the inquiry, has had a “long-term relationship with Bill Gothard and the IBLP organization since the 1980s.”

Requests made by WORLD to interview Gothard, the chairman of the IBLP board, and Gibbs have so far gone unanswered.

Gothard has been a prominent Christian leader since the 1970s, when he often led arena-sized events with thousands in attendance. The ministry claims to have trained more than 2.5 million people since the late 1960s. In the 1980s, Gothard’s organization—then known as the Institute for Basic Youth Conflicts—had another major scandal. At that time, Gothard’s brother Steve, then administrative director for the ministry, stepped down following accusations he had sexual relationships with several of the organization’s staff. Bill Gothard faced accusations then that he had tolerated an environment where such abuses could take place, and he stepped down for three weeks, but later returned to leadership in the ministry.

Supreme Court Confirms First Amendment Protections for Whistleblowers

 

By Allie Hulcher

(WNS)--In a decision that could give more rights to public workers who speak out against government corruption, the U.S. Supreme Court on June 19 ruled unanimously in favor of whistleblowers. The court decided that when employees of public entities testify in court, they do so as a citizens, not as representatives of their employers.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote the decision, declaring, “there is considerable value … in encouraging, rather than inhibiting, speech by public employees.”

Edward Lane, who worked at Central Alabama Community College, fired Alabama state Rep. Suzanne Schmitz after discovering she was on the payroll despite not doing any work. Lane testified in two federal criminal trails against Schmitz, and she later served 13 months in prison.

Lane claimed that after testifying, he faced retaliation from college administrators. Steve Franks, the community college president, sent out 29 termination letters but later rescinded all but two, including Lane’s.

Lane sued, but the lower courts ruled that he had acted in an official capacity when testifying at Schmitz’s trial, just as he had acted in official capacity when firing Schmitz.

Sotomayor, however, wrote the First Amendment “protects a public employee who provided truthful sworn testimony, compelled by subpoena, outside the course of his ordinary job responsibilities.”

The court remained silent on First Amendment protections for some public employees, such as police officers, crime scene technicians, and laboratory analysts, because for them testifying is a “routine and critical part of their employment duties,” rather than outside of their ordinary job duties.

The majority opinion called sworn testimony at a trial “a quintessential example of speech as a citizen for a simple reason: Anyone who testifies in court bears an obligation, to the court and society at large, to tell the truth.”

Stephen Kohn, executive director of the National Whistleblower Center, predicted the decision will have a “wide impact” on investigations of securities, banking, and tax fraud.

“This ruling gives a green light to all public employees who have information concerning official corruption and fraud and want to expose these crimes,” Kohn told the Associated Press.

Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the case earlier this year, asking the court to make it clear that a public employee has a First Amendment right to speak freely outside the workplace.

“We see all too often that public universities and colleges place political litmus tests on employees,” said ADF senior legal counsel David Hacker. “But as the Supreme Court has affirmed time and time again, Americans do not lose their First Amendment freedoms when they accept a government job.”

Marchers Unite for Marriage

 

People of many faiths and cultures gathered at the nation’s capital to rally support for traditional marriage

By Emily Scheie & Rikki Elizabeth Stinnette

(WNS)--Elaine Soto and her family left New Jersey at 3 a.m. on Thursday to come to the March for Marriage in Washington. She brought her four children to “open their eyes to the fact they don’t have to shrink. They don’t have to be embarrassed or ashamed even if what they believe is not politically correct.”

Jack McGill of Detroit, Mich., along with his wife of 22 years, Diane, and their two children drove 600 miles to D.C. for the second time this year to attend a protest—the first was the March for Life. In both cases, McGill said he came to “support God’s truth.” He hopes Congress will pass a marriage amendment.

“That truth [of biblical marriage] is engraved on everyone’s heart from creation,” he said.

This year marks the second annual marriage march, held to ask Congress to define marriage according to traditional, biblical standards. The marchers this year included people of different ages, races, religions, and cultures, all united under the belief that marriage is between a man and a woman. They gathered Thursday on the Capitol lawn to let politicians know the fight for marriage is not over.

“We are not under an obligation to defy God to obey you,” former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee said at Thursday’s rally, speaking to the government in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act last year. That law provided a federal definition of marriage as a union between one man and one woman. Currently, states can decide whether or not to allow gay marriage—19 have overruled homosexual marriage bans and now allow same-sex unions. But legal challenges have been filed in every state that bans same-sex marriage, and the issue eventually will end up back before the Supreme Court.

With gay marriage continuing to gain momentum and acceptance in the nation’s culture, Joe Grabowski, director of communications for the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), said standing for the biblical definition of marriage “can feel like a very lonely position.” NOM organized the march to bring people together. Last year, roughly 7,000 attended. This year, organizers estimated as many as 10,000 joined the procession.

“It’s really nice to see you’re not the only one out there,” said Karlene Carkhuff, who attended the march with her family both years. She pointed to her daughters and said, “These girls need to see they’re not alone.”

Carkhuff and her daughters marched with monks in gray cloaks, priests in collars, and Jews in heavy black suits. Chinese marchers shared the shade with African Americans.

A group of Hispanic marchers, stretching across a city block, blew horns and whistles and gave shouts of praise as they marched onto the lawn. They cheered wildly when Ruben Diaz, a pastor and New York state senator, rallied them in Spanish.

From the podium, speakers proclaimed the message that marriage is more than just a romance or a relationship between two people.

“The family unit is not arbitrarily defined by man as he pleases, but by nature,” said Alfonso Aguilar, with the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles. “One of its defining objectives is the procreation and upbringing of children.”

Delaware residents Seif and Francesca Kmar, both 19, met over email and married last September. Though Seif is a Tunisian Muslim and Francesca an American Christian, both attended the protest to stand up for their belief in traditional marriage.

Francesca especially believes marriage is important because a single mother raised her. When her mother married again for a few years, Francesca loved having both a father and a mother. “For that short period of time, I felt complete,” she said. “The institution of marriage … is bigger than all of us.”

Raheel Majeed Masih is a Pentecostal pastor from Pakistan who recently arrived in the United States. He was excited to take advantage of the freedom to stand up for his beliefs—a liberty he said he didn’t have at home: “If we do criticism there they beat us.”

The first March for Marriage took place on March 26, 2013, the day the Supreme Court heard arguments over California’s marriage amendment, commonly referred to as Proposition 8. Thursday’s procession stretched around the Capitol and stopped traffic. The crowd marched to the Supreme Court building behind a banner proclaiming “Every Child Deserves a Mom & a Dad” while singing hymns such as “Amazing Grace.”

When they reached the corner across from the Supreme Court, the protestors met about 50 counter-protestors waving rainbow flags. Before the march began, NOM president Brian Brown instructed the marchers that if they met opposition, they should not resist. With same-sex marriage supporters lining the sidewalk in front of the Supreme Court building, the marchers knelt and prayed in both Spanish and English. The shouts of “One man! One woman!” and Spanish praise songs died to a hush as the marchers prayed. When they were done, the counter-protestors parted and the marchers reached the Supreme Court steps, where they dispersed after one last prayer in Spanish.

Conservatives Gain Voice in House Leadership

 

Establishment Republicans keep control, but conservatives get a foot in the door

By J.C. Derrick

(WNS)--House Republicans elected a new majority leader and whip Tuesday afternoon, completing a leadership shakeup that began nine days ago when Majority Leader Eric Canter lost his primary.

 

Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., ascended from majority whip to majority leader with a first-ballot victory over conservative challenger Rep Raúl Labrador, R-Idaho. Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., also registered a first-ballot victory in a mild upset, defeating Deputy Majority Whip Peter Roskam, R-Ill., and Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-Ind., in a three-way race to replace McCarthy as the party’s No. 3. 

“I’ll make one promise,” McCarthy said after the election. “I will work every single day to make sure this conference has the courage to lead with the wisdom to listen, and we’ll turn this country around.” 

McCarthy and Scalise will assume their new roles on July 31, when Cantor has said he will step down. 

Although Thursday’s vote included candidates unknown to most of the country, the results could have far-reaching implications. The majority House leadership, among other things, assigns committee membership, sets policy priorities, and determines what bills will come to the floor for votes—important decisions for a Congress that continues to set new lows in approval ratings. 

Virginia voters ousted Cantor last week in favor of a more conservative challenger, David Brat, but McCarthy, his leadership replacement, may actually be less conservative than Cantor. Labrador, a tea party favorite, entered the race late and said he did so to provide a true conservative alternative. “We regained control of the House in 2010 because Americans believed that Washington was not listening,” Labrador said Wednesday at a candidate forum. “If you vote for the status quo tomorrow, you will prove that we are still not listening.”

Members cast votes via secret ballot, and since Labrador asked for the vote to be recorded as unanimous, it is unclear how many Republicans may have cast protest votes. Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, one of the most conservative members of Congress, said McCarthy “has said it will not be business as usual, so now we will see if the coming evidence supports such a verdict.” 

Gohmert this week announced he will run to replace Scalise as chairman of the Republican Study Committee, the party’s 176-member conservative caucus. Scalise cited his RSC work as a cornerstone of his campaign for whip, saying he’s proven it’s possible to both pass conservative legislation and bridge divides in the party. 

Apparently it worked: Rep. Joe Pitts, R-Pa., told me after the vote that he voted for Scalise because of his RSC experience, saying the party needs to focus on the issues that can bring the GOP together. “I don’t want to criticize anybody, but I think we need to be more aggressive in moving our agenda forward,” he said. “We need 218 to pass a bill and we really need to be unified together.”

The man Scalise defeated, Peter Roskam, took a different approach to his campaign: He reportedly told members he would bring unruly conservatives into line—by punishing them. Roskam floated ideas such as refusing to take up members’ bills and relegating rebels to unimportant committee assignments if they refused to fall into line, a tactic House Speaker John Boehner used after the 2012 election

Scalise’s election means House leadership tips more conservative and gains a member from the South—an attribute some lawmakers said was important. 

Some conservative members said they view the next few months as a trial run for the next Congress, but Republicans likely will vote to keep the same leadership in place for the 114th Congress. 

“They’ll be reelected without any problem,” Rep. John Fleming, R-La., told me, saying the positions likely won’t be contested again until at least 2016. “It was settled for now.” 

Unequally Yoked

 

Can Christian publishers owned by secular companies maintain their Christian distinctives?

By Warren Cole Smith

(WNS)--When WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group published Matthew Vines’ book God and the Gay Christian in April, Jerry Johnson had a problem.

Johnson is the new president of National Religious Broadcasters (NRB), and WaterBrook Multomah was an associate member. The ethics statement of the NRB is clear: Members must adhere to a broadly evangelical statement of faith that applies to the material the members produce.

Johnson later wrote in a memo to his board that WaterBrook Multnomah had a “good record of publishing … evangelicals that share the doctrinal commitments of NRB. While acknowledging that positive track record, the question remains, ‘What role, if any, did Waterbrook Multnomah have in this pro-homosexuality publication?’”

After conversations with Waterbrook Multnomah’s leadership, Johnson presented the publisher with a choice: “I told them that if they wanted to remain NRB associate members, I would have to refer the matter to our Ethics Committee for review, or they could agree to resign their membership. They agreed to resign immediately.”

The story of Waterbrook Multnomah’s resignation from NRB is a case study in the complicated issues facing the Christian publishing industry. To begin with, consider this: Neither Waterbrook nor Multnomah published Vines’ controversial book. The newly formed Convergent Books published God and the Gay Christian. However, for Jerry Johnson this distinction made no difference. “Steven W. Cobb serves as the chief publishing executive for both groups. This issue comes down to NRB members producing unbiblical material, regardless of the label under which they do it.”

Was the issue further complicated by the fact that Multnomah, Waterbrook, and Convergent are all a part of Crown Publishing Group, which is a part of the publishing giant Penguin Random House? And that Penguin Random House, which had revenue of more than $3 billion last year, is owned by the privately held German company Bertelsman, which did more than $20 billion in revenue last year, with more than $1 billion in profit?

Whatever the answer to those questions, they could easily apply to almost the entire Christian publishing industry. The consolidation began in 1988, when Zondervan was bought by HarperCollins, which is itself owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation. HarperCollins also bought the largest bookseller in Christian publishing, Thomas Nelson, in 2012.

Marvin Padgett is a longtime Christian publishing insider. From 1997 to 2005 he was editorial vice president at Crossway Books and then filled a similar position at P&R until his retirement in 2012. He came out of retirement to lead Great Commission Publishers, which is a nonprofit publishing venture of the Presbyterian Church in America and the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.

“I attended the Christian Booksellers Association convention in 1988 when the hot news on the floor was the acquisition of Zondervan,” he said. “We were asking the same questions then, so this is not new.”

But—especially given the Multnomah Waterbrook situation—are the answers different? “No place I’ve ever worked would have dared do anything remotely like what Multnomah did,” Padgett said. “We had bedrock principles that governed what we published.” All three of Padgett’s employers are nonprofit organizations governed by a board of directors and a Christian mission. “A nonprofit company is responsible to the Lord,” Padgett said. “A for-profit company is responsible to shareholders.”

Padgett admitted, though, that the gloomiest predictions about Zondervan have not come to pass. “I think Zondervan had the sense to put safeguards in place that allowed them to control their own fate,” Padgett said. “And Rupert Murdoch had the sense not to tamper with the goose that is laying a golden egg.”

Padgett noted that “profit” is not a dirty word even to so-called “nonprofit” publishers. Padgett says that while the mission comes first for a nonprofit organization, “getting at least to break-even is what allows us to keep doing what we do.”

Bob Fryling of InterVarsity Press (IVP) said the biggest changes the large publishers have had on the industry has been the “greater competition for [brand name] evangelical authors and agents who are being wooed by the greater resources of these companies.” Fryling said that also means “it is getting harder to publish either first-time authors or those who don’t have a large public platform but have important things to say.”

Such innovations as self-publishing and print-on-demand have theoretically made it easier for first-time authors to get into print, but the proliferation of books that these technologies enable makes it all the harder to break through. The Shack sold 1 million self-published copies before publishing giant Hachette picked it up and sold 10 million more. 

But such well-publicized self-publishing success stories hide the fact that lottery wins and lightning strikes are more likely than landing a self-published book on The New York Times best-seller list. In 2013, more than 1 million self-published titles came out. According to self-publishing guru Robert Kroese, the overwhelming majority of these books sold fewer than 100 copies. Indeed, about the only people making money are the publishers themselves. In 2012, Penguin acquired self-publisher Author Solutions for $116 million. At the time of the acquisition, Penguin reported Author Solutions had generated more than $100 million in revenue the year before and was growing at 12 percent per year.

And for the reader, self-publishing provides even fewer safeguards of theological orthodoxy. Most of the major Christian publishers had an opportunity to publish The Shack but turned it down in part because of its theological problems. Such evangelical luminaries as Al Mohler, Chuck Colson, and Norman Geisler warned evangelical readers away from The Shack—but only after it became a publishing phenomenon.

All of this points to an unsettled future for the book publishing industry, especially for Christian publishers who maintain fidelity to Scripture. That’s nothing new. The English printer and publisher John Day endured prison from 1554 to 1558 for refusing to “cease and desist” his printing of Protestant material, including what we know today as Foxe’s Book of Martyrs.

Also not new is the practice of Christian publishers being “unequally yoked” to secular business partners and products. In the 19th century, for example, Thomas Nelson published all manner of non-Christian material, including some of the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle of Sherlock Holmes’ fame.

Here’s what is new: Today, in the modern era of publicly traded companies, maximizing shareholder value now, rather than down the road, minimizes long-term thinking. In such an environment, as Marvin Padgett noted, there is an “inescapable disconnect” between a company “whose sole end is profit and that of a Christian ministry.

U.S. Lawmakers Try to Reignite Outrage Over Kidnapped Schoolgirls

 

By Ryan Hill

(WNS)--Last weekend, several members of Congress met a Nigerian woman who was forced to watch as terrorists decapitated her husband. The murderers then slit her throat and arms, but not fatally. They knew how to keep her alive, said Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, who recalled the widow’s difficulty speaking.

Jackson Lee and other House members spoke Thursday about their 48-hour journey to Nigeria, where they visited with families of the abducted Chibok Secondary Girls School students. They condemned President Goodluck Jonathan’s failure not just to chase Boko Haram kidnappers into the forest but also to provide financially for victims and their relatives. Outraged by tales of atrocity, the U.S. legislators are demanding a Nigerian Victims Fund from Jonathan’s government, and encouraging a volley of tweets from average Americans. 

As one of the world’s fastest-growing nations, Nigeria has plenty of wealth to spare some aid to victims, Jackson Lee said. The African Development Bank estimated a 7.4 percent growth in Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product in 2013. At his daughter’s wedding last April, Jonathan gave out gold-plated iPhones to guests.

Rep. Lois Frankel, D-Fla., said Nigeria could become an economic powerhouse and American trade partner over the next few decades. “Or it could be a haven for terrorism and terrible things,” he added.

The nation has a burgeoning population to match its economic growth. A 2013 United Nations study predicted a Nigerian population of 440 million by 2050, more than an estimated 401 million in the United States. 

Nigerian activists using the hashtag “BringBackOurGirls” meet every day at the city of Abuja’s Unity Fountain to protest Jonathan’s inaction. Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Fla., called on average Americans to adjust for time zone differences and join the Nigerians online in the morning: “You’re gonna keep tweeting and tweeting and tweeting until it catches on like a fire across this world.”

Jackson Lee, though, shied from the use of force: “I would not stand here today and ask for a violent siege that would cause the loss of life for these girls.”

Boko Haram killed two emirs while Jackson Lee was in the country. The group is the chief suspect in a fatal bombing that left a dozen dead at a World Cup viewing party Tuesday in Nigeria. The militants continue to burn mosques, churches, hospitals, and schools. In Jackson Lee’s words, they stand on moral-less ground. 

“I think they’ve lost all credibility on the issue of ‘This is a religious war,’” she said. “When you are taking girls … you are not converting them. You are, in essence, enslaving them to a faith. No one promotes their faith through enslaving.”

 

Canadian Lawyers Rally Against Christian Law School Grads

By J.C. Derrick

(WNS)--By a 3-to-1 margin, member lawyers of the Law Society of British Columbia voted June 10 to reverse a previous decision to recognize future graduates from the planned Trinity Western University School of Law.

Although thousands of lawyers participated in the nonbinding vote, it was a purely symbolic measure: The ultimate decision to approve Trinity Western’s law school lies in the hands of the society’s governing “benchers,”  who are similar to a board of directors. In April, the benchers voted 20-6 to authorize the country’s first Christian law school, even though the university requires all students, faculty, and staff to sign a community covenant restricting sexual activity to traditional marriages.

In response, British Columbia attorney Michael Mulligan, who claims Trinity Western’s policy is discriminatory, led an effort to gather signatures that would force a special general meeting of the province’s 11,000 lawyers. The general meeting took place in more than a dozen locations around British Columbia, and Tuesday night the society announced members voted 3,210 to 968 to direct the benchers to reconsider.

“We won!” Mulligan tweeted after the vote.

Jan Lindsay, president of the Law Society of British Columbia, in a statement said she and other benchers would give the matter “serious and thoughtful consideration,” but she made no promises: “The decision regarding whether to admit graduates from the proposed law school at TWU is a Bencher decision.”

Bob Kuhn, Trinity Western University president, said a vocal group of lawyers organizing a general meeting should not undermine the benchers’ April ruling. “Difficult decisions involving fundamental rights and freedoms should not be decided by popular opinion,” Kuhn said in a statement. “In a free and democratic society, the faith of TWU graduates cannot preclude them from practicing law.”

Trinity Western first submitted its proposal for an accredited law program in 2012. In December 2013, the Federation of Law Societies of Canada and the British Columbia Ministry of Advanced Education issued back-to-back approvals, citing “no public interest reason” not to grant preliminary permission. Provincial law societies, including Alberta, Saskatchewan, Newfoundland, and Prince Edward Island, all followed with votes to accept Trinity Western graduates, but societies in Ontario and Nova Scotia narrowly voted not to recognize them.

Although the school has secured mobility agreements—meaning its graduates could pass the bar in one province then move to another—last month Trinity Western announced it would pursue legal action to ensure its future graduates are recognized in every province. The university believes the controversy over its community covenant was sufficiently settled in 2001, when the Supreme Court of Canada ruled 8 to 1 that Trinity Western could have an accredited teaching program and leave its Christian beliefs intact.

“We feel that landmark decision needs to be respected,” said Kuhn, an attorney who led Trinity Western’s legal team in 2001. He noted Canada’s 2005 same-sex marriage law “recognizes that it is not against public interest to hold and publicly express diverse views on marriage.”

Opponents say the 2001 court decision addressed teachers’ ability to teach fairly, whereas the current complaint claims the school policy excludes homosexual applicants. In April, a gay activist in Vancouver sued Amrik Virk, the British Columbia Minister of Advanced Education, saying he should not have approved the Trinity Western law school because its admissions policy is discriminatory.

Religious liberty advocates in the United States and Canada believe the fate of Trinity Western’s law school is a bellwether for religious freedom in North America.

North Korea Deserves Unrelenting Attention for Unrelenting Atrocities

 

By Rikki Elizabeth Stinnette

(WNS)--Shin Dong-Hyuk spoke in a calm monotone as he recounted how North Korean prison guards dangled him over a fire. Because he thought the guards would reward him, 14-year-old Shin told them about his mother and older brother’s plans to flee the prison camp. But instead of granting Shin his freedom, the guards tortured him and made him watch his two family members’ public execution.

The only person born in a North Korean political prison who is known to have escaped, Shin still bears the scars of his experience.

“These messages of my suffering will never go away until the day I die,” he said through a translator.

Shin and three other experts on human rights violations in North Korea spoke Wednesday before part of the House Foreign Affairs committee.

While the House considers a bill calling for additional penalties against North Korea, Wednesday’s meeting provided a follow-up to a March UN report on human rights abuses in the communist country. A UN commission of inquiry recommended North Korean government crimes be sent to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for investigation. The study recorded the systematic execution of Christians and mixed-race children. South Korean Human Rights Ambassador Lee Jong-hoon called the situation “genocide” and urged the representatives to hold North Korea responsible.

“Why can’t there be a red line for human rights as there is for weapons of mass destruction?” Lee asked at Wednesday's hearing.

According to a Heritage Foundation paper by Bruce Klingner, both Iran and Burma face tougher sanctions than North Korea, which has been perpetrating human rights violations for nearly 70 years.

While all the representatives at the hearing agreed the oppression in North Korea should be addressed, not all said UN involvement would provide the answers.

Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., who headed the subcommittee hearing Wednesday, believes the ICC doesn’t have a great record in addressing crimes against humanity. China can protect its ally North Korea from international intervention, and it is difficult for outsiders to make an impact in the closed nation.

“The world has really failed to raise the issue in a complete way,” Smith told me. “It has to get to the highest levels.”

Smith recommended South Korea create a regional court to address North Korean crimes because it could easily gather information on the regime from North Korean refugees. But South Korea has never addressed North Korea’s human rights issues—the nation’s liberals believe such a move would compromise any negotiations with its neighbor to the north.

Andrew Natsios, co-chair for the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea and former vice president of World Vision, thinks it will be a long time before people in North Korea regain their rights. The best thing the world can do, he said, is to publicize the nation’s oppression: “I think we should simply be unrelenting.”

Shin continues his unrelenting work against North Korean oppression by speaking about his experiences through his bestselling book, Escape from Camp 14. While he initially fled the prison camp in hopes of eating the delicious meals he heard existed outside its walls, he has come to value his freedom.

“No one has the right to deny or take away freedom, which is the DNA of humanity,” he said.

NATIONAL BRIEFS

Google Shuns Porn in Ads, Apps

 

(WNS)--Google is cracking down on sexually graphic content with two recent policy changes, one implemented in March and one that started last week. The new rules take steps to eliminate explicit material in Google’s advertisements and apps. Google will no longer accept advertisements through Google AdWords that promote graphic depictions of sexual acts, according to an email the company sent to advertising accounts last week. Morality in Media, a national organization opposing pornography, published the letter. The new policy will restrict ads containing or linking to explicit content. The policy revision came after a May meeting in Washington, D.C., between Google and anti-pornography advocates including Morality in Media, Concerned Women for America, the Family Research Council, and Focus on the Family.

Need an Immune System Boost? Try a Three-Day Fast

 

(WNS)--University of Southern California (USC) researchers published a study in June suggesting that fasting may put the immune system into overdrive by activating stem cells. Studying the effects of fasting on cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy produced the unexpected result. Fasting not only protected healthy tissue, but also allowed the body to recycle old and damaged white cells. When the patients resumed eating, their white counts returned to normal. Valter Longo, director of the USC longevity institute and a member of the USC Norris Cancer Center, said, “We could not predict that prolonged fasting would have such a remarkable effect in promoting stem-cell based regeneration.” The prolonged fast in this study lasted three days and limited participants to between 400 and 1,000 calories a day. 

INTERNATIONAL BRIEFS

Catholic Church Wins Hiring Case at European Rights Court

 

(WNS)--The European Court for Human Rights ruled June 12that the Roman Catholic Church can base its hiring and firing decisions on its beliefs and conduct policies. The split, 9-8 decision upheld the Church’s 1997 decision not to renew the contract of Fernández Martínez, a former priest, after he opposed the doctrine of priestly celibacy. Martínez, a high school religion teacher in Spain, took the case from a local Spanish employment tribunal all the way to Europe’s highest rights court. All rejected his claim that the Church violated his rights. The human rights court majority ruled that the religion teacher was “voluntarily” part of a group that, “for reasons of credibility,” had “a duty of loyalty towards the Catholic Church.” By voluntarily entering into the contract, he was “limiting his right to respect for his private life.” Martínez’s teaching position was also “very close” to the “Church’s proclamatory mission.” Therefore, the Church had a right to not renew his contract if he publicly opposed its doctrines.

 

Ireland Investigates Death of 800 Babies at Home for Unwed Mothers

(WNS)--Ireland's government launched an investigation in early June into the high mortality rates and mistreatment of babies who died decades ago in homes for unmarried mothers, plunging the country into a painful examination of the past. The investigation followed the revelation that hundreds of children died at a former “mother and baby” home run by the Congregation of the Bon Secours Sisters in western Ireland. Historian Catherine Corless found records showing that 796 children, mostly infants, died in the home in Tuam, which operated from 1925 until 1961. Corless said the child death records suggest that a former septic tank filled with bones is the final resting place for most, if not all, the children. The inquiry follows four other fact-finding investigations in Ireland, including examinations of the cover-up of child abuse inside industrial schools and by priests in Dublin, Cork, and the southeast county of Wexford.

                 

Copyright to the preceding content is held by WORLD Magazine, except where noted. Copyrighted stories for which the copyright is held by others must be printed with copyright information. These stories may not be reprinted, broadcast, made available through electronic retrieval systems, or put to any commercial use except by paying subscribers of the WNS Service. WNS Service subscribers are licensed for print rights only. However, these stories may be posted to a subscriber’s web-site or electronic or broadcast medium with prior written consent. WNS is delivered every Friday – except Christmas and 4th of July week -- via e-mail to subscribers. For information on becoming a licensed subscriber, write to: WORLD News Service, 4701 Beech Crest Place, Charlotte, NC 28269. You can reach us by phone at (704) 661-9137 (USA), or by e-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . 

 

 

WORLD News Service – June 13 2014

                                                                                                                                   

Google Shuns Porn in Ads, Apps

 

PCUSA to Consider Labeling Israel An “Apartheid” State

Boy Scout Troop 412 Breaks Camp: One Georgia troop pitches its tents with Trail Life following the Boy Scouts’ ruling last year on gay members

 

Playing Defense: Behind the scenes in a blue state legislature, pro-life lobbyists go door to door for votes

Need an Immune System Boost? Try a Three-Day Fast

Catholic Church Wins Hiring Case at European Rights Court

 

Ireland Investigates Death of 800 Babies at Home for Unwed Mothers

Brazilian Soccer Star Belongs to Jesus

NATIONAL BRIEFS

 

INTERNATIONAL BRIEFS

 

                                                                                                                                   

Google Shuns Porn in Ads, Apps

 

By Kiley Crossland

(WNS)--Google is cracking down on sexually graphic content with two recent policy changes, one implemented in March and one that started last week. The new rules take steps to eliminate explicit material in Google’s advertisements and apps.

Google will no longer accept advertisements through Google AdWords that promote graphic depictions of sexual acts, according to an email the company sent to advertising accounts last week. Morality in Media, a national organization opposing pornography, published the letter. The new policy will restrict ads containing or linking to explicit content.

The policy revision came after a May meeting in Washington, D.C., between Google and anti-pornography advocates including Morality in Media, Concerned Women for America, the Family Research Council, and Focus on the Family. “We are grateful that they are realizing that their profits from porn are not worth the devastation to children and families,” Morality in Media said in a statement released last week. The group said other organizations, like Facebook and Comcast, have also taken steps to clean up explicit content on the internet. 

Google’s advertising approval process includes three status labels: approved; approved (non-family); and approved (adult). Non-family and adult ads don’t appear if someone has the Google SafeSearch filter activated. Under Google’s new policies, more ads will be given a non-family or adult label or be disapproved. Google says the change will affect all countries.

In March, Google also beefed up its policies for apps sold through Google Play, prohibiting those containing or promoting sexually explicit or erotic content, icons, titles, or descriptions. Since the announcement, Google has taken down several apps that violate the new policies.

Anti-pornography activists still encourage Google to eliminate graphic content from Google Search, Google Images, and YouTube.

PornHarms.com, an offshoot of Morality in Media, named Google one of its 2013 and 2014 Dirty Dozen organizations for contributing to sexual exploitation in the nation. When the site announced the 2014 list prior to Google’s recent policy changes, Morality in Media said, “Google’s empire thrives on porn. … We encourage Google to improve their efforts to protect children and all who wish to be porn-free.”

Other organizations on the 2014 Dirty Dozen list include Verizon, Barnes & Noble, and Cosmopolitan magazine. 

PCUSA to Consider Labeling Israel An “Apartheid” State

 

By Ryan Hill

(WNS)--The majority of American Protestants, especially evangelicals, stand behind Israel in its conflict with Palestine. This weekend, one denomination may break that trend, antagonizing supporters of the tiny, Jewish state.

The Presbyterian Church U.S.A. (PCUSA) will open its 221st General Assembly in Detroit on Saturday. One church committee has proposed divestment from Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard, and Motorola Solutions, three companies that sell equipment to Israel for what the committee calls “non-peaceful” activities, including bulldozing some Palestinian buildings with missing permits and running security blockades in disputed territory.

At the last General Assembly in 2012, PCUSA commissioners voted 333-331 not to divest from this trio. Next week’s gathering could flip that margin, selling the church’s shares in phones, printers, and front-end loaders.

Carmen Fowler LaBerge, president of the conservative Presbyterian Lay Committee, describes the denomination’s multiple attempts to talk the three companies out of deals with Israel as futile. “It’s the effect of a gnat on a water buffalo,” she said. The PCUSA’s holdings are trivial anyway, she said. In the event of divestment, each company will probably be glad to have the church out of its ear.

But the conversation in Detroit about Israel and Palestine will go beyond divestment. Commissioners will vote on whether to abandon hopes for a two-state solution, condemn the occupation in Palestine, and label Israel an “apartheid” state. This antagonism toward Israel has upset many American Jews. In a June 4 letter to the PCUSA, 25 rabbis condemned a congregational study guide called Zionism Unsettled that remains for sale on the denomination’s website. Written by a group with PCUSA sponsorship, the document defines Zionism as racist imperialism and a “false theology.”

Some PCUSA commissioners with Presbyterians for Middle East Peace plan to vote to preserve support for Israel and boot Zionism Unsettled from the church’s online store. A victory for the PCUSA left seems likely, but LaBerge noted, “It is a church meeting–anything can happen.”

According to a 2014 Pew Research study, 61 percent of Protestants sympathize with Israel more than with Palestine, and only 8 percent of Protestants go the other way. Four out of five white evangelicals have greater sympathies for Israel than for Palestine and think God gave Israel to the Jewish people., compared to 55 percent of all Christians and 40 percent of American Jews.

The PCUSA General Assembly ends June 21. 

Boy Scout Troop 412 Breaks Camp

 

One Georgia troop pitches its tents with Trail Life following the Boy Scouts’ ruling last year on gay members

By Blake Adams

(WNS)--For Boy Scout Troop 412, it was a pretty straightforward decision to switch to Trail Life, the new Christian scouting organization launched in the wake of the Boy Scouts of America’s decision last year to strike its ban on gay members. After letting its charter with the BSA lapse in January, Troop 412 continued to meet regularly at Summit Baptist Church, in Kennesaw, Ga. In February, Troopmaster Brian Mullins got word his troop had a new charter: BSA Troop 412 became Trail Life Troop 0412.

The change altered little on the outside. Each meeting still opens with prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance, and the troop has monthly campouts that include worship services if it’s a Sunday. Eight members dropped out of the troop during the transition. But at a meeting earlier this week, troop leaders, parents, and scouts all voiced a new feeling of relief.

The altered membership standards were “probably the catalyst” for the change, said the troop’s charter organizational representative, Lewis Miller. But for a while the troop felt constrained when it came to expressions of faith. “What has bothered us for some time, for example, is that at summer camps we were told not to pray in the mess hall in the name of Jesus,” he said. On Monday, scouts and leaders alike enjoyed their newfound freedom to preach and practice their faith openly without fear of offending someone.

Another factor in the decision to switch was the BSA’s emphasis on awards and ranks. “If we get them to Freedom [Trail Life’s highest award] but not to Christ, we have failed,” Scoutmaster Gregg French said.

Nationally, Trail Life has experienced solid growth in the four months since it formed on Jan. 1. It has 350 active troops chartered and another 300 in process. The organization hopes to have 10,000 members in 40 states by the end of the year.

But Trail Life has not picked up as many disgruntled ex-Scouts and ex-troops, like 412, as some social conservatives expected. So far, 40 percent of Trail Life’s new members have no previous ties to BSA, suggesting the organization is marketing to a different demographic than the Boy Scouts, according to Richard Matthews, Trail Life’s legal counsel, who previously worked in the BSA’s legal department for 11 years.

In the wake of the controversy, BSA hasn’t suffered a mass exodus but hasn’t been able to stop its slow bleed in membership either. Some polls predicted a 12 percent drop in BSA membership between 2012 and 2013 because of the controversy, but the decrease maxed out at 6 percent. In 2011, membership dropped 4 percent. BSA now has fewer than 2.5 million members, down from 5 million in the 1950s.

And many of those who left BSA last year might have done so for reasons unrelated to the controversy. BSA membership dues increased from $15 to $24 the same day the new policy on homosexuality went into effect. “There are many factors that go into a family’s decision to join Scouting, and it’s impossible to point to any single factor that influences our membership numbers,” BSA spokesman Deron Smith told The New York Post. The last fee increase was in 2010, and prompted a slight decline in membership that year as well.

Trail Life’s Matthews sees BSA’s new membership standards as the final straw in a history of growing concerns, rather than the main reason for the new organization’s creation. For example, some people were concerned about corporate sponsorship, Matthews said. Others worried about reportedly lavish executive compensation packages and the cost of the new Jamboree facility in Fayette County, W.Va. The latest projection puts the cost for the 10,600-acre park that includes miles of zip lines, a whitewater rafting circuit, and a technology center at $439 million by the end of 2015, Reuters reported last year.

But Troop 0412, at least, has broken camp and headed down the trail. The leaders closed Monday’s meeting on their knees in prayer. They then gestured to boxes of BSA badges and t-shirts from their former troop and invited the boys to take whatever they wanted. As the boys looked it over, one joked, “It’ll make good fire starter.”

Playing Defense

Behind the scenes in a blue state legislature, pro-life lobbyists go door to door for votes

By Emily Belz

(WNS)--Kathleen Gallagher had gotten up at 6:45 a.m. to drive from her home in Schenectady, N.Y., to the state legislature in Albany where she is a lobbyist for the New York Catholic Conference. In a blue state that can be an unrewarding job. Gallagher does not fit the stereotype of a Catholic pro-life lobbyist. On this Tuesday in early May she’s wearing a skirt and jacket, and just above her ankle is a recent (small) tattoo with the first initials of her husband and children. One of her colleagues suggested a visible tattoo might not be “work appropriate,” but she thought a tattoo of her family’s names couldn’t be more appropriate to her work.

Jason McGuire, an evangelical pastor who heads up New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms and its affiliate New Yorker’s Family Research Foundation, had gotten up at 3:30 a.m. along with his teenage son who has been working with him to drive from his home near Rochester to Albany. McGuire and Gallagher aren’t on the same side on every issue, like gun control, but they are allies on abortion. On this Tuesday, the duo is tracking a bill scheduled to be voted on in committee to remove many abortion restrictions in New York. They will work most days in Albany until the legislature wraps up its session, likely in June.

While red state legislatures are busy passing restrictions on abortion, some blue state legislatures are trying to loosen them. Pro-life lobbyists in blue states, instead of seeking restrictions, typically have to work on blocking laws. Last year, California’s legislature passed a law allowing nonphysicians—physician’s assistants or nurse practitioners—to perform first trimester abortions. The outcome on a similar bill, the Women’s Equality Act (WEA), was different in New York last year, thanks to a closely divided Senate and the lobbying effort from the state’s pro-life groups.

The New York Senate—by one vote—blocked the bill, which had an abortion provision as one point in its 10-point agenda. The abortion provision would have expanded the legality of late-term abortions; allowed nonphysicians to perform abortions; and removed criminal penalties associated with botched abortions and second-degree abortions, where someone would commit an abortion without the mother’s consent. New York currently offers legal protections to babies in the womb who are older than 24 weeks. The bill would have allowed an abortion at any point in the pregnancy for the sake of the mother’s life or health, including emotional health.

In the split Senate, the lobbyists needed the votes of two Democrats to block the bill. One Democratic vote was a former pastor from the Bronx, Rubén Diaz Sr., who is unabashedly pro-life. The other Democratic vote was a Jewish senator from Brooklyn, Simcha Felder, who votes conservatively on a number of issues but not necessarily on abortion. Felder declined an interview on the subject. McGuire said Felder had been nervous about how his vote would play with the rabbis in his community.

This session, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo vowed to pass the WEA again, but he has not pushed it as hard as he did last session. Despite continuing pressure from NARAL Pro-Choice New York, Cuomo faces reelection this year, so he is unlikely to push a controversial abortion bill. Democrats last year insisted on keeping the abortion provision tied to the other uncontroversial items, like an anti-trafficking measure, but they have recently shown willingness to pass portions of the WEA separately.

ON THIS TUESDAY IN MAY, McGuire and Gallagher have another abortion bill to worry about. They need nine votes to defeat the Reproductive Health Act (RHA) in the Senate Health Committee. The RHA is essentially a stand-alone version of the abortion provision in the WEA, but strikes more regulations on abortion than the WEA. It also calls abortion a “right,” a concern to the pro-life lobbyists because that terminology could threaten conscience protections for healthcare professionals. The bill has trodden water in the health committee for seven years.

Over coffee and pastries, Gallagher and McGuire meet in a conference room with their staff and volunteers to map out the day. They focus on the Senate Health Committee hearing at noon, but parse other committee schedules to see if anything has snuck past their attention. Stephen Hayford, on staff with New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, mentions a bill increasing the number of physician’s assistants a physician could supervise.

“I did look at it and I was OK with it,” said Gallagher. “It’s about supervision. It doesn’t allow them to do things on their own.” McGuire jumps in to ask whether loosening such regulations might “open the door” for abortion providers.

“I don’t think so,” said Gallagher.

“OK, I just haven’t looked at it,” McGuire said.

Gallagher has forgotten to make copies of a bill that they will pitch to legislators that day. McGuire’s colleague Hayford has copies ready for her.

“You’re going to talk, we’re going to print the copies,” McGuire said to Gallagher, laughing.

They all pray and go separate ways, with Gallagher and McGuire on duty to visit the office of each senator they need to vote “no” in the health committee. In the elevator, a woman cordially greets Gallagher, and after we exit Gallagher identifies her as the former top lobbyist for Planned Parenthood. The friendliness is “ebb and flow,” Gallagher said.

The Gallagher-McGuire duo circled the halls of the legislative offices, and dropped into each office on their list. They had some anxiety that the senators who would vote against the RHA might not show up to the hearing because of an annual memorial for fallen police officers scheduled at the same time. In each office they double-checked whether the senator would be at the hearing or send a proxy. At one Republican senator’s office, they met with a staffer and pulled up NARAL Pro-Choice New York’s website that showed his boss as an “undecided.” The staffer was bemused, and assured the duo the senator would be voting “no” on the bill.

Some legislators in the Republican caucus describe themselves as pro-choice, so getting uniform Republican votes against an abortion bill isn’t a given. But this is also an election year, and while the Catholic conference doesn’t get involved with campaigning, McGuire’s group has a political action committee that is swinging into gear. Throughout the day, several senators made a point to speak with McGuire.

Next, the duo had a meeting with a senator to pitch their draft of a bill, which would tighten health inspections of abortion clinics. Normally, they would never dream of pitching a bill with more abortion restrictions to a New York legislator, but recent events in New York opened the possibility. An April report showed that the state health department had neglected to inspect eight of the 25 abortion centers under its purview over the last twelve years. Both Democratic and Republican legislators decried the health department’s negligence. The health department told me that it would reinspect all 25 centers and have the goal of inspecting them every four years. Soon after the duo’s initial pitch to a senator to introduce legislation on the matter, a Republican assemblywoman introduced her own bill that would require inspections of abortion centers every two years and a report on the inspections.

By the time Gallagher and McGuire finished their pitch, the health committee hearing was about to start. They slipped into the hearing room, where an overflowing crowd surrounded a table of senators. Senate Democrats began by discussing the RHA, saying it was “well past time” to move the bill to the floor. One of their colleagues, the pro-life Democrat Diaz, piped up—Diaz is not on the health committee, but came to the hearing to speak anyway.

“They are killing our babies, they’re stopping the growing of our communities,” said the senator from the Bronx. “This legislation is not only a menace to our minority community but also a threat to our women. ... It will move New York state in the opposite direction of ‘safe, legal, and rare.’”

Democratic Sen. Diane Savino said the bill would not expand late-term abortions, and Diaz shot back that it would.

“If you don’t support a women’s right to choose, there’s nothing I can say to you,” Savino said to Diaz.

Republican Sen. Greg Ball jumped in: “No one is even suggesting the overturn of Roe v. Wade. The only extremists in this room are the legislators who are supporting this.”

After more heated discussion, the chair of the health committee, Republican Kemp Hannon, was demure in announcing that he would vote “no.” “There are many technical problems with this bill,” Hannon said. He took the roll call; the bill failed, with exactly the nine votes needed despite the police parade happening outside the window of the hearing room. Felder, the Brooklyn Democrat, remained silent during the hearing, but provided a key vote against the bill.

“That’s all we get around here, is victory by one vote,” said McGuire.

As the senators spilled out of the hearing room, McGuire thanked each one who voted “no.” Then McGuire stood in the hallway holding the pink purse of the head of a Rochester pregnancy center while she did a TV interview. It was past lunchtime, and the lobbyists decided to assess the vote at the only eating establishment past security in the capital, Dunkin’ Donuts, which turned out to be the great crossroads of state politics. Several of the senators from the committee passed through the Dunkin’ Donuts and greeted Gallagher and McGuire, offering thoughts about the hearing or tips on their jobs.

One sat down and told Gallagher to be “more aggressive” and set up events with families to highlight the extreme stance Senate Democrats were taking on abortion. After he left, Gallagher laughed to herself about a senator telling a Catholic lobbyist to be more aggressive on the abortion issue. Senators’ interest in highlighting the extreme position of Democrats could possibly be related to the election this fall. But both Gallagher and McGuire are hopeful that a few Senate seats will change this year so they can block abortion bills with more than one vote.

“It can get discouraging at times,” said McGuire. “But the biggest thing you can do is hold back the flood ... while this generation becomes more and more pro-life.”

“I always used to say, as a lobbyist, the most important thing a person could do was write a letter to your legislator,” Gallagher said. But she has revised that: “The most important thing we can do is talk to your neighbor.”

Need an Immune System Boost? Try a Three-Day Fast

 

By Mark Russell

(WNS)--University of Southern California (USC) researchers published a study last week suggesting that fasting may put the immune system into overdrive by activating stem cells.

Studying the effects of fasting on cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy produced the unexpected result. Fasting not only protected healthy tissue, but also allowed the body to recycle old and damaged white cells. When the patients resumed eating, their white counts returned to normal. Where were the new white cells coming from?

That was the question Valter Longoand his team at USC set out to answer. Longo, director of the USC longevity institute and a member of the USC Norris Cancer Center,  compares the recycling of old white cells to throwing excess cargo overboard during a crisis. Prolonged fasting triggered the body to regenerate the lost cells. The process reduces an enzyme called PKA and stimulates stem cells to shift into a regenerative mode. Fasting also lowered IGF-1, a growth hormone which Longo had previously shown to be linked with aging, tumor growth, and cancer risk. 

“We could not predict that prolonged fasting would have such a remarkable effect in promoting stem-cell based regeneration of the hematopoietic system,” Longo said in a statement. The prolonged fast in this study lasted three days and limited participants to between 400 and 1,000 calories a day. 

Chemotherapy can save cancer patients’ lives, but it takes a toll on normal tissue as well. This collateral damage is thought to be significantly lessened by pre-treatment fasting, which causes normal cells go into a survival state and stop multiplying. Chemotherapy attacks actively dividing cells. Fasting has no effect on the cancer cells, which are already dividing at an unnatural rate. The end result: Cancer cells are killed and the normal cells are spared.

During chemotherapy, patients’ white cells, red cells, and platelets drop after treatment. This new information suggests fasting not only protects normal tissue but cycles patients’ immune cells in a way that causes them to be replenished with new ones after the patients begin eating again.

Calorie restriction has long been known to promote longevity in lab animals, and some humans have tried it in hopes of extending their lives. The underlying mechanism remains unknown, but Longo’s research could begin to provide the answer. The effect may not depend on constant calorie restriction, but on periodic 72-hour fasts.

If fasting has such a profound effect on the immune system, what might be going on in the rest of the body? “We are investigating the possibility that these effects are applicable to many different systems and organs, not just the immune system,” Longo said.

Fasting has long been a part of many religious traditions and considered spiritually beneficial. This new study suggests that it may have a more holistic effect. Medical experts advise fasting should never be done without consulting a doctor first.

 

Catholic Church Wins Hiring Case at European Rights Court

 

By Andrew Branch

(WNS)--The European Court for Human Rights ruled June 12that the Roman Catholic Church can base its hiring and firing decisions on its beliefs and conduct policies.

The split, 9-8 decision upheld the Church’s 1997 decision not to renew the contract of Fernández Martínez, a former priest, after he opposed the doctrine of priestly celibacy. Martínez, a high school religion teacher in Spain, took the case from a local Spanish employment tribunal all the way to Europe’s highest rights court. All rejected his claim that the Church violated his rights.

The human rights court majority ruled that the religion teacher was “voluntarily” part of a group that, “for reasons of credibility,” had “a duty of loyalty towards the Catholic Church.” By voluntarily entering into the contract, he was “limiting his right to respect for his private life.” Martínez’s teaching position was also “very close” to the “Church’s proclamatory mission.”

Therefore, the Church had a right to not renew his contract if he publicly opposed its doctrines.

Lawsuits over sexuality and sexual conduct policies at schools are becoming more common in the West. “If government can dictate who teaches a particular religion, then government can dictate what the content of that religion is,” said Eric Rassbach, deputy general counsel at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which submitted third-party briefs in the case. Churches “must be able to require their teachers to show loyalty to church beliefs,” Rassbach said.

In a somewhat ironic dissent, Russian Judge Dmitry Dedov called the Catholic Church’s policy “totalitarianism,” adding that “the celibacy rule contradicts the idea of fundamental human rights and freedoms.” He did not state where he believed those human rights come from.

The European Court of Human Rights is not part of the often ultra-liberal European Union. The Council of Europe entered into the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) in 1953. The Council is made up of 47 countries of the greater European and Mediterranean regions, including all 28 EU nations. But it also includes more conservative members, like Turkey.

The court has a varied past on religious liberty. Article 12 of the ECHR still mentions marriage as between a man and a woman only, and the court ruled in 2012 that gay marriage is not a “human right.” But the decision created a mixed ruling for religious institutions, leading London’s Daily Mail to denounce English officials’ promise to protect religious freedom when legalizing gay marriage as “worthless.”

 

Ireland Investigates Death of 800 Babies at Home for Unwed Mothers

By Courtney Crandell

(WNS)--Ireland's government launched an investigation in early June into the high mortality rates and mistreatment of babies who died decades ago in homes for unmarried mothers, plunging the country into a painful examination of the past.

The investigation followed the revelation that hundreds of children died at a former “mother and baby” home run by the Congregation of the Bon Secours Sisters in western Ireland. Historian Catherine Corless found records showing that 796 children, mostly infants, died in the home in Tuam, which operated from 1925 until 1961. Corless said the child death records suggest that a former septic tank filled with bones is the final resting place for most, if not all, the children.

Charlie Flanagan, minister for children and youth affairs, called the discovery “deeply disturbing” and announced June 4 a “cross-departmental initiative” to determine the appropriate course of action. Archbishop Michael Neary, head of the Tuam archdiocese, welcomed the investigation and promised a memorial service and plaque for the children as well as re-interment of their remains on consecrated ground. He also said the Sisters have a moral imperative to “act upon their responsibilities in the interests of the common good.” On June 8, Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin also called for a country-wide investigation into the homes.

Ireland had about 10 mother and baby homes run by different orders until the 1960s. Typically, the women’s families and wider society shamed and rejected them because of their out-of-wedlock pregnancies. Babies born inside the institutions were denied baptism and, if they died from the illness and disease rife in such facilities, also denied a Christian burial. Throughout Ireland in the first half of the 20th century, church-run orphanages and workhouses often buried their dead in unmarked graves and unconsecrated ground.

Amid the outcry, Prime Minister Enda Kenny promised an extensive inquiry into the homes and acknowledged that for decades, children born out of wedlock were treated as “an inferior subspecies.”

“This was Ireland of the 20s to the 60s—an Ireland that might be portrayed as a glorious and brilliant past, but in its shadows contained all of these personal cases, where people felt ashamed, felt different, were suppressed, dominated,” he said. “And obviously the question of the treatment in the mother and babies homes is a central part of that.”

The inquiry, which will include one Protestant-run home, will examine high mortality rates, burial practices, illegal adoptions, and whether vaccine trials were conducted on the children. Kenny’s government already authorized police and government record-trawling efforts into the Tuam home.

In 2011, journalist Martin Sixsmith wrote The Lost Child of Philomena Lee, later made into the Oscar-nominated film Philomena, detailing a woman’s 50-year search for her son. As a teenager pregnant out-of-wedlock, Lee gave birth to her son in a convent. He was taken from her 3 years later and adopted by an American family. According to Sixsmith, babies born in the homes frequently went to the United States in exchange for “donations.” 

“The mothers were told they were moral degenerates,” Sixsmith wrote after the Tuam discovery. “The nuns said they would burn in hell if they spoke to anyone about their children or what had been done to them. That sense of guilt and shame remained with the girls for life.”

Death records in County Galway, which includes Tuam, showed that the children, mostly babies and toddlers, died often of sickness, disease, deformities, and premature births in the home during the 36 years it operated. A 1944 government inspection recorded evidence of malnutrition among some of the 271 children then living alongside 61 unwed mothers. Elderly locals recalled that the children attended a local school—but were segregated from other pupils—until they were adopted or placed, around age 7 or 8, into church-run industrial schools that featured unpaid labor and abuse. The building, which had previously been a workhouse for homeless adults, was torn down decades ago to make way for new houses.

Records indicate that the former Tuam workhouse’s septic tank was converted specifically to serve as the body disposal site for the orphanage. Locals discovered the bone repository in 1975 when two boys broke away the tank’s cement cover.

The inquiry follows four other fact-finding investigations in Ireland, including examinations of the cover-up of child abuse inside industrial schools and by priests in Dublin, Cork, and the southeast county of Wexford.

Tanya Ward, chief executive of the Children’s Rights Alliance, said a commission must be granted full power to compel witnesses to produce evidence and supply documents. “Uncovering the dark history of how we treated unmarried mothers and their children is vital for us to truly acknowledge and understand our past,” she said in a statement. “This is the missing piece of the jigsaw.”

Brazilian Soccer Star Belongs to Jesus

 

By Andrew Branch

(WNS)--As his native Brazil hosts the month-long World Cup tournament, soccer star Ricardo Izecson dos Santos Leite wants you to know that he is a Christian.

Ricardo, better known only as Kaká, is a 32-year-old Brazilian who plays for AC Milan in Italy. Though left off this year’s World Cup team, Kaká has played in the last three World Cups for Brazil, winning it in 2002. He grew in popularity and won FIFA’s highest honor, the Ballon d'Or, in 2007.

“I never imagined reaching the place that I reached, conquering the things that I conquered,” he told I Am Second, an evangelism ministry that tells celebrity faith stories. “As a soccer player, I won everything I could.”

The video hit YouTube on Wednesday as part of the ministry’s World Cup initiative. I Am Second is just one of many international organizations this month to use soccer balls featuring the colors of the wordless book, a witnessing tool that uses colors to tell the gospel story. Kaká has often proclaimed his faith at the height of his accomplishments, even donating the Ballon d'Or to his church. When he won the UEFA Champions League with AC Milan in 2007, he ripped off his shirt. But instead of the traditional shirtless roar, he revealed an undershirt that read, “I Belong to Jesus.”

Kaká allowed I Am Second to use his story in the World Cup campaign, accompanied by Luke 5:1-11, which tells the story of Peter, James, and John leaving the occupation that defined their lives—fishing on the sea of Galilee—to follow Jesus. The soccer star dedicated his life to becoming a professional player at age 15 in a sports-crazed Brazilian culture that rivals high school and college sports in the United States. Soccer is king, if not god.

In a moment of “meditation on God’s word,” though, he said he realized that Jesus is the true first place. “Even though I am playing against others, and it is important to get there and win, I believe Jesus is much more important than all of that,” he said.

Kaká and his wife, Caroline Celico, began dating as “childhood sweethearts” in 2002 and married in 2005. Kaká, a kind of international Tim Tebow figure, and Celico both say they were virgins. But the couple has had some rocky moments. Celico, 26, was ordained by Brazil’s Reborn in Christ Church as a pastor. The couple left the megachurch in 2010, reportedly because of the way it treated and regarded money. Celico told a Brazilian television station in 2012 that she was somewhat dissatisfied with organized churches, saying that “our church is our house.”

On the field, Kaká has struggled to return to form after knee surgery. He is “learning many things,” he said, especially about the love of God in raising his two young children. “I’m not afraid of anything,” he said. “I learned to live each day waiting for God’s daily bread and by having faith that things could change in any given moment.”

NATIONAL BRIEFS

Seattle Pacific University Student Stopped Gunman, Saved Lives

 

(WNS)--Officials are hailing a Seattle Pacific University student as a hero for his role in subduing a 26-year-old gunman who came to the small Christian college campus June 5 to kill as many people as possible. Friends describe Jon Meis as quiet, gentle, outdoorsy, and deeply committed to his faith. When Aaron Ybarra entered the Otto Miller Hall at about 3:30 p.m., armed with a shotgun, knife, and rounds of ammunition, Meis was working as a building monitor, sitting at a desk near the door. When the gunman paused to reload his weapon, Meis unleashed the can of pepper spray he always kept with him. While Ybarra was disoriented, Meis tackled him to the ground and restrained him in a choke hold until police arrived and put him in handcuffs.  Police say Ybarra, who was not a student at Seattle Pacific, was obsessed with the Columbine High School massacre, in which two students killed 15 classmates and injured 21 others in 1999. He had even visited the Colorado school.

Should Truancy Officers Be Keeping Track of Teachers?

 

(WNS)--Public school teachers are absent from their classrooms an average of 6 percent of the time, according to a recent study released by the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ). “We may be missing one of the most obvious ways to improve teacher quality,” Nancy Waymack from the NCTQ told me. Schools could improve education simply by ensuring regular teachers show up for work. Of the teachers in the 40 districts surveyed during the 2012-2013 school year, 16 percent were “chronically absent.” This means they missed 18 days or more, equaling about one in 10 days of a normal school year. Teachers in Cleveland averaged 15.6 absences per year. In Indianapolis, they missed an average of six classes. According to the Center for American Progress, paying for substitute teachers adds up to at least $4 billion annually.

INTERNATIONAL BRIEFS

Muslim Militants Storm Church, Kill 30 in Central African Republic

 

(WNS)--Muslim gunmen rampaged through a Catholic church compound in the capital of Central African Republic on May 28, killing up to 30 people with gunfire and grenades.

Witnesses said the attack happened at the Church of Fatima, where several hundred civilians had sought refuge from mob violence now ravaging Bangui’s streets. “We were in the church when were heard the shooting outside,” the Rev. Freddy Mboula told the Associated Press. “There were screams and after 30 minutes of gunfire there were bodies everywhere.” Another priest at the scene, Rev. Paul Emile Nzale, confirmed about 30 people were killed in the attack. An AP reporter counted at least 20 bodies at one city hospital, where they were taken because the morgue was closed. A second hospital confirmed another three bodies. The church attack is blamed on Muslim fighters whose Seleka coalition was ousted from political power about five months ago. The brutal Muslim rebel regime seized power by force in March 2013. 

                 

Copyright to the preceding content is held by WORLD Magazine, except where noted. Copyrighted stories for which the copyright is held by others must be printed with copyright information. These stories may not be reprinted, broadcast, made available through electronic retrieval systems, or put to any commercial use except by paying subscribers of the WNS Service. WNS Service subscribers are licensed for print rights only. However, these stories may be posted to a subscriber’s web-site or electronic or broadcast medium with prior written consent. WNS is delivered every Friday – except Christmas and 4th of July week -- via e-mail to subscribers. For information on becoming a licensed subscriber, write to: WORLD News Service, 4701 Beech Crest Place, Charlotte, NC 28269. You can reach us by phone at (704) 661-9137 (USA), or by e-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . 

WORLD News Service – June 6 2014

                                                                                                                                   

Seattle Pacific University Student Stopped Gunman, Saved Lives

 

Should Truancy Officers Be Keeping Track of Teachers?

Anti-Mosque Today, Anti-Church Tomorrow?

Standing Against Pediatric “Pseudo-science” A conservative pediatrics association is defending kids—and psychotherapy for unwanted same-sex attraction—in court

 

Second Opinions: Liberal policies at major medical associations are hard pills for conservative doctors to swallow, and some are fighting back with alternative groups

Get Ready for an Economic Doomsday

Muslim Militants Storm Church, Kill 30 in Central African Republic

NATIONAL BRIEFS

 

INTERNATIONAL BRIEFS

 

                                                                                                                                   

Seattle Pacific University Student Stopped Gunman, Saved Lives

 

By Leigh Jones

(WNS)--Officials are hailing a Seattle Pacific University student as a hero for his role in subduing a 26-year-old gunman who came to the small Christian college campus Thursday afternoon to kill as many people as possible.

Friends describe Jon Meis as quiet, gentle, outdoorsy, and deeply committed to his faith.

When Aaron Ybarra entered the Otto Miller Hall at about 3:30 p.m., armed with a shotgun, knife, and rounds of ammunition, Meis was working as a building monitor, sitting at a desk near the door. When the gunman paused to reload his weapon, Meis unleashed the can of pepper spray he always kept with him. While Ybarra was disoriented, Meis tackled him to the ground and restrained him in a choke hold until police arrived and put him in handcuffs.

Police say Ybarra, who was not a student at Seattle Pacific, was obsessed with the Columbine High School massacre, in which two students killed 15 classmates and injured 21 others in 1999. He had even visited the Colorado school.

Neither Meis nor his family are talking about Thursday's incident, but his friends took to Twitter last night to praise his quick thinking and selfless disregard for his own safety. “I'm so proud to know Jon Meis,” Joe Schenck tweeted. “He’s always been an incredible friend. Now he’s a hero. A selfless, courageous man whom I admire greatly.”

Meis is a senior engineering student from Renton, Wash. A family friend told The Seattle Times he’s getting married this summer. “He is very quiet, very devoted to his family,” Melissa Engstrom said. “He had a lot to lose.”

The shooting at Seattle Pacific University has left one person dead and three injured. The suspect is in custody after university staffers disarmed him as he paused to reload his weapon.

Police say the lone gunman entered the Otto Miller building and began shooting. The Christian college of about 4,270 students is located in a residential neighborhood about 10 minutes from downtown Seattle.

A Harborview Medical Center spokeswoman said the victim who died was a man in his 20s. Another victim, a 20-year-old woman, is in surgery with critical injuries. The other two victims, a 24-year-old man and a 22-year-old man, are in satisfactory condition.

Police have not released any details about what happened, including whether the suspected gunman might be among the injured. Shortly after the attack, the university issued a statement online saying the campus was on lockdown. According to police, SWAT teams are continuing to clear each building on the 40-acre campus.

Officials initially said they were looking for a second suspect but later said they had called off that search.

Should Truancy Officers Be Keeping Track of Teachers?

 

By Emily Scheie

(WNS)--Public school teachers are absent from their classrooms an average of 6 percent of the time, according to a recent study released by the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ).

“We may be missing one of the most obvious ways to improve teacher quality,” Nancy Waymack from the NCTQ told me. Schools could improve education simply by ensuring regular teachers show up for work.

Of the teachers in the 40 districts surveyed during the 2012-2013 school year, 16 percent were “chronically absent.” This means they missed 18 days or more, equaling about one in 10 days of a normal school year.

Teachers in Cleveland averaged 15.6 absences per year. In Indianapolis, they missed an average of six classes. According to the Center for American Progress, paying for substitute teachers adds up to at least $4 billion annually.

Most teachers took days off for sickness or personal business. But one in every five missed days was for school business and professional development. (This doesn’t include long-term leave for illness or pregnancy, which was excluded from the study.)

Pulling teachers out of the classroom for training is a cost-saving tactic, even though schools must hire substitutes. It can cost more than $2 million a day to train teachers while school is not in session, according to Segun Eubanks, director of teacher quality for the National Education Association. Waymack acknowledged that cost more than hiring substitute teachers. “But then there’s the cost of student learning … [which] often gets missed when you’re doing those cost benefit analyses,” she said.

Many states allow substitutes to have nothing more than a high school diploma. More importantly, studies have shown that regular teachers’ frequent absences hinder student learning. When a teacher misses more than 10 days of school, Waymack said, student learning substantially decreases.

A 2007 National Bureau of Economic Research paper reports that 10 days of teacher absence can have the same disruptive effect on students as changing schools entirely.

The NCTQ study acknowledged that teachers have demanding and stressful jobs, with long work hours in addition to the normal school day. Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, applauds teachers for teaching as much as they do: “An overall 94 percent attendance rate shows the extraordinary dedication of teachers across the country.”

But the NCTQ report says districts need to re-examine teacher attendance incentives and policies because “teachers who are missing 10 percent of the school year, regardless of the legitimacy of their reasons, short-change their students.”

Anti-Mosque Today, Anti-Church Tomorrow?

 

By Ryan Hill

(WNS)--Residents of Murfreesboro, Tenn., will have to get used to crescent moons crowning the two white minarets and emerald green dome of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro. On Monday the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal from the mosque’s neighbors who first tried to stop its construction in 2010.

The neighbors claimed their Rutherford County Planning Commission failed to give enough public notice before approving the center’s site plan. They enjoyed brief success when County Judge Robert E. Corlew III ruled in 2012 that the county planning commission had violated Tennessee’s Open Meetings Act. The law requires government bodies to advertise scheduled meetings to the public.

A federal district court, though, ordered the county to allow construction on religious freedom grounds. Arsonists and vandals apparently tried to take the law into their own hands, but to no avail. A fire fizzled out, and Muslims replaced “Future Site of Islamic Center” signs that graffiti and vandalism ruined. The center celebrated its grand opening on Nov. 18, 2012.

Some neighbors did not give up. The center’s plan for a cemetery produced another local lawsuit. Muslim burials typically include shrouds, not caskets. Nearby residents say the exposed bodies could taint their water supply, but the county zoning board approved the cemetery in January.

But what if the mosque’s opponents had been successful? If state law strikes down Islamic mosques, what happens to houses of worship for Jews, Universalists, Christians, and Baha’is? If followers of Muhammad can’t have their minarets, will Christ’s disciples lose steeples? Could law-backed attacks on the faith of our neighbors strip the Bible Belt off America’s waist? 

Standing Against Pediatric “Pseudo-science”

 

A conservative pediatrics association is defending kids—and psychotherapy for unwanted same-sex attraction—in court

By Daniel James Devine

(WNS)--The American College of Pediatricians (ACP), established in 2002, is earnest in its mission to provide a conservative, science-based perspective of childhood health—an alternative to the liberal policies of the influential American Academy of Pediatrics. Besides publishing policy statements in favor of two-parent homes, with a mother and father, and opposing the sale of emergency contraceptives to adolescents over the counter, the ACP has filed more than a dozen amicus briefs since 2006 in cases involving issues such as same-sex marriage, abortion, and adoption.

In February 2013 the ACP filed one such “friend of the court” brief in Welch v. Brown, a prominent case challenging California’s Senate Bill 1172, the law that prohibits state-licensed mental health doctors from treating patients under the age of 18 with “sexual orientation change efforts.” Under the law, pediatric psychotherapists cannot provide counseling intended to change a patient’s unwanted same-sex attractions.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the law in January in an opinion that consolidated Welch v. Brown with a similar case, Pickup v. Brown. The law is on hold while opponents appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In its brief, the ACP argued the orientation therapy ban intrudes on the physician-patient relationship and dictates what type of treatment is appropriate, even though mental health professions are already capable of dealing with unprofessional conduct. It noted homosexuality is not determined by genes, or fixed at birth, but develops under the influence of multiple factors, sometimes including childhood trauma like sexual abuse.

The ACP said mental health specialists who affirm adolescents as “gay” are making a premature judgment and risking harm: “Among adolescents who claim a ‘gay’ identity, the health risks include higher rates of sexually transmitted infection, alcoholism, substance abuse, anxiety, depression, and suicide.” In one prominent study, 3 out of 4 young people who felt some same-sex attraction between the ages of 17 and 21 later confirmed themselves as exclusively heterosexual. 

Other research found for every year adolescents delayed “coming out” as homosexual or bisexual, their risk of suicide decreased, another reason not to pressure kids to accept a label.

The ACP pointed to research from the National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) concluding that unwanted same-sex attractions can be successfully treated in patients, without any known risk of harm greater than other forms of psychotherapy.

The pediatric group took critical aim at the American Psychological Association, which established a “task force” that determined sexual orientation change therapy could harm patients. But their evidence was based primarily on interviews in which former patients claimed to have been harmed by such therapy, rather than on tangible evidence of harm. (The task force’s report even noted, “Because of the lack of empirical research in this area, the conclusions must be viewed as tentative.”)

In addition, the ACP said the American Psychological Association’s task force tried to distinguish “sexual orientation identity” (defined as changeable) from “sexual orientation” (defined as unchangeable), but without any objective way of distinguishing the two.

“This is pseudo-science,” the ACP wrote in response.

On May 20, the ACP filed another brief asking the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down the California law as unconstitutional for infringing on free speech. It argues the law violates the First Amendment by prohibiting doctors from providing verbal counseling for the purpose of changing an unwanted sexual orientation.

“Any licensed therapist who defies this audacious attempt to dictate what a therapist may and may not say to a young patient struggling with unwanted [same-sex attraction] faces discipline for ‘unprofessional conduct,” the brief says.

The Supreme Court is expected to decide by September whether to take up the case.

Second Opinions

 

Liberal policies at major medical associations are hard pills for conservative doctors to swallow, and some are fighting back with alternative groups

By Daniel James Devine

(WNS)--Last year in June, one of the largest medical societies in the United States, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), published a policy statement describing how doctors should treat “lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) youth.” Pediatricians, the organization warned, should guard themselves against “homophobia and heterosexism,” which it claimed could contribute to “higher rates of depression and suicidal ideation, higher rates of substance abuse, and more sexually transmitted and HIV infections.” It added that doctors should never refer such patients for “conversion” or “reparative therapy.”

Quentin Van Meter, a pediatric endocrinologist from Atlanta and a 37-year member of AAP, was outraged: There was no evidence the health risks linked with LGBTQ lifestyles were primarily driven by social stigmatization. After nearly four decades of heavy involvement in the AAP—including serving as chairman of the Uniformed Services West chapter—Van Meter decided not to pay his $650 annual dues.

When a member services employee called, Van Meter told her the AAP no longer represented his views. She answered, “Yeah, we’ve heard a lot of that,” the doctor recalls.

For Van Meter, the LGBTQ policy was one overdose too many. Back in 1976—the year he became a member—the organization had been more ideologically balanced. But by the late ’80s and ’90s, he says, AAP leaders were appearing in photo ops with Democratic politicians and promoting gun control across the United States.

“Whatever the Democrats wanted, the AAP said, ‘How high should we jump, and what should we say?’” says Van Meter. “I’m saddened that something that could have turned out to be very beneficial for kids has actually turned out to be a political slimeball.”

AAP is one of several mainstream medical associations founded decades ago that appear to have trended leftward in recent years. They were created to represent and further the interests of the medical field and local doctors, but increasingly, conservatives who belong to them believe their views are no longer represented among leadership.

The stakes are high: Groups like the AAP, the American Medical Association, and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists spend hundreds of millions of dollars lobbying lawmakers in Washington, D.C., pressing for changes to healthcare insurance, abortion laws, sex education funding, and more. They publish regular policy statements intended to reflect best practices in their fields. Doctors, lawmakers, and even judges use the statements to guide their own decisions.

Conservatives see the leftward lurch and want to push back, but as Van Meter says of the AAP, “If you don’t believe in the political views of the leadership … you are shunned.” Instead, some are joining smaller, distinctly conservative medical associations that are acting as an antidote to their liberal counterparts.

ONE OF THEM is the American College of Pediatricians (ACP), where Van Meter serves as a board member: “We are all about science. We are all about proofs.” The organization is not religiously affiliated, but Van Meter describes members as “moral people who are like-minded, and want truth, and want what’s best for children.”

Den Trumbull, the president of the organization, became fed up with AAP in 2002, when the organization issued a controversial policy statement in favor of allowing same-sex couples to adopt children.

“They said it was based on science,” says Trumbull. But he and many of his colleagues found it to be shaky science: In the technical report accompanying the statement, the AAP argued children of same-sex couples were emotionally and socially well-adjusted. Yet, they admitted of their research, “the small and nonrepresentative samples studied and the relatively young age of most of the children suggest some reserve.”

That year, Trumbull and three other doctors—including former AAP  president Joseph Zanga—founded the ACP as an alternative pediatric association. “All of us were members of the AAP,” says Trumbull, a pediatrician from Montgomery, Ala. “We felt like the AAP was increasingly placing its social issue policy on political correctness and not on science.”

The ACP promotes abstinence before marriage, respects the sanctity of life from conception to natural death, and recognizes the “father-mother family unit, within the context of marriage, to be the optimal setting for childhood development.” Citing scientific studies, it opposes same-sex parenting as potentially harmful to children, and calls it “unethical” for doctors to withhold psychotherapy as an option for adolescents questioning their sexuality. (Some research suggests as many as 75 percent of youth who experience same-sex attraction ultimately declare themselves heterosexual.)

Since 2012, by contrast, AAP has issued policy statements in support of gay marriage, in favor of providing teens with emergency contraceptives and condoms, and in opposition to parents keeping guns in their homes.

AAP policy doesn’t necessarily reflect the views of the members it claims to represent. The organization’s policy statements are written by committees (appointed by elected board members), and its 62,000 member pediatricians do not vote on them. In a statement, AAP told me, “Each policy statement is reviewed extensively by internal AAP expert bodies and approved by the board of directors.” It added it has “no political affiliation.”

Trumbull said ACP submits all its policy statements to a member vote: Policy does not become official unless three-quarters of the membership approve. (ACP does not publish its membership size but has members in 46 states. Its current-year budget is about $70,000, it said.)

Even without a lobbying arm, ACP has waded into big controversies, filing amicus briefs in cases like Welch v. Brown, in which it defended the right of California doctors to offer sexual orientation change therapy to adolescents.

“When we take a look at the amicus briefs that are filed … we find ourselves as the only secular group speaking on behalf of the child,” said Trumbull. “Our focus has to be on the well-being of the child, not the wants of adults.”

GOVERNMENT-CONTROLLED healthcare has been a noticeably polarizing force among doctors. In a surprise move in 2009, the American Medical Association (AMA), representing about 1 in 5 U.S. doctors, endorsed Obamacare. The move sparked an exodus of about 12,000 from the organization, or 5 percent of its membership. (Its ranks have recovered since then.)

Some of those frustrated doctors presumably joined other, smaller medical associations, such as Docs4PatientCare, formed in 2009 specifically to oppose nationalized healthcare.

Around that time, the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons saw an uptick in membership. It was the first medical society to sue to overturn the Affordable Care Act. “We believe that physicians should work for patients and not for third parties, including government,” says Jane Orient, a doctor from Tucson, Ariz., and a spokeswoman for the group, which was founded in 1943. It has about 5,000 members, and its budget is a fraction of the AMA’s: Officers and directors attending the group’s meetings pay for their own plane tickets.

By comparison, AMA is a giant: Along with state affiliates, it has spent nearly $300 million on lobbying efforts since 1990, and last year it was the nation’s eighth most active Washington interest group. It has traditionally supported Republican efforts toward malpractice reform and opposed government control of healthcare, even opposing Medicare in the 1960s. “Since that time the AMA has drifted farther and farther to the left, and actually seems to be one of the primary advocates of government medicine,” says Orient.

THIRTEEN DOCTORS founded the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) in 1951. Now based in Washington, D.C., the association calls itself “the nation’s leading group of professionals providing healthcare for women,” with over 58,000 members. (The group’s companion 501(c)(6), the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, formed in 2009 to take over lobbying activities and also uses the ACOG acronym.)

In 2012, ACOG encouraged doctors to recommend intrauterine devices and contraceptive implants to adolescents, endorsed over-the-counter access to emergency contraceptives for young girls, and said doctors should “support media campaigns clarifying that emergency contraception will not terminate an established pregnancy.” (Doctors who believe life begins at fertilization would dispute that claim.)

In September last year, after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act in United States v. Windsor, ACOG issued a statement endorsing homosexual marriage.

ACOG’s “progressive” tendencies began early on. In 1971 ACOG issued a statement saying doctors should be legally free to provide contraceptives even to an unmarried adolescent “who refuses to involve her parents.” In 1972, ACOG said minors should have access to legal abortion with or without parental consent. Just a few months later, in January 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade.

A week after the Supreme Court decision, a Florida obstetrician and gynecologist named Matthew Bulfin got on the phone and began asking colleagues about starting a pro-life special interest group within ACOG. By April, the American Association of Pro-life Obstetricians and Gynecologists (AAPLOG) was born.

Today, AAPLOG is a nonprofit entity with 2,500 associates and members, many of whom remain members of ACOG because of the professional benefits provided. “We exist to give a second opinion,” says Donna Harrison, AAPLOG’s executive director. On its website, the organization has posted documents addressing subjects ranging from surgical abortion to emergency contraception to breast cancer.

The second opinion is needed: Fact sheets on ACOG’s website describe abortion as a “low-risk procedure,” claim there is “no evidence that having an abortion increases the risk of getting breast cancer,” and claim “most experts agree that one abortion does not affect future pregnancies.”

But Harrison points out studies have linked abortion to breast cancer, depression, suicide, and alcohol abuse. And women who have abortions are more likely to have a subsequent premature birth, she says: “This association is well known and well documented, and yet ACOG, in their publications, refuses to acknowledge it.”

For Harrison, the final overdose came in November 2007, when ACOG published “Committee Opinion Number 385.” It said doctors who morally object to “reproductive services” like abortion or emergency contraception “have a duty” to refer patients to doctors willing to provide them—or in an emergency, are obligated to provide them themselves, “regardless of the provider’s personal moral objections.”

“I told ACOG that I would no longer be a member when they put out ethics statement 385,” says the Michigan doctor, who has not paid her dues since then.

ACOG spent $1.5 million on lobbying efforts in 2013 alone, according the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks publicly reported political spending and contributions from individuals, businesses, and organizations. According to lobbying records ACOG was legally required to file, the organization has weighed in on issues related both to women’s health and to abortion. Between 2006 and 2009, ACOG lobbyists pressed their case on abortion access, emergency contraception, international family planning, stem cell research, and the pro-abortion Freedom of Choice Act. Records from 2010 to 2013 indicate pro-life bills, such as the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, were also on their political agenda. (The records don’t always say whether they lobbied for or against a bill.)

A 2008 filing noted an ACOG lobbyist worked to “urge House and Senate to shift federal funding from abstinence-only sexuality education to fund comprehensive sexuality education.” Toward the end of the year, ACOG weighed in on the “Mexico City Policy” (pro-abortion groups called it the “Global Gag Rule”), a ban on using federal funds to provide or promote abortion overseas. President Bush had upheld the ban throughout his two terms. But near the close of 2008, an ACOG lobbyist “communicated with the Office of the President-Elect on the Global Gag Rule.” Newly inaugurated President Barack Obama repealed the ban as one of his first orders in January 2009.

ACOG did not return my request for comment on its lobbying records and fact sheets.

AAPLOG has sometimes succeeded in halting actions that could threaten the rights of pro-life doctors: In 2008 the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ABOG), an organization that certifies ob-gyns to work in hospitals, updated its certification standards to require doctors to “adhere to ethical standards outlined by ACOG and sanctioned by ABOG.” The move could have forced pro-life doctors to provide abortion referrals or lose their certification, and consequently, hospital jobs.

“They changed their wording very subtly,” says Harrison. “So we screamed.” The Bush administration listened and months later issued rules to strengthen doctors’ conscience rights. ABOG soon after deleted the problematic language.

Looking to the future, Harrison is concerned the new healthcare law’s cost-cutting measures could make it harder for doctors who refuse abortions to get hired at cash-strapped hospitals. The fight, she says, will be tough: “It feels kind of hostile for those of us who practice Hippocratic medicine.”

Get Ready for an Economic Doomsday

By Warren Cole Smith

(WNS)--Kevin Freeman recommends you buy gold, store bottled water in your basement, and get a generator so you can live off the power grid if the United States ever comes under attack. He sounds like a candidate for the reality television program Doomsday Preppers, but some of America’s top national security officials take him seriously.

The Pentagon has used Freeman as a consultant on the impact of cyberattacks on the American financial system. That consulting work became the basis for his 2012 book Secret Weapon, a New York Times bestseller. His new book is Game Plan: How to Protect Yourself from the Coming Cyber-Economic Attack.

What does it mean that the U.S. dollar is the reserve currency in the world? What does it mean to be a reserve currency? … What would it mean if it was no longer the U.S. currency? The U.S. dollar is the primary currency used for global trade. If Brazilians want to buy oil from Saudi Arabia, they convert their currency to dollars. They buy the oil in dollars, and the Saudis than convert back to their own currency. … Any nation that wants to hold excess capital they have [been] saving, they put it in dollars and buy Treasury bonds. That has allowed us to finance our debt and grow our debt at a trillion dollars a year without, really, the serious consequences other nations face. To be the reserve currency means that when people want to hold extra money, other nations and other individuals outside the country, they hold typically in dollars.

There are more than 200 nations on the planet, and none of them are the reserve currency, and some of them are doing pretty well. Why should the United States be concerned about no longer being the reserve currency? Imagine if you were an individual, and you were given a credit card with an unlimited spending capability. You used up an enormous amount of it, and you woke up and you realized, “Oh! Wow! I owe all this money.” The other nations are benefited by not having the reserve currency to the degree that means they are not able to go out and spend up their credit card. If we go back 30 years and not do all the outrageous spending that we have done, then, I would say, we would be better off.  … We have been fortunate because we have had the reserve currency. It has allowed us to continue the bad spending without all the consequences, but there is always a day of reckoning. It would be bad if we lost that status. It would be like having our credit line cut off and we still owe all this money.

Let’s talk a little bit more about consequences. At some point, if our credit line does get cut off because we are no longer the reserve currency and we do have to pay all this money back, that could create a crisis here at home. What would that look like? If you have money in FDIC-insured accounts, and the banks failed, there is a possibility that you have $250,000 and you used to have $1 million. You lost $750,000. … I’m not saying that any of these are going to happen, but I’m saying that we should have a game plan. We need a game plan, and that is, again, why I wrote the book—to identify what it would look like to explain the consequences to individuals and jobs, 401K, saving accounts, and things like that. 

Let’s talk about Game Plan. What are some of the things that our listeners could do to protect themselves if the worst-case scenario came to pass? I list several worst-case scenarios. One of those would be a cyberattack that would wipe out the electric grid. What you need to do is have access to backup power generators, and you need to have some water, food, and so forth. … If there was a cyberattack on the stock market and you lost access to your online statements, you should have paper copies of the statements so that you can prove that you own what you own. You should have paper copies of your bank statements. If there is a collapse of the stock market, which is possible, you should be broadly diversified. If there is a collapse of the dollar, you don’t want to have all your assets all in dollars. You may want to have some gold or silver. You may want to have some foreign stocks. So, I walk through all of the things, and I also say there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Don’t just put everything you own in gold, sit in your basement with a shotgun, and fear the end of the world. That’s not a good solution either. We walk through and say, if they do this, if this happens, this is what you could consider doing, and this is what you should think about.

Muslim Militants Storm Church, Kill 30 in Central African Republic

 

By Rob Holmes

(WNS)--Muslim gunmen rampaged through a Catholic church compound in the capital of Central African Republic on May 28, killing up to 30 people with gunfire and grenades.

Witnesses said the attack happened at the Church of Fatima, where several hundred civilians had sought refuge from mob violence now ravaging Bangui’s streets. 

“We were in the church when were heard the shooting outside,” the Rev. Freddy Mboula told the Associated Press. “There were screams and after 30 minutes of gunfire there were bodies everywhere.”

Another priest at the scene, Rev. Paul Emile Nzale, confirmed about 30 people were killed in the attack.

An AP reporter counted at least 20 bodies at one city hospital, where they were taken because the morgue was closed. A second hospital confirmed another three bodies. 

The church attack is blamed on Muslim fighters whose Seleka coalition was ousted from political power about five months ago. The brutal Muslim rebel regime seized power by force in March 2013. 

Such Boko Haram-style violence—storming a house of worship—has been rare in CAR. Catholic churches have made themselves sanctuaries for Christian and Muslim civilians since the latest period of bloodshed erupted in December.

The media have characterized the CAR crisis as ethnic cleansing—a battle fueled by mutually harbored religious animosity. Local church leaders say it is a political armed hijacking of religious sentiments. Now a refugee in Chad, Mahamat Khalil, 25, shares the view taken by many Muslims who have left CAR this year: The conflict flared because Christians were jealous since “90 percent of the economy is run by Muslims,” he said. But that simplistic explanation ignores the context of Islamic violence before, during, and after the Seleka regime. Certainly fear and anger escalated over Seleka tactics: In most Seleka rampages—still occurring—Muslim civilians have been spared as rebels raped and killed Christians and looted their homes. 

Khalil, a Chadian and son of a former transporter in Bangui, saw a turning point for Muslims in December: Operation Sangaris soldiers from France and UN-backed, African-led peacekeepers arrived to help stem violence, and the city’s Muslim minority began leaving. 

Khalil made it to Chad in January, just after the Seleka were forced from power and Christian militiamen began retaliating in tit-for-tat violence in Bangui. Following this week’s church attack, Christian fighters began putting up blockades on roads around Bangui to prevent the perpetrators from escaping.

Interim President Catherine Samba Panza’s  transitional government has been tasked with organizing elections by February 2015. But a viable voting process could prove impossible because of the ongoing violence, and because Seleka rebels destroyed scores of voting lists as they ransacked town after town across the country.

The CAR crisis has displaced nearly 1 million people. Up to 100,000 have sheltered on the grounds of the Bangui airport over the past six months, guarded by French and other European peacekeepers. Since May 11, CAR’s northern border with Chad has been closed to non-Chadians by Chadian presidential order. But the UN estimates nearly 100,000 refugees already live in camps in southern Chad, along with thousands more Chadian returnees airlifted since December to the Chadian capital, N’djamena.

 

NATIONAL BRIEFS

Obama Administration Orders Medicare to Pay for Sex Change Surgery

 

(WNS)--Taxpayer dollars could soon pay for sex reassignment surgeries for elderly or disabled Americans on Medicare, thanks to a May ruling from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The agency’s Departmental Appeals Board lifted a three-decade-old ban on using Medicare funds for transsexual surgeries. The decision means the government considers the surgeries medically necessary and effective treatment for some individuals who do not identify with their biological sex.  The policy reversal came in response to a request from 74-year-old Army veteran Denee Mallon to have Medicare pay for genital reconstruction. Mallon, from Albuquerque, N. M., was born a man but has been diagnosed with “gender dysphoria,” a state of distress about one’s biological gender. Medicare denied Mallon’s request for surgery two years ago, but the appeals board overturned that decision.

Houston Tramples Religious Liberty with New Anti-Bias Policy

 

(WNS)--In what some are calling a sham proceeding, Houston leaders in May approved an Equal Rights Ordinance that adds the LGBT community to the city’s nondiscrimination laws. Supporters claim it provides necessary protections for the city’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered residents. But religious liberty experts warn it could be used to force churches, colleges, and Christian-owned businesses to act against their biblical beliefs about sexuality. The ordinance, which takes effect in 30 days, passed the Houston City Council 11-6, and local television news broadcast the LGBT supporters’ jubilation. Reports said fewer than 30 people out of more than 200 in attendance spoke against the measure, but they failed to mention that more than 150 pastors and pro-family advocates felt so disrespected by the proceedings that they staged a walkout early in the meeting.

Colorado Baker Ordered to Make Same-Sex Wedding Cakes

 

(WNS)--Colorado’s Civil Rights Commission ordered a Christian baker to make wedding cakes for same-sex couples, ruling his religious objections did not trump the state’s anti-discrimination statutes. The unanimous ruling from the seven-member commission upheld an administrative law judge’s decision in December that Jack Phillips violated the state’s civil rights law when he refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple in 2012. The couple sued. Phillips, a devout Christian who owns Masterpiece Cakeshop in the Denver suburb of Lakewood, said the decision violates his First Amendment rights to free speech and free exercise. “I will stand by my convictions until somebody shuts me down,” he told reporters after the ruling.

Hawaiian Churches Win Partial Victory in Fight Over School Rentals

 

(WNS)--A judge in Hawaii gutted a new lawsuit on June 3 filed by two atheists against churches that rent space from public schools. The lawsuit is a renewed effort to prove the churches acted illegally after the same judge threw out their first attempt at a conviction late last year. In March 2013, Holly Huber and Michael Kahle, founder of Hawaii Citizens for the Separation of Church and State, filed a lawsuit against five churches who met in public schools, claiming they collectively owed the state’s Department of Education $5.6 million in unpaid or underpaid rental fees and utility charges for the prior six years. Under the state’s False Claims Act (FCA), the duo claimed they had inside information that would expose fraudulent billing.

INTERNATIONAL BRIEFS

Groups Mobilize to Save Ukranian Orphans

(WNS)--The day before Ukraine’s presidential election on May 25, dozens of orphans and foster families arrived in Kiev, eager to find out where their temporary residences would be. Evacuated from the eastern town of Mariupol near the Russian border, they were the latest group to arrive as part of a growing effort to remove at-risk orphans from a region that has attempted to declare independence from Ukraine. Ukrainians hope the election of a new president, billionaire candy tycoon Petro Poroshenko, will usher in a new era of stability and end the separatist takeover of Donetsk and Luhansk, two crucial regions in the east. So far, Moscow has not given orders to annex the regions as it did with Crimea in March. But should the standoff between Russian separatists and Ukraine’s military continue in the east, NGOs and local churches are armed with a plan to protect orphans from a Russian system that has shunned American adoptions.

                 

Copyright to the preceding content is held by WORLD Magazine, except where noted. Copyrighted stories for which the copyright is held by others must be printed with copyright information. These stories may not be reprinted, broadcast, made available through electronic retrieval systems, or put to any commercial use except by paying subscribers of the WNS Service. WNS Service subscribers are licensed for print rights only. However, these stories may be posted to a subscriber’s web-site or electronic or broadcast medium with prior written consent. WNS is delivered every Friday – except Christmas and 4th of July week -- via e-mail to subscribers. For information on becoming a licensed subscriber, write to: WORLD News Service, 4701 Beech Crest Place, Charlotte, NC 28269. You can reach us by phone at (704) 661-9137 (USA), or by e-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . 

                                              

WORLD News Service – May 30 2014

                                                                                                                                   

Obama Administration Orders Medicare to Pay for Sex Change Surgery

Houston Tramples Religious Liberty with New Anti-Bias Policy

Colorado Baker Ordered to Make Same-Sex Wedding Cakes

Hawaiian Churches Win Partial Victory in Fight Over School Rentals

 

The Missing Part: Champion golfer Bernhard Langer isn't shy about his Christianity

Child of Light Invites Gamers Into a Captivating Fairy Tale

Orphan Rescue: Groups mobilize to bring orphans in unstable eastern Ukraine to western regions as tensions with Russia continue

NATIONAL BRIEFS

 

INTERNATIONAL BRIEFS

 

                                                                                                                                   

Obama Administration Orders Medicare to Pay for Sex Change Surgery

 

By Daniel James Devine

(WNS)--Taxpayer dollars could soon pay for sex reassignment surgeries for elderly or disabled Americans on Medicare, thanks to a ruling Friday from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The agency’s Departmental Appeals Board lifted a three-decade-old ban on using Medicare funds for transsexual surgeries. The decision means the government considers the surgeries medically necessary and effective treatment for some individuals who do not identify with their biological sex.

The policy reversal came in response to a request from 74-year-old Army veteran Denee Mallon to have Medicare pay for genital reconstruction. Mallon, from Albuquerque, N. M., was born a man but has been diagnosed with “gender dysphoria,” a state of distress about one’s biological gender. Medicare denied Mallon’s request for surgery two years ago, but today the appeals board overturned that decision.

“Sometimes I am asked aren’t I too old to have surgery,” Mallon said before the board’s decision. “My answer is how old is too old? When people ask if I am too old, it feels like they are implying that it’s a ‘waste of money’ to operate at my age. But I could have an active life ahead of me for another 20 years. And I want to spend those years in congruence and not distress.”

Gender reassignment surgeries vary by type and scope: For men, they can involve castration and genital reconstruction. For women, they can involve mastectomy and the implantation of a prosthetic. The cost of transsexual surgeries range from $7,000 to $50,000, according to the Transgender Law Center in Oakland, Calif.

Friday’s ruling means individuals on Medicare who can provide documentation from doctors and mental health professionals stating that a surgical sex change is medically indicated for them can bill Uncle Sam for the procedure. The government-run Medicare program provides healthcare for 49 million Americans.

In explaining its decision, the appeals board said the old ban on sex reassignment surgery was based on medical evidence compiled in 1981 and said new research showed the ban was “no longer reasonable.” Rather, it called the surgery “safe” and an “effective treatment option.” It noted the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Service did not try to challenge its decision, which is final unless appealed in federal court.

The Boston-based organization Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders hailed the board’s decision, calling transsexual surgery “medically necessary for many people with gender dysphoria.” The advocacy group, along with the American Civil Liberties Union, helped Mallon file his appeal last year.

Transgender advocates said the Medicare decision could influence private insurance companies and state-run Medicaid programs to also cover transsexual procedures, since they often look to federal government policy as a guideline. 

Although there are no reliable statistics to indicate how many people on Medicare could take advantage of the revised policy, demographer Gary Gates of The Williams Institute, an LGBT issues think tank in Los Angeles, has estimated 0.3 percent of the U.S. population identify as transgender.

 

Houston Tramples Religious Liberty with New Anti-Bias Policy

 

By Andrew Branch

(WNS)--In what some are calling a sham proceeding, Houston leaders on Wednesday approved an Equal Rights Ordinance that adds the LGBT community to the city’s nondiscrimination laws. Supporters claim it provides necessary protections for the city’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered residents. But religious liberty experts warn it could be used to force churches, colleges, and Christian-owned businesses to act against their biblical beliefs about sexuality.

The ordinance, which takes effect in 30 days, passed the Houston City Council 11-6, and local television news broadcast the LGBT supporters’ jubilation. Reports said fewer than 30 people out of more than 200 in attendance spoke against the measure, but they failed to mention that more than 150 pastors and pro-family advocates felt so disrespected by the proceedings that they staged a walkout early in the meeting.

Mayor Annise Parker, a lesbian, attempted to “stack the deck” against critics, said Jonathan Saenz, director of the conservative group Texas Values. The council moved homosexual activists to the front of the speaking line, denied pro-family African-American pastors the same courtesy, then moved more homosexual activists to the front. The pastors described the move as “flagrantly disrespectful,” Texas Values reported, equating it to being “sent to the back of the bus.” As much as half the room walked out, Saenz said.

Houston joined nearly 200 cities and counties nationwide with similar ordinances, and gave LGBT activists a clean sweep among major Texas cities. San Antonio passed a similar measure that was heavily disputed last year in the conservative state. Parker said passing her city’s ordinance was the “most personally meaningful thing I will do as mayor.”

Supporters say the measure offers local protections against all forms of discrimination in housing, employment, and services provided by private businesses. “If Houston wants to be considered a community that values all of its citizens, this ordinance should be passed today,” said Robert Brewer, a Houston attorney who identified himself as gay. Violating the ordinance is a Class C misdemeanor, carrying a $5,000 maximum fine. Cases would be tried in municipal court.

Christian businesses aren’t the only ones affected, though. “It raises serious constitutional questions,” said Jeff Mateer, general counsel at the Texas-based Liberty Institute. Critics painted religious liberty exemptions as poorly written, rushed at best and downright nefarious at worst.

For example, Parker removed a section of the ordinance explicitly criminalizing those who refuse to open restrooms to the opposite sex unless they have a “good faith” reason. But a different section bans all discrimination in public accommodation. “The mayor admitted this and so did the city attorney, that the ordinance can still be used to prosecute people on the bathroom issue,” Saenz said. The adopted ordinance removed the “good faith” defense for those who stop people from entering the wrong bathroom when they do not appear or act transgendered.

The ordinance also bans discrimination among employers and in housing. The final version of San Antonio’s ordinance omitted the sweeping ban on city officials of the “demonstration of a bias, by word or deed,” a clause that caused religious liberty advocates the most concern. It also gave more clear, defined religious exemptions, even if they are problematic, Mateer said. But Houston’s exemptions are limited and ultimately “clear as mud.” Mateer said he believes some Christian bookstores and even church organizations, like a church-run coffee shop that’s open to the public and donates its profits, would not be exempt.

The law also could prevent colleges from upholding their sexual conduct requirements. Religious colleges can restrict housing to church membership “unless membership in the religion is restricted because of a protected characteristic,” according to the ordinance.

Liberty Institute lawyers have been looking at the various ordinance proposals for two weeks, and they’re still “scratching their heads,” Mateer said. For example, the ordinance defines religion as “all aspects of religious observance and practice, as well as belief.” By banning itself from discriminating on the basis of religion when seeking city contractors and banning contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual choices, the city explicitly encoded a contradiction. “It is just so poorly drafted,” Mateer said.

San Antonio’s law, when published several days after the September vote, turned out to be a watered-down version of what initially was presented to the public. Mateer said he knew of no complaints filed so far, and the law cannot be challenged on its face as blatantly unconstitutional. “In Houston, we’re seriously considering that,” he said. The Houston city code also allows opponents to collect signatures to place a repeal measure on the November ballot, and many have pledged to do so.

Colorado Baker Ordered to Make Same-Sex Wedding Cakes

 

By Andrew Branch

(WNS)--Colorado’s Civil Rights Commission on Friday ordered a Christian baker to make wedding cakes for same-sex couples, ruling his religious objections did not trump the state’s anti-discrimination statutes.

The unanimous ruling from the seven-member commission upheld an administrative law judge’s decision in December that Jack Phillips violated the state’s civil rights law when he refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple in 2012. The couple sued.

Phillips, a devout Christian who owns Masterpiece Cakeshop in the Denver suburb of Lakewood, said the decision violates his First Amendment rights to free speech and free exercise. “I will stand by my convictions until somebody shuts me down,” he told reporters after the ruling.

The commission disagreed, ruling that religious liberty does not go beyond beliefs to practice. “I can believe anything I want, but if I’m going to do business here, I’d ought to not discriminate against people,” Commissioner Raju Jaram said. The panel issued its decision verbally, ordering Phillips to “stop discriminating against gay people,” document any customers he refuses to serve, provide “anti-discrimination training” for his staff, and report quarterly for two years.

Phillips said his bakery has been so overwhelmed by supporters eager to buy cookies and brownies that he does not currently make wedding cakes. His legal counsel, which includes religious liberty attorneys from Alliance Defending Freedom, are considering an appeal to the Colorado Court of Appeals.

The couple who sued Phillips, Dave Mullins and Charlie Craig, described themselves as “thrilled” by the ruling. Gay marriage remains illegal in Colorado, but state law prohibits businesses from refusing to serve customers based on sexual orientation. Phillips told the men he would bake them any kind of cake other than a wedding cake.

Court rulings this year have not favored Christian-owned businesses caught in discrimination cases. The U.S. Supreme Court in April refused to hear the case of a Christian wedding photographer fined after she declined to work a same-sex commitment ceremony. The New Mexico Human Rights Commission levied a $6,637.94 fine, and the New Mexico Supreme Court ruled her refusal was the same as if the wedding were between people of different races.

The Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries also ruled a Christian couple can’t refuse to bake cakes for same-sex weddings. LGBT activists forced that couple’s storefront shop to close with boycotts, threats, and vandalism.

Hawaiian Churches Win Partial Victory in Fight Over School Rentals

 

By Sarah Padbury

(WNS)--A judge in Hawaii gutted a new lawsuit on Tuesday filed by two atheists against churches that rent space from public schools. The lawsuit is a renewed effort to prove the churches acted illegally after the same judge threw out their first attempt at a conviction late last year.

In March 2013, Holly Huber and Michael Kahle, founder of Hawaii Citizens for the Separation of Church and State, filed a lawsuit against five churches who met in public schools, claiming they collectively owed the state’s Department of Education $5.6 million in unpaid or underpaid rental fees and utility charges for the prior six years. Under the state’s False Claims Act (FCA), the duo claimed they had inside information that would expose fraudulent billing.

Kahle and Huber conducted a “rigorous, yearlong, church-by-church, boots-on-the-ground investigation, involving on-site surveillance and/or on-line research,” the suit said. It claimed they discovered “significant discrepancies” in the amount of time the churches claimed to use the facilities and the amount of time the two observed them using the space. They also used a public records request to obtain and review the agreements between 189 churches and 137 public schools.

But Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), which represents two of the churches—One Love Ministries and Calvary Chapel Central Oahu—asked the court to dismiss their clients from the case, declaring it had no merit because Kahle and Huber’s information came from public records and not from the plaintiffs personal knowledge. Because the False Claims Act forbids people from filing a complaint based in whole or in part on public records, ADF argued Kahle and Huber were “jurisdictionally barred” from bringing the lawsuit. A False Claims Act violation also requires proof of “false claims” by the churches, and the plaintiffs did not cite a single example of a false claim made by either church, ADF attorneys argued.

First Circuit Court of Hawaii Judge Virginia Crandall agreed with ADF and dismissed the two churches from the lawsuit in December. But she gave Kahle and Huber the option to amend the complaint and refile against the two churches within 45 days.

In the meantime, the churches remaining in the original suit decided to settle out-of-court rather than continue the battle. All three churches—New Hope Oahu, New Hope Hawaii Kai, and New Hope Kapolei—belong to the same parent denomination, the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel. According to the settlement agreement signed in January, the churches admitted no wrongdoing but agreed to pay the state $775,000, with Kahle and Huber pocketing up to $200,000 of it.

“Hawaii’s False Claims Act was never intended to bully churches into settlements when they did nothing wrong,” said Erik Stanley, ADF senior legal counsel. “No one benefits from this suit except the two atheists bringing it, who stand to gain financially if they are successful.”

Kahle and Huber filed an amended complaint against ADF’s clients in March, alleging the churches and schools had an “illegal quid-pro-quo agreement”—or in American vernacular, a “you scratch my back, and I’ll scratch yours” pact. For example, one church paid no rental fees for facility use, but donated a variety of in-kind services to the school, such as student mentoring, replacing the auditorium’s electrical wiring, and grounds maintenance.

ADF filed a motion to dismiss the new case because it was, in substance, the same suit brought the year before. On Tuesday, Crandall issued an oral ruling, throwing out most of the case because it was again based on public records. For example, although it was true one church paid no weekly rental fee, that fact was part of the written agreement between the school’s principal and the church, which makes it a part of the public record, not a secret or illegal activity.

But the judge did allow some portions of the suit to move forward. Stanley told me via email that questions about the churches’ use of the schools’ electricity and the use of facilities outside of contracted times are still under inquiry.

“But we are confident that when the facts come out on those issues, the churches will prevail,” he said.

The Missing Part

 

Champion golfer Bernhard Langer isn't shy about his Christianity

By Andrew Branch

(WNS)--At age 56, Bernhard Langer is a two-time Masters Champion and Hall of Famer. But that isn’t what he wants you to know most about him, he revealed to a North Carolina sports radio audience last year. 

A young Langer earned pocket money as a caddie growing up in West Germany, left school to pursue a golf career, and joined the European Tour in 1976. His prowess grew rapidly until as a rich and famous 28-year-old he won the Masters Championship in 1985.

But like a more recent example of Tiger Woods, what he had wasn’t enough to satisfy. “The next morning, I had this emptiness inside of me—even though I was World No. 1,” Langer said. “I had just won a Masters, I had money, I had fame, I had cars, houses, and a beautiful young wife.”

The feeling stuck with him as he drove to Hilton Head Island, S.C., to prepare for his next tournament. During a practice round, fellow golfer Bobby Clampett invited him to a Bible study. “Bible study? What exactly is that?” he asked. Raised a Roman Catholic, he was an altar boy. But at the study, the chaplain shared from Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus: “You will not enter the kingdom of God unless you’re born again.” 

“And I’m sitting there thinking, ‘Born again? What is that?’” Langer said. “I hadn’t heard that in all the churches I had been to. … At first I thought, ‘Well, he’s using a different Bible than we use.’” But a few months after that Bible study, he “knew exactly” what he needed. “The Bible says nobody is so good that they can earn their way there,” he said, “but no one is so bad that God couldn’t forgive them their sins.”

Langer’s priorities changed, and they remained so even as he won the 1993 Masters on Easter Sunday, participated in 10 Ryder Cups, and found himself in the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2002. He’s still not bad at golf today. He has two wins on the Champions Tour this year, plus a top-10 finish back at the Masters in April. He’s not shy about his story, whether it be with a statewide audience on North Carolina’s David Glenn Show, other media engagements, or his autobiography. Where he once had emptiness, now he has “a personal relationship” with Jesus.

“That was the missing part.” 

 

Child of Light Invites Gamers Into a Captivating Fairy Tale

 

By Ben Cogan

(WNS)--Child of Light is a shining beacon of hope in the sea of recent mature-themed video game releases. It offers a colorful tapestry of gorgeous visuals and captivating storytelling you would expect from a fable of old, with gameplay that challenges and rewards those who take the time to plumb its depths. Add to all of this content and dialog everyone in the family can enjoy and Child of Light becomes a game that has broad appeal and the potential to set trends for the future.

The first thing players will notice about Child of Light is how beautiful it looks, like a vibrant watercolor painting come to life. The characters and creatures could have jumped off the pages of a child’s book of fables. In an age of video games striving to create more realistic 3D graphics that push the limits of current hardware, Child of Light stands out.

Another charming quality of Child of Light is the dialog. It rhymes. Like a Shakespearean play, every line of dialog follows iambic pentameter or other rhyming style. There is very little voice acting in the game, so most of the dialog appears as text, which reinforces the impression players are reading a storybook.

Humor in general is hard to pull off in storytelling, and it’s even harder in video games. Child of Light manages to be subtly witty and funny through its rhymes and context. One character, a jester and singer named Rubella, never fully grasps how to find the proper word to finish a rhyme and characters around her are constantly offering corrections. Her brother, Tristis, also is a jester in the circus who claims to be a comedian but instead has a demeanor more fitting for an Edgar Allen Poe story. 

Child of Light’s plot takes place in two worlds, with the young princess Aurora at its center. Like the Wizard of Oz, the game’s story involves a young innocent girl traumatized by catastrophic events who finds herself in a fantastical land accompanied by outlandish new friends. Unlike Oz’s Dorothy, Aurora is taken from her world by a chill in the night, and she never wakes up. Her father, the king, soon loses heart and falls into deep despair. It sounds very tragic, but before players have time to take this in, Aurora awakens in the magical land of Lemuria. Together with her new friends, Aurora must stop the evil queen that has taken over Lemuria and find a way home to save her father.

For players unfamiliar with the wide array of gameplay mechanics used in RPGs (role-playing games), Child of Light’s battles may be a sticking point. The fighting takes a turn-based style, with the action pausing when one character or enemy gets a turn to select their next move. As in a game of chess, this requires strategy and forethought. Unlike games for which players only need quick reflexes, Child of Light encourages players to think before they act and pay attention to who’s turn will be next to best utilize the characters they have in the fight. All of this can make the game a little overwhelming and frustrating at times.

One bonus aspect of playing Child of Light is an additional player can control Aurora’s firefly companion, Iniculus. The second player can help during battles by slowing opponents and healing allies.

The game is rated appropriate for everyone aged 10 and older. It contains fantasy violence and a few instances of alcohol and tobacco use. Child of Light is available on Xbox, Playstation platforms, and PC, as well as the Wii U.

Child of Light has already captivated gamers and critics alike. Wholesome games like this are a delight in an industry plagued by violence and in-your-face sexuality. Hopefully its success will encourage other game developers to set aside prurient thrills for more tales of innocent fun and adventure.

Orphan Rescue

 

Groups mobilize to bring orphans in unstable eastern Ukraine to western regions as tensions with Russia continue

By Jill Nelson

(WNS)--The day before Ukraine’s presidential election on May 25, dozens of orphans and foster families arrived in Kiev, eager to find out where their temporary residences would be. Evacuated from the eastern town of Mariupol near the Russian border, they were the latest group to arrive as part of a growing effort to remove at-risk orphans from a region that has attempted to declare independence from Ukraine.

Ukrainians hope the election of a new president, billionaire candy tycoon Petro Poroshenko, will usher in a new era of stability and end the separatist takeover of Donetsk and Luhansk, two crucial regions in the east. So far, Moscow has not given orders to annex the regions as it did with Crimea in March. But should the standoff between Russian separatists and Ukraine’s military continue in the east, NGOs and local churches are armed with a plan to protect orphans from a Russian system that has shunned American adoptions.

The endeavor has been both challenging and dangerous for Alex Gowen, director of The Fisherman, a nonprofit based in Raleigh, N.C.: “If I show my face in the eastern regions, I’m supposed to be killed on the spot.” Gowen—whose organization provides for the medical needs and general well-being of orphans around the world—said he has been targeted for being part of the team that is making it possible to move children legally out of the east and into homes and churches in western Ukraine. The separatists, he says, claim the orphans are Russian not Ukrainian. Pro-Russian rebels declared victory during an illegal referendum on May 11, despite polls showing that at least 70 percent want to remain with Ukraine.

There are approximately 40,000 orphans in the eastern Donbass region but less than 8,000 are legally orphans. The rest have parents in the area who cannot care for them but still have parental rights. Further complicating the situation, government orphanages have not approved the transfer of children to other regions, limiting the evacuation at this point to nongovernment orphanages and foster care families.

The Fisherman is working closely with The Alliance for Ukraine without Orphans based in Kiev, and Gowen says they’ve faced difficultly getting their national emergency response plan approved. “It’s sad, but governments by and large don’t care. It’s at the bottom of their priority list, and that’s especially true when faced with the possibility of being invaded by Russia.”

Interim President Oleksandr Turchynov, a Baptist minister, eventually approved a plan to return as many children as possible to parents who were willing and capable of providing care, place some children in foster care, and relocate the rest to western regions where 3,200 churches have offered transportation and housing.

Unfortunately, they arrived on the scene too late to help in Crimea. “In Crimea, [orphans] are completely cut off. You cannot adopt them. You cannot support them. They are totally at the mercy of the Russian system,” Gowen said. Americans have adopted 11,000 Ukrainian children over the years, and there has been an uptick since a 2012 law halted American adoptions in Russia.

Alliance for Ukraine without Orphans board member Ruslan Maliuta says Crimea was the top summer camp destination for orphanage children, so they are currently looking for alternative camps in western regions. Americans can help by financially supporting orphan refugee relocation efforts and participating in summer hosting programs that bring Ukrainian orphanage children to the United States to experience family life for several weeks, he added. Many of these host families bond with the children and pursue adoption.

Adoptions have continued in Ukraine despite unrest that many say is localized and primarily in the east. One adoption facilitator I spoke with is expecting the arrival of two families in early June, and Maliuta knows of a third family on their way. He doesn’t recommend adopting in Donetsk or Luhansk regions, he said, where there is no guarantee of safety, but families arriving in Kiev for their appointment with the State Department of Adoptions are able to view the files of children referred and make an educated decision based on their locations.

Russian separatists continue to control key roads and government buildings in a number of eastern cities, and on May 23 armed rebels tore down the Donetsk prayer tent that had served as a pillar of hope for almost three months. The men threw the tent in the river, stole the speakers and electronic equipment, and beat pastor Sergey Kosyak. “Prayers will continue,” Kosyak told me.

Ukrainians say the election of their new president with 54 percent of the vote has the potential to stabilize the situation in the east where only 20 percent of polling stations were open after separatists threatened election officials and smashed ballot boxes. Nationwide, voter turnout reached 60 percent with long lines reported in the pro-Western capital of Kiev.

The day after his election victory, Poroshenko—nicknamed the “Chocolate King” and lauded as a pragmatist—swiftly approved military air strikes against separatists who had taken over Donetsk International Airport, killing dozens of insurgents. The new leader says he plans to pursue strong ties with Europe while mending relations with Russia and returning stability to the east.

But Maliuta said the thousands of Russian separatists with machine guns are unlikely to go away any time soon and vowed to continue pursuing rescue efforts of the remaining children in government orphanages. Russian President Vladimir Putin says Russia will respect the results of Ukraine’s election, but many fear Moscow is behind a covert campaign to destabilize the east.

Gowen—who has also worked on programs to alleviate human trafficking—says the odds are against these kids if they aren’t adopted before they age out of Ukraine’s orphanage system at age 16 or 17. “Those traders are just standing out there waiting for these kids to come out, and usually they know exactly who is going to be released on certain days,” Gowen said. “So the more we can do here to support these children, the better.”

 

NATIONAL BRIEFS

Mahaney, Harris Leave Gospel Coalition Council

 

(WNS)--Two megachurch pastors and popular Christian authors are no longer serving in leadership roles with an evangelical group a few days after a jury convicted a former member of their church of child abuse. The “Council Members” page of the website for The Gospel Coalition (TGC) no longer includes C.J. Mahaney and Joshua Harris. In addition, Harris, the lead pastor at Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, Md., has asked his church to place him on administrative leave, although it’s not clear whether that will happen. On May 15, a jury found Nathaniel Morales, a former Covenant Life member, guilty of molesting three young boys between 1983 and 1991. Questions have arisen over whether members of the church’s pastoral team, including Mahaney, who pastored Covenant Life at the time and served as a mentor to Harris, knew about the abuse but failed to report it. After Morales’ victims told their parents what happened, Morales disappeared. He later took a position as a pastor in Las Vegas, then married a woman with five sons from a previous relationship.

Compelled Speech?

(WNS)--The WNBA has become the first professional sports league actively to promote the LGBT lifestyle. Some teams have had their own events for years, including booths at gay pride parades. League research has found that a quarter of self-described lesbians watch games on TV or in the stands. But this new league-wide initiative, announced May 21, says it is “celebrating inclusion and equality, while combating anti-LGBT bias.” The wide-reaching objective includes a nationally televised “WNBA Pride” game June 22 on ESPN2, and players throughout the league will have to wear LGBT-promoting gear during certain June games. Franchises will also have “team participation” in LGBT Pride parades and festivals. How and if Christian athletes will be compelled to participate isn’t clear. League officials have not returned calls and emails.

 

D’Souza Pleads Guilty to Making Straw Donations

 

(WNS)--On the day his trial was supposed to begin, May 20, conservative commentator and former Christian college president Dinesh D’Souza instead pleaded guilty to orchestrating illegal campaign contributions. District Judge Richard Berman scheduled a sentencing for D’Souza in late September, and he faces 10 to 16 months in prison. “We are hopeful that Judge Berman will recognize Mr. D’Souza to be a fundamentally honorable man who should not be imprisoned for what was an isolated instance of wrongdoing in an otherwise productive and responsible life,” Benjamin Brafman, D’Souza’s lawyer, said in a statement. D’Souza declined to comment after the hearing.

Constitution Classes Not Replacing Gender Studies at South Carolina College

 

(WNS)--The University of South Carolina Upstate, in Spartanburg, announced it would close the school’s Center for Women’s and Gender Studies (CWGS) as of July 1, spurring outrage from feminist groups and praise from conservatives. At the same time, the South Carolina legislature allotted $17,000 for the school to teach students about the Constitution. The university revealed that due to increasing costs and declining state support, it would cut $450,000 annually through administrative changes and program reductions, the bulk of which would come from moving several staff from 12-month positions to 9- or 11-month positions, officials said. In addition, the school announced cuts to several programs including closing the women's center, which will save $45,000 a year.

Breaking Down the Government’s Role in Marriage

 

(WNS)--The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments for and against the ban on same-sex marriage in Virginia, which a federal judge found unconstitutional. Legal heavy hitters again represented the gay couples who sued in Virginia for the right to marry. Ted Olson and David Boies are the same legal team who argued against California’s Proposition 8 before the U.S. Supreme Court last year.  The three judges hearing the Virginia case were quite pointed with their questions, ranging from states’ rights to the history and tradition of the family unit. Judge Roger Gregory, appointed by President Barack Obama, was particularly critical of mom-and-dad-defined marriages, equating them to a totalitarian system. Gregory acted outraged when David Oakley, the lawyer defending a Virginia court clerk and the majority of Virginia voters, said the government had a legitimate interest in protecting children through the marriages of their biological parents.

After an Easy Court Win, Gay Marriages Begin in Oregon

 

(WNS)--U.S. District Judge Michael McShane in May declared Oregon’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional. At least one county office immediately started issuing marriage licenses to gay couples who were waiting to wed. Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum in February joined the list of state attorneys general who refused to defend their states’ marriage amendments in court. The National Organization for Marriage (NOM) petitioned the court to take up the defense on behalf of Oregonians, but was denied. This morning, NOM appealed that decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals, also asking judges for a pre-emptive stay againstMcShane’s ruling, which NOM anticipated would go in favor of gay marriage. The appeals court rejected NOM’s plea.

Pennsylvania Governor Won’t Appeal Gay Marriage Ruling

 

(WNS)--Pennsylvania’s Republican governor announced today he will not appeal yesterday’s ruling that struck down the state’s voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage. Gov. Tom Corbett’s office mounted a defense to the legal challenge against the law after the state’s Democratic attorney general, Kathleen Kane, refused to do it. Conservatives expected Corbett to appeal the ruling, but he said today an appeal would be “extremely unlikely to succeed.” Even so, he said dropping the case went against his beliefs. “As a Roman Catholic, the traditional teaching of my faith has not wavered,” Corbett said in a statement. “I continue to maintain the belief that marriage is between one man and one woman.” Unless a higher court intervenes, same-sex marriages can begin immediately.

Introducing the “Modern” California Family

 

(WNS)--California lawmakers are preparing to “modernize” the family. A new bill allows gay fathers and mothers to choose whether they want to identify themselves as “father,” “mother,” or just “parent” on a child’s birth certificate. The bill is currently on its way to the state Senate.  “The definition of a family needs to be more flexible, and same-sex parents should not be discriminated against when filling out a birth certificate,” Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez, a Democrat and the bill’s sponsor, said in a press release.  But this move towards “flexibility” likely will mean more confusion and instability, said Brad Dacus, president of the Pacific Justice Institute and an attorney who defends parental rights and religious liberties. “It creates greater confusion with regards to the identity to a mother and a father and the role that they play,” he said. “Studies show that children need stability and an action of men recording themselves mothers or two mothers or women recording themselves as a father or two fathers creates confusion as to what is a mother what is a father.”

INTERNATIONAL BRIEFS

Mexican Politician: Families Should Have Three Kids and “Not One More”

 

(WNS)--A pro-abortion Mexican politician is defending herself against claims of racism after she suggested Mexico’s welfare system would not care for families with more than three children. Rosario Robles, the government’s Social Development secretary made the comments April 30 to  a group of Mexico’s indigenous Huichol and Cora Indian women, off the beaten path in a Nayarit town of 350 residents. The program she discussed, Oportunidades, provides health care, nutritional, and scholarship assistance to poor families.  “Oportunidades is not going to benefit those who have a lot of children anymore,” Robles said. “It is going to support those who have few children, because small families have a better life." She encouraged the women to attend family planning workshops so they could make sure to “have three children and not one more.”

Saeed Abedini Taken from Hospital, Returned to Prison

 

(WNS)--After spending two months recovering in an Iranian hospital, Saeed Abedini has been returned to Rajai Shahr Prison, according to a report released today by the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ).  Family members said he was beaten at the hospital before officials dragged him back to the prison. Despite Abedini’s harsh reception at the hospital, where he was kept in shackles and did not receive much medical treatment, his conditions there had improved in recent weeks. Officials had allowed family members to visit and provide meals. Authorities gave no advanced notice he would be returned to prison, and it remains unclear what’s behind the move. One family member suggested the Iranian nuclear talks might be a reason. 

                 

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WORLD News Service – May 16 2014

                                                                                                                                   

Former Covenant Life Church Leader Convicted of Child Molestation

 

UN Calls Catholic Pro-life Stance Torture

NRB Splits with Publisher over Pro-Gay Book

 

Judge Says D’Souza Wasn’t Prosecuted for his Politics

 

Teen Mania Turmoil Continues

 

Flip This Country: TV show or not, David Benham and his brother stand for biblical values and won’t back down

 

Judge Silences Pro-Life Criticism of the NAACP

The Lost Girls: Boko Haram’s horrific kidnapping of Nigerian schoolgirls is one part of a wider campaign to obliterate Christians

NATIONAL BRIEFS

 

INTERNATIONAL BRIEFS

 

                                                                                                                                   

Former Covenant Life Church Leader Convicted of Child Molestation

 

By Leigh Jones

(WNS)--A Maryland jury found Nathaniel Morales guilty of five counts of child molestation on May 15, bringing to a close a case that highlighted the responsibility church leaders have to report suspected abuse to the police.

The five-man, seven-woman jury found the former pastor guilty of molesting three teenage boys in the late 1980s and early ’90s. Morales, 56, faces up to 85 years in prison. His sentencing hearing is set for Aug. 14.

In emotional testimony that began Monday, the victims recounted how Morales used his position as a trusted member of Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, Md., to get them alone and force them into unwanted sexual relationships. According to WJLA, the ABC affiliate in Arlington, Va., Morales led Bible studies, directed worship teams, and attended sleepovers with teen boys he was supposed to be mentoring.

Child advocacy groups said the pastoral team at Covenant Life helped enable Morales’ abuse by not reporting allegations to the police in the mid 1990s. Morales disappeared shortly after his victims told their parents what was going on, but he later went on to work as a pastor in Las Vegas and married a woman with five sons from a previous relationship.

During the trial, former Covenant Life pastor Grant Layman admitted he should have reported what he knew.

“Did you have an obligation to report the alleged abuse,” public defender Alan Drew, who represented Morales, asked during cross-examination. “I believe so,” Layman replied. “And you didn’t,” Drew followed-up. “No,” Layman said.

According to police reports collected before the trial, Layman and another pastor, Ernest Boisvert, confronted Morales at some point but it’s not clear whether they attempted to warn church members or other congregations about the allegations. In a statement released last year, the church said it didn’t know about the abuse until “many years later.”

Until last year, Covenant Life was a member of Sovereign Grace Ministries, which has faced accusations of covering up child abuse in several of its member congregations.

In a statement issued after the verdict, state officials said abuse in the church is particularly heinous. “Sexually abusing boys who trust you because of your prominence in your faith community is unforgivable,” said Ramon Korionoff, spokesman for the state attorney’s office. “These grown men have shown a lot of courage to come forward in reporting these incidents of sexual abuse during their childhoods. It lets other victims of abuse in our community know that they can come forward and justice will be served.”

UN Calls Catholic Pro-life Stance Torture

 

By Andrew Branch

(WNS)--In a novel attack on pro-life groups and nations, the United Nations has accused the Roman Catholic Church of torture for advocating against abortion.

Austin Ruse, president of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (C-FAM), said Western powers for years have tried to use the UN to force a liberal social agenda on conservative nations. The Vatican has signed the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention Against Torture. During reports to those committees in the last 90 days, the UN tried to further press the Vatican to change its teaching.

“Committees have started trying to rewrite treaties and add new language, which they don’t have a right to do, and try to foist these new obligations on the governments that have already ratified the treaties,” Ruse said.

The children’s rights committee in February told the Vatican to change its teaching on abortion and homosexuality, including the practice of excommunicating abortionists. On May 5, the torture committee accused the Vatican of torture in both its pro-life views and its handling of child sexual abuse by priests. The committee’s theory is that by advocating against abortion, especially for women who are younger or victims of crimes, the Church is committing a form of psychological torture.

“This is a violation of freedom of religion,” Ruse said. And Archbishop Silvano Tomasi told the UN as much. Abortion itself is a form of torture, he said, accusing the United Kingdom and Canada directly for their practice of late-term abortion. Other voices have added to those remarks to create a movement. European Centre for Law and Justice Director Grégor Puppinck and other pro-life activists said 622 babies in Canada from 2000-2011—and 66 in the United Kingdom in 2005 alone—died after botched abortions resulted in live births.

Committees cannot create binding resolutions, and “don’t really have any authority,” Ruse said. The American Center for Law and Justice said the torture committee “could begin an international legal process that would cause the UN to review statements or actions by pro-life public officials.” But ultimately, the torture committee’s power is slim.

That’s a victory for the pro-life community, according to C-FAM. Yes, the UN climate chief also lectured religious groups to teach their followers to accept the UN’s climate change position. Yes, the UN used battles against HIV and AIDS to intimidate African nations into abandoning teachings on abstinence, monogamy, and fidelity.

But despite the ongoing efforts to promote abortion and twist past resolutions to manufacture rights, C-FAM said, pro-abortion activists have failed to gain traction toward a binding international right to abortion. They don’t have the enough countries on their side. “Our opponents on this issue have tried for 20 years to get an international right to abortion, and they have failed,” Ruse said. “Repeatedly.”

NRB Splits with Publisher over Pro-Gay Book

 

By Lynde Langdon

(WNS)--The publisher of numerous evangelical bestsellers has resigned from the National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) over a controversial new book published by the same company under a different trade name.

The split between WaterBrook Multnomah and NRB, reported by Christianity Today, took place after NRB President and CEO Jerry Johnson confronted the publishing group about the content of the God and the Gay Christian by Matthew Vines.

Convergent Books, Vines’ publisher, is under the same corporate umbrella and leadership as WaterBrook Multnomah. Throughout the years, WaterBrook Multnomah has published books by evangelical authors such as John Piper, David Jeremiah, Kay Arthur, and Randy Alcorn.

Convergent and WaterBrook Multnomah are imprints, or trade names, of the same publishing division owned by Penguin Random House, run by President Steven W. Cobb. In April, Cobb explained to WORLD the difference between the two imprints. WaterBrook Multnomah caters to a conservative evangelical audience, but Convergent targets readers who are “open in their approach to issues that face the church today,” Cobb said.

NRB is an industry association of mostly radio and television broadcasters, but it also includes some major Christian publishing houses. Its code of ethics states, “I will refrain from any sexual conduct or life-style, such as homosexuality or adultery, which is inconsistent with Scripture, or any promotion of the same.”

The organization advocates on behalf of its members in Washington and the courts, hosts an annual convention, and promotes networking. Beyond those benefits, NRB membership signifies to customers that a broadcaster or publisher espouses the conservative evangelical beliefs in the association’s statement of faith. The first article of that statement asserts the Bible is “inspired, the only infallible, authoritative Word of God.”

In a letter to the NRB board of directors, Johnson said the organization would “revisit the issue” with WaterBrook Multnomah if it could ensure that its staff would not work on Convergent books, according to Christianity Today.

Cobb sent a brief statement to WORLD saying NRB and his publishing group share mutual respect: “Our organization has discussed our publishing programs in private with leadership of the National Religious Broadcasters. These conversations with NRB have been characterized by one senior official at NRB as ‘professional and Christ-honoring.’ I couldn’t agree more.” Cobb declined to comment further.

Flip This Country

 

TV show or not, David Benham and his brother stand for biblical values and won’t back down

By Steve Jordahl

(WNS)--Until last week, twin brothers David and Jason Benham of Charlotte, N.C., were set to host a new home-renovation show on HGTV called Flip It Forward. HGTV yanked the program after left-wing groups complained about the brothers’ comments on homosexuality and abortion at a 2012 prayer rally. Since then, a group called Faith Driven Consumer has gathered more than 17,500 signatures in an online petition asking HGTV to reverse its decision. David Benham talked with WORLD Radio about what really happened last week, and what he would like to say to the people who oppose him.

My understanding is that the straw that broke the camel’s back with regard to the show was the appearance that you guys made at a rally … where you guys laid it on the line as to what’s happening in our culture. Do you think if maybe you had worded it differently, you might have been able to sneak past this thing? In 2012, before the Democratic National Convention came to our city, Charlotte, the Lord laid it on my brother and I’s heart to host a prayer service calling the church to repentance. And it was at that prayer service and all of the events surrounding that service—where 9,000 Christians gathered and prayer for our nation—where I made the comments. And I absolutely stand by those comments. As a matter of fact, those comments can be the same comments you hear from many great theologians, founding fathers, and others that would stand where biblical values would stand. 

So, the one thing that is really interesting in this whole story is HGTV had already seen those comments before they even made us our offer. We had offers from another network, and then we also had other networks that were weighing in about 18 months ago. And HGTV saw these comments, and they called us and asked for an explanation. And then we met with one of the executives in person, and they realized we had no ill intent toward anyone. We did not hate anyone. We told them we hold to a biblical faith system. We also truly love everyone, and they said, OK, great, and then they made us an offer. 

What really happened here was when we were announced in New York City at the upfront—our show was announced, we weren’t in attendance, but our show was announced—that’s when the Right Wing Watch and GLAAD (formerly the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) decided we’re going to go on a smear campaign and try to bully HGTV into firing these guys, and they won. They actually succeeded. 

I did give a call to People for the American Way, that’s the parent of Right Wing Watch. If you could tell them something right now, if you could explain or have a word for them, what would it be? Well, I guess the first thing I would say is that you are not People for the American Way, you are people for your way. And your way leads to destruction and hurts everyone, Christian and non-Christian. The way of Christ is the way of truth, and it’s that way that affords everyone in this nation the liberty to believe how they want to believe and to voice it. And so I believe, in America, that we have people for another way, and it’s an overwhelming majority of Americans. 

And I believe we are going to show this: that we really want this change in America, and people are not going to remain silent anymore. We’re just tired of getting pushed around. We’re speaking for millions of people.

 

Judge Says D’Souza Wasn’t Prosecuted for his Politics

 

By Emily Belz

(WNS)--A federal judge said conservative author and commentator Dinesh D’Souza had no evidence he was selectively prosecuted because of his politics, and said the criminal trial against D’Souza would move forward next week. 

D’Souza faces charges of orchestrating straw campaign donations of $20,000 to Republican U.S. Senate candidate Wendy Long, who in 2012 challenged incumbent Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, a Democrat. D’Souza’s defense doesn’t dispute the facts in the case but argues that D’Souza had no criminal intent and thus should face a civil penalty instead of jail time. 

A jury will now decide whether D’Souza willfully broke the law. The defense had hoped to get the case dismissed on Thursday, arguing that the Obama administration was retaliating against D’Souza for his strident positions against the president.

“A decision to submit [the case] to the Southern District for prosecution was because [of] what the defendant had said, not because of what he had done,” argued D’Souza’s lawyer, Benjamin Brafman, at the pre-trial hearing Thursday. 

Judge Richard Berman of the Southern District of New York, who will oversee the trial, rejected the selective prosecution motion, citing the “rigorous standard” required for such a motion. 

“The burden is ‘some evidence,’” said Berman. “I find no evidence.” He cited a handful of similar cases of relatively small amounts (between $10,000 and $20,000) where the U.S. attorney’s office in New York prosecuted both Democrats and Republicans. The defense had argued that the Federal Election Commission (FEC) typically doesn’t seek prosecution for amounts under $25,000. Berman on Thursday said the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York could prosecute regardless of how the FEC chooses to prosecute. 

“That a case is interesting or high profile is insufficient to supply ‘some evidence’ of selective prosecution,” Berman added. 

The trial will begin on Tuesday and should only last two or three days. D’Souza faces up to 16 months in prison. His new film, America,is due out on July 4. 

“We’re disappointed but understand the court’s ruling,” said Brafman after the hearing. D’Souza declined to comment.

 

Teen Mania Turmoil Continues

By J.C. Derrick

(WNS)--One of only six independent board members resigned this week from Teen Mania, one of the nation’s largest Christian youth ministries.

Nathan Moody, a scientist at the Department of Energy’s Los Alamos National Laboratory, would not comment on why he chose to step down, but his decision came in the wake of a foreclosure on the ministry’s property and a WORLD report detailing some of Teen Mania’s ongoing management and financial challenges. Following the story’s publication last month, Moody requested and received a copy of the comprehensive third-party audit, conducted before he joined the board, mentioned in WORLD’s report. 

Moody, an Honor Academy alumnus, told me in an email that his resignation included a commitment to be “fully transparent” to Teen Mania founder Ron Luce and the remaining board members, and agreeing to an interview would be interpreted as “violating the commitment I just made.” 

Moody’s departure leaves five independent members on Teen Mania’s board of directors: George Babbes, a professor at Azusa Pacific University; Chris Hill, senior pastor of The Potter’s House in Denver, Colo.; Jennifer Labit, founder and CEO of Cotton Babies; Steve Riggle, pastor of Grace Community Church in Houston; and Marcos Witt, a musician and former pastor at Lakewood Church in Houston. 

Babbes has been on the board since 1995, but Labit didn’t join until 2012, and Hill, Riggle, and Witt all joined in 2013. Ron and Katie Luce also serve on the board.

None of the remaining board members, including Ron Luce, responded to my requests for comment. 

The Teen Mania board was small even before Moody’s resignation. Following the completion of a strategic and operational audit, Calvin Edwards & Co., an Atlanta-based consulting firm that has scrutinized more than 600 organizations in 50 countries, in early 2012 recommended the board have between 7 and 15 independent members—which would have included replacing Luce’s wife Katie as a voting member. That never happened. 

Teen Mania in February announced it would vacate its 472-acre property near Tyler, Texas, and move to Dallas. Luce cast the decision as the result of long-range planning and an effort to go global, but the ministry has yet to announce a new location. Teen Mania has continued to lease its land after the bank repossessed it in March. 

WORLD’s previous story was the result of extensive interviews with current and former employees, and a review of internal documents and recent IRS Form 990s available on GuideStar. Luce blamed the article on former employees eager to bad-mouth the organization. He wrote to Teen Mania alumni a lengthy response to the article, saying it contained “false statements, errors and misperceptions regarding the current state of our ministry”—although he did publicly acknowledge for the first time the foreclosure on the ministry’s East Texas property. Luce has declined to identify any specific error in WORLD’s article. 

To throw further light on Teen Mania’s situation, WORLD is releasing one of the documents it obtained: A list of 32 specific recommendations from Calvin Edwards & Co. We originally had no intention of releasing this document, but since Ron Luce questioned WORLD’s credibility, we present it to allow our readers to decide for themselves.

Calvin Edwards, the organization’s founder and CEO, did not supply the document to WORLD—it came from a former Teen Mania employee—and a binding contract prohibited him from authorizing its release. But Edwards stands by the recommendations and told me publishing them “could help other ministry boards” examine issues similar to the ones Teen Mania is facing: “If you release it, I only hope that good comes from it and that it serves kingdom purposes.”

Edwards said the Teen Mania board sought to implement the report’s recommendations, but “it was met with strong opposition from Ron Luce, who sought to maintain the status quo.” He confirmed that several board members and at least two key executives subsequently left the organization. 

Judge Silences Pro-Life Criticism of the NAACP

 

By Sarah Padbury

(WNS)--A U.S. district court judge sided with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in a trademark case against an African-American pro-life leader who parodied the group’s name.

Ryan Bomberger, the founder of the pro-life group Radiance Foundation, wrote an article on LifeNews.com in January 2013 entitled “NAACP: National Association for the Abortion of Colored People,” which pointed out the organization’s ongoing support for pro-abortion groups. The cause is personal to Bomberger, who was conceived through rape.

The NAACP wrote a letter to Bomberger and LifeNews accusing them of copyright infringement and insisting they remove the words from online forums within seven days. Bomberger responded by filing a lawsuit, claiming it was his First Amendment right to use parody to criticize the NAACP. But the NAACP counter-sued, claiming the phrase was not parody, but an infringement on its registered trademark name.

On April 24, Judge Raymond Jackson agreed with the NAACP. According to the ruling, copyright infringement occurs if a trademark imitation is used in connection with “the sale, offering for sale, distribution, or advertising of any goods or services” and/or if the imitation could cause confusion or deceive the public. Two of the three websites featuring the article included a donation button for Radiance on the same page. All three sites linked to the Radiance Foundation’s billboard campaign, which also asks for donations to sponsor a billboard.

In addition, the NAACP said the article confused is constituents about the group’s real name. Jackson agreed that the article did not provide the organization’s real name, giving the reader “no suggestion or signal” that the phrase is indeed a parody. The judge ruled that the Radiance Foundation “may not present such critiques in a manner that is likely to confuse the public regarding whether certain trademarks espousing a pro-abortion viewpoint are authorized or sponsored by the NAACP.”

But Bomberger said he doubted his article confused anyone. “We've been using this [parody] for years,” he told me via email, “and no one has ever been confused, written to us, [or] called us thinking that we were somehow the NAA**.” Since the ruling was announced, Bomberger is careful not to speak or write about the group by name.

Not only does the permanent injunction require Bomberger to remove the online article, it gave him 15 days to destroy anything else—including signs, social media posts, research, and computer memory—that references the NAACP or its logo. In addition, Bomberger may never again use the parodied phrase “National Association for the Abortion of Colored People” because it confuses people about the real organization. Bomberger’s attorneys plan to ask the judge for clarification of the overly-broad ruling.

“The ruling is a frightening attack on the First Amendment,” Bomberger said. “In essence, the ruling prevents us from criticizing, from commenting upon, or even satirizing an organization’s documented actions in a news commentary.”

Although the NAACP claims it doesn’t take an “official” position on the abortion debate, Bomberger noted in another online post that Planned Parenthood co-sponsors the NAACP’s annual conventions. A recent YouTube video features NAACP national board member Rev. William Barber II winning Planned Parenthood’s “Care. No matter what.” award at its 2014 national gala.

Many organizations use parodies to criticize their opponents or to make a point. Political parody ads are common during campaigns, running on television and radio, and political cartoon parodies are published daily by hundreds of magazines and newspapers. Saturday Night Live (SNL) is famous for employing the tactic in many fake advertising skits.

The only difference between Radiance’s use of parody and SNL’s, Bomberger said, is that he’s not making money from it. He’s also using truth to make a point. “SNL’s and political cartoons' parodies are typically rife with hyperbole,” he said. “Our use is irrefutably factual.”

 

The Lost Girls

 

Boko Haram’s horrific kidnapping of Nigerian schoolgirls is one part of a wider campaign to obliterate Christians

By Jamie Dean

(WNS)—Deep in the rural regions of northern Nigeria, a group of kidnapped schoolgirls bear names far removed from their condition—names like Comfort, Blessing, Grace, and Glory.

The teenage girls vanished in the early morning hours of April 15, when militants from the Islamist terror group Boko Haram raided a school in the predominantly Christian town of Chibok. The gunmen loaded more than 300 girls onto waiting pickup trucks, and fled into a dense forest.

As many as 50 girls escaped into the woods but reports indicate two of the escaped girls died from snakebites. By mid-May more than 270 schoolgirls—ages 15 to 18—remained missing.

A 16-year-old girl who escaped told the Associated Press the militants first said they were soldiers. But after moving the girls outside, the gunmen set fire to the building. “They started shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’ (God is great),” the student said. “And we knew.”

For the first two weeks of the girls’ captivity, it seemed as if few others knew about the mass abduction. Agonized parents armed with bows and arrows formed search parties when the Nigerian military failed to act. Government officials claimed they had recovered most of the girls—a claim the school principal and bewildered parents immediately refuted.

Meanwhile, international attention remained fixed on the missing Malaysian airliner that carried 239 people, and the April 16 South Korean ferry disaster that killed at least 187 people, mostly high-school students. For weeks, the plight of more than 200 still-living Nigerian girls barely registered.

Burned school where gunmen abducted more than 200 students.By the third week, the story gained traction, as women’s groups demonstrated in the Nigerian capital. A Twitter hashtag—#BringBackOurGirls—caught on, and a Nigerian petition on Change.org calling for better rescue efforts drew more than 450,000 signatures. By May 6, President Barack Obama announced the U.S. government would send a team of personnel to Nigeria to help the military coordinate search and rescue efforts.

Across town, Ann Buwalda of the Washington, D.C.–based Jubilee Campaign said she was thrilled with the international attention on the girls’ abduction, but she noted that similar atrocities have been happening for years: “How many churches have been blown up, and how many Christians have been killed, and nothing’s happened?”

Indeed, Boko Haram has been waging a brutal campaign to force Islamic law in northern Nigeria for more than a decade. This year marks the deadliest year of the insurgency so far, with as many as 1,500 killed since January. The group has burned churches, razed villages, kidnapped women, and massacred civilians for years. In January, Boko Haram militants barred the doors of a Catholic church, and burned the building with worshippers inside.

The Obama administration barely acknowledges the widespread Christian persecution raging in northern Nigeria. But in a video released on May 5, the leader of Boko Haram boasted he would sell the missing girls as slaves, and repeated the group’s intentions: “It is a Jihad war against Christians and Christianity,” he said with a smile. “Allah says we should finish them when we get them.”

Nigeria advocates say rescuing the Chibok girls is critical, particularly as reports swirl that some of the girls have already been sold into marriage to their captors for the price of $12. But experts also emphasize that a single rescue effort won’t stop more atrocities. If Boko Haram isn’t crushed, says Buwalda, “they’ll do this again. There will be another church. There will be another school.”

THERE ALREADY was another school attack less than eight weeks before the Chibok kidnappings. In a horrific exploit that gained scant international attention, militants stormed the dormitories of a school in Yobe State on Feb. 24. 

This time, the gunmen released the girls. Witnesses reported the militants told the young women to go home, get married, and abandon the education the militants called anti-Islamic. The boys fared worse: The militants burned down the school with the boys inside, and shot some who tried to escape. The attack killed at least 50 young men ages 15-20. The local police commissioner reported: “Some of the students’ bodies were burned to ashes.”

A similar attack last September killed 40 students. Less than two weeks before the assault on the young men, militants killed more than 106 civilians in the predominantly Christian village of Izghe. 

Boko Haram militants also have killed Muslims in the predominantly Muslim northern region, particularly if they view them as hostile to the group’s extremist efforts. At least 16 of the missing Chibok girls reportedly are Muslim. But Boko Haram’s campaign against Christians dates back to at least 2005, when the group began kidnapping pastors. In 2009, militants beheaded Nigerian pastor George Ojih after he refused to convert to Islam.

The years that followed brought more attacks on government buildings, schools, and churches, and more executions of Christians, particularly men with large families. One widow reported in 2012 that militants had killed her husband and kidnapped her two young daughters. Other widows said gunmen had killed their husbands after asking if they were Christians.

It took the U.S. government years to designate Boko Haram a terrorist organization, but even after the designation last November, the U.S. State Department has continued largely to ignore the overwhelming rate of Christian persecution in northern Nigeria. 

In its recently released annual report on Nigeria, the U.S. State Department notes Boko Haram’s campaign of terror against civilians, but the opening summary doesn’t mention relentless attacks on churches and Christians. The summary does report Boko Haram attacks on a much smaller number of mosques.

The report later mentions “bombed churches” far into a long list of other Boko Haram abuses, but it doesn’t identify persecution as a motivation for Islamist terror. Emmanuel Ogebe, a Nigerian and a human rights attorney, decried the report and asked: “The question remains—why is the U.S. downplaying or denying attacks against Christians?”

Instead, the State Department often lists issues like poverty as motivations for Boko Haram’s terror. Even after the Chibok kidnappings, Secretary of State John Kerry spoke about the need to “alleviate poverty” as a way to fight terrorism in Africa. In 2012, senior State Department official Johnnie Carson told Congress: “Boko Haram thrives because of social and economic problems in the north.”

Laolu Akande, a Nigerian pastor with the New York–based Christian Association of Nigerian-Americans, bristles at that suggestion, and notes the majority of Nigerians are poor. “Please don’t use poverty to justify acts of terrorism,” he said. “It’s an insult to poor people.”

Two students of government secondary school in Chibok, who were abducted by gunmen and managed to escape.The State Department also cites reports from human rights groups like Amnesty International that have criticized the Nigerian military for excessive force in its counterterrorism efforts.

Akande says he doesn’t deny or excuse abuses by the Nigerian military, but adds: “I’m aghast at how they [human rights groups] are painting the military without pointing to the thousands who have been killed—whose humanity has been reduced to nothing. Boko Haram is going to churches, slicing the throats of pastors, and burning people’s homes. Let’s deal with that first.” 

Clare Lopez, vice president for research and analysis at the Center for Security Policy, says failing to deal properly with the threat of Boko Haram hinders U.S. efforts at combating terrorism in Nigeria and other countries. “The bigger issue is this administration’s absolute refusal to acknowledge and confront Islamic jihad,” says Lopez. “We can’t turn a blind eye to what Boko Haram says is their objective. And their deeds match their words.”

Confronting Boko Haram is a confounding task, especially as reports emerged that Nigerian security forces in the Chibok area didn’t heed warnings about the impending attack, and responded too slowly to track the abductors as they fled. Some Nigeria advocates called for a group of special elite forces dedicated solely to the task of dismantling Boko Haram.

Beyond mass killings, Boko Haram’s deeds have also left thousands of Nigerians homeless. The United Nations estimates the terror attacks have produced nearly a half million internally displaced Nigerians. At least 60,000 more Nigerians have fled to neighboring countries.

Mark Lipdo of the Nigerian advocacy group Stefanos Foundation, recently returned to Nigeria after visiting Nigerian refugees in nearby Cameroon. He’s working to produce a report on conditions in the camps, and says the situation Christians are fleeing in northern Nigeria is pitiful: “A whole community is displaced.”

Lipdo says he hopes efforts to rescue the kidnapped girls will include efforts to confront the wider threat of Boko Haram: “It’s not just about recovering the Chibok girls. It’s about the slaughtering of schoolchildren. It’s about imprisonment. It’s about so many victims.”

As the Nigerian military continued to search for the missing girls, Boko Haram claimed more victims. The group kidnapped 11 more girls, and launched a May 7 raid on a trading town near Nigeria’s border with Cameroon. Gunmen opened fire in a crowded market, tossed bombs into houses, and burned shopkeepers alive. Authorities confirmed at least 100 dead, but local residents expected the number could reach 300.

On May 12, Boko Haram militants released a video purportedly showing more than 100 of the missing girls dressed in hijabs and reciting Islamic prayers. Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau said he wouldn’t release the girls unless the Nigerian government released all jailed Boko Haram militants. But it wasn’t immediately clear how many of the young women in the video came from Chibok, and some parents said they didn’t recognize their daughters in the group.

In May the names of the victims in the Chibok kidnappings appeared in a Nigerian newspaper and were also published by the Christian advocacy group Barnabas Fund. The organization urged supporters to use the list to pray for each girl by name, with hopes that Comfort, Blessing, Grace, and Glory will soon be restored.

NATIONAL BRIEFS

Christians Kicked Off HGTV For Their Faith

(WNS)--Twins Jason and David Benham found out Wednesday their pro-life and pro-family values aren’t welcome at HGTV. The brothers were five weeks into filming a new show with six families learning how to work together to flip a house. Flip It Forward, was set to air in October, and an HGTV promo touted that in each episode, “the guys help a deserving family find a fixer-upper and transform it into their forever home.” But HGTV has a large LGBT audience, and Ellen DeGeneres recently announced her own design show on the network. Activist group Right Wing Watch dug into the Benhams’ lives and brought down the politically correct hammer. Most of the “dirt” that Right Wing Watch found on the brothers actually came from their father, Flip Benham, a preacher and colorful pro-life activist.

Did Planned Parenthood Help Arizona Rapist Go Free?

 

(WNS)--Planned Parenthood Arizona is under fire again for alleged misconduct—but this time, the charges aren’t coming from undercover pro-life activists. The Pinal County Sheriff’s Office alleges that the abortion center intentionally hid a rape involving what turned out to be a serial rapist. The Casa Grande Dispatch discovered documents implicating Planned Parenthood while investigating the April 28 arrest of 18-year-old Tyler Kost, who is accused of raping or molesting at least 18 girls in San Tan Valley. The sheriff’s office report based on detectives’ interviews included a girl who said she became pregnant after Kost raped her last year. The girl’s mother told a Planned Parenthood staff member about the assault at the girl’s New Year’s Eve appointment.

 

Pro-life Priests Take Obamacare Fight to Court

 

(WNS)--Pro-life priests should not be forced to cooperate with a government scheme to expand contraceptive coverage, Priests for Life attorneys argued in early May before the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. “This is a battle of biblical proportions,” Fr. Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, said after the arguments. “We will obey God rather than man.” Priests for Life, a nonprofit with about 50 employees, sued the government last year over the contraceptive mandate in the Affordable Care Act, which requires employers to over health insurance coverage for contraceptive and abortifacient drugs. Priests for Life and other faith-based nonprofits have received preliminary injunctions against the mandate, but these proceedings proceeding marked the first time an appeals court has heard the merits of one of those cases.

Religious Leaders Band Together to Support Believers in Egypt, Iraq, and Syria

(WNS)--A broad coalition of religious leaders and organizations announced in early May a pledge of solidarity and call to action for American Christians to stand with persecuted communities in Egypt, Iraq, and Syria. “The targeting of religious minorities in the Middle East is heart-breaking, and we should respond with a combination of tears and anger,” said Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals during a press conference on Capitol Hill. Reps. Frank Wolf, R-Va., and Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., co-chairs of the Religious Minorities in the Middle East Caucus, hosted the event and urged American believers to pray, give, and advocate on behalf of suffering Christians. They also called on the U.S. Senate to pass legislation to create a State Department special envoy for religious minorities in the Middle East and South Central Asia, which the House has twice passed with overwhelming bipartisan support.

INTERNATIONAL BRIEFS

                 

Copyright to the preceding content is held by WORLD Magazine, except where noted. Copyrighted stories for which the copyright is held by others must be printed with copyright information. These stories may not be reprinted, broadcast, made available through electronic retrieval systems, or put to any commercial use except by paying subscribers of the WNS Service. WNS Service subscribers are licensed for print rights only. However, these stories may be posted to a subscriber’s web-site or electronic or broadcast medium with prior written consent. WNS is delivered every Friday – except Christmas and 4th of July week -- via e-mail to subscribers. For information on becoming a licensed subscriber, write to: WORLD News Service, 4701 Beech Crest Place, Charlotte, NC 28269. You can reach us by phone at (704) 661-9137 (USA), or by e-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . 

WORLD News Service – May 9 2014

                                                                                                                                   

Christians Kicked Off HGTV For Their Faith

 

Did Planned Parenthood Help Arizona Rapist Go Free?

Pro-life Priests Take Obamacare Fight to Court: Nonprofit group Priests for Life says contraceptive mandate places substantial burden on its beliefs

Moving Pro-lifers From Apathy to Action

Chaos Comedy: Moms' Night Out mines humor out of its message

 

Sudden Impact: Films that deal fairly with Christians are getting a respectful audience at major film festivals

                    

Fighting For The World’s Original Christians: Religious leaders band together to support believers in Egypt, Iraq, and Syria

NATIONAL BRIEFS

 

INTERNATIONAL BRIEFS

 

                                                                                                                                   

 

Christians Kicked Off HGTV For Their Faith

 

By Andrew Branch

(WNS)--Twins Jason and David Benham found out Wednesday their pro-life and pro-family values aren’t welcome at HGTV. The brothers were five weeks into filming a new show with six families learning how to work together to flip a house.

Flip It Forward, was set to air in October, and an HGTV promo touted that in each episode, “the guys help a deserving family find a fixer-upper and transform it into their forever home.” But HGTV has a large LGBT audience, and Ellen DeGeneres recently announced her own design show on the network. Activist group Right Wing Watch dug into the Benhams’ lives and brought down the politically correct hammer.

Most of the “dirt” that Right Wing Watch found on the brothers actually came from their father, Flip Benham, a preacher and colorful pro-life activist. But the group didn’t get all its facts straight. It misattributed a blog post to Flip Benham that appears to blame 9/11 on America’s acceptance of abortion. Activists also touted protests against a mosque near Ground Zero that Flip Benham attended, where some people chanted “God hates Muslims.”

But David and Jason Benham haven’t participated in all of their father’s activism. The serial entrepreneurs have spent more than 10 years building a multi-state business for real-estate consulting—and just about anything else a homeowner might need. David is a married father of five, and Jason is a married father of four.

David is indeed an active pro-life and pro-family speaker. During a rally outside the 2012 Democratic National Convention, he told fellow Christians who shared his worldview that “homosexuality and its agenda … is attacking our nation,” along with “demonic ideologies” in universities.

But when speaking to the other side, David wrote to men practicing homosexuality, “You’ll never find the love of a father in the arms of another man. The emotional hurt that you’ve experienced can only be healed through a life-giving relationship with the very one that created you. You are a precious gift of God. I encourage fellow North Carolinians to love and embrace you as a person.”

Such are the words of a “virulent anti-gay activist,” according to Right Wing Watch, which lobbied HGTV to end its relationship with the Benhams. The group also lambasted David for his “anti-choice” remarks. HGTV, perhaps not surprisingly given its audience, pulled the show. Officials with the network declined to give a reason for the cancellation.

The Benham’s experience is the latest attack on Christians living their faith in public. Why HGTV hired them from the start isn’t clear, since living the gospel is an explicit part of the Benhams’ business. Their company has an entire initiative geared to helping Christians find business opportunities to help fund their own mission work.

The Benhams haven’t said what course of action they plan to take. The organization behind Duck Dynasty’s fight to stay on A&E, Faith Driven Consumer, protested the Benhams’ “bullying” Thursday, using the hashtag #FlipThisDecision on social media. But the Benhams appear ready to give up the show.

“Woke up this morning to an even greater reality that Jesus is king!” David tweeted Thursday. “We must decrease—He must increase.” The brothers issued a joint statement as well, pledging, “If our faith costs us a television show then so be it.”

The brothers said their faith is inseparable from who they are and how they pour themselves into every family they work with. “As Christians, we are called to love our fellow man,” they said. “Anyone who suggests that we hate homosexuals or people of other faiths is either misinformed or lying.”

The Benhams were actually back on set Thursday, continuing to coach the families they’ve been working with on their house-flipping investments. “TV show or not—we are keeping to our commitment to help these six families!” David said.

Did Planned Parenthood Help Arizona Rapist Go Free?

 

By Andrew Branch

(WNS)--Planned Parenthood Arizona is under fire again for alleged misconduct—but this time, the charges aren’t coming from undercover pro-life activists. The Pinal County Sheriff’s Office alleges that the abortion center intentionally hid a rape involving what turned out to be a serial rapist.

The Casa Grande Dispatch discovered documents implicating Planned Parenthood while investigating the April 28 arrest of 18-year-old Tyler Kost, who is accused of raping or molesting at least 18 girls in San Tan Valley. The sheriff’s office report based on detectives’ interviews included a girl who said she became pregnant after Kost raped her last year. The girl’s mother told a Planned Parenthood staff member about the assault at the girl’s New Year’s Eve appointment.

“The counselor intentionally miscoded the assault as a consensual encounter,” the report states. “The counselor told them that they did not want the hassle of having to report the assault to law enforcement as they were a mandatory reporter.”

Abortion centers must report suspected sexual assaults, but Planned Parenthood never did, police say. According to the Phoenix CBS affiliate, the rapes occurred over a period of about three years. Some of the girls left the state in fear, while another attempted suicide.

This isn’t the first run-in with the law for Planned Parenthood or other Arizona abortionists. Pro-life activist Lila Rose and her undercover investigators from Live Action alleged in 2008 that two Arizona Planned Parenthood centers failed to report statutory rape, coaching the girls on how to get a judge to exempt them from the state’s parental consent law.

Those incidents and dozens of others nationwide are the subject of Live Action’s soon-to-be-released summary of its last six years of undercover operations and reporting. This latest revelation by Arizona police only underscores why Live Action demands in the report that law enforcement subpoena all of Planned Parenthood’s ID-redacted records for minors. Ample evidence exists of a pattern of misinformation and cover-ups at Planned Parenthood, Live Action claims.

The report details video and audio investigations of Planned Parenthood workers coaching sex traffickers of minors, lying about fetal development, facilitating sex-selective abortions of girls, and accepting donations from investigators posing as white supremacists who want to encourage African-American abortions.

Further Live Action evidence indicates no Planned Parenthood centers offer mammograms, despite explicit claims from Planned Parenthood CEO Cecile Richards and President Barack Obama during federal funding fights. In another investigation, just two months after a Chicago Planned Parenthood center let a client bleed to death, Live Action recorded a staff member denying anyone had ever suffered an injury at the facility.

Despite the evidence, though, abortion centers usually don’t see much of a backlash from those in power. A recent Arizona law shoring up abortion standards came partly because of a Live Action video showing an Arizona abortionist, who was not affiliated with Planned Parenthood, appearing to admit to letting babies die after they were born alive.

Planned Parenthood claims it can police its own employes. It fired several workers featured in Live Action’s videos, and other employees face “retraining,” the organization said.

But it often takes a pro-life legislature to put safeguards in place. Planned Parenthood’s federal funding still tops $500 million, despite the $71 million Live Action claims the abortion provider has lost because of its investigations. The abortion industry is adept at derailing official investigations through litigation and deflecting attention through political allies and personal attacks on investigators.

For now, the Kost case appears to be more of the same. Planned Parenthood Arizona has promised to “reiterate” its reporting policies to employees. The Dispatch said it was unclear how many abuse cases Planned Parenthood actually did report last year, but police pledged to look into the potential misconduct.

 

Pro-life Priests Take Obamacare Fight to Court

 

Nonprofit group Priests for Life says contraceptive mandate places substantial burden on its beliefs

By J.C. Derrick

(WNS)--Pro-life priests should not be forced to cooperate with a government scheme to expand contraceptive coverage, Priests for Life attorneys argued Thursday before the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.

“This is a battle of biblical proportions,” Fr. Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, said after the arguments. “We will obey God rather than man.”

Priests for Life, a nonprofit with about 50 employees, sued the government last year over the contraceptive mandate in the Affordable Care Act, which requires employers to over health insurance coverage for contraceptive and abortifacient drugs. Priests for Life and other faith-based nonprofits have received preliminary injunctions against the mandate, but Thursday’s proceeding marked the first time an appeals court has heard the merits of one of those cases.

Pavone and Robert Muise, an American Freedom Law Center attorney who argued the case, both said they were pleased with the hearing. Muise made a simple plea during oral arguments before the three-judge panel: Under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the government has no right to force Priests for Life to go against its deeply held religious beliefs. “This goes right to the core of what they do,” Muise said. “It’s antithetical to their very mission of promoting the gospel of life.”

The government argued that anyone who has a religious objection to the mandate can opt out, but Muise said even the act of opting out is a violation of the Catholic doctrine of cooperation. The judges, who seemed skeptical that filling out a form could violate someone’s conscience, pressed Muise on why it would be a violation if the person did not have to pay for the coverage. Muise said money is not the issue and argued it isn’t the court’s role to determine Catholic doctrine, only to decide if the mandate places a “substantial burden” on the priests’ sincerely held belief. “The fact that Priests for Life finds it morally reprehensible—the court has to accept that,” Muise said.

The government essentially argued the priests shouldn’t feel that way, saying the regulations “bend over backwards to accommodate” those with religious objections. Judge Robert Wilkins asked why the government couldn’t simply require those who want coverage to opt in, which Priests for Life said would satisfy its moral objections.

After the hearing, Pavone said he found the judges to be “very even-handed. They pressed the government very, very hard.” Muise told me that was a surprise, since the original panel that was supposed to hear the case, which included Judge Janice Rogers Brown, was abruptly replaced in March with three liberal judges. Judge Judith Rogers is a Clinton appointee, and Wilkins and Judge Cornelia Pillard are both recent Obama appointees who were pushed through the Senate when Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., detonated the so-called “nuclear option” in November.

The judges likely will not issue a decision until after the U.S. Supreme Court rules on the cases of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties, two for-profit business that appeared before the high court in March to argue they shouldn’t be forced to comply with the mandate.

Before and during Thursday’s hearing, pro-life groups and lawmakers rallied on the courthouse steps. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Reps. Diane Black (R-Tenn.), Chris Smith (R-N.J.), Scott Garrett (R-N.J.), Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.), and Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.) all participated in the event.

Black noted the fines for not complying with the contraceptive mandate would total $36,5000 per employee annually, but the fine for providing no insurance is only $2,000 per employee each year. “Only Obamacare could create a system that carries 18 times the fine for providing insurance coverage than not providing insurance coverage at all,” she said. “Increasing access to healthcare should never require forcing nonprofits like Priests for Life to choose between coverage and their conscience.”

Last year, Black filed the Health Care Conscience Rights Act, which would provide statutory protection for anyone who has a moral objection to the contraceptive mandate in the Affordable Care Act. The legislation has 194 cosponsors, including four Democrats.

On Thursday, the Family Research Council announced a new poll showing the majority of Americans oppose Obamacare’s contraceptive mandate.

“The HHS mandate is one of the most egregious violations of religious freedom in America that I have ever seen,” said Smith, who has been in Congress for 33 years. “Abortion is not healthcare.”

Moving Pro-lifers From Apathy to Action

 

By Courtney Crandell

(WNS)--Joel Patchen’s apathy toward the pro-life movement ended when his second child died nearly a month and a half after birth. Brooke Anna Vaughan Patchen was born three months too early. As Patchen watched his daughter develop during her 40 days outside the womb, he realized that many children his daughter’s age lose their lives to abortion. “This was the first time in my life that I faced the concrete reality of fetal development and life in the womb,” he explained. After Brooke’s death, Patchen began volunteering with National Right to Life and studying pro-life materials.  

Patchen’s mobilization reflects a similar trend experienced by many people who describe themselves as pro-life, but are uninvolved in the pro-life movement until something touches them personally. In his book The Making of Pro-Life Activists,sociologist Ziad Munson studied the activation of pro-life support. His research revealed that most people beginning involvement in the pro-life movement are “at best ambivalent” toward the cause. 

According to the Pew Research 2013 Global Attitudes Project, 47 percent of Americans, about 153 million people, view abortion as morally unacceptable. But available numbers on pro-life activism reveal that only a fraction of pro-life supporters actively participate in the cause. March for Life and 40 Days for Life typically draw about 500,000 participants, while Pro-Life Action League’s participants are in the thousands. 

Munson relates the transition from pro-life apathy to activism to a “conversion process.” Pro-life organizations use several tools to catalyze that process, but stories are one of the most important. 

“Christians are generally not concerned about any of the issues,” said Troy Newman, president of Operation Rescue. “But they love to hear the stories.” 

Operation Rescue’s support increased after the activist organization exposed Ohio resident LaKisha Wilson’s botched abortion and subsequent death in April. People often view abortion as an ugly statistic, Newman said. But news of a mother’s death can surprise pro-life supporters into action. 

Stories like Wilson’s provide some uninvolved pro-lifers both the necessary outrage and hope to push them toward activism. Some pro-lifers believe that they can’t do anything valuable to fight abortion. It is, after all, legal, and most pro-life laws face court challenges. But pro-lifers do see the opportunity to successfully campaign for mothers’ health. Wilson’s story reminds them abortion numbers represent real mothers and babies. “It’s not a statistic to LaKisha Wilson’s family,” Newman said. 

Wilson’s tragic death unified social conservatives in northeastern Ohio, said Molly Smith, president of Cleveland Right to Life: “The grassroots are outraged.” Last Friday, activists gathered outside Cleveland University Hospital's main campus, where doctors, including abortionists, receive training. Although Cleveland Right to Life’s calls to action typically draw 30 to 50 activists, about 140 people attended Friday’s demonstration.

Cleveland isn’t the only local pro-life organization to see recent increases in support. The atrocities committed by Kermit Gosnell in his Philadelphia abortion facility provided a wake-up call for Pennsylvanians, said Maria Gallagher, legislative director for Pennsylvania Pro-life Federation. Pennsylvanians inundated the organization with requests for pro-life information after Gosnell was exposed. “People were horrified when they learned the facts,” Gallagher said. 

When the group visited town halls across Pennsylvania to give educational presentations, people asked what they could do to help. “There’s an even greater passion in the pro-life movement in Pennsylvania in the wake of Gosnell,” Gallagher said. “People were awakened to the fact that the situation was more horrible than they thought it was.” 

But not all tragic events produce the same pro-life fervor—especially if another issue takes precedence in the headlines. The news that an Oregon power plant had been burning aborted and miscarried Canadian babies outraged Oregon’s pro-life community, said Gayle Atteberry, executive director for Oregon Right to Life (ORTL). Supporters made “tons” of phone calls and sent letters to the power plant. But despite the initial outpouring of support, ORTL hasn’t seen any increase in volunteers or donations because the state’s election season has drawn more attention. 

After his daughter’s death, Patchen founded his own pro-life organization, called Anna’s Choice in honor of the little girl. Through prayer and educational materials, Patchen uses his personal experience to educate and motivate Christians to action. “Brooke has inspired me to love the preborn and their parents through grace and mercy,” Patchen explained. “I am convinced that the majority of the body of Christ does not know what the Bible says about abortion and how it applies to their lives as believers.”

Chaos Comedy

 

Moms' Night Out mines humor out of its message

By Megan Basham

(WNS)--No doubt, before Moms’ Night Out releases to theaters on Mother’s Day weekend, reviews in most mainstream outlets will use the term “Christian movie.” By that, I suppose they’ll mean that the film was made by and concerns characters who happen to be Christians. But while the label will work to sell the movie to certain audiences, it could also advertise some false impressions to those who associate “Christian movie” with treacly dramas full of moralizing dialogue and unrelatably upright characters. That’s too bad because while there’s plenty of heart in Moms’ Night Out (rated PG), what there’s far more of is something rarely (maybe never?) seen in films marketed as Christian—laughs.

The original mommy blogger Erma Bombeck once said that a thin line separates laughter and pain. As the first scene opens on Allyson (Sarah Drew) sitting at her computer confessing to the online world her struggle to respond lovingly when her three small children demolish her kitchen in order to “surprise” her with breakfast, many moms will chuckle and wince simultaneously. Their reaction will likely grow into guffaws and groans of recognition as the perpetually late Allyson screeches into the church parking lot, mascara smeared from applying in the car, screaming at her disheveled kids to hurry up, and wondering how all the other perfectly coiffed moms with their perfectly pressed kids do it.

Allyson’s feelings of unrest and inadequacy require some deep, intensive soul searching, but lacking the time for that, her husband, Sean (Sean Astin), agrees to a shorter-term solution. He and the other dads in their social circle will watch the kids so Allyson and her friends, including their pastor’s wife (Patricia Heaton) can put on high heels and enjoy a girl’s night out. From there, in the grand tradition of one-crazy-night movies, chaos ensues, leading the ladies everywhere from a tattoo parlor to a jail cell.

Back in 2011, when the Erwin brothers released their first film, the drama October Baby, I praised them for remaining focused on telling their story well rather than trying to advance an agenda. As a comedy, Moms’ Night Out draws on a lot of different directing skills, yet the Erwins once again stay centered on the characters and their experiences. They include biblical themes, but in a way that enhances the narrative naturally. Given that the movie’s sole moment of spiritual advice comes from the mouth of a grizzled biker played by country singer Trace Adkins, they manage to mine some humor out of their message as well.

The most impressive thing about the Erwins’ sophomore effort, however, is that the churchgoing believers that populate their film feel like real people with relatable shortcomings as opposed to stock sinner/saint characters. There are few moms who won’t sympathize with Allyson’s penchant for perfectionism or her fear that she’s failing on life’s major fronts. Likewise, as Sondra, Heaton helps us get in the head of a pastor’s wife who’s tired of feeling like a role model to hundreds of women yet a genuine friend to none.

This isn’t to suggest that every element in Moms’ Night Out works. The best scenes come during the first hour, and at a certain point the zaniness gets wearisome, pushing past the bounds of believability. But these are shortcomings common to the genre, and plenty of major studio movies like Tina Fey’s Date Night and the R-rated The Hangover suffered from the same malady. What Moms’ Night Out proves, even more than October Baby, is that the Erwins are Christian filmmakers who can compete with mainstream Hollywood in turning out a polished, engaging film. Moms’ Night Out isn’t funny for a Christian movie, it’s just funny.

Sudden Impact

 

Films that deal fairly with Christians are getting a respectful audience at major film festivals

By Emily Belz

(WNS)--The credits rolled at a screening and an audience at a Chelsea theater in New York City erupted in extended applause for a middle-aged, theologically conservative Lutheran as he walked to the front, his son in tow. Jay Reinke is the central character in an award-winning documentary The Overnighters that had its New York premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival. The film shows Reinke serving as the pastor of a Missouri Synod Lutheran church in one of North Dakota’s fracking boom towns that have been inundated with male laborers. The population has expanded so quickly that housing is expensive or impossible to find; RV camps pop up everywhere, and workers sleep in their cars.

Williston, the North Dakota town at the center of the film, bans RVs and tries to prevent the men, some former convicts and drug addicts, from parking anywhere overnight. Despite the town’s hostility, Reinke’s church decided to open its doors and let men looking for work sleep in the church and its parking lot. Over two years, until the city shut down the church’s program, the church hosted, prayed with, and preached to 1,000 overnighters. They work on resumés together and share job contacts and discuss family problems. It’s a fantastically complex film that treats its Christian subjects fairly and compassionately.

The Tribeca Film Festival, though only 12 years old, is growing into one of the major festivals along with Sundance, Toronto, and South By Southwest. The festival circuit has grown more and more influential as independent films draw wider audiences and more dollars. The Overnighters wasn’t the only film at Tribeca with a religious main character, a small indication of a shifting attitude among the film elite. The Overnighters won an award at Sundance and already has a distributor, Drafthouse Films, which is scheduling a theatrical release in November.

Gaining access to major festivals is hard enough; a theatrical release is the stuff of filmmakers’ dreams. Drafthouse plans to adopt a new distribution strategy so the film screens beyond art house theaters. If a community has enough people who want to see the film, Drafthouse will help them book a showing in their town.

At a coffee shop in Chelsea between screenings of his film, I asked Jesse Moss, director of The Overnighters, if he thought he faced any barriers to getting a film into festivals with a devout Christian as the main character. First of all, he said directors who want to get into festivals just need to make good films, regardless of religious content. But he’s noticed “a real appetite” for films about issues of faith. 

Craig Detweiler, a film professor at Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif., has noticed the same thing over the decade he has taken a group of his students to Sundance, along with film students from other Christian colleges on the West Coast. Detweiler has seen more openness to religion at festivals, which he attributes to a postmodern society where everyone has a camera and a seat at the table. “In an earlier era film festivals might have been comfortable presenting one-sided attacks on religion,” Detweiler said. “I think we’re just seeing the first wave of what has been building over 20 years. … Independent film at its best is about crossing borders and lifting alternative voices.”

MOSS, WHO LIVES IN SAN FRANCISCO, does not consider himself religious and had not intended to make a film centered on a church and a pastor when he went out to make a documentary on the fracking boom. “I think if you had asked me three years ago, could I ever imagine making a film about a Lutheran pastor in a church, I’d say no,” he said. As Moss spent more time in Williston, he realized that the pastor should be the center of the story, a “prism,” he says, through which to see the economic struggle of the men drawn to the boom town. The film has echoes of John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath—the struggle of the lower class seeking opportunity in an unknown place, where few people have compassion for their plight. One overnighter who finally gets a construction job, leaves the church, and rents a ramshackle room finds out that his wife at home has left him for another man. As he packs his bags to go try to win her back, he mourns that he came out to provide for his family, and it will perhaps cost him his family.

The thousands still flocking to North Dakota are part of an “age-old American journey” to the frontier in search of opportunity, said Moss. “We know from the gold rush of 1849, all those guys that went out there to mine for gold really found very little. They found, maybe, something else,” he said. “So I wanted to follow people, including Jay, to see whether this boom brought redemption and opportunity and promise that they were seeking or whether it was fool’s gold–whether the reality of leaving your home and family behind and thinking you can go out and start a new life and save yourself or save your family, whether that’s an illusion. And I don’t think it is, but the reality of surviving in Williston is much, much harder than people realize.”

Reinke was “at the pinch point of these tremendous forces,” Moss said. The film presents Reinke as a hero, but a flawed hero. True generosity has a cost. “You and I are a lot more alike that we are different,” Reinke tells a drug addict staying in the church in the film. “I’m broken, we’re broken.” Those in churches and nonprofits will find the film painful to watch, because the story is familiar in the pitfalls of well-intentioned ministry and the personal failings of leaders. Moss produced an honest, messy story that comes from spending 18 months watching an overstretched church and an overstretched pastor. 

The film festival audiences didn’t all react warmly. In a brief discussion with Moss and Reinke after the screening of The Overnighters, one woman stood up and told Reinke that his faith was “silly,” and that he was “anti-Semitic” for pushing “your version of Christianity.” She concluded, “The pastor was promoting a Nazi environment.” Audience members began to boo and shout at her, but Moss immediately stepped in to defend Reinke: “What I saw in that church was America. Next question.”

Another woman stood up a few minutes later. “I just want to dispute what the other lady said,” she began. “I thought I was going to see something about a pastor and religion and I was leery. Or about fracking and I was going to be [ticked] off. But I loved the film. Thank you.”

Audience members swarmed Reinke after, and he unobtrusively shared his faith. As they praised his service, he talked about Lutheran liturgy, where you recite, “Lord, your Word is true, I have sinned,” at the opening of services. It’s not, Lord, here are the good things I’ve done this week, he told a knot of Manhattanites around him.

ONE REASON DOCUMENTARY FILMMAKERS may not make many films about devout Christians is that they sometimes struggle to find willing subjects. Another major documentary at Tribeca, Misconception, had an evangelical Christian as one of three main characters. The film by Oscar-winning director Jessica Yu is about population trends and follows three story lines: a Chinese bachelor frustrated in his search for a wife under the one-child policy; an evangelical Christian and pro-life advocate at the UN; and a Ugandan journalist who writes about abandoned children.

In producing Misconception, Yu wanted to highlight religious advocates at the UN and met with the coalition of pro-life groups there. They all refused to participate in the film, except for Denise Mountenay, who is winningly earnest in her faith but said enough cringeworthy comments that she was probably not the best representative of the group. (When Mountenay is meeting with the delegate from Bangladesh about abortion, she gives him a model of a baby at 10 weeks in brown plastic and says: “It’s your color!”) The audience laughed at Mountenay through the film, though she was sitting in the audience. Still, she gamely went to the front for questions after and said she loved the film.

“There’s some mistrust [from Christians] and I understand that,” said Yu in an interview. “But I think that’s what leads to the lack of communication. We did want to tell the story from a perspective you don’t see a lot at film festivals.”

Moss in filming The Overnighters put considerable effort into building relationships in the church; he went by himself instead of with a crew, to be more approachable. For six months of the filming, he slept in the church with all the men, but members of the church still felt that he shouldn’t be intruding.

“It would have been nice if they had been a little more forthcoming, but I don’t think they’re painted in a reductive way. I think they’re really dignified in their voice, because they deserve to be,” Moss said. “I would love to show this in churches, in seminaries across America, if they would have me.”

Fighting For The World’s Original Christians

 

Religious leaders band together to support believers in Egypt, Iraq, and Syria

By J.C. Derrick

(WNS)--A broad coalition of religious leaders and organizations on Wednesday announced a pledge of solidarity and call to action for American Christians to stand with persecuted communities in Egypt, Iraq, and Syria.

“The targeting of religious minorities in the Middle East is heart-breaking, and we should respond with a combination of tears and anger,” said Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals during a press conference on Capitol Hill.

Reps. Frank Wolf, R-Va., and Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., co-chairs of the Religious Minorities in the Middle East Caucus, hosted the event and urged American believers to pray, give, and advocate on behalf of suffering Christians. They also called on the U.S. Senate to pass legislation to create a State Department special envoy for religious minorities in the Middle East and South Central Asia, which the House has twice passed with overwhelming bipartisan support.

“These are the original Christians of the world,” said Eshoo, who co-authored the bill and comes from both Armenian and Assyrian heritage. “Why the Western world has not had a greater appreciation for this really mystifies us.”

More than 175 leaders from Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox traditions signed the pledge of solidarity, including Anderson, Franklin Graham, president of Samaritan’s Purse, James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, Jerry Johnson, president of the National Religious Broadcasters, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Catholic archbishop of Washington, Canon Andrew White, chaplain at St. George Anglican Church in Baghdad, and WORLD Editor Mindy Belz.

Belz traveled to Iraq last month and chronicled the dwindling Christian population there in WORLD’s May 17 issue. The story features White, known as the vicar of Baghdad, who attended Wednesday’s press conference. He urged U.S. Christians to join their brothers and sisters who are struggling to survive: “You might be here in D.C., I might be in Baghdad, but we are one. We are together the children of God.”

White went on to reel off a list of experiences most Americans can’t imagine: He’s been shot at, kidnapped, and thrown into rooms with people who had their fingers and toes chopped off. He’s also seen terrorists blow up his church and medical clinic. “I will never, ever leave,” White told me afterward. “I can’t leave the people I love. I will be there until the last person is there.”

White, who on Saturday received the Wilberforce Award from the Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview, estimates about 1,000 of his parishioners have died at the hands of Islamic extremists in the last five years. According to the United Nations, insurgents killed 8,868 Iraqi civilians in 2013.

In Syria, the three-year-old civil war has devastated the Christian population, even though some have remained steadfastly in place. Last week, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom added Egypt to its list of the worst religious freedom violators in the world, a problem that has grown progressively worse since the country’s 2011 revolution.

Christians form the largest non-Muslim religious minority in the Middle East, totaling about 15 million. The majority of those live in Egypt, Iraq, and Syria, which is why the group chose to highlight those three countries, said Nina Shea, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom. “What is happening in Egypt, Iraq, and Syria is different,” she said. “Christians are being targeted for their faith. If they are driven out, the entire Christian population is at risk.”

With nation-wide elections coming in the fall, Anderson suggested Christians ask every candidate what they intend to do to support those persecuted in the three countries. “Syria, Iraq, and Egypt are becoming the most unsafe places in the world for Christians,” he said.

While the pledge focuses on the plight of Christians, it also notes other “defenseless religious groups” suffer in the three countries, including Mandeans, Yizidis, Baha’is, and Ahmadis. “It has become abundantly clear that the brutal extremist campaigns are resulting in the eradication of non-Muslim religious communities” and denial of even basic rights for those who remain, the pledge said.

 

NATIONAL BRIEFS

 

National Prayers for National Problems

 

(WNS)--James Dobson, the radio host and founder of Focus on the Family, took President Barack Obama and his administration to task over abortion during a Capitol Hill event tied to today’s National Day of Prayer. Dobson, making his remarks in the middle of the three-hour ceremony, told the gathering of lawmakers and faith leaders that he tries to refrain from making political statements at such events. “But something we are all about is morality,” he added, “and there is an issue to come up that you all need to know about.” That issue was abortion, particularly the Obamacare mandate that employers, including Christian groups like Dobson’s must provide insurance coverage for abortion drugs or face a fine.  

NEEDTOBREATHE’s Latest Album Earns Its Top-of-the Charts Billing

 

(WNS)--The band members of NEEDTOBREATHE may indeed have trouble breathing in the rare air they currently occupy. Their new album recently debuted at No. 1 on the Rock Albums chart, No. 1 on the Christian chart, and No. 3 on the overall Billboard 200 chart.

Homeschool Family Among Tornado Victims

(WNS)--Three members of a family known for its leadership in the homeschool community died in a tornado in Arkansas. The storm system, which spawned dozens of tornadoes in southern states Sunday, Monday, and early Tuesday, has resulted in 31 deaths so far. The Tittle family of Paron, Ark., runs a bookselling business called ReformationKidz that’s popular among homeschoolers. Rob Tittle, 48, and two of his nine children—Tori, 20, and Rebekah, 14—died in the storm. One of Tittle’s daughters, 17-year-old Emily, said her parents and siblings were running to take cover beneath a staircase when the tornado hit their two-story home. “You could just see the wind was just crazy,” she said. It tore away the walls and destroyed the house. In addition to working with ReformationKidz, Rob Tittle was an employee of FamilyLife, a Christian ministry in Little Rock that hosts marriage retreats and a radio show.

Pro-Gay Groups Set Their Sights on the South

 

(WNS)--The nation’s largest gay rights advocacy group is putting down roots in the South.

Last week, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) announced it will spend $8.5 million over the next three years to set up permanent offices and staff in Alabama, Arkansas, and Mississippi. HRC’s goal is to expand social and legal protections in those states for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered (LGBT) residents. HRC says the program, called Project One America, is targeting Alabama, Arkansas, and Mississippi because they lack sexual orientation nondiscrimination laws in employment, housing, and public accommodations, and because all three states constitutionally define marriage as a union between one man and one woman. They blame some of this on lack of funding, citing a study that found that grant funding for every LGBT adult in the Northeast in 2011-2012 was $10.10, compared to $1.71 in the South.

Defense: Politics Prompted D’Souza Prosecution

 

(WNS)--Conservative author and filmmaker Dinesh D'Souza has filed a motion alleging the U.S. Attorney’s office is selectively prosecuting him based on his politics. D’Souza faces charges for making $20,000 in straw donations to a New York Senate campaign. If the judge in the case rejects his motion for dismissal, the May trial will be intensely personal, according to recently filed pre-trial documents. The trial is set for May 20. D’Souza faces up to 16 months in prison. The prosecution plans to call as witnesses D’Souza’s former mistress, Denise Joseph; her former husband, Louis Joseph; D’Souza’s wife Dixie D’Souza; and Tyler Vawser, D’Souza’s former assistant at The King’s College, where he was once president.

Google Goaded Into Purging Pro-Life Ads

 

(WNS)--NARAL Pro-Choice America has been pecking at Google to remove “deceptive” advertisements placed by crisis pregnancy centers (CPC) for months. In late April, the abortion-rights group trumpeted victory: Google has apparently plucked from its search results more than two-thirds of ads placed by CPCs for allegedly violating its policy against “misleading, inaccurate, and deceitful ads” that “hurt everyone.” NARAL President Ilyse Hogue called the ads a “deliberate misinformation campaign” and “manipulation” targeting women who are searching online for abortion services and resources. The Washington Post reported that an analysis by NARAL discovered 79 percent of CPC ads “indicated that they provided medical services such as abortions, when, in fact, they are focused on counseling services and on providing information about alternatives to abortion.” NARAL representatives did not respond to my request for an interview.

INTERNATIONAL BRIEFS

                 

Copyright to the preceding content is held by WORLD Magazine, except where noted. Copyrighted stories for which the copyright is held by others must be printed with copyright information. These stories may not be reprinted, broadcast, made available through electronic retrieval systems, or put to any commercial use except by paying subscribers of the WNS Service. WNS Service subscribers are licensed for print rights only. However, these stories may be posted to a subscriber’s web-site or electronic or broadcast medium with prior written consent. WNS is delivered every Friday – except Christmas and 4th of July week -- via e-mail to subscribers. For information on becoming a licensed subscriber, write to: WORLD News Service, 4701 Beech Crest Place, Charlotte, NC 28269. You can reach us by phone at (704) 661-9137 (USA), or by e-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . 

WORLD News Service – May 2 2014

                                                                                                                                   

Faith Pushes Boston Marathon Winner Across the Finish Line

Competing With a Smile: Two months later, Team USA women say Jesus is better by far than gold or silver

National Prayers for National Problems: Speakers at today’s National Day of Prayer event addressed abortion, religious liberty, and the need for humility

NEEDTOBREATHE’s Latest Album Earns Its Top-of-the Charts Billing

Inside a Christian Artist’s Studio

Homeschool Family Among Tornado Victims: ReformationKidz’ Rob Tittle and two of his daughters are among more than 30 who died in the storm that clobbered the South.

Pro-Gay Groups Set Their Sights on the South

Defense: Politics Prompted D’Souza Prosecution: If the judge refuses Dinesh D’Souza’s selective prosecution motion for dismissal, his May trial will be messy and personal

Google Goaded Into Purging Pro-Life Ads: Popular search engine allegedly removes ‘deceptive’ pregnancy center ads at pro-abortion group’s prompting

NATIONAL BRIEFS

 

INTERNATIONAL BRIEFS

 

                                                                                                                                   

Faith Pushes Boston Marathon Winner Across the Finish Line

 

By Andrew Branch

(WNS)--As he struggled through the last few miles of the Boston Marathon, winner Meb Keflezighi said he couldn’t even look up the hill. He had to take it one step at a time, a philosophy that has defined much of his life. Keflezighi battled nausea and pain Monday to eke out the 26.2 miles in a personal-best 2 hours, 8 minutes, 37 seconds. He held off Kenya’s Wilson Chebet by 11 seconds a year after bombs killed three and wounded 260 at last year’s marathon finish line.

Running just two weeks before his 39th birthday, Keflezighi added Boston to a resume that includes a silver medal in the 2004 Olympics.The Eritrean refugee was a teenager when he emigrated to San Diego, and the now-U.S. citizen became the first American man to win in Boston since 1983. But after devastating career and spiritual setbacks in 2007, the professed Christian seemed more than a long shot to break the streak. 

At the 2007 Olympic trials in New York City, Keflezighi fractured his hip and lost his good friend Ryan Shay, who died early in the race. “I don’t understand, but I know God is in control,” Keflezighi told friend Josh Cox in an article for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. He spent much of the next year at home, crawling and moving his leg by hand to shift his position in bed. But through prayer, he determined God wasn’t through with his talent. He began to train again, eventually winning races and even scoring personal bests. He went back to New York and won its marathon in 2009, the first American to do so in 27 years. 

A win in Boston was the only thing missing from his resume, but he pulled out of the marathon last April because of an injury. “The four victims that died were spectators just like me,” he said, referring to the people who died in the bombing and the police officer shot by the bombers several days later. Keflezighi had all four victims’ names added to his race bib and thought of them as he built up a big lead Monday. But he almost vomited at mile 22, and Chebet closed the gap over the final two miles. “It was coming close at the end,” Keflezighi said. “But at the same time, I just said, ‘I’ve got to finish.’” He asked God to give him the energy of the crowd and of the four names on his bib. “He did,” Keflezighi said after the win.

With a noticeable change in his stride as he turned on Boylston Street, Keflezighi pushed toward the finish. He threw his arms in the air and broke into tears after crossing the finish line, then draped himself in the American flag. He sobbed during an emotional rendition of the national anthem. “I’m blessed for God to give me the opportunity to do it, and try to touch people’s lives,” he said. “And you know what? We did it.”

Marathon officials said 35,755 runners registered for the race, and 31,779 crossed the finish line before the clock was turned off at 6:15 p.m. To break the drought of American winners was “God’s time,” Keflezighi said, and “it couldn’t have been on a better day.”

 

Competing With a Smile

 

Two months later, Team USA women say Jesus is better by far than gold or silver

By Andrew Branch

(WNS)--Defenders Anne Schleper and Gigi Marvin are the Bible study leaders for the U.S. women’s Olympic hockey team. Before February’s Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, they shared their faith manifestos with the ministry Athletes in Action.

Schleper writes “A01” on her stick for games, she said, because she’s playing for an “Audience of One.” Her sport isn’t first in her life. Rather, she seeks to glorify God through it. Marvin is as much on Team Jesus Christ as she is Team USA, she said. She can’t but enjoy to compete and “have a huge smile” because of what God has done for her. “If we win a gold medal, it’s going to fade,” Marvin said at the time. “It’s nothing compared to Jesus Christ and his prize.”

Their faith vignettes sounded deep and genuine. But athletes commonly state their faith from the mountaintop or, as with Marvin and Schleper, before starting the Olympic climb. The smiles turned to blank stares after Team USA lost the gold medal game against Canada—a game it led 2-0 with 3½ minutes remaining. While the Olympic official was putting the silver medals around their necks, where were those priorities—really?

“Oh, Jesus is by far better! There’s no question there,” Schleper told me. “Hands down, Jesus Christ,” Marvin said. Having losses, failures, and sorrows are part of life, they said. She didn’t have a smile on her face when Team USA lost, “and that’s a period of grief,” Marvin said. “Does that mean that your faith is shattered? No. … It simply means that you feel the emotions that Christ has blessed us with.”

Several believers on the team support each other with the acronym SIC for “Strength in Christ.” And being on a team, Marvin told me, proves Ecclesiastes 4:10—“Pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up.” Processing the defeat two months later means growing to appreciate the entire journey Team USA had together, both in the Olympics and their greater spiritual lives. “So afterward, can I say, you know: ‘Jesus, you satisfy more than a gold medal could ever satisfy—or a silver medal could ever satisfy?’” Schleper said. 

National Prayers for National Problems

 

Speakers at today’s National Day of Prayer event addressed abortion, religious liberty, and the need for humility

By Edward Lee Pitts

(WNS)--James Dobson, the radio host and founder of Focus on the Family, took President Barack Obama and his administration to task over abortion during a Capitol Hill event tied to today’s National Day of Prayer.

Dobson, making his remarks in the middle of the three-hour ceremony, told the gathering of lawmakers and faith leaders that he tries to refrain from making political statements at such events.

“But something we are all about is morality,” he added, “and there is an issue to come up that you all need to know about.”

That issue was abortion, particularly the Obamacare mandate that employers, including Christian groups like Dobson’s must provide insurance coverage for abortion drugs or face a fine.  

Dobson didn’t pull any punches.

“In a sense he is the abortion president,” Dobson said of Obama. Later Dobson read aloud a letter he sent to policymakers saying that the “assault on the sanctity of human life takes me where I cannot go.”

Dobson, to a standing ovation from most in attendance, pledged not to pay any abortion surcharges, no matter the amount because “to pay one cent for the killing of babies is egregious to me.” Warning that God will not hold anyone guiltless for turning a deaf ear to abortion, Dobson promised to “do all I can to confront the government” on the issue.

“So come and get me Mr. President if you must,” Dobson said. “I will not yield to your wicked regulations.”

Dobson’s group recently won a round in this battle. On April 17, a Colorado judge granted a preliminary injunction to Family Talk, Dobson’s radio ministry, that exempts it from the Obamacare requirement to cover the “morning-after” pill and other abortifacient contraception in its health insurance. Federal District Judge Robert Blackburn wrote that there is a “substantial likelihood” that Family Talk can show that the regulations are a “substantial burden on the exercise of their religion.”

Dobson, at Thursday’s prayer event, said the fine that would have taken effect that day and would have amounted to $800,000 a year for his organization. Dobson said such a fine would have forced his ministry to close its doors. He told the audience that before the court ruling, his board voted unanimously not to pay the fine and take the consequences. He added that his group was not deemed religious enough by the Obama administration to be exempt from the mandate.

“I have given my life to the cause of Christ, or tried to, and yet the government did not recognize that,” Dobson said, his voice breaking.

Ironically, considering Dobson’s remarks and the fact that more than 100 similar lawsuits by religious organizations also are making their way through the courts, a judge was one of the featured speakers at Thursday’s prayer event in Washington, D.C.

Judge Maurice Foley is the first African-American to be appointed to the United States Tax Court. Then-President Bill Clinton appointed him in 1995, and Obama reappointed him to another 15-year term in 2010. Foley said that during both of his confirmation hearings he made it very clear to lawmakers that “I don’t judge on their behalf. I judge on the Lord’s behalf.”

He spoke about the importance of humility for judges, describing how being a goodly father and godly husband are the best training for a judgeship.

“By doing that you get a doctorate in humility,” he said.

He chided Christians for letting their pride impair their relationship with God, turning Him into a “heavenly servant or cosmic concierge.” Deep reverence and respect for the Lord gained by Bible study and prayer creates accountability, Foley said.

“If not for my relationship with the Lord, I might be crazy enough to think that I was in control and that I had all the answers,” he said. “But it is the relationship with the Lord and the power of the Holy Spirit that enables a judge to do what everybody thinks a judge should do, and that’s be fair, be just, be patient, and be a good listener.”

Similar events marking the National Day of Prayer occurred around the nation. All 50 governors signed proclamations or statements calling for a day of prayer in their states. Obama’s own prayer proclamation called prayer “an essential act of worship and a daily discipline. “

Obama also asked the nation not to “forget those around the world, including Americans, who are being held or persecuted because of their convictions. Let us remember all prisoners of conscience today, whatever their faiths or beliefs and wherever they are held. Let us continue to take every action within our power to secure their release.”

But the National Day of Prayer did not come without controversy in at least one state. The Colorado Supreme Court held oral arguments on Thursday in a case involving an atheist group’s efforts to block the governor from issuing honorary prayer proclamations. Dobson warned that if Colorado’s high court acts to bar such proclamations it could begin a process of erosion of the support that prayer has had throughout the country. Dobson noted that 34 of the nation’s 44 presidents have called for a National Day of Prayer while more than 1,200 such proclamations have been issued by a government executive in the country’s history.

Meanwhile, an organization aimed at eliminating the presence of religion in the military continued to criticize the participation in prayer events by military officials in uniform. Mikey Weinstein, the founder and president of one group, sent a letter last week to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel asking that such practices be barred.

“The planned participation by uniformed U.S. military personnel in this private fundamentalist Christian religious event, run by a non-federal entity, is an unequivocally clear violation of the plethora of (Defense Department) regulations and instructions," Weinstein wrote.

But Major General Joseph S. Ward, the Deputy Director of the Army & Air Force Exchange Service, did speak in uniform at Thursday’s event in Washington. He called himself a sinner who has a “deep and abiding faith in our Lord.”

Ward spoke about the inner battles many service members are facing, noting a statistic from the Veteran’s Administration that 22 veterans commit suicide each day.

“Our service men and women are hurting so are their families,” he said. “They need our prayers. In order to do so we must continue to allow our servicemen and women to freely and openly exercise their right to express their faith.”

The event’s keynote speaker was evangelist Anne Graham Lotz, the daughter of Rev. Billy Graham. She warned that the nation’s many fiscal and social challenges should be seen as alarms going off about the dangerous path the country is on.

“God is trying to wake us up before it is too late,” she said. “God’s judgment is ugly when it falls. And He never sneaks up and judges us by surprise. He always, always, always sends warnings … the only antidote, the only solution is repentance of sin.”

Lotz urged everyone to put aside mechanical prayers and to cry out to God.

NEEDTOBREATHE’s Latest Album Earns Its Top-of-the Charts Billing

 

By Jeff Koch

(WNS)--The band members of NEEDTOBREATHE may indeed have trouble breathing in the rare air they currently occupy. Their new album recently debuted at No. 1 on the Rock Albums chart, No. 1 on the Christian chart, and No. 3 on the overall Billboard 200 chart.

Numbers don’t always tell the tale of an album’s value, of course. But in this case, they seem to match the merit of the effort. Rivers In The Wasteland is a terrific example of authentic art and faith expression. The band displays a sophisticated musical palette that effortlessly combines rock and roots genres into original grooves and pithy poetry. It’s a diverse sound with a diverse audience—not exactly what you’d expect from a group of guys raised in the small town of Possum Kingdom, S.C.

Rivers In The Wasteland explores tensions and resolutions of various kinds and the journey begins, appropriately enough, in the “Wasteland.” A sparse, brooding guitar matches lead singer Bear Rinehart’s melancholy meditation: “I’m wasting my way through days/losing youth along the way.” The harsh environs of the wilderness also strip the powerful delusion of self-importance: “There was a greatness I thought for a while/But somehow it changed/some kind of blindness I used to protect me/from all of my stains.” Ostracized by his conscience and subjected to painful isolation from others, Rinehart comforts himself with the refrain, “If God is on my side, who can be against me?” New instruments flood and refresh the soundscape as this truth takes hold and becomes a “crack in the door filled with light.”

Foot-stomping and hand-clapping kick off the jangly-driving blues tune “Feet Don’t Fail Me Now.” Rinehart’s fleet-footed escape from relentless pursuers is reminiscent of King David: “I got this target/right here on my back/They’re aiming where I was/Not where I’m at.” Listeners race along with the character as the music, propelled by strong electric guitar riffs, keeps them moving and shuffling like a good old blues piece should.

Several of the songs on Rivers In The Wasteland are not explicitly religious but explore tensions of another kind—whether romantic, in “Oh Carolina,” or philosophical, such as in “Difference Maker,” which wrestles with conundrums and seeming paradoxes. None of which, however, means the band is shy about ordinary expressions of faith. In “Multiplied,” a sparkling guitar marvelously complements the comparison of God’s love to “radiant diamonds bursting inside.”

That vertical love spills over into the horizontal in “Brother,” an anthem-style piece insisting we are indeed our brother’s keeper. Stirring vocals, soulful piano, and a rock-solid groove knock the chorus to inspiring heights: “Brother let me be your shelter/Never leave you all alone/I can be the one to call/when you’re low.”

Laid-back banjo picking and easy-strumming guitar lend the feel of an intimate conversation to “More Heart, Less Attack.” It’s an appropriate tone for a tune meant to be a gentle reproof between friends. The song reminds us to balance conviction with grace so we can “be the light in the cracks/be the one that’s mending the camel’s back/slow to anger and quick to laugh/be more heart and less attack.” It’s a reminder worth heeding in these difficult days.

Inside a Christian Artist’s Studio

 

By Susan Olasky

(WNS)--Anne Nelson’s studio in New Orleans’ 8th Ward has 12- or 14-foot ceilings and plenty of light. It’s small—about 15 by 15 feet, and cluttered with canvases. Paintings and sketches hang on the walls.

She is looking at two abstract canvases hanging side-by-side. Each painting is about 3 feet tall and 3 1/2 feet wide. 

Nelson is trying to explain what comes next. She points at the left-hand painting.

“Is this one finished?” she asks. “Probably not. Two days ago, I put a lot of black outlines around this mass. I want to bring blue and gray on top to make the surface. A couple of marks that keep it from being finished.”

Making abstract art is a conversational process, she says.

“What I love about it—I don't have complete control over it. I’m going to make marks that I didn’t anticipate. I'll have to react to that. Fun and interesting to do,” she says.

Nelson studied art at Bethel College in Minnesota, near her home in Minneapolis. She began painting representationally—often landscapes. But that began to change as she struggled to make sense of some of her life experiences.

After graduating from Bethel, Nelson moved to New Orleans to be Artist-in-Residence at St. Roch Community Church, a member of the Presbyterian Church in America. During her nine months in that position, she made many paintings. She applied to the Master of Fine Arts program at Tulane University, was accepted, and graduated in May 2013. Since then, she’s been a member of the Staple Goods Collective, where she has her studio—and where she is puzzling over the two canvases.

Nelson said the forms on the canvases aren’t symbols for anything, but they are connected in some way to faith. She rarely paints Christian subjects, but her faith is part of who she is and what she values. The two paintings she’s working on are her first attempts to deal with her faith directly.

“That’s really the first time I’ve deliberately dealt with my faith life as being subject matter,” Nelson says. “It’s slightly terrifying.”

There’s a small gallery at the front of Staple Goods. Nelson has shown her art there and curated shows for other artists. She says trying to make a living as an artist is difficult. She teaches at Tulane, works for Habitat for Humanity, and sells paintings. 

“For a couple of years, I was only living off of sales and my grad stipend,” she said. “And then the grad stipend ended, and I went back to work in the real world over the summer just for a few months. But you’re just basically constantly pulling together a variety of ways to fund life.”

She said she loves teaching and hopes to keep doing it. It offers stability and helps her afford art supplies. Canvas is $300 a roll, but it can last 18 months, depending on how much she buys. Paint is $45 a tube. But her biggest expenses are two rents, one for an apartment and the other for her studio. Still, despite all the juggling, Nelson can’t imagine not painting.

“It’s just part of how I think,” she said. “I’m going to respond to something visually. I’m going to be looking at art. It gets really stressful to be constantly tracking down the next job and the next grant and the next residency and the next show. But even if I were to burn out on that for a while, I would still be making stuff in the meantime.”

Homeschool Family Among Tornado Victims

 

ReformationKidz’ Rob Tittle and two of his daughters are among more than 30 who died in the storm that clobbered the South.

By Daniel James Devine

(WNS)--Three members of a family known for its leadership in the homeschool community died in a tornado Sunday evening in Arkansas. The storm system, which spawned dozens of tornadoes in southern states Sunday, Monday, and early Tuesday, has resulted in 31 deaths so far.

The Tittle family of Paron, Ark., runs a bookselling business called ReformationKidz that’s popular among homeschoolers. Rob Tittle, 48, and two of his nine children—Tori, 20, and Rebekah, 14—died in the storm.

One of Tittle’s daughters, 17-year-old Emily, said her parents and siblings were running to take cover beneath a staircase when the tornado hit their two-story home. “You could just see the wind was just crazy,” she said. It tore away the walls and destroyed the house.

In addition to working with ReformationKidz, Rob Tittle was an employee of FamilyLife, a Christian ministry in Little Rock that hosts marriage retreats and a radio show. Mike Hefner, an administrator and elder at the Tittles’ church, The Bible Church of Little Rock, said the Tittles are a homeschooling family that spearheads a church ministry to provide used clothes and household items for needy church members.

“They did everything together. They served as a family,” Hefner said. “Even the little kids were separating clothes.”

The rest of the family survived the storm. FamilyLife said four of the children sustained broken bones. One of the siblings, Whitney, 19, wrote on Facebook, “We have lost three of our family … Dad, Tori and Rebekah. Prayers would be appreciated. The house is gone stripped from the foundation. The Lord gives and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord.”

Hefner said the church has set up a fund for people seeking to assist Tittle’s wife, Kerry, and her seven surviving children. The children, four girls and three boys, range in age from 19 to 2.

In a tribute to Rob Tittle and his family, FamilyLife posted a photo showing a photograph and piece of packaging that belonged to the Tittles. The tornado had blown them 80 miles away to Heber Springs, Ark. The organization said another staff couple had also lost their home and survived by sheltering in a bedroom closet.

The Tittles were among at least 17 people killed on Sunday by the storms, 15 of them in Arkansas. Dozens more were injured. The tornado that tore through Little Rock, the Arkansas capital, grew to be a half a mile wide. It touched down about 10 miles west of the city, then moved through northern suburbs in a path at least 30 miles long, according to the National Weather Service.

More tornadoes spawned Monday and Tuesday. Monday saw at least 50 twisters, and 13 people dead, including two in Athens, Ala., where hail fell and winds knocked down trees and power lines, NBC News reported.

The storm system affected numerous other communities throughout the South:

Vilonia, Ark. The tornado that hit the northern part of Little Rock also decimated homes in this small town of 4,100 residents. It is the second time in three years that a tornado has devastated Vilonia. On April 25, 2011, another twister took nearly the same path. Some homes destroyed or damaged in 2011 had been rebuilt, but were hit again. Sunday’s tornado demolished a new, $14 million intermediate school that had been scheduled to open in the fall. It would have served 900 students.

Mayflower, Ark. Samaritan’s Purse, a Christian relief organization, arrived in Mayflower on Tuesday morning with a disaster-relief unit. Karina Petersen, a member of the team, told me the town looked like it had been bulldozed.

“It’s just a giant debris field. Houses, businesses, are just broke down to sticks. Cars and trucks are smashed, upside down,” she said. “To think that there are survivors in this is amazing.”

Over the next few days, Petersen expected dozens of Samaritan volunteers to arrive in Mayflower from across the United States. They’ll use gloves, rakes, wheelbarrows, and 18 chainsaws from the organization’s tractor-trailer to help homeowners clean up what remains of their homes and yards, salvage belongings, and cover damaged roofs with tarps.

They’ll also help residents search the rubble for personal mementos. “That’s a really emotionally exhausting thing for these homeowners,” Petersen said.

Tupelo, Miss. A tornado struck Tupelo on Monday afternoon, causing dozens of injuries, toppling telephone poles, demolishing homes, and blowing 18-wheelers off the highway. Local NBC station WTVA was on the air when a tornado approached, sending the news team scurrying toward the basement.

Southern Tennessee. A tornado reportedly struck Lincoln County, near the state’s border with Alabama, ripping most of the roof off of South Lincoln Elementary and tossing a school bus into the side of the building. At least two tornadoes touched down in southern Tennessee on Monday, leveling homes in Crystal Springs and near Flintville, two rural communities. At least two people were killed in the region.

Pro-Gay Groups Set Their Sights on the South

 

By Kiley Crossland

(WNS)--The nation’s largest gay rights advocacy group is putting down roots in the South.

Last week, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) announced it will spend $8.5 million over the next three years to set up permanent offices and staff in Alabama, Arkansas, and Mississippi. HRC’s goal is to expand social and legal protections in those states for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered (LGBT) residents.

HRC says the program, called Project One America, is targeting Alabama, Arkansas, and Mississippi because they lack sexual orientation nondiscrimination laws in employment, housing, and public accommodations, and because all three states constitutionally define marriage as a union between one man and one woman. They blame some of this on lack of funding, citing a study that found that grant funding for every LGBT adult in the Northeast in 2011-2012 was $10.10, compared to $1.71 in the South.

Project One America’s 20 full-time, local staff members will be tasked with nine launch goals, including encouraging more LGBT people to come out publicly and raising the visibility of LGBT issues, as well as building partnerships with “faith communities, communities of color, business communities, and conservatives.” Project One America also hopes to expand anti-discrimination laws to include sexual orientation as a protected class.

HRC is not alone in targeting southern conservative states. Tim Gill, a Colorado philanthropist and gay-rights activist who was instrumental in turning the tide of public opinion in Colorado, says his foundation is investing $25 million into other conservative-leaning states in the next five years, according to The New York Times.

“We can’t allow two distinct gay Americas to exist,” Gill told the Times. “Everybody should have the same rights and protections regardless of where they were born and where they live.” The Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, as well as the ACLU are also spreading their efforts to the South, according to the same article.

But many conservatives see this as an attack on their beliefs, said Jerry Cox, the director of the Arkansas Family Council. The group sponsored the Arkansas Marriage Amendment that passed with 75 percent of the vote in 2004.

“I would differ with their assessment of the South,” he said.“I believe most people in Arkansas formed their opinions about homosexuality based on their Christian faith.”

He said trying to persuade people about LGBT issues is “really trying to get them to change what for some people is a deep-seated religious conviction that homosexuality is wrong.”

Cox says his organization will “continue doing what we’ve always done: promote traditional marriage and talk about it being the gold standard for husband and wife relationships and child rearing.” He also said churches can be a game changer. “Will the people who stand in the pulpits boldly proclaim a biblical view of human sexuality or will they be silent?”

Defense: Politics Prompted D’Souza Prosecution

 

If the judge refuses Dinesh D’Souza’s selective prosecution motion for dismissal, his May trial will be messy and personal

By Emily Belz

(WNS)--Conservative author and filmmaker Dinesh D'Souza has filed a motion alleging the U.S. Attorney’s office is selectively prosecuting him based on his politics. D’Souza faces charges for making $20,000 in straw donations to a New York Senate campaign. If the judge in the case rejects his motion for dismissal, the May trial will be intensely personal, according to recently filed pre-trial documents. The trial is set for May 20. D’Souza faces up to 16 months in prison.

The prosecution plans to call as witnesses D’Souza’s former mistress, Denise Joseph; her former husband, Louis Joseph; D’Souza’s wife Dixie D’Souza; and Tyler Vawser, D’Souza’s former assistant at The King’s College, where he was once president.

The prosecution indicated it would raise the issue of D’Souza’s marital infidelity, which led to his resignation at King’s, in the trial. For one, D’Souza allegedly made a donation on his wife’s behalf without her consent, forging her signature, though that is not one of the straw donations at issue. D’Souza’s defense team, in response, said it would raise the infidelity of the prosecution’s witnesses. According to the defense, D’Souza’s wife was involved in an affair before he began his affair with Denise Joseph. The defense also alleged that Louis Joseph was in an affair at the same time Joseph was involved with D’Souza. Louis Joseph made a secret recording of his then-wife discussing the allegations against D’Souza. The prosecution wants to use the recording as evidence, while the defense says the man was motivated to record his wife out of spite for D’Souza.

“It is respectfully submitted that if the government intends to offer proof of defendant's affair with Denise Joseph, the door will be opened to evidence that the defendant’s conduct was no more egregious than that of other witnesses whom the government intends to offer,” D’Souza’s defense wrote. “In fact, four of the principle witnesses/characters in this case were, at various times, engaged in extramarital affairs. However distasteful, it is nevertheless a subject that will have to be discussed with each of the witnesses in order to demonstrate bias and in fairness to the defendant. At the least, it will be necessary by such proof to place the defendant’s own personal affair in proper context.”

The prosecution also expects Vawser, who was one of the straw donors to Wendy Long’s Senate campaign, to testify that D’Souza told Vawser to lie about the donation.

“The allegations in this case constitute a complete aberration from the excellent reputation for honesty [D’Souza] enjoys among his peers and colleagues,” wrote the defense, in another filing. “While his politics may be controversial, no one disputes his character, ability, and work ethic.”

Before the trial gets into such murky personal waters, District Judge Richard Berman must settle the defense’s selective prosecution motion, which claims prosecutors are targeting D’Souza because he is “a sharp critic of the Obama presidency who has incurred the president’s wrath.” The defense said the investigation against D’Souza appeared to be “fast-tracked,” and listed multiple instances where similar straw donation cases were settled through fines rather than a criminal prosecution. The defense argued that the Federal Election Commission typically doesn’t pursue criminal prosecution in cases with violations under $25,000—especially one that “lacked any evidence of corruption.”

The government, in response, listed straw donation cases in which it pursued criminal prosecution against Democratic donors in amounts as low as $8,000 and $15,000. Just two weeks ago in New York, Sant Singh Chatwal pleaded guilty to organizing $188,000 in straw donations to Democratic candidates, including Hillary Clinton, and he faces 25 years in prison. The case differs from D’Souza’s in many details, but was one example of a criminal prosecution for straw donations.

“The defendant presents no evidence to the court to support his claim of selective prosecution, only speculation and idle suspicion based upon the coincidence that he has criticized the Obama administration and now is being prosecuted by the federal government during Obama’s presidency,” prosecutors wrote. “The reality is that in virtually every case involving conduit campaign contributions, the defendant is likely to be involved in politics in one way or another, and the types of claims the defendant makes here could be made in virtually every conduit contribution case where the defendant does not support the politics of the current president.”

If the motion to dismiss the case because of selective prosecution fails, the trial is only expected to last a few days, so the jury should render a verdict well before the July 4 release of D’Souza’s new film, America.

Google Goaded Into Purging Pro-Life Ads

 

Popular search engine allegedly removes ‘deceptive’ pregnancy center ads at pro-abortion group’s prompting

By Sophia Lee

(WNS)--NARAL Pro-Choice America has been pecking at Google to remove “deceptive” advertisements placed by crisis pregnancy centers (CPC) for months. On Monday, the abortion-rights group trumpeted victory: Google has apparently plucked from its search results more than two-thirds of ads placed by CPCs for allegedly violating its policy against “misleading, inaccurate, and deceitful ads” that “hurt everyone.”

NARAL President Ilyse Hogue called the ads a “deliberate misinformation campaign” and “manipulation” targeting women who are searching online for abortion services and resources. The Washington Post reported that an analysis by NARAL discovered 79 percent of CPC ads “indicated that they provided medical services such as abortions, when, in fact, they are focused on counseling services and on providing information about alternatives to abortion.” NARAL representatives did not respond to my request for an interview.

NARAL’s claims make it sound like the majority of CPC ads tell bare-face lies about their services and pretend to offer abortions. Clearly, many readers who commented on the Washington Post article got that impression, too. But none of the examples of “deceptive ads” highlighted on NARAL’s own website actually claims to provide abortion. One ad that popped up for the word search “abortion clinics hartford ct” had the headline “Abortion Information—Is it safe? How much does it cost?”

A word search for “abortion minnesota” displayed an ad stating, “Abortion Info for Teens: Teen abortion experiences, facts, stats, complications, survivors.” Another ad condemned on NARAL’s “Exposing Fake Clinics” Tumblr blog advertised “Abortion Resources” and “Free & Private Info/Ultrasounds. Determine Viability/Gestational Age.”

Perhaps the ad that best meets NARAL’s complaint is one from a CPC in Chicago: “Abortion Chicago Free—It’s Your Choice. You May Not Need An Abortion. Free Ultrasound & Test.” The ad’s title might be ambiguous, but the subtext is pretty clear: It tells women they may not need an abortion, not that they can get an abortion at the CPC.

Debi Harvey, director of Open Arms Pregnancy Clinic in Northridge, Calif., said it’s “very rare” that CPCs act with a lack of integrity in their advertising, literature, or counseling. All the CPCs she knows are affiliated with national organizations and “adhere to a strict standard of ethics,” she said. “It grieves me that ‘pro-choice’ people are so blatantly disparaging pregnancy centers. … They might find one exception, or two, or three, and then they publish a full-on report on how this is what all pregnancy centers do. They paint us with a very broad brush.”

NARAL and other anti-CPC groups frequently cite private investigations and official reports claiming CPCs distribute literature and quote debunked statistics on abortion risks, such as increased risk of breast cancer, future fertility problems, and psychological trauma. But the congressional committee report they wave as evidence was prepared in 2006 at the request of a Democratic representative with a long pro-abortion voting record. The report investigated only 25 out of the 2,500 pregnancy centers in the United States, of which 23 were successfully contacted and 20 were found “guilty” of “harmful and misleading” information. NARAL’s own private “investigations” are hardly objective, either.

NARAL’s main beef is the very existence of crisis pregnancy centers—a fact the group doesn’t attempt to hide. NARAL resorts to vicious name-calling when referring to CPCs, using labels like “fake clinics” and “predators.”

Brian Fisher, co-founder and president of Online for Life (whose website was not affected), said technology plays an “extremely important” role for the pro-life movement. About 2 million Internet searches in the United States involve abortion-related terms, and Google is still the most used search engine in the world by far. “I think it’s a matter of making sure people understand Google’s ad policy and abide by those policies,” Fisher said. “Our observation is that an overwhelming number of pro-life groups only advertise that women have options, and that they should consider those options.”

The removal of certain ads does not mean Google has completely banned advertisements for CPCs. As long as CPCs rework their ads and comply with Google standards, they can appear. A spokesman for Google said the company is “constantly reviewing ads to ensure they comply with our AdWords policies, which include strict guidelines related to ad relevance, clarity, and accuracy.” Google did not provide any specific examples of which ads they disabled.

Although Google is the first search engine to knuckle under to pressure from pro-abortion activists, it likely won’t be the last. Hogue told The Washington Post NARAL is encouraging other search engines to follow suit. Google’s main competitors are Yahoo! and Bing. Meanwhile, as part of its ongoing war against CPCs, the NARAL website provides a short quiz to “make sure you never accidentally visit” a CPC, and suggests posting negative reviews of CPCs on Yelp, a popular urban business rating and review site.

Despite all of the attention NARAL is getting over its announcement, it hasn’t won a complete victory. If Google did its due diligence and got rid of false advertising, that’s a win for everybody. A search with abortion-related terms on Google still shows some ads for CPCs. It’s not clear how many might have been removed.

Harvey said whenever things heat up for the pro-choice side, things heat up too for the pro-life side. “Ultimately, we’re affecting the bottom line dollars of the abortion industry,” she said. “So it’s a good sign, it’s just, it’s so sad to see this because I know our heart is in here to serve women and men through love, grace, truth and integrity. Anybody who is really pro-women could not object to what we do.”

 

NATIONAL BRIEFS

Bill Gothard Responds to Allegations

 

(WNS)--More than a month after stepping down as president of the ministry he founded, Bill Gothard released a statement that attempts to respond to allegations of sexual impropriety that ultimately led to his resignation from the Institute for Basic Life Principles (IBLP). “God has brought me to a place of greater brokenness than at any other time in my life,” Gothard wrote in the statement released April 17. “It is a grief to realize how my pride and insensitivity have affected so many people. I have asked the Lord to reveal the underlying causes and He is doing this.”  But the statement denied some of the more serious charges leveled against Gothard by the group Recovering Grace, which earlier this year released statements from 34 women detailing incidents dating back to the 1970s. The statements accuse Gothard of sexual harassment and—in one case—sexual abuse that included fondling but not rape. Recovering Grace issued its own statement, saying that despite “several positive aspects” found in Gothard’s statement, it nonetheless leaves the group “troubled.” The group said it “concluded that Gothard’s statement, as it stands, is incomplete.”

Pro-Life Movie Rebounds After Getting Kicked Off Popular Crowdfunding Site

 

(WNS)--A proposal for a pro-life movie is breaking records for crowdfunding, despite one popular website’s refusal to continue hosting its fundraising campaign. The campaign for Gosnell, a documentary about the Philadelphia abortionist convicted last year of murder, has raised more than $1.1 million to date, becoming the largest non-celebrity film on any crowdfunding site, according to The Heritage Foundation. The campaign, hosted on Indigogo, has reached 55 percent of its $2.1 million threshold since it launched on March 28, putting it in a good place to meet its May 12 deadline.  Some celebrities have also picked up the cause, including actor Kevin Sorbo from God’s Not Dead, and actor Nick Searcy, from the hit television series Justified.  “This is a story that needs to be told,” Searcy told the Washington Examiner. “No one wants to talk about it because the details are too damaging to certain political agendas.”

Baptists Talk Sex and Culture at Summit

 

(WNS)--The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) in late April held a Leadership Summit about human sexuality. The atmosphere at the summit was frank and unsettling at times, occasionally punctuated with slightly nervous laughter. Summit attendees heard sermons, panel discussions, speeches, and academic presentations, including a data-driven talk Tuesday by Mark Regnerus, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Texas. Regnerus reported younger Americans at large have rejected biblical sexual ethics, but all is not lost. “Among the 18- to 39-year-old pack, you thought you were losing them all on the culture-wars issues,” Regnerus said. “I don’t think you really are.” Regnerus also serves as senior fellow in sociology for the Austin Institute for the Study of Family and Culture. He said 11 percent of evangelical 18- to 39-year-olds support same-sex marriage. About 20 percent are not sure about it. 

INTERNATIONAL BRIEFS

                 

Copyright to the preceding content is held by WORLD Magazine, except where noted. Copyrighted stories for which the copyright is held by others must be printed with copyright information. These stories may not be reprinted, broadcast, made available through electronic retrieval systems, or put to any commercial use except by paying subscribers of the WNS Service. WNS Service subscribers are licensed for print rights only. However, these stories may be posted to a subscriber’s web-site or electronic or broadcast medium with prior written consent. WNS is delivered every Friday – except Christmas and 4th of July week -- via e-mail to subscribers. For information on becoming a licensed subscriber, write to: WORLD News Service, 4701 Beech Crest Place, Charlotte, NC 28269. You can reach us by phone at (704) 661-9137 (USA), or by e-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . 

WORLD News Service – April 25 2014

                                                                                                                                   

 

Bill Gothard Responds to Allegations: But the group Recovering Grace remains skeptical, calling the former ministry leader’s statement ‘incomplete’

 

Pro-Life Movie Rebounds After Getting Kicked Off Popular Crowdfunding Site

Baptists Talk Sex and Culture at Summit

The Debate on Christian Campuses About Bloody Abortion Photos

 

To Train Up A Pharisee: Michael and Debi Pearl’s method of discipline has many advocates, but critics say it lacks the gospel

South Korean Churches Rethink Easter: The utterance ‘Death where is your sting?’ takes on greater meaning after a great national disaster

NATIONAL BRIEFS

 

INTERNATIONAL BRIEFS

 

                                                                                                                                   

Bill Gothard Responds to Allegations

 

But the group Recovering Grace remains skeptical, calling the former ministry leader’s statement ‘incomplete’

By Warren Cole Smith

(WNS)--More than a month after stepping down as president of the ministry he founded, Bill Gothard released a statement that attempts to respond to allegations of sexual impropriety that ultimately led to his resignation from the Institute for Basic Life Principles (IBLP).

“God has brought me to a place of greater brokenness than at any other time in my life,” Gothard wrote in the statement released April 17. “It is a grief to realize how my pride and insensitivity have affected so many people. I have asked the Lord to reveal the underlying causes and He is doing this.”

But the statement denied some of the more serious charges leveled against Gothard by the group Recovering Grace, which earlier this year released statements from 34 women detailing incidents dating back to the 1970s. The statements accuse Gothard of sexual harassment and—in one case—sexual abuse that included fondling but not rape.

“My actions of holding of hands, hugs, and touching of feet or hair with young ladies crossed the boundaries of discretion and were wrong,” Gothard wrote. “They demonstrated a double-standard and violated a trust. Because of the claims about me I do want to state that I have never kissed a girl nor have I touched a girl immorally or with sexual intent.”

Recovering Grace issued its own statement today, saying that despite “several positive aspects” found in Gothard’s statement, it nonetheless leaves the group “troubled.” The group said it “concluded that Gothard’s statement, as it stands, is incomplete.”

The group singled out Gothard’s assertion that he did not touch a girl “immorally or with sexual intent.”

“There is a clear contradiction in this portion of Gothard’s statement, since the specific behaviors he confesses to (holding hands, hugs, and touching of feet or hair) are behaviors that even our broader culture views as sexual in nature between adults,” Recovering Grace’s statement read. “These unwanted behaviors are grossly inappropriate with students and subordinates, and sexually confusing to sheltered young women brought up in the strict ‘purity culture’ espoused by Gothard and his followers.”

The group pointed out that because Gothard’s actions occurred in the workplace, they would fall under the legal definition of sexual harassment. “This behavior was persistent and sexual in nature,” the group’s statement read, “and must be acknowledged as such.”

Recovering Grace also said it feared Gothard’s statement “leaves the door open” for him to return as the leader of IBLP. “Gothard did not outline a plan for avoiding similar failures in the future,” read the group’s statement, which also asked whether he had submitted himself to the authority of a local church or sought professional counseling. “It is our firm belief that Gothard needs to take these important steps going forward, lest he find himself repeating his past mistakes. As an outward manifestation of good faith and as a valuable method of public accountability, we would hope to see Gothard outline the corrective measures he is going to implement.”

Recovering Grace’s concern that Gothard might return to leadership of IBLP is rooted in the fact that the organization’s board of directors left the door open for his return. The board appointed an interim president, Tim Levendusky, on March 14, but it has so far not indicated publicly that it is searching for a permanent replacement. The statement announcing Levendusky’s appointment instead said that a “Christ-honoring review process shall continue and a future statement will be issued once the review is complete and submitted to the Board of Directors.”

In the 1970s and ’80s, Gothard filled 20,000-seat auditoriums with evangelical Christians who came to hear his weeklong seminars on biblical principles and practical applications, which included warnings against rock music and exhortations to stay out of debt. His seminars, attended by more than 2.5 million people, were particularly popular with the rapidly growing homeschool community. 

Pro-Life Movie Rebounds After Getting Kicked Off Popular Crowdfunding Site

 

By Rachel Lynn Aldrich

(WNS)--A proposal for a pro-life movie is breaking records for crowdfunding, despite one popular website’s refusal to continue hosting its fundraising campaign.

The campaign for Gosnell, a documentary about the Philadelphia abortionist convicted last year of murder, has raised more than $1.1 million to date, becoming the largest non-celebrity film on any crowdfunding site, according to The Heritage Foundation. The campaign, hosted on Indigogo, has reached 55 percent of its $2.1 million threshold since it launched on March 28, putting it in a good place to meet its May 12 deadline. 

Some celebrities have also picked up the cause, including actor Kevin Sorbo from God’s Not Dead, and actor Nick Searcy, from the hit television series Justified

“This is a story that needs to be told,” Searcy told the Washington Examiner. “No one wants to talk about it because the details are too damaging to certain political agendas.”

Gosnell’s producers moved their project to Indigogo after well-known crowdfunding site Kickstarter refused to continue hosting their campaign unless they changed their graphic description of Gosnell’s methods. In issuing the ultimatum, Kickstarter cited its Community Guidelines, which “encourage and enforce a culture of respect and consideration,” according to Crowdfund Insider.

Kickstarter CEO Yancey Strickler denies censoring the proposed movie, according to Crowdfund. But the producers refused to continue working with the site, which stood to make 5 percent of the money raised for the film—$105,000.

“We just couldn’t start telling this story by buying into an act of censorship,” journalist and filmmaker Phelim McAleer told NBC10. “We walked away. (The subject matter) is going to offend. We are not going to be part of community that’s offended by the truth.”

According to the producers, the movie aims to expose Kermit Gosnell’s crimes, which the media and Hollywood largely ignored. Their campaign page specifically cites the case of Jodi Arias, who was being tried for murdering her boyfriend at the same time as Gosnell’s trial. While Arias made daily headlines and has since had a TV movie made about her, Gosnell has been essentially ignored, they say.

Another group of filmmakers has already produced a documentary about Gosnell. 3801 Lancaster uses clips from a Senate hearing, interviews with neighbors and former patients, and photos from the investigation into what went on at Gosnell’s facility.

Gosnell’s directors are no beginners when it comes to crowdfunded documentaries. Irish journalists and filmmakers McAleer and Ann McElhinney and Polish documentary-maker Magdalena Segieda worked together on Kickstarter-funded FrackNation.

Baptists Talk Sex and Culture at Summit

 

By Nick Eicher & Lynde Langdon

(WNS)--The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) today wrapped up its Leadership Summit about human sexuality. The atmosphere at the summit was frank and unsettling at times, occasionally punctuated with slightly nervous laughter.

Summit attendees heard sermons, panel discussions, speeches, and academic presentations, including a data-driven talk Tuesday by Mark Regnerus, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Texas. Regnerus reported younger Americans at large have rejected biblical sexual ethics, but all is not lost.

“Among the 18- to 39-year-old pack, you thought you were losing them all on the culture-wars issues,” Regnerus said. “I don’t think you really are.”

Regnerus also serves as senior fellow in sociology for the Austin Institute for the Study of Family and Culture. He said 11 percent of evangelical 18- to 39-year-olds support same-sex marriage. About 20 percent are not sure about it. 

ERLC President Russell Moore said the data showed that the myth of the evangelical, millennial liberal is just that. He also said evangelicals can learn a lesson from the Mormon church in building a lasting faith in young people. 

“Some of us ought to sit back and say, but we also need to learn from [Mormons] on what is it that you do in order to raise up children to think and to believe the way that you’re teaching them to think and believe,” Moore said. “I think we really ought to explore ways to look into that sociologically without giving any ground theologically or missiologically.”

Moore is still in his first year as president of the influential Southern Baptist group. Less than two months after his selection as the SBC’s public-policy chief in Washington, President Barack Obama endorsed same-sex marriage. Then, just weeks after Moore took office, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the federal statute defining marriage as the exclusive union between one man and one woman. 

Moore said the key to engaging a sexually broken culture is being honest about the difficulties of following Jesus. He criticized what he called the “dime-store prosperity gospel,” the idea that while God might not make you rich, God will give you everything you want to be a “normal American person.” 

“What we need to do is to say exactly what Jesus is consistently saying, following Christ is difficult. … Jesus is saying this is bearing a cross and following after me,” Moore said. “And so we have to be very realistic in order to stand up and say, you are going to be fighting not only against your own biological impulses, which are good and given by God, you’re also going to be wrestling against principalities and powers in the heavenly places, and, guess what? That’s not going to end at your wedding day. That’s going to be what you are going to have be facing every single day of your life until you hear that beeping flat line in the hospital.”

The Debate on Christian Campuses About Bloody Abortion Photos

 

By Angela Lu

(WNS)--As another school year comes to an end, debates over displaying graphic abortion photos on Christian college campuses continue. The latest flashpoint is Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., where two students set up a sign on March 5, against school officials’ wishes, to educate students walking out of convocation about what aborted babies really look like.

The poster depicted the severed hand of a 10-week-old aborted baby juxtaposed with Christ’s bloodied hand on the cross. A caption above the photos asked, “Would Jesus use bloody images to make a point? He already did. Luke 23:26-33.”

Senior Bethany Fox, involved in Students For Life since her freshman year, said she at first wasn’t sure about the graphic images, but “after years of ministering without them, I realized it was really a necessity.” When administrators denied the pro-life group’s request to put up the sign—claiming that if they allowed the graphic images, they would have to let other groups use them as well—Fox and Eli McGowan decided to use them anyway.

Officials didn’t disturb the students as they stood with their sign for half an hour by the entrance of Vine Center. Fox said a couple of students approached them in support of what they were doing. Afterward, the school didn’t punish the students. Liberty declined to comment on the matter.

The pro-life group Center for Bioethical Reform (CBR) is recruiting and training students to display their signs on campus, waiting to see how administrators will respond. Last year, controversy swirled around two California schools, Biola University and Westmont College. At Biola, campus security officers forced then-nursing student Diana Jimenez to leave, and the dean of nursing barred faculty from writing letters of recommendation for her. After a firestorm in the pro-life blogosphere, Biola President Barry Corey apologized for how the school responded to the situation and promised to create a more comprehensive pro-life policy.

School officials argue that pro-life education can be done compassionately without showing graphic images in a setting where children and those who have repented of past abortions could walk by and see them. But CBR Director Gregg Cunningham believes it’s only by facing the stark realities of abortion that the pro-life movement can really take off.

In October 2012, Seth Gruber held a similar unauthorized protest after Westmont College in Santa Barbara, Calif., denied his request to bring in a graphic pro-life display three years in a row. Then a junior, Gruber stood outside the dining hall with a sign. Officials argued with him, but didn’t force him to leave. He returned to hold up his sign a few more times during that school year.

Since Gruber’s one-man demonstration, Westmont officials have written a new freedom of speech policy into the student handbook, limiting demonstrations to two hours between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. at specific locations on campus. Large signboards and amplified sound are prohibited, and students must submit a form 24 hours prior to the planned assembly. Gruber said he had not seen any demonstrations on campus except for his abortion signs that would cause the policy change.

“This is an academic atmosphere that’s supposed to be a marketplace of ideas,” Gruber said. “To create a rule to prevent freedom of speech from being exercised—it’s antithetical to the academy.”

Pro-life groups at secular universities face similar fights with administrators attempting to limit free speech on campus. But the U.S. Constitution protects demonstrations on public property, and free speech advocates consistently have won court battles with public colleges. But private Christian universities are not required to uphold the Constitution’s free speech guarantees, which often makes it more difficult for pro-life groups that want to demonstrate using graphic images.

Westmont currently doesn’t have a policy position of the sanctity of life, and Gruber said attempts to get faculty to sign petitions to add a pro-life statement didn’t gain much traction. But Gruber is hopeful: Even as he graduates next month, he’s confident pro-life work at Westmont will continue. While he had been fighting for the cause by himself for much of his time at school, his pro-life club now has six members who plan to carry on the work after he’s gone.

To Train Up A Pharisee

 

Michael and Debi Pearl’s method of discipline has many advocates, but critics say it lacks the gospel

By Kiley Crossland

Parental advisory: This article contains brief descriptions of brutal treatment

(WNS)--Between 2006 and 2011, three children in devoted homeschooling families died while being disciplined by their parents, professed Christians who reportedly read or followed Michael and Debi Pearl’s controversial parenting book, To Train Up a Child.

The parents are now behind bars, and their living children are with family members or in foster homes. No court has ever found the Pearls liable for child abuse, but lingering questions remain about whether there is a torturous underbelly to the parenting tactics of To Train Up a Child.

Twenty years ago Michael Pearl printed 30 copies of a patched-together book on parenting, taken from a variety of letters he wrote about how he and his wife, Debi, were using “traditional child training” with their five children. When the 30 copies were gone, he borrowed enough money to print another 3,000 copies, thinking they would last the rest of his life, “stuck away in the back of a closet full of old hunting gear,” says Pearl. He sold them for $1.50 each.

Today, the Pearls have sold more than 685,000 copies of the slim book with its 22 short chapters of no-nonsense recommendations on household rules and discipline. The book instructs parents to set strict boundaries, using the rod to “chastise” children, but admonishes parents not to discipline in anger and to build relationships with their kids. It also advocates creating a submissive and obedient will in children by “switching” them quickly and often, but not too hard and only when parents are calm.

Pearl says the method will work on any child as long as the parents are consistent and start while the child is an infant. He says his traditional advice, used rightly, will eliminate the whining and manipulation Pearl says many parents encourage from their children. He also says training is a more merciful reaction to disobedience than angry verbal berating by a frustrated parent. He says his method will greatly reduce the need for discipline as the child gets older.

But many outspoken parents and media voices call the book abusive and say it is the immediate cause in at least those three cases of fatal child abuse and torture. A petition with over 100,000 signatures is prodding Amazon to remove the book from its website.

JOY HAVLIK HEARD ABOUT To Train Up a Child when she was homeschooling six of her children, including a first-grader struggling with phonics, while also trying to keep an eye on her two mobile toddlers. She and her husband, Steve, were involved in a Great Commission Church and then a Bill Gothard homeschooling group, both of which emphasized the importance of spanking and strict discipline. Their eight children are now grown, and they are no longer involved in either group. She now says, “Some of the stuff we were taught was definitely over the top.”

A friend from Havlik’s homeschooling group told her about the Pearls’ book and she tried some of its teachings with her two youngest, but now worries that she was too harsh. She says parents should look at their motives, and remembers feeling that her family was supposed to look perfect: “It’s not just about having your family like ducks in a row. Each child is different, you don’t want them to be so overly controlled, overly disciplined that you haven’t really built a relationship with your kids.” She fears too many rules and too much control can also give kids a skewed idea about God: “They see God as a harsh taskmaster. They don’t want anything to do with God or church. That’s the tragedy.”

Havlik says parents should spank with caution and carefulness: “Stay away from formulas. Parenting is way more complicated than that.” She also approaches her kids with humility: “I want to have more talks with my kids and ask their forgiveness for times I was harsh.”

On their website the Pearls encourage parents to use a one-fourth inch plumbing supply line (a thin, flexible piece of plastic) as an instrument to discipline their children: They say it will sting skin but not cause bruising. I spoke with Michael Pearl, who said, “I have never advocated—either in private, public speaking, or in writing—withholding food from a child, forcing children to sleep on the floor or outside, constraining them in blankets (or by any other means), spanking children on their feet, faces, or backs, locking them in small rooms or tight containers, or forcing them to stay outside in cold weather.”

But three children died after parents who had read To Train Up a Child went beyond what the Pearls recommend. The parents all had in their homes the one-fourth inch plumbing supply line, and one girl died after being beaten with it. The stories are brutal:

• Sean Paddock, 4, died in 2006 of suffocation when his mother wrapped him so tightly in a blanket that he could not breathe. His mother was convicted of first-degree murder and felony child abuse. The Paddocks had adopted six children, including Sean.

• Lydia Schatz, 7, died in 2010 from beatings by her parents over a seven-hour period. Her parents entered a plea bargain and appeared remorseful. Her father was convicted of second-degree murder and torture. Her mother was convicted of voluntary manslaughter and infliction of unlawful corporal punishment. The Schatzes, who had six biological children, adopted Lydia and two other children from Liberia.

• Hana Williams, 13, died in 2011 of malnutrition and hypothermia. She was not breathing when her siblings found her face-down and naked in her family’s backyard. Her parents were convicted of first-degree assault and manslaughter. Her mother was additionally convicted of homicide by abuse. The Williamses, who had seven biological children, adopted Hana and one other child from Ethiopia.

Critics say older adopted children, especially from violent places, have special needs, but Pearl says his methods are adaptable to any child, no matter their “unique disability or psychological condition.” To Train Up a Child does include this warning: "There are always some who act in the extreme. These individuals are capable of using what has been said about the legitimate use of the rod to justify ongoing brutality to their children…. They would call themselves 'strong disciplinarians.' 'But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged around his neck and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.' (Matthew 18.6)"

 

MICHAEL AND DEBI PEARL live on 100 acres in Pleasantville, Tenn. The town is a dot on the map 80 miles southwest of Nashville. The rural community, a mess of skinny paved roads and lush green trees, is home to farmers, homesteaders, and an Amish settlement.

When their oldest child was an early teen, the Pearls left their home and Michael’s job north of Memphis to start a new life. They paid cash for the land, logged their own trees with a self-made sawmill, and built a four-bedroom home, a barn, and a shop. To make ends meet they and their five children took odd jobs: laying stone, building barns, canning vegetables, milking cows, growing and selling organic vegetables. Michael says they moved to their “hardworking paradise” because he came to the conclusion that his kids “were too pampered. Furthermore, I was bored.”

Lindsay Gallegos spent some time with the Pearls in Pleasantville. She is one of eight children raised by parents who used To Train Up a Child. “We were really entrenched in the homeschool, conservative, Bill Gothard world,” she says. Gallegos is very familiar with the Pearls’ book—her mom would make her read highlighted sections when she disobeyed—but she is also familiar with the Pearl family.

Family tragedy sent her looking for an exit from the “works-based conservative” world she grew up in, so she left home when she was 21. She drove to Tennessee on two separate occasions to spend a total of three weeks with some friends who lived two miles from the Pearls’ homestead. She went to Cane Creek Church, the Pearls’ nondenominational church. She ate a few meals at Michael and Debi’s home and remembers Debi dancing around the kitchen and getting on Michael for not taking out the trash. She hung out with the Pearls’ grown kids, turkey hunting and driving to Nashville to see a movie and get dinner.

Gallegos says the Pearl family was welcoming, close, and jovial, and that their kids had a lot of independence: “Whatever they did for their own kids worked.” She is now a mother to three—ages 5, 3, and 1—in San Antonio, Texas, but she and her husband have decided not to use the Pearls’ methods because “a lot of what they have in their book is too extreme for me.”

That’s not true for others, and I tried to interview on the record parents who love To Train Up a Child, but they all declined, given concerns about potential state intervention. They all praised the results they have seen in their children, saying their application of the principles of To Train Up a Child provides clear boundaries and quick justice. They say their homes are more peaceful, their kids are more respectful, and they are not growing up fearful or timid.

The Pearls run a ministry, No Greater Joy Ministries, out of offices and warehouses owned by the ministry, and write extensively on parenting, homeschooling, and marriage. Michael Pearl doesn’t fit easy stereotypes—he has criticized Bill Gothard and the Patriarchy movement—and does not seem bothered by the negative press: “Few people take what the media says as true, especially when they are attacking Christians, conservatives, or traditional principles. … Our Amazon sales do shoot up every time we are in the news, though.”

Kirstie and Ryan Benke married young and were pregnant within a year. When their son Creed was born, Kirstie looked everywhere for advice on parenting. Her pastor’s wife, a homeschooling mom, gave her a copy of To Train Up a Child. They tried it consistently for a year. She saw spanking as a loving response to sin, a “one time and done” reaction instead of a long, drawn-out, guilt-ridden process. 

But Kirstie says she felt like something was missing: “I didn’t see the gospel, I saw morality. Creed behaved better, but he was angry. I don’t think we were connecting the dots for him as to why he needed to behave this way.” Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Ted Tripp helped fill in some gaps: “Shepherding a Child’s Heart added the ‘Why are you spanking him?’ You don’t just want well-behaved kids. … You want to make the gospel attractive to them.” 

With two sons, 5 and 2, and another on the way, Kirstie says, “I have a lot of compassion for other parents. We tend to judge each other on ‘My kid is better behaved so I must be a better parent.’ … There is definitely the gospel. You expect them to sin. But other than that, every family is different.” 

Kirsten Black’s is different from some in that she has five boys and doesn’t seem to mind the football whizzing by her head as she calmly tosses a softball to her bat-swinging 6-year-old. She has short hair and funky red tennis shoes, and her husband Vince, his tattooed arm draped across their 2-year-old Uzziah, says he wants to be a Deuteronomy 6 parent, always speaking of God whether they are grocery shopping or playing in the backyard.   

The Blacks moved to Fort Collins, Colo., to plant the church that he now pastors. She says she “grew up a really strong Pharisee” and not until her late 20s, when she started having kids, did she began to understand the way the gospel transforms all of life. Now the Blacks try to talk about sin openly as they model repentance and grace: “We tell them, ‘You are going to mess up. When you do mess up, when you do sin, be quick to own it, confess it, repent, and it’s done.’” Vince Black says, “We try to show them what it means to need a Savior, and that Mom and Dad need a Savior too.”

They try not to buy into any parenting book as the one answer. Kirsten says, “When we approach those books with the hope that there will be answers on ‘how to save my kids,’ we are looking for a formula and not for Jesus to do His saving work. … I need to keep the mindset that only Jesus saves.” They discipline but say it is always done in relationship—and that their goal in disciplining is instructing their sons’ hearts. “There is always restoration at the end,” says Vince.

—Kiley Crossland is a writer in Colorado

South Korean Churches Rethink Easter

 

The utterance ‘Death where is your sting?’ takes on greater meaning after a great national disaster

By Sophia Lee

(WNS)--As the nation of South Korea mourns over the Sewol ferry disaster, thousands filled the church pews for Easter services in Ansan, the suburban town near Seoul whose residents made up the majority of Sewol passengers.

Churches that had planned for a celebratory worship service quickly adjusted bright decorations to more appropriately fit the somber mood. Congregants lit candles, and some removed “Congratulations, Happy Easter!” stickers from Easter eggs before offering them to mourning families still waiting for news of their loved ones. Pastors had to rethink their sermon themes to fit the joyous message of the Resurrection with the unexpected national tragedy, as parishioners still ached with shock and agony.

The Sewol sank Wednesday with 476 passengers on board, more than 300 of them 16- and 17-year-old students from Ansan's Danwon High School. As of Monday morning, 64 bodies have been recovered, but about 240 people are still missing. About 225 of the missing and dead are Danwon students who were on what was supposed to be a joyous trip to tourist hotspot Jeju Island. According to local surveys reported in South Korean newspaper Kookmin Ilbo, among 23 of the 249 Ansan churches, one church member has been confirmed dead, while 53 remain missing.

By now, families of missing passengers have mostly given up hope of recovering their loved ones alive. Instead, many now worry the bodies will be decayed beyond recognition. One father of a 17-year-old boy, Lee Woon Geun, even worried that he might not be able to hold his dead son’s hand because it might be so decomposed that “it might fall off.”

“I miss my son,” he said. “I’m really afraid I might not get to find his body.”

As Easter Sunday approached, the nation remained in chaos. On the coast in Jindo, near where the ferry sank, tears of anguish still filled the air. Everywhere else, people lashed out in anger and frustration at the slow rescue effort and especially at the captain and crew, who apparently made fatal on-deck decisions that caused more deaths. Police officials arrested the Sewol’s captain, 68-year-old Lee Joon Seok, on Saturday. Two other crew members were also arrested, one of them a 25-year-old third mate who was steering at the time of the accident.

Early Sunday morning, about 100 relatives stormed towards the presidential Blue House in Seoul, screaming, “The government is the killer!” Police officers in neon jackets blocked their path, some officers weeping even as they pushed against the shouting and cursing crowd. South Korean President Park Geun Hye called the actions of the captain and crew members “unforgivable” and “murderous.” She said the fact that they were the first to escape the sinking ferry was “legally and ethically … an unimaginable act.”

At 5 a.m. on Easter Sunday, however, a distinct voice of both hope and repentance rose up from the pews. Ansan Vitna Presbyterian Church’s senior pastor, Yoo Je Myong, began his service by stating, “Today is Easter, but we gather here with an extraordinary heart seeking extraordinary grace. I pray that the hope and desire of our resurrected Jesus Christ will be with the victims of the ferry tragedy—the surviving families who lost their children and the children who suffered. May the grace of recovery be with them.”

In an emotional, high-toned sermon titled “Resurrect in the Cross,” Ansan Jeil Church senior pastor Go Hun began, “In the 70 years of my life, never have I felt such helplessness and shame as a pastor.” According to South Korean news source Christian Today, he said the night before Easter Sunday, he was unable to come up with a single sentence for his sermon because he couldn’t stop thinking about the children still shut within the sunken ferry’s steel walls, wondering how many were still alive. “Today our Ansan is a land of tears, a land of wailing,” he said, likening the mourning to that of Bethlehem when King Herod ordered the butchering of all 2-year-old boys.

“Easter is supposed to be a celebration of great joy for Christians who shout out, ‘The Lord has risen!’” Go continued. “But whenever I think of the kids who are trapped underwater, I am unable to eat, unable to sleep. … I cannot do anything because I am so blinded with tears. Oh, if I could solve this problem with tears, I would shed tears of blood!”

According to Kookmin Ilbo, by then his congregation—about 3,000—was also sobbing and sniffling, many wiping tears with handkerchiefs, others letting the tears flow freely. Go then turned the event on its heels. He said in the wake of the disaster, both the older generation and Korean churches must repent. He first criticized the ferry captain and crew who abandoned the ship, then flipped the coat of repentance over to “we adults who in great irresponsibility” also share the blame for “trapping our children who should be running with unlimited potential.” We too, he said, are entrapping our kids in all sorts of metaphorical sinking ships, such as rigid academics and computer game rooms (a significant social issue among South Korean teens).

But Go concluded by quoting 1 Corinthians 15:55-58: “Death, where is your sting? But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.” (NKJV)

“We have the resurrection of Christ in us," he concluded. "Let’s not fear anything. The Lord will work. He said knock and I shall answer, so all we can do now is pray.”

Throughout the sermon, many congregants cried out, “Lord Father!” They prayed out loud in unison for suffering families, country and nation, for the evangelization of Ansan, and the future generation. And they plan to continue praying. According to Christian Today, this week on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday nights, the churches of Ansan will be hold candlelight prayer vigils for the lost and those left behind.

NATIONAL BRIEFS

 

INTERNATIONAL BRIEFS

Gay Activist Sues Over Decision to Allow Christian Law School

 

(WNS)--Only three days after a new law school at Trinity Western University (TWU) received its latest approval—this time from the Law Society of British Columbia—a potential student has filed suit over the school’s community covenant. That covenant requires students and employees to abstain from “sexual intimacy that violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman.” Amrik Virk, the Minister of Advanced Education of British Columbia and a member of the Liberal Party, approved TWU’s proposed law school in December, shortly after the Federation of Law Societies of Canada did the same. Trevor Loke, a gay man who says he is a Christian, is interested in attending the future law school, but is “excluded for something I feel I have no choice about,” he said. Loke called the province’s approval humiliating and faulted Virk for not heeding the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Islamist Mob Kills Coptic Christian Woman in Cairo

 

(WNS)--An Islamist mob beat, stabbed, and shot Mary Sameh George to death in Cairo on March 28, reportedly because of the cross hanging in her car. George, a Coptic Christian in her mid-20s, parked near Virgin Mary and Archangel Michael Coptic Orthodox Church to deliver medicine and food to the elderly after work that day. International Christian Concern (ICC) spoke with a man identified only as Wahid who witnessed the chaos. “Every Friday the supporters of Muslim Brotherhood organize a march after Friday prayer in Ain Shams,” he told ICC. “On this Friday afternoon, violent clashes took place between the supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood and the security forces during their march.” After clashing with security officers, Wahid said the protesters headed toward the church firing shots, and attacked George when they identified her as a Christian by a cross hanging from her rear view mirror. He described the mob jumping on the car until the roof collapsed, dragging her from the car, beating and stabbing her repeatedly. 

                 

Copyright to the preceding content is held by WORLD Magazine, except where noted. Copyrighted stories for which the copyright is held by others must be printed with copyright information. These stories may not be reprinted, broadcast, made available through electronic retrieval systems, or put to any commercial use except by paying subscribers of the WNS Service. WNS Service subscribers are licensed for print rights only. However, these stories may be posted to a subscriber’s web-site or electronic or broadcast medium with prior written consent. WNS is delivered every Friday – except Christmas and 4th of July week -- via e-mail to subscribers. For information on becoming a licensed subscriber, write to: WORLD News Service, 4701 Beech Crest Place, Charlotte, NC 28269. You can reach us by phone at (704) 661-9137 (USA), or by e-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . 

WORLD News Service – April 18 2014

                                                                                                                                   

Gay Activist Sues Over Decision to Allow Christian Law School

 

Can A Divided Publishing House Stand? A Christian publishing group goes from Desiring God to questioning God’s Word

No Upheaval on Easter: New York City’s ban on churches renting public schools remains in place, but an appeal will allow worship services this Sunday

 

Management Mania: Christian youth organization struggles to survive financial turmoil

 

The Realities of Heaven Is for Real: What to consider when seeing the movie based on the popular best-selling book

Islamist Mob Kills Coptic Christian Woman in Cairo

 

China's More Interested in Jesus Than Communism

NATIONAL BRIEFS

 

INTERNATIONAL BRIEFS

 

                                                                                                                                   

Gay Activist Sues Over Decision to Allow Christian Law School

 

By J.C. Derrick

(WNS)--Only three days after a new law school at Trinity Western University (TWU) received its latest approval—this time from the Law Society of British Columbia—a potential student has filed suit over the school’s community covenant. That covenant requires students and employees to abstain from “sexual intimacy that violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman.”

Amrik Virk, the Minister of Advanced Education of British Columbia and a member of the Liberal Party, approved TWU’s proposed law school in December, shortly after the Federation of Law Societies of Canada did the same. Trevor Loke, a gay man who says he is a Christian, is interested in attending the future law school, but is “excluded for something I feel I have no choice about,” he said. Loke called the province’s approval humiliating and faulted Virk for not heeding the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

“The suggestion that I should just go somewhere else is offensive,” Loke wrote in his affidavit filed with the Supreme Court of British Columbia.

The Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees all Canadians the freedom of conscience and religion, and Canada’s Civil Marriage Act of 2005, which legalized same-sex unions, explicitly applied those freedoms to the marriage issue. The 2005 law goes on to say: “For greater certainty, no person or organization shall be deprived of any benefit, or be subject to any obligation or sanction” based solely on objections to same-sex marriage or “the expression of their beliefs in respect of marriage as the union of a man and woman to the exclusion of all others.”

When I reached Loke by phone on Tuesday, he said his suit does not challenge the rights guaranteed by the Charter because TWU could change its community covenant or make it optional. “That's a very simple change,” he told me. “We’re not asking it to change its values or practices.”

The lawsuit comes as no surprise, though TWU says it is essentially re-litigating a previously settled issue. In 2001, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the British Columbia College of Teachers couldn’t bar TWU from starting an accredited teaching program on the basis of the community covenant. Loke said his lawsuit is different because the covenant prevents him from having access to the school, whereas the British Columbia College of Teachers claimed TWU would produce bigoted graduates.

“I would question Mr. Loke’s ability to interpret the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision, given his lack of training,” said TWU president Bob Kuhn, who was the school’s chief counsel for the 2001 case. “The decision is much broader and much more comprehensive than he indicated. It’s convenient, but not accurate, to say the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in 2001 is inapplicable to the current situation.”

Kuhn told me the suit would not keep the law school plans from moving forward. He said the suit seeks to do exactly what the Civil Marriage Act of 2005 prevents: “penalize and withhold public benefits from an organization that has done nothing wrong, except define marriage in its traditional Christian sense.”

Loke, who has been living with his same-sex partner for four years, said he’s received no condemnation from his Anglican church, which he attends on Easter and Christmas. I asked him if he believes TWU should endorse all sex outside of marriage and he declined to state his opinion. He said, “Faith is always stronger when people have their own relationships with God,” and TWU should not impose its interpretation of the Bible on its students.

Religious freedom advocates say the battle for a Christian law school at TWU, located a few miles north of the Washington state line, could be a bellwether for religious freedom in Canada and possibly a sign of things to come in the United States. 

Can A Divided Publishing House Stand?

 

A Christian publishing group goes from Desiring God to questioning God’s Word

By Lynde Langdon

(WNS)--You can be gay and Christian: That’s the message of a book due out next week from a publishing group known until now for its evangelical worldview. But the book will emerge from a new imprint designed to allow the publishing house to avoid alienating its evangelical market.

Convergent Books, a publishing imprint under the same corporate umbrella and leadership as the evangelical WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group, is scheduled to release God and the Gay Christian by Matthew Vines next Tuesday. Vines, a 24-year-old former Harvard student, attempts to refute biblical passages that declare homosexuality a sin.

WaterBrook Multnomah, known for its best-selling Christian titles such as John Piper’s Desiring God and books by evangelical authors David Jeremiah and Kay Arthur, began as the printing arm of Multnomah Bible College in Portland, Ore. But mainstream secular publisher Penguin Random House now owns the imprint and groups it under the same corporate umbrella, Crown Publishing Group, as Convergent.

Stephen W. Cobb, who heads up both WaterBrook Multnomah and Convergent out of the publishing group’s Colorado Springs, Colo., offices, told me Tuesday that Convergent’s audience is “actively exploring and practicing faith and framing that faith in Christian terms, but they’re very open in their approach to issues that face the church today, and they really defy conventional labels.”

The most visible link between WaterBrook Multnomah and Convergent is Cobb himself, who said he makes the final decision to publish each imprint’s books, including God and the Gay Christian.

“Books will publish in the Convergent imprint that I could not have considered for publication prior to [the new imprint’s] creation, because [the books] would just not have been appropriate for the established audience of Multnomah or WaterBrook,” he said.

Cobb attempted to put an imaginary cushion between evangelical Christians—including some of WaterBrook Multnomah’s authors—and others who would give credence to Vines’ justification of homosexuality.

“Generally speaking, I wouldn’t expect a Multnomah reader to be drawn to a Convergent title,” he said, pointing out that books published under the WaterBrook Multnomah imprint, such as Out of a Far Country by Christopher and Angela Yuan, offer contrary “points of view” that defend a straightforward interpretation of the Bible’s teaching against homosexuality.

Though Cobb insisted he has no agenda to change the way the church views homosexuality, his attitude recasts a showdown between truth and heresy as a mere debate between equally plausible positions. World Vision U.S. president Richard Stearns made a similar argument when he announced a change in his company’s hiring policy to include employees in same-sex marriages. He insisted to Christianity Today that World Vision was not taking a stand for or against gay marriage, but rather striving for unity on a divisive issue. Evangelical leaders didn’t accept his position, and World Vision’s board of directors rescinded the change.

“Don’t say, ‘Hath God said?’ and then tell us you’re doing it to advance the gospel and the unity of the church,” wrote Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, in response to World Vision’s change.

Cobb acknowledged that God and the Gay Christian contradicts the teachings of books he has published in the past. To his knowledge, he said, Vines’ book was the first published by the four imprints he oversees that arrives at the conclusion that a person can practice homosexuality with the acceptance and approval of God.

Will Vines’ book be the first of many from Convergent to challenge orthodox biblical beliefs? I asked Cobb where he would draw the line in publishing books that oppose evangelical beliefs.

“Matthew believes in the inerrancy and the divinity and the correctness of Scripture,” he responded. “He believes it is God’s inspired Word. I have seen things, proposals have crossed my desk that the author does not have that core belief. … I want to believe that every book that publishes on my watch, whichever imprint it publishes in, is biblically based and developed credibly.” 

No Upheaval on Easter

 

New York City’s ban on churches renting public schools remains in place, but an appeal will allow worship services this Sunday

By Emily Belz

(WNS)--New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has not yet lifted a ban on churches renting public schools in the city for Sunday worship services, after a court ruling April 3 upheld the Michael Bloomberg-era policy. Despite the ruling, churches meeting in public schools will be able to hold services on Easter Sunday thanks to a forthcoming legal maneuver.

Over the past several days some news sources, including The Wall Street Journal, reported that de Blasio had lifted the ban, but the mayor’s office confirmed to me on Monday that the ban remains in place for now. As a mayoral candidate, de Blasio promised to undo the policy and marched with pastors in support of churches having the right to rent public school space like any other organization. Since the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the ban on churches almost two weeks ago, de Blasio has reiterated his support for the churches but has not taken concrete action as of yet. 

For the last two years churches have been able to rent public school space for worship services on Sunday because a federal district judge had blocked the policy. The city, then under Mayor Michael Bloomberg, appealed that decision to the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and a panel of three judges upheld the policy in its April 3 decision. 

The 2nd Circuit’s opinion would take effect this Friday, two weeks from the day the opinion was issued, meaning that churches would need to vacate public schools on a weekend when they are holding Good Friday and Easter Sunday services. 

But the Bronx Household of Faith, the church at the center of the case, plans on Wednesday or Thursday to appeal the 2nd Circuit panel’s decision to the full court of the 2nd Circuit (an “en banc” review). That request for rehearing automatically puts the 2nd Circuit panel’s decision on hold until the full 2nd Circuit decides what to do with the case. The full 2nd Circuit could take a week or a month to act on the case, giving churches some breathing room. 

“The churches are not going to be evicted on Good Friday or Easter,” said Jordan Lorence, a lawyer with the Alliance Defending Freedom who is representing Bronx Household of Faith in this case. 

If the full 2nd Circuit turns down the request for rehearing, then the Bronx church will ask the U.S. Supreme Court for a stay while its lawyers work on a petition for certiorari, which would reexamine the decision at the high court, said Lorence. 

Meanwhile, the city could still act any day now to change the policy and allow churches to meet in the schools going forward. But the Bronx church’s legal maneuver pushes back the uncertainty for now. 

“We don’t know what kind of timetable [de Blasio] has in mind, so we’re going to move forward with the appeal,” said Lorence. 

Management Mania

 

Christian youth organization struggles to survive financial turmoil

By J.C. Derrick

(WNS)--Ron and Katie Luce founded Teen Mania Ministries in 1986 with a goal to “raise up young people who would change the world.” By the numbers, they’ve been successful: Three million attendees at its weekend Acquire the Fire events, more than 70,000 taking summer mission trips called Global Expeditions, and thousands of teens who traveled to the organization’s 472-acre campus near Tyler, Texas, for year-long programs.

On Feb. 3 this year, Ron Luce called the management team into his newly renovated conference room with its four flat screen televisions, leather chairs, and a glass-top conference table. Luce then dropped a bombshell: Teen Mania would abandon the 472 acres and move to a still-undetermined site in Dallas. Luce framed the decision as one that would allow the ministry to have a global reach, and unveiled a press release that did not use the words “default” or “foreclosure”—appropriate terms for what was happening.

That was the first time Teen Mania communications director Cindy Mallette heard about the move. She later found out that Teen Mania had stopped paying its mortgage in November so as to meet payroll, and had then gone into default. After Mallette, who was fielding a flood of inquiries, prodded Luce to acknowledge a foreclosure was occurring, the ministry fired her on Feb. 13. She now states that Luce was hiding “the full nature of the situation” in the hope that funders would “donate to this new vision.”

Since February I’ve reviewed financial documents and interviewed current and former Teen Mania employees, a former board member, and Ron Luce, with the goal of learning how a once-flourishing ministry landed in foreclosure. I found many people who defend Teen Mania but not Luce, whom they accuse of mismanagement and unethical behavior. Luce himself admitted in a Feb. 11 taped conference call with supporters, “Evidence that my leadership is lacking seems to be everywhere.” 

TEEN MANIA’s impressive list of endorsers includes Franklin Graham, Josh McDowell, and former President George W. Bush, who named Luce in 2002 to the White House Advisory Commission on Drug-Free Communities. The four-man Teen Mania President’s Council is made up of televangelist James Robison, Pentecostal pastor Jack Hayford, best-selling author John Maxwell, and Paul Nelson, a former president of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA).

Luce used his charismatic personality to gain support: “He’s a phenomenal communicator, great visionary, and I think he passionately loves Jesus,” said David Hasz, who spent 17 years at the ministry. That passion is reflected in all the programs, and has led to controversy: Teen Mania endured intense criticism in 2011 after a one-hour MSNBC documentary showed its teens eating worms and crawling through mud. Luce, saying the show was deceptive, quickly hired Mallette as the organization’s first communications director.

Teen Mania’s financial woes have been building for more than a decade. Daniel Williams, a Teen Mania board member from 1995 to 2012, cited three primary reasons: the 9/11 attacks, the 2008 recession, and an organizational structure that “worked really well when it was small, but it got too big to manage.”

The ministry hasn’t suffered from a lack of revenue: Teen Mania has brought in almost $300 million since 2001. Jacob Morales, a former volunteer who went on four Global Expeditions trips, left Chase Manhattan to become Luce’s executive assistant in 2007 and 2008. Acting as liaison between Luce’s office and the accounting department, Morales saw “reckless spending. … Letters are going out saying, ‘Help, help, we’re going under,’ yet we’re dropping $100,000 for a guy who is going to speak for 50 minutes.” 

That payment, Morales said, went to Dallas minister T.D. Jakes to get him to speak at a New York City BattleCry event on Feb. 8, 2008. (Jennifer Saunier, then Teen Mania’s sales director, confirmed that figure; Jakes’ organization did not respond to a request for comment.) Morales says Teen Mania chartered a $21,000 private jet and spent more than $4,000 on a two-night stay at the Ritz Carlton for Jakes, whom Luce wanted as a Teen Mania partner. Morales says he had discretion over $10,000 in cash to buy imported flowers, chocolates, rare bread, candy, iPods, and other gifts for the Jakes family to find in their hotel suite, green room, and two Cadillac Escalade limousines.

Saunier, Teen Mania’s development director in 2011 and 2012, says she would solicit donations for specific projects, but “was never comfortable that we were doing the right things with those funds.” She raised her concerns to superiors and nothing changed. Luce ran in a December 2012 marathon “to raise awareness and support for reaching America’s 26 million teens with the gospel of Christ.” The effort generated about $250,000 in donations, but within months Luce spent $68,000 on campus carpeting projects, $45,000 to install a coffee shop, and $25,000 to build the new conference room. At least one employee resigned in protest.

Several nonprofit and accounting experts criticize Teen Mania’s 2005 purchase of a 50 percent share in Creation Festivals, an annual Christian music festival, for $4.5 million—financed by the owner and a $2 million loan against Teen Mania’s since-foreclosed property. After the acquisition lost half its value, Teen Mania sold it in 2010 to His Work Ministries, which Ron Luce founded and operates. His Work Ministries (HWM) still owes Teen Mania an undisclosed amount of money.

This gets complicated, but here are the basics: Repayment is contingent upon profitability, and Ron Luce says Creation Festivals has “struggled.” The Creation Fest website says its two events together draw over 100,000 attendees annually who purchase tickets for between $48 and $120 each. It’s hard to make a detailed assessment because HWM has never filed the required IRS Form 990, and Luce says he didn’t know he needed to file one for the organization. The IRS revoked HWM’s tax-exempt status in 2012.

Luce told supporters His Work Ministries has “nothing to do with Teen Mania,” but a comprehensive third-party audit conducted in 2011—and obtained by WORLD—repeatedly cited the “unusual transaction” as problematic. It also cited a donor in 2008 who withdrew a $6 million pledge “due to his dissatisfaction with the investment decision.” Daniel Williams, the former board chairman, said Paul Nelson—who through the ECFA declined to comment for this story—raised ethical and legal concerns about the transaction, but they were resolved. Luce told me no one raised any concerns.

The cumulative result was a sea of red ink: Teen Mania Ministries had total net assets of negative $4.1 million at the end of fiscal 2011, a statistic that makes it the sixth-most insolvent charity in the nation, according to Charity Navigators. The 2011 audit says: “A discerning donor will quickly see TMM is technically bankrupt—this is a matter that demands an explanation.”

Accounting expert Albert Meyer, the president of Bastiat Capital who identified irregular accounting practices at Enron, Tyco, and elsewhere, reviewed Teen Mania’s recent IRS 990s and told me he saw a variety of red flags, including high debt load and overspending: “Cutting a $1.37 million shortfall by $220K is how they do business in Washington.”

HOW COULD ALL THIS go largely unnoticed for so long? Bill Josephson, former assistant attorney general-in-charge of the New York Charities Bureau, said it appears Teen Mania is an example of “Red Cross governance”—using designated funds for other purposes. The Red Cross has a board of governors willing and able to remove its president, as it has done—yet Teen Mania board members and staff who clash with Luce have ended up leaving the organization.

For example, on March 15, 2012, Ron and Katie Luce met with board members Daniel Williams and Paul Nelson, CFO Jonathan Hasz, and vice president of operations David Hasz, to discuss concerns and the organizational audit that Teen Mania received in January. Within six months, the Luces were the only ones standing: Williams, Nelson, Tom Muccio (another top board member), and the Hasz brothers all were gone.

According to the Teen Mania bylaws, also obtained by WORLD, Luce can only be removed by a unanimous vote—a virtual impossibility since Katie Luce sits on the eight-member board. The audit recommended removing or revising Ron Luce’s almost unlimited presidential powers and replacing Katie Luce as a voting board member, but neither happened.

Numerous former employees said they were hesitant to speak out because they believe Teen Mania is doing good work—a common reason for not holding Christian nonprofits accountable. “The fruit has been incredible,” David Hasz told me. He said many concerned parties used the Matthew 18 approach of problem-solving with Luce: “I wanted that ministry to continue into the future, but I and others expressed serious concern that our financial model wouldn’t work.”

Teen Mania remained a member in good standing of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability since 1996—a claim Teen Mania continued to make on its website as of April 15, even though ECFA revoked its membership on March 10 for “failure to provide complete renewal information.” ECFA president Dan Busby points out his organization is a pass/fail accrediting agency for 1,850 members, not a watchdog group. Luce assured me Teen Mania is simply late with its audit and will be reinstated soon: “We’re running a semi down the road at 70 miles an hour, and we’re changing the tires while we’re moving.”

According to Busby, the ECFA, which is supported by member dues, only revokes membership two or three times per year. Albert Meyer said many Christians likely put too much faith in ECFA membership and noted it’s very difficult—”almost impossible”—to have an effective third-party watchdog organization. But he did point to one criterion the ECFA should require: posting financial statements online. Meyer said it’s alarming that Teen Mania does not do so: “If I can get it by writing a letter, why can’t they just post it on the website?”

Meyer said that for Christian organizations to maintain credibility, board members must remember their duties don’t begin and end with fundraising: “When it comes to corporate governance, board members need to explain what exactly they are overseeing—other than attend retreats that masquerade as oversight sessions. Once you take money from the public for a good cause, you better make sure the cause remains good.”

The Realities of Heaven Is for Real

 

What to consider when seeing the movie based on the popular best-selling book

By Sophia Lee

(WNS)--When Todd Burpo (with WORLD senior writer Lynn Vincent) wrote a book about his son Colton’s account of visiting heaven, he “never in the wildest dreams” imagined it would hit the New York Times best-seller list, selling 8 million copies in paperback and ebooks. But it was a hot strike—a time when books detailing trips to heaven were popular, starting with Don Piper’s 90 Minutes in Heaven. Now Hollywood is striking while biblical movies are hot, too, with the film adaptation of Heaven Is for Real premiering in theaters tonight, just in time for Easter.

The basic synopsis: Todd and Sonja Burpo thought the trauma of their 3-year-old son Colton nearly dying was behind them. But months after his miraculous recovery, Colton started talking about going to heaven and angels singing to him. Oh, and he met his dead great-grandfather, his unborn sister, Jesus, and his Technicolor horse, too.

For those of you planning to see the film version of Heaven Is for Real, here are a few things you may want to consider.

First, the trailer is more dramatic and suspenseful than the actual movie. That’s not to say Heaven Is for Real is a total snoozefest; it has its good moments, and certain scenes will touch people in different ways, depending on their point of view. But I suspect the film will create more skeptics than converts.

Second, Heaven Is for Real is not so prominently … “imaginative” as atheist director Darren Aronofsky’s Noah was, but it does have its theological pockmarks. Hope, delight, and anticipation in heaven is good, but those thoughts should be grounded in God’s Word, not in a movie based on a best-selling memoir. Those who believe the inerrancy, authority, clarity, and sufficiency of the Bible don’t need Hollywood to assure them heaven exists. But if the film can do what a good film does—scraping out buried emotions and questions from the viewer—then we can pray for the Holy Spirit to work on unbelievers to ask the right questions and find the right answer.

Third, director Randall Wallace, who also worked on Man in the Iron Mask, We Were Soldiers, and Pearl Harbor, is a vocal Christian who spent a year in seminary. That means he believes in a literal heaven, that man is made in the image of God, and that Jesus is the way to heaven—all of which he affirmed to me in a phone interview. Actor Greg Kinnear, who plays Todd Burpo, is also a professing Christian who reportedly attends church regularly. So you can be assured that the serious topics in Heaven Is for Real are dealt with in sincerity—no snarky nudge and ironic winks, no overt heresies.

Fourth, it certainly helps that 6-year-old Connor Corum, who plays Colton, is cute as a plum in an apple-cheeked, wide blue-eyed sort of way, an adorable innocence who was both intentional and vital for this movie. Wallace picked him out from a nationwide call for auditions, looking for a boy who could speak with “an absolutely honest and open heart.” For a 6-year-old, he’s one convincing actor and will likely star in other films.

As for the real Colton Burpo, he’s now a teenager, a “pretty normal kid,” according to his father. He attends public school, plays sports, does his own laundry, and gets in trouble for the typical mischief of a teenage boy—but “his faith in who God is is incredibly solid,” said his father. Colton was skeptical about the film at first. When he first heard about the movie deal, he called it “a bad idea, because movies are never as good as the book.” He’s since changed his mind after seeing the trailer.

Islamist Mob Kills Coptic Christian Woman in Cairo

 

By Julia A. Seymour

(WNS)--An Islamist mob beat, stabbed, and shot Mary Sameh George to death in Cairo on March 28, reportedly because of the cross hanging in her car. George, a Coptic Christian in her mid-20s, parked near Virgin Mary and Archangel Michael Coptic Orthodox Church to deliver medicine and food to the elderly after work that day.

International Christian Concern (ICC) spoke with a man identified only as Wahid who witnessed the chaos. “Every Friday the supporters of Muslim Brotherhood organize a march after Friday prayer in Ain Shams,” he told ICC. “On this Friday afternoon, violent clashes took place between the supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood and the security forces during their march.”

After clashing with security officers, Wahid said the protesters headed toward the church firing shots, and attacked George when they identified her as a Christian by a cross hanging from her rear view mirror. He described the mob jumping on the car until the roof collapsed, dragging her from the car, beating and stabbing her repeatedly. 

“They were chanting ‘Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar’ and cursing her while stabbing her,” Wahid said. “Then one of them shot her in the back and that led to her death. After killing her they set her car on fire.”

The Australian Coptic Movement Association condemned the targeted killing as a “callous, vicious, and unprovoked act.” They called on the Egyptian government to investigate her murder and “send a clear message that this behavior will not be tolerated.” Coptic Christians make up about 10 percent of the Egyptian population.

In his column about George’s killing, Raymond Ibrahim, a Middle East expert and the son of Coptic Egyptians, quoted an eyewitness who said, “Let me tell you, here in Ain Shams, we [Christians] know that every Friday is a day of death; that the day after Friday, Saturday, we’ll be carried to the morgue!”

An Interior Ministry spokesman, Hani Abdel-Latif, also blamed the Muslim Brotherhood for George’s death as well as three other killings that day, including female journalist Mayada Ashraf. But no one has been charged in George’s murder, while four people have been arrested in connection with Ashraf’s death, according to ICC’s Todd Daniels.

Hal Meawad of Coptic Solidarity told ICC there have many incidents like this one ever since the Egyptian revolution in 2011 that led to “a breakdown in the security situation on the streets. Christians are paying a very high price for this breakdown,” he said.

China's More Interested in Jesus Than Communism

 

By Rachel Lynn Aldrich

(WNS)--Jesus is trending in China. 

Foreign Policy released a fascinating infographic, based on a compilation of  information from Weibo, China’s huge social media platform that functions like Twitter. The graphic suggests that Christian terms are far more popular than their Communist counterparts. The information showed vastly more mentions of God than Chairman Mao, and more of Jesus than President Xi Jinping, who is headlined in state newspapers nearly every day. The regulated Bible, with 17 million hits, shot past the famous and widely-distributed Little Red Book, also known as Quotations from Chairman Mao, which registered so few hits that the data couldn’t be displayed. “Christian congregation” garnered 41.8 million hits, while “the Communist Party” registered just 5.3 million. 

Social media searches are not terribly scientific, and it’s hard to pinpoint what is causing the huge disparity in the numbers. Foreign Policy pointed to the estimated 100,000 censors that work for China as a probable cause. Censors often delete “politically sensitive” posts, and those containing the names of China’s top leader, probably to avoid criticism. 

But censorship cuts both ways. Foreign Policy reported that a search for the term “underground church” produced a blank page with a notice reading “results cannot be displayed do to relevant laws and regulations.” 

With the astronomical growth of Christianity in China—the current estimate has the Christian church topping 60 million—it seems more than possible that people are just more interested in Christ than communism.

NATIONAL BRIEFS

 

Bus Company Refuses Ad Space to Pro-life Group

 

(WNS)--An Indiana bus company that refused to let a pro-life group advertise on city buses in Ft. Wayne is going to have to justify its decision in federal court. Last fall, Women’s Health Link (WHL), a free pro-life referral service, requested to place dozens of advertising cards on the interior of buses. The ad features a photo of a young woman with the tagline “You’re Not Alone” and the organization’s contact information. But bus service Citilink denied the request twice because WHL’s website discussed “controversial issues” and the group is affiliated with Allen County Right to Life, according to Alliance Defending Freedom, which filed WHL’s lawsuit. “We feel that this ad does not educate the general public or raise awareness regarding a significant social issue in a viewpoint neutral manner,” a Citilink representative said. Citilink has allowed other healthcare-related non-profits to advertise on its buses, including Parkview Health, The Foundation for Fighting Blindness, and the United Way.

Sebelius Hands in Resignation

 

(WNS)--After months of defending Obamacare and its rocky online rollout, Kathleen Sebelius is stepping down as secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. Her resignation comes just one week after the end of the initial enrollment period for President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare law. But when Obama made his announcement last week that enrollments had exceeded 7 million at a press conference in the White House Rose Garden, Sebelius was not present. Obama will nominate Sylvia Mathews Burwell, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, to replace Sebelius. “The president wants to make sure we have a proven manager and relentless implementer in the job over there, which is why he is going to nominate Sylvia,” White House chief of staff Denis R. McDonough told The New York Times.

 

From Shunned Sportscaster to Religious Freedom Fighter

 

(WNS)--Craig James, a football analyst fired by Fox Sports for saying homosexuality is immoral, has taken a job at the Family Research Council (FRC), a conservative Christian advocacy group. The former National Football League Offensive Player of the Year will serve as a spokesman for the organization as assistant to the FRC president, Tony Perkins. “I’m not going to stop following sports. That’s part of my DNA,” James told me Tuesday. “I hope to be able to use my sports relationships and ability to cover sports to further our cause at FRC.” Fox Sports Southwest ousted James in September one week into his contract, citing comments he made against same-sex civil unions during a 2012 run for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Ted Cruz. James protested the firing, and the Liberty Institute filed a complaint on his behalf. The Texas Workforce Commission on March 6 issued a charge of discrimination against Fox Sports for firing James, signaling an official investigation.

 

House Committee Votes To Hold Lerner in Contempt

(WNS)--The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee voted to hold former IRS official Lois Lerner in contempt of Congress for refusing to testify about the extra scrutiny the IRS gave to conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status. During two appearances before the committee, Lerner invoked her Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination. But during her first appearance, she read a written statement proclaiming her innocence, therefore waiving her constitutional right not to testify, Republicans said. Democrats on the committee, and Lerner’s attorney, disagreed. According to Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., Congress has never had much success in prosecuting people who refused to testify. The only examples provided by the Congressional Research Service involved people called to testify before the House Committee on Un-American Activities in the 1950s.

Transgender Student Files Housing Complaint Against Christian University

 

(WNS)--A Christian university in Oregon must decide where it stands theologically and legally as it responds to an anti-discrimination complaint filed last week by a transgender student. 

The student, referred to in legal documents as Jayce M., came to George Fox University in Newberg, Ore., about 25 miles south of Portland, as a woman but has been in the process of legally, and physically, changing her gender. George Fox University administrators met throughout the year with Jayce, now a sophomore, to figure out where she would live once she legally became a man. Because student housing at George Fox is single-gender, campus officials proposed that Jayce live alone on-campus next year. Jayce had requested to live in an on-campus apartment with a group of male friends, Jayce’s attorney, Paul Southwick, said. 

Christian Rocker Larry Norman Recognized as an American Musical Treasure

 

(WNS)--The Library of Congress recently added the work of Christian rock innovator Larry Norman to the National Recording Registry, an elite collection of recordings marked for special preservation as “cultural, artistic, or historical treasures.” Norman is the first Christian rock artist to be chosen, making the list with his groundbreaking 1972 folk-rock album Only Visiting This Planet. Of the 25 artists selected this year, Norman keeps company with the likes of Stephen Sondheim, Bing Crosby, and the Everly Brothers.

High Profile Calvary Chapel Pastor Steps Down

(WNS)--One of America’s highest profile pastors, Bob Coy of Calvary Chapel Ft. Lauderdale, resigned last week. A statement from the church said he stepped down after “confessing to a moral failing in his life which disqualifies him from continuing his leadership role at the church he has led since its founding in 1985.” The church currently has about 18,000 people in attendance each Sunday, making it one of the largest churches in the United States.

Boy Scouts Attendance Down

(WNS)--For more than a century, the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) has enjoyed a special place in the minds and hearts of Americans. But following recent controversies, including the decision to allow openly homosexual Scouts into the program, the view of Americans toward Scouting seems to be shifting. According to a survey by Rasmussen Reports, “favorable views of the Boy Scouts of America continue to decline.” According to the polling firm’s latest telephone survey, 59 percent of adult Americans have a favorable opinion of the Scouts. However, Rasmussen says this number is “down six points from 65 percent last May and a 14-point drop from 73 percent in February 2012. Twenty-eight percent now view the Boy Scouts unfavorably.” Perhaps most troubling for the Scouts, even its supporters are wavering. “The latest findings include 21 percent with a ‘Very Favorable’ opinion, down from 40 percent two years ago.” A full 10 percent of adults have a “very unfavorable” view of the BSA.

INTERNATIONAL BRIEFS

Canadian Law Society Backs School’s Religious Freedom

 

(WNS)--The Law Society of British Columbia voted overwhelmingly to approve Canada’s first Christian law school after an emotional hearing in April that lasted almost three hours. Trinity Western University (TWU) in Langley, British Columbia, received the accreditation despite intense criticism from gay rights groups and some members of the legal community who claim TWU’s community covenant discriminates against homosexuals. A proposed resolution would have refused to recognize Trinity Western graduates, but it failed on a 20-6 vote. “We are very pleased with this outcome,” TWU president Bob Kuhn said in a statement, adding that Friday’s result is important for the entire country. “It says that there is room in a democratic country like Canada for a law school at a Christian university.” Trinity Western, a university of about 4,000 students, filed its law school application in 2012 and hopes to have a class of about 60 students in the fall of 2016.

                 

Copyright to the preceding content is held by WORLD Magazine, except where noted. Copyrighted stories for which the copyright is held by others must be printed with copyright information. These stories may not be reprinted, broadcast, made available through electronic retrieval systems, or put to any commercial use except by paying subscribers of the WNS Service. WNS Service subscribers are licensed for print rights only. However, these stories may be posted to a subscriber’s web-site or electronic or broadcast medium with prior written consent. WNS is delivered every Friday – except Christmas and 4th of July week -- via e-mail to subscribers. For information on becoming a licensed subscriber, write to: WORLD News Service, 4701 Beech Crest Place, Charlotte, NC 28269. You can reach us by phone at (704) 661-9137 (USA), or by e-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . 

WORLD News Service – April 11 2014

                                                                                                                                   

Rick Warren Launches Mental Health Ministry: Saddleback pastor calls the church to stop ignoring mental illness and its sufferers

Sebelius Hands in Resignation: President Obama will nominate OMB Director Sylvia Mathews Burwell for the HHS post

Bus Company Refuses Ad Space to Pro-life Group

From Shunned Sportscaster to Religious Freedom Fighter

House Committee Votes To Hold Lerner in Contempt

High Noon at Bryan College: The board of trustees meets over the controversy surrounding the school’s statement of faith

Transgender Student Files Housing Complaint Against Christian University

Christian Rocker Larry Norman Recognized as an American Musical Treasure       

Born to Neglect, Raised to Hope

Canadian Law Society Backs School’s Religious Freedom: Country’s first Christian law school moves closer to reality

NATIONAL BRIEFS

 

INTERNATIONAL BRIEFS

 

                                                                                                                                   

Rick Warren Launches Mental Health Ministry

 

Saddleback pastor calls the church to stop ignoring mental illness and its sufferers

By Sophia Lee

(WNS)--If the sold out seats for Saddleback Church’s mental health conference in early April are any indication, Christians are aching for more and better mental health ministry in the church. 

A responsive, emotional crowd of more than 3,300 people filled Saddleback’s Worship Center for The Gathering on Mental Health and the Church, a daylong event hosted by Saddleback, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange, and the National Alliance on Mental Illness-Orange County. The event marks the first initiative of Saddleback Church’s new ministry for mental health issues, a mission Saddleback hopes other churches will replicate. 

The conference featured a lineup of pastors, academics, and psychiatrists who spoke about the church’s potential and necessary role in dealing with mental illness and disorders. According to Saddleback, about 600 of the attendees are struggling with mental illness. An additional 6,000 people tuned in for the event’s live webcast, which will be archived and made available to the public for free. 

The conference took place just eight days before the one-year anniversary of Saddleback pastor Rick Warren’s son’s death. Matthew Warren, 27, shot himself on April 5, 2013. The youngest of the Warrens’ children, Matthew struggled with lifelong depression. During his opening remarks on Friday, Rick Warren said he too had experienced panic attacks and depression. He later added, “There are two types of people: those who need recovery and know it, and those who need recovery and don’t.”

Most of the conference’s discussions and speeches presented practical ways for churches to be a mental health resource. The topics ranged from depression, suicide, and eating disorders to crisis management for church staff and church counseling. With cracking voices and great vulnerability, many speakers shared their testimonies of dealing with mental illness, either as a sufferer or as a loved one. The audience responded with gasps, sympathetic murmurs, and standing ovations. 

Brad Hoefs, a pastor from Nebraska, shared his own experience with bipolar disorder. As his behaviors and moods rocketed between mania and depression, Hoefs was asked to resign from his then pastoral position at a fast-growing Lutheran church in Missouri. He attended numerous support groups, but found himself getting even more depressed. “I saw the bleeding talking to the bleeding,” he said. “I couldn’t believe there’s no good Christian material out there.” Today, Hoefs is the founder and executive director of Fresh Hope, a Christian support group for people who suffer from mental illness and their loved ones. “I’m the poster child for hope,” he said to great applause and nods from the audience. “If you can’t hear the hope in my voice, hear this: God is good. Don’t quit, don’t stop.”

Matthew Stanford, a psychology and neuroscience professor at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, who did extensive research on perceptions of mental illness in the church, shared some grim statistics: 26 percent of American adults this year alone will be diagnosed with some form of mental illness. Many of them will turn to the clergy for help first. Stanford called the mental health ministry a “divine appointment” for churches, and emphasized the substantial role of a supportive faith-based community: “I’ve seen supportive care alone do the work of medicine. But we have the incredible hope in Jesus Christ, something the secular world cannot offer.” 

According to the National Institutes of Health, one in four adults experience mental illness each year— that’s about 61.5 million Americans. One in 17— about 13.6 million people— live with chronic, serious mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, major depression, or bipolar disorder. 

Church members are not immune to the statistics. They plastered their cries for help all over a “mental health prayer wall,” which had the day’s key verse, 2 Tim 1:7 (NKJV), printed in bold: “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” Below that verse, attendees filled the wall with post-it sized notes asking for prayer. 

One wrote: “Please pray for my husband. 160+ days suicidal. He is bipolar. I believe my son is bipolar, too. I am exhausted & overwhelmed.” Another wrote, “Jake, I hope I am granted the grace to understand and go the distance … Dada.” Some prayer requests were highly detailed. Others were as brief as: “Acceptance from my church family.”

Bus Company Refuses Ad Space to Pro-life Group

 

By Sarah Padbury

(WNS)--An Indiana bus company that refused to let a pro-life group advertise on city buses in Ft. Wayne is going to have to justify its decision in federal court.

Last fall, Women’s Health Link (WHL), a free pro-life referral service, requested to place dozens of advertising cards on the interior of buses. The ad features a photo of a young woman with the tagline “You’re Not Alone” and the organization’s contact information. But bus service Citilink denied the request twice because WHL’s website discussed “controversial issues” and the group is affiliated with Allen County Right to Life, according to Alliance Defending Freedom, which filed WHL’s lawsuit.

“We feel that this ad does not educate the general public or raise awareness regarding a significant social issue in a viewpoint neutral manner,” a Citilink representative said.

WHL is not a healthcare provider, but instead uses a network of providers to connect women to a variety of services “to ensure they have life-affirming healthcare.” Through WHL, women can find assistance with birth control information, STD testing, gynecological and pre-natal care, and adoption. In addition, WHL offers assistance with housing problems, financial issues, veterans’ services, sexual assault help, and spiritual care.

Citilink has allowed other healthcare-related non-profits to advertise on its buses, including Parkview Health, The Foundation for Fighting Blindness, and the United Way.

All ads displayed on the buses must comply with the company’s advertising policy, which states Citilink reserves the right to refuse any advertisement it deems inappropriate, including ads that promote violence, profanity, nudity, or that imply Citilink’s endorsement of “any service, product or point of view.”

The complaint filed by ADF explained that Citilink’s policies present no binding written guidelines for its officials to decide whether to permit or deny an ad, “granting Citilink officials unbridled discretion to accept or reject private expression protected by the First Amendment.”

“No one deserves to be silenced simply for having a viewpoint that city officials don’t favor,” lawyer Rory Gray said in a statement. “When the city creates an opportunity for community advertising, it cannot single out pro-life organizations for censorship. The First Amendment protects freedom of speech for all people, regardless of their political or religious beliefs.”

Sebelius Hands in Resignation

 

President Obama will nominate OMB Director Sylvia Mathews Burwell for the HHS post

By Mickey McLean

(WNS)--After months of defending Obamacare and its rocky online rollout, Kathleen Sebelius is stepping down as secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.

Her resignation comes just one week after the end of the initial enrollment period for President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare law. But when Obama made his announcement last week that enrollments had exceeded 7 million at a press conference in the White House Rose Garden, Sebelius was not present.

Despite her low profile in recent months, the president often defended Sebelius, even after her rattled appearances testifying before Congress and a disastrous interview on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart last fall.

Obama will nominate Sylvia Mathews Burwell, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, to replace Sebelius. “The president wants to make sure we have a proven manager and relentless implementer in the job over there, which is why he is going to nominate Sylvia,” White House chief of staff Denis R. McDonough told The New York Times.

Burwell, a West Virginia native, graduated from Harvard and Oxford and has a background in economic policy. Previously, she was president of the Walmart Foundation and president of the Global Development Program of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

 

From Shunned Sportscaster to Religious Freedom Fighter

 

By Andrew Branch

(WNS)--Craig James, a football analyst fired by Fox Sports for saying homosexuality is immoral, has taken a job at the Family Research Council (FRC), a conservative Christian advocacy group. The former National Football League Offensive Player of the Year will serve as a spokesman for the organization as assistant to the FRC president, Tony Perkins.

“I’m not going to stop following sports. That’s part of my DNA,” James told me Tuesday. “I hope to be able to use my sports relationships and ability to cover sports to further our cause at FRC.”

Fox Sports Southwest ousted James in September one week into his contract, citing comments he made against same-sex civil unions during a 2012 run for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Ted Cruz. James protested the firing, and the Liberty Institute filed a complaint on his behalf. The Texas Workforce Commission on March 6 issued a charge of discrimination against Fox Sports for firing James, signaling an official investigation.

“Craig has experienced the very workplace disqualification that cultural elites are seeking to impose throughout the country: Expressing a politically incorrect opinion on a cultural issue, totally unconnected to employment, is enough to get you fired,” Perkins said in a statement.

James took it further: “Why do we consider it to be a social issue? For me, it’s a biblical issue. But the country has put it out on the social plane, and that has become a problem to those like me who hold dearly to all of the Bible, not part of the Bible.”

Not long after his story broke, James spoke at the fall Values Voters Summit, and the relationship with FRC developed from there, spokesman J.P. Duffy told me. In his position, he will serve as co-lead speaker, filling in or branching out where Perkins would normally speak or when his schedule conflicts.

“Craig would be the one to get up and share his story and talk about how FRC is engaging on religious liberty issues,” Duffy said.

James’ 20-year career with networks like CBS and ESPN may be done for now, but he wants to keep fighting for religious freedom for athletes, he said. “I do know that there are a lot of people in the broadcasting business and athletes who enjoy having the religious liberties they have,” he said. “And that’s what this is about. I believe I can engage a great deal of the sports community to be involved and active in defending their religious liberty.”

James said he took a stand against Fox Sports in defense of his and others’ religious freedom.

“This really isn’t about me as an individual,” he said. “It’s about an individual—who happens to be me—in this country being persecuted and fired for their religious belief. … And in America, I have the right to hold a biblical belief without the fear of being fired, bullied, or badgered.”

The FRC announcement came less than a week after Brendan Eich stepped down as Mozilla’s CEO after gay rights groups criticized the company for promoting a leader who supports traditional marriage. James said such incidents are happening at a critical time in American history: “I do believe, regardless of your faith, it’s time to stand and fight to be able to continue to hold your beliefs.”

 

 

House Committee Votes To Hold Lerner in Contempt

By Leigh Jones

(WNS)--The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee voted to hold former IRS official Lois Lerner in contempt of Congress for refusing to testify about the extra scrutiny the IRS gave to conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.

During two appearances before the committee, Lerner invoked her Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination. But during her first appearance, she read a written statement proclaiming her innocence, therefore waiving her constitutional right not to testify, Republicans said.

Democrats on the committee, and Lerner’s attorney, disagreed. According to Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., Congress has never had much success in prosecuting people who refused to testify. The only examples provided by the Congressional Research Service involved people called to testify before the House Committee on Un-American Activities in the 1950s.

“I do not want to go back to the shameful era when Congress tried to strip away the constitutional rights of American citizens under the bright lights of hearings that had nothing to do with responsible oversight and everything to do with the worst kind of partisan politics,” Cummings said.

From the beginning, Democrats have claimed Republicans only want to go after Lerner to keep the IRS targeting scandal alive. But Republicans insist she needs to be held accountable for her actions.

“We need Ms. Lerner’s testimony to complete our oversight work,” said Committee chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif. “American taxpayers certainly don’t get to plead the Fifth and escape all accountability when the IRS audits them.”

An attorney for 41 organizations suing the federal government over the illegal targeting said after the vote the committee’s action was appropriate.

“Lerner has misled the American people and Congress from the very start,”said Jay Sekulow, chief counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice. “Contempt is justified and the appropriate sanction in this case.”

The committee’s recommendation to hold Lerner in contempt—approved with a 21-12 party-line vote—will now go to the full House. Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, seemed confident Republicans would have no problem approving the measure.

“If Lois Lerner continues to refuse to testify, then the House will hold her in contempt,” he said.

The House Ways and Means Committee voted separately Wednesday to refer Lerner to the Justice Department for possible criminal prosecution. The committee’s investigators say they have evidence she may have violated the constitutional rights of conservative groups, misled investigators, and risked exposing confidential taxpayer information. But Lerner’s chances of facing prosecution by her former Obama administration colleagues are slim to none.

High Noon at Bryan College

 

The board of trustees meets over the controversy surrounding the school’s statement of faith

By Marvin Olasky

(WNS)--Emotions are running high in Dayton, Tenn., where the Bryan College board of trustees is meeting today. Professors opposed to the board’s decision to clarify the college’s statement of faith, and some students they have influenced, offer a version of events—starting with the question of whether a clarification is a clarification—diametrically opposed to that put forward by the administration, trustees, and other professors.

The key debate here concerns the historicity of Adam, created—according to Chapter 2 of Genesis—by God’s special formative act. Bryan’s situation is not unique: Professors at many Christian colleges, often influenced by the BioLogos Foundation, contend that God worked through evolution to produce Adam. Some say there were many Adams, others suggest that God made a spiritual change in one hominid from among a herd, and other theistic evolutionists propose additional theories.

Professors who hold to these theories often say their beliefs are not in opposition to Chapter 2 of Genesis and the New Testament teaching of the apostle Paul. They read such passages as more poetry than prose, and say they are not promoting any particular view of origins when they teach about theistic evolution, a viewpoint that allows Christians to assert a belief in God without offending many mainstream scientists.

Some Bryan faculty members, and the students who support them, oppose the administration not only on this issue but also on the larger question of its interactions with faculty. Some complain of what they see as un-Christlike leadership. A college operates somewhat like a baseball team: During a winning streak tensions abate, but enrollment and budget losing streaks leave players and managers criticizing each other.

Long-standing tensions between administrators and professors have been a factor in many Christian college battles. Most secular colleges in America have, in essence, faculty governance, with administrations bowing to professorial pressures conceding curriculum, and trustees showing up once or twice a year to rubber-stamp those decisions. Christian colleges have sometimes been different, with denominations and trustees asserting influence, much to the chagrin of the American Association of University Professors and other faculty groups.

In Bryan’s case, critical professors say the administration and trustees are not adhering to the Bryan charter, which specifies that the doctrinal statement cannot be changed, and have moved forward without adequate discussion of the issue or concern for affected individuals.

Transgender Student Files Housing Complaint Against Christian University

 

By Lynde Langdon

(WNS)--A Christian university in Oregon must decide where it stands theologically and legally as it responds to an anti-discrimination complaint filed last week by a transgender student. 

The student, referred to in legal documents as Jayce M., came to George Fox University in Newberg, Ore., about 25 miles south of Portland, as a woman but has been in the process of legally, and physically, changing her gender.

George Fox University administrators met throughout the year with Jayce, now a sophomore, to figure out where she would live once she legally became a man. Because student housing at George Fox is single-gender, campus officials proposed that Jayce live alone on-campus next year. Jayce had requested to live in an on-campus apartment with a group of male friends, Jayce’s attorney, Paul Southwick, told me. 

Southwick is a Portland attorney and a George Fox alumnus who heads up an advocacy project for LGBT students on Christian college campuses. He said he met Jayce through other students he knows at George Fox. Southwick filed the Title IX discrimination complaint on April 4 and also helped Jayce’s mother prepare a petition supporting Jayce on Change.org. As of Friday afternoon, the petition had nearly 6,000 signatures.

In 2011, Southwick represented a student whose acceptance at California Baptist University was rescinded when the college learned the young man had represented himself as a woman on his application. The student at that time had not undergone the legal gender change process. The lawsuit is still pending

Jayce applied to George Fox as a female and has been honest with the university about being transgender, Southwick said. 

“Jayce is a Christian and he’s happy to go to a Christian university,” Southwick said. “He also doesn’t see anything being incompatible with being a Christian and living with a transgender identity.” Southwick said he saw “no clear directive from scripture or spiritual leaders” against attempting to change gender, though “there’s clearer passages regarding homosexual conduct.”

George Fox is a Christian university founded by Quakers in the 1880s. It is a member of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. The statement of faith on its website says, “We believe that God inspired the Bible and has given it to us as the uniquely authoritative, written guide for Christian living and thinking. As illumined by the Holy Spirit, the Scriptures are true and reliable.” 

In a statement posted online, school administrators said, “George Fox strives to be a Christ-centered community and our residential facilities are single sex because of our theological commitments. The student’s request to switch from female-only on-campus housing to male-only on-campus housing is one that many institutions would struggle with.”

According to the statement, administrators spent hours during the past several months trying to work out Jayce’s housing situation. They also have tried to be supportive. “Out of respect for the student’s wishes, university staff refers to the student using the masculine pronoun,” the statement said. “At this time, the student has not legally changed genders.” An Oregon court approved changing Jayce’s legal gender to male earlier today, Southwick told me.

The university is subject to Title IX, which requires schools to provide equal student housing to students of all genders, Southwick said. Based on an attorney’s advice, a university spokesman declined to comment further on the college’s legal or theological defense for its position. The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights will be responsible for investigating the complaint and deciding whether George Fox has violated Title IX’s anti-discrimination rules.

Christian Rocker Larry Norman Recognized as an American Musical Treasure

 

By Jeff Koch

(WNS)--The Library of Congress recently added the work of Christian rock innovator Larry Norman to the National Recording Registry, an elite collection of recordings marked for special preservation as “cultural, artistic, or historical treasures.” Norman is the first Christian rock artist to be chosen, making the list with his groundbreaking 1972 folk-rock album Only Visiting This Planet. Of the 25 artists selected this year, Norman keeps company with the likes of Stephen Sondheim, Bing Crosby, and the Everly Brothers.

Many Christians today have never heard of Norman, though his influence on Christian music is vast: More than 300 artists from Rebecca St. James to DC Talk have covered his songs. CCM Magazine assessed, “it is certainly no overstatement to say that Larry Norman is to Christian music what John Lennon is to rock-and-roll or Bob Dylan is to folk music.” 

The Library of Congress noted Norman’s somewhat “controversial” tenure. Indeed, he was a veritable lightning rod in his day, for a couple of reasons. First was the rock music itself, which excited profound suspicion among people of faith. It was through rock-and-roll, after all, that the social and sexual revolution of the 60s thrived and found expression.  

Enter Norman, with an unabashed love for rock’s driving beat, which he hilariously defended in his well-known boogie-woogie, “Why Should The Devil Have All The Good Music?” With hippie hair down his back, Norman stymied many with his cry, “I want the people to know/that he saved my soul/but I still like to listen to the radio!” Norman recounted how often church folks insisted he was wrong: God and rock music didn’t go together. But Norman grew up in an African-American neighborhood in San Francisco and remembered how when he first heard rock-n-roll it seemed to him that “Elvis was trying to steal the music of the black churches in his songs. So, I decided to steal it back.” 

Norman was also controversial for his biting social critique. Crafted in the midst of the Vietnam War, his Dylanesque folk ballad “The Great American Novel” provoked many with questions like, “Do you really think the only way to bring the peace/is to sacrifice your children and kill all your enemies?” In later years, however, he focused more on spiritual reflection than political provocation. He explained to Strait Magazine that true social commentary was talking about lust, greed, and bitterness because “that’s what wars are. Sin is sin. There is no sophisticated, high tech sin … it’s all just silly, greedy, selfish, snotty sin.”

Near the end of his life, Norman would become controversial for different reasons, as stories of infidelity and harsh business practices came to light. Nevertheless, Norman was without question one of the very first (and best) musicians to combine a bold, electric-rock sound with an equally bold presentation of gospel truths. He avoided the copycat syndrome with inventive bluesy arrangements that still sound fresh and forceful today, while his sharp-witted lyrics covered a wide range of topics. Norman wrestled at various stages with political and personal demons, but he fiercely maintained that ultimate hope could only be found in one place: “Don’t ask me for the answer I’ve only got one/that a man leaves his darkness when he follows the Son.”

Born to Neglect, Raised to Hope

 

By Dick Peterson

In his book No Little People, Francis Schaeffer wrote that “in God's sight there are no little people and no little places. Only one thing is important: to be consecrated persons in God's place for us, at each moment.” For four years during the 1990s WORLD annually ran a set of features with specific examples of Christians who were doing God-glorifying things out of love and obedience but without recognition. We continue that tradition in this new series on people who glorify God by serving others without getting any money or publicity in the process.—Marvin Olasky

Adoption agency social workers told Kurt and Vicki Johnson that bringing a little orphaned girl from Guangzhou, China, into their home would be difficult. But it wasn’t until Hope Evangeline entered the Johnson household in January that they understood exactly how difficult it would be. Neglect in the Chinese orphanage left the then 2½-year-old unable to eat solids, sleep through the night, or trust her new parents. “It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” Vicki Johnson said. 

Hope is nearly 3 now. The four months she’s been with the Johnsons have brought a litany of challenges, regressions, and tiny victories. Vicki keeps a journal to track how far Hope has progressed since she arrived at her new home in Summerville, S.C.

The Johnsons confess to having early doubts. “I’ll tell you truthfully, I was thinking ‘What did we do? What were we thinking?’ This was huge,” Vicki said. Confidence in the fact that God wanted them to adopt this child has helped, as well as friends and family praying with and for them. At times, Vicki wonders if she’s too negative about Hope’s slow progress as Kurt celebrates baby steps.

“This puts stress on a marriage, and I’m learning how deficient I am in caring for [Vicki],” Kurt said. When he heads off to work each day, Kurt leaves Vicki with their six biological children and Hope’s next challenge. When he comes home in the evening, Vicki needs him to take over.

The first challenge: Teaching Hope to eat food. She’s only ever eaten formula from a bottle, so they began by giving her a baby spoon to play with, rubbed it against her face and lips, and then tried a little pureed food to let her know it had taste. Then they tried one Cheerio, which she held in her mouth until it disintegrated. Although she had a full set of teeth, she didn’t know to chew solid food, they gently moved her jaw up and down.

At the orphanage, Hope probably never slept through the night in a room of 30 cribs filled with 1- and 2-year-olds. When she awakes, her hands and fingers are her toys. Vicki said they never put toys in their children’s cribs, so to keep her from playing at night, she wears mittens to bed. With her new bedtime routine, Hope sleeps better.

Each new learning experience begins with a clash of wills between Hope and her new parents. Whether learning to eat, changing clothes, bathing after a diaper change, or walking down the back steps holding the rail rather than mom’s hand, every challenge invites trauma.

“She’s learning to trust us and we’ve made a little headway, but we have so much to go,” Kurt said. They suspect Hope’s teeth had never been brushed. After a week of crying and screaming, introducing her to the electric toothbrush with barely a hint of mouthwash, and brushing her front teeth only, Hope now climbs up on the stool to reach the sink, giddy and smiling.

“I review my notes, and we’ve come so far,” Vicki said, referring not just to Hope, but to herself and Kurt as well. “I’ve learned a lot about our sinful nature, hers and my own.” She’s learning to stay joyful for the sake of her other children, who are just as important. And she’s learning to trust God, to forgive, and to repent of the frustrations that arise from seeing Hope acting much younger than her physical age and not being able to change her fast enough. 

“It just takes time,” she said.

Canadian Law Society Backs School’s Religious Freedom

 

Country’s first Christian law school moves closer to reality

By J.C. Derrick

(WNS)--The Law Society of British Columbia voted overwhelmingly to approve Canada’s first Christian law school after an emotional hearing in April that lasted almost three hours.

Trinity Western University (TWU) in Langley, British Columbia, received the accreditation despite intense criticism from gay rights groups and some members of the legal community who claim TWU’s community covenant discriminates against homosexuals. A proposed resolution would have refused to recognize Trinity Western graduates, but it failed on a 20-6 vote.

“We are very pleased with this outcome,” TWU president Bob Kuhn said in a statement, adding that Friday’s result is important for the entire country. “It says that there is room in a democratic country like Canada for a law school at a Christian university.”

Janet Epp Buckingham, a TWU associate professor who helped develop the law school proposal, told me she was pleasantly surprised by the lopsided vote. She attributed it to decision-makers’ familiarity with Trinity Western and its graduates.

Last December, the Federation of Law Societies of Canada and the British Columbia Ministry of Advanced Education issued back-to-back approvals for the law school, citing “no public interest reason” not to grant preliminary permission. But instead of resolving the ongoing controversy, the decisions only served to re-ignite it. Opponents mounted a campaign to convince the Federation’s provincial societies not to recognize TWU School of Law graduates, and the Canadian Council of Law Deans drafted a proposal to bar membership for any institution it deemed discriminatory.

Trinity Western has been here before: The Supreme Court of Canada in 2001 ruled 8-1 in favor of the school’s right to have an accredited teaching program,keeping in tact its community covenant that requires students to “abstain from sexual intimacy that violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman.” (It also bans unmarried heterosexual sex, alcohol, tobacco, and other legal activities.)

No claim of actual discrimination has ever been leveled at TWU, but opponents have been planning a lawsuit against the government for approving the law school.

On Jan. 24, the Law Society of British Columbia asked for public comments on the proposed law school, and it received almost 300 in less than six weeks. Trinity Western submitted a 49-page filing, arguing that it had “established beyond any question that its School of Law meets all applicable academic requirements and that students will receive a high quality education that includes both substantive and ethical components.” TWU acknowledged its responsibility to teach Canadian equality law, “including equality based on sexual orientation.”

Critics said the university couldn’t teach the law objectively—or correctly—while standing in opposition to Canada’s legal definition of marriage. But other legal experts noted that laws change all the time and many law schools challenge the status quo on various issues.

Law societies in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Newfoundland, and Prince Edward Island have all announced they will accept TWU graduates, but three others—Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Ontario—have initiated public proceedings similar to those in British Columbia.

Buckingham, who attended an all-day proceeding in Ontario on Thursday, said she thinks the testimony and outcome in British Columbia will be helpful for other provinces. “The people who spoke to the issue made it quite clear the law supports all of the law societies approving the law school,” she said.

Although more decisions lay ahead, Friday’s vote in TWU’s home province was unquestionably its biggest remaining hurdle. Buckingham said the western provinces, from which Trinity Western draws most of its students, have all given approval, and the school already has mobility agreements so students approved in one province will be able to practice law anywhere in Canada.

Trinity Western, a university of about 4,000 students, filed its law school application in 2012 and hopes to have a class of about 60 students in the fall of 2016.

NATIONAL BRIEFS

 

Gay Rights Groups Force Mozilla CEO to Resign

(WNS)--Brendan Eich stepped down from his post as Mozilla's CEO after gay rights groups lambasted the company for promoting a leader who supports traditional marriage. In a statement posted online, Mozilla chairwoman Mitchell Baker said Eich was stepping down for the good of the company, which he co-founded. She also apologized for promoting him from his position as chief technology officer in the first place. “We didn’t act like you’d expect Mozilla to act,” she wrote. “We didn’t move fast enough to engage with people once the controversy started. We’re sorry. We must do better.” The company, which created the popular web browser Firefox, promoted Brendan Eich from chief technology officer to its top leadership position on March 24. He’s certainly qualified for the job. Eich co-founded Mozilla and invented JavaScript, one of the web’s most ubiquitous programming languages. In 2008, Eich gave $1,000 to the campaign to pass Proposition 8, the constitutional amendment that banned same-sex marriage in California. A lower court ruling struck down the amendment, and the U.S. Supreme Court left that decision place last year. Eich’s contribution was publicly reported then and he faced some criticism for his stance.  But his promotion to CEO last week whipped the old criticism into a firestorm. 

Mars Hill Church Moves to Destroy Documents

 

(WNS)--Mars Hill Church, the Seattle megachurch pastored by Mark Driscoll, has moved to destroy all staff emails more than three months old. According to the church’s new email retention policy, announced this week, the email deletions would reduce technology costs. But a group of former staff, elders, and members say the new policy is a deliberate attempt to destroy documents that might be used in litigation against the church. WORLD obtained an email from the church announcing the new policy, scheduled to go into effect by the close of business today. “We are now shifting to a new email retention policy, which will automatically retain emails only from the last 90 days on our machines, servers, and backups,” the email read.

 

World Vision Reverses Decision to Hire Employees in Same-Sex Marriages

 

(WNS)--World Vision president Richard Stearns announced on March 24 that the Christian aid organization would allow its U.S. branch to hire employees in same-sex marriages. Stearns announced on March 26 that the World Vision board had made a mistake and would reverse the controversial decision. How did that whipsaw come about? Maybe there’s a lesson in the U-turn that one board member, Stephen Hayner, president of Columbia Theological Seminary in Georgia, took two years ago. In spring, 2012, protest had surfaced at the Presbyterian Church (USA) seminary when the school denied a housing request to a lesbian couple. The Layman (a Presbyterian news agency) reported that Hayner sent an email to students in April 2012, saying the policy wouldn’t change. More protests followed, and the seminary established a housing commission to review its standards. By August 2012, the seminary had reversed course: A new policy allows students and their “qualified domestic partners” and children to live in seminary housing.

Violent Video Games Prime Kids For Aggressive Behavior

 

(WNS)--Violent video games train children to think and act more aggressively, according to a recent study conducted at Iowa State University and published in Jama Pediatrics. While a lot of studies have shown a relationship between violent video play and aggressive behaviors, “we wanted to look at what is actually changing in the brain that would account for it,” said Douglas Gentile, associate professor of psychology at Iowa State University and the study’s lead author. The researchers discovered that violent video games affect how children see the world and change their thinking in three ways. First, children who play violent video games tend to attribute hostility to the actions of other people, even when no hostility is present, because the games have taught them to be vigilant in watching for enemies. Secondly, the researchers found the children began to believe that it was acceptable to respond aggressively when provoked. Lastly, the children experienced an increase in aggressive fantasies. According to the study, the children’s aggressive thinking predicted aggressive behavior two years later.

INTERNATIONAL BRIEFS

                 

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