WORLD News Service – August 22 2014

                                                                                                                                   

 

Ebola Patients Released: Doctors at Atlanta’s Emory University Hospital declare two American missionaries cured of Ebola

 

Florida Judge Strikes Down Marriage Amendment

 

NYC Recruits Clergy to Avoid Another Ferguson: Mayor meets with religious leaders after an African-American man dies in a police chokehold

 

New York Farmers Ordered to Host Gay Weddings

 

Critics Throw Cold Water on the Ice Bucket Challenge

 

New Orleans’ Charter School Experiment

 

Risking Genocide: As the Islamic State has raged from Syria to Iraq, it threatens to wipe out Christians and other religious groups with singular roots in ancient Mesopotamia

 

 

NATIONAL BRIEFS

 

INTERNATIONAL BRIEFS

 

                                                                                                                                   

Miracle in Atlanta: Ebola Patients Released

 

Doctors at Atlanta’s Emory University Hospital declare two American missionaries cured of Ebola

By Andrew Branch

(WNS)--Both Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol, the missionaries who became infected by the Ebola virus, are now Ebola-free and spending time with their families. Brantly gave glory to God as he held his wife’s hand and walked out of an Atlanta hospital to loud cheers.

“Today is a miraculous day,” a thin but beaming Brantly told reporters in a prepared statement. “I am thrilled to be alive, to be well, and to be reunited with my family.”

After nearly three weeks of treatment, the two aid workers infected with Ebola in Africa pose no public health risk, Dr. Bruce Ribner of Emory University Hospital stressed. “After a rigorous course of treatment and thorough testing,” Ribner said, “we have determined … he can return to his family, his community, and his life without public health concerns.”

Nancy Writebol was released Tuesday, Ribner said. Emory officials honored her request to keep her release private. A statement from SIM, the aid group Writebol worked with, said she was resting with her husband at an undisclosed location. Brantly told reporters that “as [Writebol] walked out of her isolation room, all she could say was, ‘To God be the glory.’”

About two dozen of Brantly’s doctors and nurses laughed and joked at the press conference, beaming with proud smiles. Several blinked back tears, and the couple gave them bear hugs.

“We are profoundly grateful to have the opportunity to have applied our training, our care, and our experience to meeting their needs,” Ribner said. “All of us who have worked with them have been impressed by their courage and determination. Their hope and faith have been an inspiration to all of us.”

Brantly and Writebol contracted the deadly disease the same week in late July at a mission hospital in Liberia. “As I lay in my bed in Liberia for the following nine days, getting sicker and weaker each day, I prayed that God would help me to be faithful even in my illness, and I prayed that in my life or in my death, He would be glorified,” Brantly said.

In a statement, Writebol’s husband, David Writebol, said his wife “was greatly encouraged knowing that there were so many people around the world lifting prayers to God for her return to health. Her departure from the hospital, free of the disease, is powerful testimony to God’s sustaining grace.”

Brantly asked reporters and the public to respect his family’s privacy as they reunite after more than a month apart. He urged people to keep praying for him and for Africa. “I am forever thankful to God for sparing my life and am glad for any attention my sickness has attracted to the plight of West Africa in the midst of this epidemic,” he said.

Ribner dispelled criticism that bringing Brantly and Writebol to the United States was a bad idea: “We cannot let our fears dictate our actions. We must all care.”

Franklin Graham, president of the North Carolina-based Samaritan’s Purse, said the group was “giving thanks to God” for Brantly’s recovery. Brantly has been in Emory University Hospital’s isolation unit in Atlanta for nearly three weeks.

“I have marveled at Dr. Brantly’s courageous spirit as he has fought this horrible virus with the help of the highly competent and caring staff at Emory University Hospital,” Graham said in a statement. “His faithfulness to God and compassion for the people of Africa have been an example to us all.”

Aid groups evacuated Brantly, 33, from Liberia on Aug. 2. His colleague Nancy Writebol, 59, followed on Aug. 5. The two were infected while working at a missionary clinic outside Liberia's capital. Writebol was working for North Carolina-based aid group SIM, and Emory officials are expected to release more information today about when she may be released.

Both Americans received an experimental drug that some say contributed to their recovery. While one Spanish priest who received the drug died, the Liberian government says three Liberian health workers are showing “remarkable” progress after getting the last doses of the serum. Experts have cautioned that it’s unclear whether the drug, never before tested in humans, is effective. The California-based drug maker said additional doses of the drug won’t be available for months.

The current outbreak in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Nigeria has killed more than 1,350 people, and officials have said treatment centers are filling up faster than new ones can be opened or expanded. Sick patients are packing hallways, potentially infecting more people. Ebola is transmitted by direct contact with the bodily fluids of someone who is sick. The disease causes internal bleeding and has been fatal in more than 50 percent of cases.

The death toll is rising most quickly in Liberia, which now accounts for at least 576 of the fatalities, the World Health Organization said. With at least 2,473 people sickened across West Africa, this outbreak has more recorded cases than the previous two-dozen outbreaks combined. Graham said Samaritan’s Purse is sending more health workers to Liberia to aid the more than 350 already there.

Calm returned Thursday to a slum in the Liberian capital that was sealed off in the government’s attempt to halt the spread of Ebola. Suspicious residents rioted and raided an Ebola screening area Saturday. Hundreds more rioted Wednesday as police and soldiers used scrap wood and barbed wire to seal off the slum of 50,000 people. Officials and residents are now trying to determine how to get food into the neighborhood.

Florida Judge Strikes Down Marriage Amendment

 

(WNS)--A federal judge on Aug. 21 declared unconstitutional Florida’s ban on same-sex marriage.

Repeating an argument made by many other federal judges, Judge Robert L. Hinckle in Tallahassee said the constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman, approved by Florida voters in 2008, violated the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment. Hinckle stayed his decision until the Supreme Court rules on the issue, which it is almost certain to do in 2015.

“The U.S. Supreme Court, they need to decide this case, they are going to decide this case, hopefully sooner than later so we will have finality,” Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi said earlier this week. “There are good people on both sides of this issue and we need to have finality for everyone involved.”

Bondi, a Republican, has been appealing local court decisions that would allow same-sex marriage in four Florida counties. The effect Hinckle’s decision will have on those cases is not yet clear.

NYC Recruits Clergy to Avoid Another Ferguson

 

Mayor meets with religious leaders after an African-American man dies in a police chokehold

By Emily Belz

(WNS)--In July, before the chaos in Ferguson, Mo., an unarmed African-American man, Eric Garner, died after a New York City police officer put him in a chokehold during an arrest on Staten Island. The medical examiner ruled Garner’s death a homicide, and the local district attorney is moving to bring evidence to a grand jury to possibly indict the officer responsible. Garner was placed in a chokehold in the course of being arrested for selling cigarettes on the street, and a video of the arrest shows him repeating, “I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe.”

Unlike in Ferguson, the protests in New York against Garner’s death have been peaceful, with the NYPD accustomed to managing large crowds. The National Action Network has scheduled a march for Saturday in Staten Island, and Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said on Wednesday he expects the march to be peaceful and mostly “self-policed.”

On Wednesday, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio attended a meeting of local religious leaders to talk about improving community relations with police in the wake of Garner’s death. De Blasio asked Cardinal Timothy Dolan of the Archdiocese of New York to convene the group, and they met at Dolan’s residence in Midtown.

“It’s their mission to save lives, to help heal wounds,” said de Blasio of the religious leaders. He said the meeting would have been impossible without Dolan, a “leader who has the respect of all.”

The meeting was set up before Michael Brown was killed in Ferguson, but Dolan is a St. Louis native.

“Ferguson is heavy on my heart,” Dolan said. “We are very much aware of the flaws in New York, but we’re aware of the strong points, and we want to be a light to the world.”

To this point, most of the outcry against Garner’s death has come from local African-American pastors, most prominently the Rev. Al Sharpton. He came to Dolan’s meeting, along with several other prominent African-American leaders like Rev. Herbert Daughtry from House of the Lord in Brooklyn. The rest were prominent Catholic leaders, Jewish rabbis, and an imam. Notably absent were representatives from Staten Island churches, although the mayor said the group came together last minute and was not fully representative. Bratton and the NYPD chaplain joined the meeting, which stretched on for two hours. The mayor said after the meeting that it was only the first of many such get togethers. After events like Garner’s death, public leaders often reach out to community organizers but ignore religious leaders, he said.

“Faith leaders arguably have the greatest reach of any set of leaders,” de Blasio said. “We aren’t tapping into that enough. … We’re adamant about going on this journey with them.”

New York first lady Chirlane McCray, also present, said she had learned a lesson from talking to people in New York. “Who do they listen to, connect with?” she said. “Their clergy.”

“We believe in a God that can bring something good out of evil,” Dolan said after the meeting, holding a Bible. Rabbi Michael Miller of the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York, who came to the meeting after getting off a plane from Israel, said Dolan opened the meeting by reading Psalm 76.

“What came out of the meeting was the role of religion in New York,” said Miller. “The public sector and the spiritual sector need to work in partnership.”

The leaders and the mayor were light on the specifics of their plan going forward, other than to say they were building relationships with each other. De Blasio has given more attention to the role of religious leaders in the city than the previous administration.

When de Blasio took office this year, the tension between minority communities in the city and police was already high because of the Bloomberg administration’s stop-and-frisk policy, where officers disproportionately stopped African-American and Hispanic men. A district court ruled the policy unconstitutional, and de Blasio rolled the policy back. Better relationships between the police and community were a central theme of de Blasio’s campaign.

New York Farmers Ordered to Host Gay Weddings

 

By Sarah Padbury

(WNS)--An administrative law judge in New York has found a couple guilty of discrimination because they refused to allow two lesbians to rent their farm for a wedding ceremony. The judge ordered the couple to pay $13,000 in fines and damages and undergo “anti-discrimination” re-education.

Robert and Cynthia Gifford own and operate Liberty Ridge Farm, a 100-acre property in Schaghticoke, N.Y., about 20 miles north of Albany. For 15 years, they have operated a family business renting various areas of the farm for public events, including weddings, parties, corporate meetings, summer camps, and an annual fall festival.

In September 2012, Cynthia Gifford received a call from a woman inquiring about the farm’s wedding options. During the conversation, Gifford determined the caller’s fiancé was also a woman and declined the booking.“We do not hold same-sex ceremonies here at the barn,” Gifford told her. When asked if that decision was legal, Gifford said it was legal because the couple operated a “private business,” the lawsuit claims.

Melisa and Jennie McCarthy filed suit against the Giffords in October 2012 for violating New York’s Human Rights Law, which prohibits a “provider of public accommodation” from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation. Places of public accommodation include businesses that offer entertainment, recreation, or food. Religious organizations and private clubs with 100 or more dues-paying members are exempt from the law.

Melisa McCarthy told the court the Giffords’ rejection left her feeling “shell-shocked” and “horrible.” Jennie McCarthy, who had recently come out as a lesbian, was “very upset” because the policy was “kind of a blow” to her coming-out process. The couple eventually held a wedding ceremony on a farm in Central Bridge, N.Y., in August 2013.

“I think it’s our right to choose who we market to, like any business,” Robert Gifford said during an interview with Albany’s localFox affiliate. “We are a family business and we just feel we ought to stay down the family path.”

But on July 2, Judge Migdalia Pares declared that the government’s values trump the Giffords’ right to run their business according to their beliefs. Pares also determined the Giffords’ actions warranted a severe penalty, with the “goal of deterrence.” The Giffords must pay $1,500 to each woman for “mental pain and suffering,” as well as a civil fine of $10,000 payable to the state. Interest on the debt accrues at 9 percent from the date of the order until it is paid.

The order also requires the Giffords to “prominently post” in a public area a poster designed by the New York Division of Human Rights that details the state’s anti-discrimination law and features a red heading in all-capitalized letters that reads, “Discrimination really hurts.” The poster provides a toll-free number to report any signs of discrimination.

Lastly, the Giffords must establish “anti-discrimination” training and procedures for their employees and provide proof of such training “upon written demand,” as well as cooperate with any future investigations regarding their compliance with the order.

The Giffords have 60 days to appeal the decision.

 

Critics Throw Cold Water on the Ice Bucket Challenge

By Courtney Crandell

(WNS)--In 2012, “Gangnam Style” parodies stormed the internet. In 2013, thousands posted videos of themselves convulsing to the “Harlem Shake.” But in 2014, the #IceBucketChallenge has become the summer internet sensation. A Google search yields more than 14 million videos from regular people to public figures like Bill Gates and former President George W. Bush dumping buckets of ice water on their heads to raise awareness and money for the ALS Association, a nonprofit organization promoting research for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and support for its victims. About 5,600 people are diagnosed each year with ALS, the progressive neurodegenerative condition also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Each video features someone dowsing himself in frigid water then challenging other people to do the same within 24 hours—or donate money to the ALS Association. Statistically speaking, the social media campaign appears to be working. As of Aug. 19, the organization gained more than 450,000 new donors and received $22.9 million in donations, 12 times the amount it took in during the same time period last year. 

“We need to be strategic in our decision-making as to how the funds will be spent so that when people look back on this event in 10 and 20 years, the Ice Bucket Challenge will be seen as a real game-changer for ALS,” said Barbara Newhouse, president and CEO of the ALS Association.

But despite the campaign’s ubiquitous presence on social media, not everyone is a fan. Some criticism focuses on the campaign’s execution, but members of the pro-life community are worried about how the money will be spent.  

The American Life League (ALL) designated the ALS Association as “unworthy of support” due to its connection with embryonic stem cell research. In a July 2 email to ALL, Carrie Munk, chief communications and marketing officer for the ALS Association, said the organization primarily funds adult stem cell research but also funds one embryonic stem cell study through contributions from a specific donor. Munk said donors may stipulate that their donations not go toward the research project. But the current study may not be the last the organization funds. “Under very strict guidelines, the association may fund embryonic stem cell research in the future,” she said.

Live Action President Lila Rose described the ALS Association as “tainted” due to its connection with embryonic stem cell research. “It’s such a shame that the ALS Association, while striving to save some people, chooses to support research that thrives from experimenting on and killing tiny, innocent human beings,” she said. Father Michael Duffy at his Patheos blog recommends challenge participants donate to the John Paul II Medical Research Institute instead.

Originally, the Ice Bucket Challenge didn’t connect to the ALS Association at all. Instead, participants donated to the charity of their choice. The challenge attached to the ALS Association after pro golfer Chris Kennedy challenged his cousin Jeanette Senerchia of Pelham, N.Y., whose husband has ALS. Her challenge spread to Pat Quinn of Yonkers, N.Y., who also has ALS. Members of his social network began posting the challenge, which eventually reached Pete Frates, a former Boston College baseball player diagnosed with ALS in 2012. Frates, whose wife is expecting a baby in September, posted a video of himself bobbing his head to “Ice Ice Baby” by rapper Vanilla Ice. (According to Frates, ice water and ALS don’t mix.) The ALS challenge quickly spread from Frates’ Boston connections to the rest of the United States. 

“This is certainly a very unique, very broad phenomenon that I have not seen in this magnitude before,” said Markus Pfeiffer, a strategic communications professor at Regent University. Pfieffer suggested Christians participating in the challenge could return to the its original intent by supporting Samaritan’s Purse or doctors battling Ebola.

But the pro-life community isn’t the only source of criticism against the campaign. Some claim the campaign promotes “slacktivism”—activism without meaningful action—and feeds millennial narcissism through glorified selfies. 

“There are a lot of things wrong with the Ice Bucket Challenge, but most annoying is that it’s basically narcissism masked as altruism,” wrote Arielle Pardes, a writer for Vice and a millennial herself. She cited other hashtag campaigns that quickly lost popularity, including #Haiti, #Kony2012, and, more recently, #BringBackOurGirls. “If you want to make some fraction of a difference, consider donating to the ALS Association or volunteering your time with an ALS organization,” Pardes suggested.

Regardless of the criticism associated with the Ice Bucket Challenge, the campaign has raised some much-needed funds for the ALS Association, revealing the potentially positive impact of social media, Pfeiffer said, adding, “If that little bit of self-exposure can lead to more discovery about ALS, I would not look at that negatively.”

But not all analysts think the extra exposure has been universally beneficial. 

The campaign has “done a mixed job raising awareness,” said Rick Cohen, communications director for the National Council of Nonprofits. Many people who accept the challenge know nothing more about ALS after dousing themselves with ice water than before. Others post videos without mentioning ALS. “Too many people are doing it with the fun element in mind and not connecting to the issue at all,” he said. 

Cohen did praise the ALS Association for doing a good job connecting people to its cause by highlighting human stories, noting that increased awareness can encourage communities to support those suffering from ALS. But it’s too soon to know if the #IceBucketChallenge will benefit the fight against ALS long-term. Like anything that “goes viral” on the internet, the Ice Bucket Challenge faces potential oblivion. Its success depends on the ability of the ALS Association to educate participants and turn new donors into returning donors, Cohen said. And despite the short-term benefits, not all nonprofits would want to be in the association’s shoes.

“Many [nonprofit groups] would prefer a more substantive victory in the long term,” Cohen said.

New Orleans’ Charter School Experiment

 

By Emily Scheie

(WNS)--Nine years ago this month, Hurricane Katrina swept through New Orleans. Though it brought destruction, it also brought an opportunity for change.

In the years before Katrina, the city was known for failing schools. “Pre-Katrina, ‘fraud, corruption and flat-out theft’ were the norm in a school system where $71 million in federal funds were mismanaged or lost,” according to a 2007 report from Cowen Institute, a Tulane University think tank on public education initiatives. But today, New Orleans is known for one of the nation’s largest experiments with charter schools.

In the wake of Katrina, then-Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco transferred more than 100 of the city’s low-performing schools to the state-run Recovery School District (RSD). The district changed most of them to charters and closed the doors of its last traditional public schools in May, according to the The Washington Post.

This year will be its first with nothing but charter schools.

“It is an ongoing experiment,” said John Merrow, director of a documentary on New Orleans schools, during a June PBS interview. Nine years after Katrina, some people point to test scores and school ratings as proof the experiment is succeeding. But critics have taken legal action against the change, and a poll of voters in the city shows mixed support for the schools.

Charter schools receive public funding, but they operate—and innovate—free from what supporters see as the politics and bureaucracy of traditional public schools. In exchange, a school must meet the standards in its charter.

The RSD currently oversees 57 charter schools in New Orleans, and most of the 20 schools run by the Orleans Parish School Board are also charters. School enrollment is down about 31 percent from before Katrina, but the number of failing schools is also down—from 78 to nine, according to October ratings from the Louisiana Department of Education. At the same time, the percentage of RSD students in grades 3-8 who scored “basic” or above on state tests increased from 37 percent in 2009 to 57 percent in 2014.

But the system has its downsides. The lottery the city uses to place students in schools can be frustrating to families. Dawn Howard homeschools her children, avoiding “the fear, the dread” of getting children into good schools. The schools are “all performing at different levels, and it seems like everyone’s trying to get into the same ones,” Howard said. Some students now travel long distances to get to school because they no longer attend one in their neighborhood.

Some critics say the reforms are not fair to students, especially African Americans. In May, organizations against closing traditional public schools filed a civil rights complaint against the Louisiana Department of Education, the RSD, and the Louisiana State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. It argues the state subjected African-American communities to more neighborhood school closures than white communities and has prevented African Americans from getting into high-performing schools. The city uses an enrollment process called OneApp, in which parents list their top school choices. But the lawsuit claims “OneApp’s metric is unclear” and lacks “accountability or oversight.”

In May, the Cowen Institute polled 602 voters for their perspective on the city’s schools. While 45 percent said public schools in New Orleans are improving, 18 percent said they’re getting worse. Only 38 percent strongly or somewhat agree New Orleans schools “do a good job of preparing young adults for college” while 52 percent somewhat or strongly disagree. The response to whether schools prepare students for jobs was similar.

Education journalist Sarah Carr studied and wrote on the city’s school change in her 2013 book Hope against Hope and says New Orleans is a test of school reform that the nation is watching. “Even though what happened and the way it happened was very unique in New Orleans, it definitely has a lot of implications as urban school systems restructure across the country,” Carr told PBS.

Risking Genocide

 

As the Islamic State has raged from Syria to Iraq, it threatens to wipe out Christians and other religious groups with singular roots in ancient Mesopotamia

By Mindy Belz

(WNS)--Sami Dagher is waiting in the hot sun for a truck delivering air coolers. It’s 5 p.m. in Erbil on Saturday, Aug. 16, and the temperature hangs stubbornly at 111°F. He needs 500 air coolers—evaporative cooling units that use fans with water and consume less electricity than air conditioners. He can locate only 100 but hopes to have a few hundred more trucked in from Iran tomorrow.

“Here in Ainkawa area of Erbil alone we have 30,000 displaced—all Christians—and the heat is terrible,” said Dagher, pastor of a Christian and Missionary Alliance Church in Beirut and a church planter who has helped start churches across the Middle East. 

The Alliance church in Erbil, the capital of Iraq’s Kurdistan region, is working with aid groups to coordinate relief to many made homeless by waves of onslaught across Iraq by ISIS (or ISIL), the Islamic militant group now calling itself the Islamic State. At least one church in Erbil has 140 people sleeping in its halls. Once mattresses arrived, more spilled out to sleep on dirt or grass outside the church buildings. 

Along with air coolers, food, clothing, diapers, mattresses, pillows, and blankets—not to mention housing—are all in short supply. Many of the displaced Christians in Erbil are living in tents outdoors and in buildings under construction. They are surviving with no bathrooms, no running water, no finished windows or doorways, and no relief from the heat, said Dagher: “Yes we are getting supplies, but our city is overwhelmed.”

Much of Iraq’s Christian population—halved and halved and halved again since the 2003 U.S. invasion—now finds itself shoved into the Kurdish corner of Iraq with nowhere else to go but cities like Erbil and Duhok, cities isolated from the rest of the country and surrounded by mountains with limited transit routes. War in Syria, hostility in Iran, and a closed border to Turkey all leave the Christians forced from Mosul and Nineveh Plain this summer with next to no options—and so they have crowded into church courtyards, sleeping in streets and parks, living out of tents or on open ground. 

Over 1.5 million Iraqis have been displaced in three waves of ISIS onslaught starting in January in Anbar Province. Most brutal was the third wave Aug. 1-6 across Nineveh Province: It forced out up to 33,000 families, according to the UN, and killed thousands, leading to genocide for Yazidis and other minority populations in Iraq. On Aug. 13 the UN declared Iraq a “Level 3 Emergency,” its highest category for humanitarian crisis. 

Despite more recent gains on the ground—made possible by U.S. air strikes in the area starting Aug. 8—ISIS retains a hold on one-third of Iraq. Homeless Christians and others have no idea what will happen to them next, where they might go, or how to make a home that’s secure again.

Aid coordinators like Dagher, who is working with Samaritan’s Purse, emphasize the extreme level of relief needed: water, food, milk and diapers for babies, mattresses, pillows, and blankets. Most families who escaped the ISIS grip in Mosul and surrounding areas lost everything, including their homes and any money they had in the bank. Reports have circled the internet of women whose wedding rings ISIS confiscated, babies whose gold earrings the militants removed.

“We have to take care of them or they will not survive at all,” said Yousif Fahmi, a monk who oversees Mar Mattai, a Syriac Orthodox monastery in Nineveh Province. 

A fourth-century enclave set in mountains 12 miles east of Mosul, Mar Mattai is under protection of Kurdish forces now, after for a time this summer becoming a safe haven to dozens of families from Mosul and the villages of Nineveh Plain fleeing the ISIS ultimatum to convert or be killed. 

Fahmi left the monastery in the care of Kurdish peshmerga to escort many of the families to the city of Duhok further north—where an additional 20,000-30,000 Christians are estimated to have taken refuge. But necessities are in short supply and some of those families are living on the street, he told me by telephone: “There are babies without milk, boys and girls without food, and a whole family here with only one blanket among them.” 

Dagher said the hardest part of the unfolding crisis is the number of young people affected. A third of those living outdoors, he estimates, are young children. “You will see newborns, even 3 days old, who have to be put on the ground. They are crying in the heat, the ants will come and eat on them, and there is really nothing we can do about it.”

Brutality against Christians heated up in June with the ISIS takeover of Mosul, forcing tens of thousands to flee. June 15 marked the first worship day in 1,600 years when no Mass was said in Mosul, according to Chaldean church leaders. ISIS turned churches into mosques, and on July 24 blew up the tombs long ascribed to the Old Testament prophets Jonah and Daniel. 

Already ISIS held Syria’s northern province of Raqqa. With gains south of Mosul near Baghdad, it declared an Islamic caliphate stretching from northern Syria to eastern Iraq, and declared itself the Islamic State in late July.

Attacks escalated as ISIS drove out Christians and other minorities from most remaining towns of Nineveh, including Qaraqosh, a city of 50,000, on Aug. 2. The same day Islamic State fighters attacked Sinjar, an area of mostly Yazidis, but also home to Christians, Shabaks, and Turkmen. 

About 40,000 residents took refuge along the Sinjar Mountains, where they became cut off from Kurdish protection. Many perished there in the first 24 hours for lack of water. With genocide of the Yazidis a threatening possibility, President Barack Obama authorized air strikes (citing concern for U.S. citizens in the area) and humanitarian aid drops Aug. 7, and they began the next day. Since that time the United States and the European Union reluctantly have taken a larger role in trying to hold together a tattered Iraq. 

On Aug. 11 Iraq’s president selected Haider al-Abadi to take over as Iraqi prime minister from the long-embattled Nouri al-Malaki, who resigned three days later—a move widely seen abroad as crucial to bringing peace again in Iraq and ending atrocities. On Aug. 18 Kurdish ground forces assisted by U.S. air strikes retook parts of Nineveh Province, including Mosul Dam, a key facility.

But atrocities continue. Dozens of Christian families remain unaccounted for who lived in the mostly Yazidi area of Sinjar. More than 70 girls and women from the area “were taken, raped, captured and sold,” reported the Assyrian Aid Society. ISIS executed at least 2,600 mostly Yazidi men who refused to convert to Islam and abducted 500 women, reportedly to Mosul where they could be sold into forced marriages or sex slavery.

Although many Yazidis were escorted by Kurdish militias to safety in Kurdish territory, ISIS militants executed 80 men from the Yazidi village of Kocho Aug. 16 and detained hundreds of women, Kurdish peshmerga commander Ziad Sinjar told The Washington Post. 

Yazidis claim to have the world’s oldest religion, one that predates Christianity and Islam. They worship angels, believe in reincarnation, and stick together: Yazidis only marry among themselves and are forbidden to convert others. Experts say about 400,000 live in Iraq—and ISIS put to flight perhaps 300,000. Yazidis also suffered the worst terrorist attack of the Iraq War, when a triple suicide bombing in 2007 killed 500 of them near the town of Shekhan.

With the latest terrorism, experts agree genocide is a real possibility. “We’re talking about a very real, immediate threat that an entire, ethno-national religious group is wiped off the face of the earth,” said David Romano, professor of Middle East politics at Missouri State University. “And we’ve already seen what’s happened to the Christians of Mosul. They’ve been there about 1,800 years, since long before Iraq existed, and since long before Islam came onto the scene. And there’s none left in Mosul.”

For Jews and Christians, exile and mass bloodletting on the hot, brittle plains of Nineveh are a common thread of history. Ancient bas-reliefs depict the Assyrian conquest of Mesopotamia with men in skullcaps, long assumed by archaeologists to be captive Jews. In the sculptures the Jews carry their children with them, along with bowls and skins of water. The women are tearing their hair, throwing dust on their heads, and wailing. Some are bound with iron manacles. 

With the arrival of Arab Muslims in 632, pressure to convert to Islam began (similar to Islamic State threat to convert, pay tax under Muslim law, or “have nothing but the sword”). Many Arab Christian tribes did convert, but in Nineveh the Assyrians and Chaldeans for the most part did not. Waves of persecution followed. At the end of the Ottoman Empire in World War I, hundreds of thousands of Assyrian  Christians in what’s now northern Iraq perished along with Armenians.

With the Iraq War, Sunni militants under al-Qaeda again targeted Christians—and an exodus from Baghdad, Mosul, and elsewhere sent between 30,000 to 50,000 north to Nineveh Plain, where they resettled ancient Christian villages. Around 2008 the Kurdish regional government financed the rebuilding of dozens of churches (along with schools and houses) in those villages. 

Now many of those resurrected villages are empty again. Even with U.S. air power, ISIS believes it can hold the once-Christian heart of Iraq.

“This is a force that is ideologically motivated, battle hardened and incredibly well equipped,” said Douglas Ollivant of the New America Foundation, who served the Obama and Bush administrations on Iraq. “It also runs the equivalent of a state. It has all the trappings of a state, just not an internationally recognized one.”

Iraq’s Christians have a long history of learning what to do under an oppressive state: They continue to worship, to help one another, and to pray. Many have told me they have new appreciation for Kurdish protection, despite tensions in managing the crisis. Dagher told me worship services are overflowing in Erbil, and he preached on Aug. 17 for the fifth time since his arrival. “The Holy Spirit is doing wonderful work among the people here,” he said. “Refugees are standing in church and repenting of their sins and confessing. Even when they have lost everything, they are joyful in finding and trusting Christ.” 

NATIONAL BRIEFS

Mars Hill Church Cancels Resurgence Conference

(WNS)--Seattle’s Mars Hill Church has canceled its annual Resurgence Conference, one of the megachurch’s flagship events, originally scheduled for Oct. 28-29. The website for the conference, which until this week contained biographical sketches of speakers and registration information, now has only the cancellation notice. The cancellation of the Resurgence Conference capped a tough week for Driscoll and Mars Hill Church. Earlier in the week, Driscoll was dropped from four upcoming “Act Like Men” conferences. He was scheduled to speak in Phoenix this October, Dallas-Fort Worth in November, and Miami and Chicago in 2015. He’s also been dropped from the Gateway Conference scheduled for Oct. 20-22 at Dallas’s Gateway Church. On Monday, Lifeway and Lifeway.com, the retail arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, said it was pulling Driscoll’s books from its 180-plus retail stores. Lifeway’s media relations manager Marty King said the retail chain made the decision to give Lifeway’s leadership time to “assess the developments regarding his ministry."

Family-Owned Pharmacy Leans on Hobby Lobby Ruling for Support

 

(WNS)--Attorneys in Washington state filed a brief in federal appeals court last week arguing their clients shouldn’t have to choose between their livelihoods and their consciences. State law requires all pharmacies to dispense the abortifacient drugs Plan B and Ella. A pharmacy and two pharmacists filed suit against the state for violating their religious rights. They say the Supreme Court’s decision in the Hobby Lobby case supports their claim. In January 2006, the Washington State Board of Pharmacy investigated the refusal by some pharmacists to “dispense lawfully prescribed medications,” according to the lawsuit. The board’s investigation targeted the refusal of a few pharmacies and pharmacists to sell abortifacient drugs marketed as emergency contraceptives. The Food and Drug Administration requires the drugs be held behind the pharmacist’s counter, but any adult over 18 can buy them with proof of age. Minors can get the medication by prescription only.

 

Family Pleads for Detained American’s Release from North Korea

 

(WNS)--The family of an American man detained in North Korea for “anti-state” crimes apologized to the country and pleaded with officials to show mercy and release him, saying in a statement that they were desperate for him to return home. Jeffrey Edward Fowle, 56, is from Miamisburg, Ohio. His wife and three children appeared at a newscast, but didn’t speak. Attorney and family friend Tim Tepe acted as their spokesperson, reading their statement and answering questions while they sat nearby. He said the family was not answering questions out of fear of compromising Fowle’s situation.  Tepe said Tatyana, Fowle’s 40-year-old wife and their family is struggling to survive financially. Fowle told her on a recent phone call that he was afraid the benefits from his job at the city streets department would run out soon.  Fowle was detained sometime after arriving in North Korea on April 29 for what the country said were hostile actions that violated his tourist status. It is suspected that he left a Bible in a nightclub in Chongjin.  Tepe said Fowle was not on a church mission, but on a vacation tour in the country. 

Tennessee Judge Issues First Ruling in Favor of Traditional Marriage

 

(WNS)--A judge in eastern Tennessee has dropped an anchor amid the deluge of state and federal court rulings favoring same-sex marriage. In a decision in mid-August, Roane County Circuit Judge Russell E. Simmons Jr. said Tennessee, which defines marriage as only between a man and woman, need not recognize gay marriages performed in another state. “The court finds that Tennessee’s laws concerning same-sex marriage do not violate the equal protection clause or the U.S. Constitution,” Simmons wrote in his opinion, which U.S. Supreme Court reporter Lyle Denniston posted online. The case involved two men, Frederick Michael Borman and Larry Kevin Pyles-Borman, who married in Iowa in 2010. They later moved to Tennessee, separated, and filed for divorce. But since Tennessee bans same-sex marriage in its constitution and does not recognize homosexual marriages made in other states, Tennessee officials would not grant divorce proceedings.

Who Will Get to Decide Definition of Marriage?

 

(WNS)--The 6th U.S Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati held a three-hour session to hear six marriage cases out of Michigan, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Ohio. In each case, lower courts had struck down state laws affirming marriage between a man and woman or forced states to recognize marriage licenses granted to same-sex couples by other states. Themes of tradition and child rearing arose, as they have before. But in a new and different twist, one judge thought the issue was for the legislature and voters to decide, not the courts. “I would have thought the best way to get respect and dignity is through the democratic process, not forcing one’s neighbors, co-employees, friends to recognize that these marriages or this status deserves the same respect as the status of a heterosexual couple,” Judge Jeffrey Sutton said.

 

INTERNATIONAL BRIEFS

France Loosens Abortion Restrictions Despite Strong Pro-life Protests

 

(WNS)--French lawmakers legalized abortion on demand for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy under a new law passed Aug. 5 despite pro-life protests. The law, part of a broader legal push to increase gender equality, alters France’s nearly 40-year-old law allowing abortions only for women who prove they are in situations of “distress.” Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, the country’s women’s rights minister, called that limited restriction obsolete. France’s population may be overwhelmingly Catholic, but about 220,000 abortions are performed in France annually. And, one out of every three French women will have an abortion.

Ebola Claims Another African Doctor

 

(WNS)--Another leading physician in Sierra Leone’s fight against Ebola has died from the disease, an official announced Wednesday. So far, Ebola has infected more than 1,848 in Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia, and Nigeria, and 1,013 people have died. Those numbers include 52 new cases of Ebola reported between Aug. 7 and Aug. 9. Many of the dead are health workers, who often work with inadequate supplies and protection. Dr. Modupeh Cole died on earlier today, according to Sidie Yayah Tunis, director of communications for Sierra Leone’s Ministry of Health and Sanitation. Trained in the United States, Cole was one of the top doctors working in the isolation ward in Freetown’s Connaught Hospital. He tested positive for the disease last week and received treatment from Doctors Without Borders. Fearful Connaught staff briefly went on strike upon hearing his diagnosis.

                 

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WORLD News Service – August 15 2014

                                                                                                                                   

 

Mars Hill Church Cancels Resurgence Conference: Cancellation caps eventful week at besieged church

 

Family-Owned Pharmacy Leans on Hobby Lobby Ruling for Support

 

Family Pleads for Detained American’s Release from North Korea

Tennessee Judge Issues First Ruling in Favor of Traditional Marriage

New Nonprofit Exemption to Contraceptive Mandate Coming Soon

 

Who Will Get to Decide Definition of Marriage?

 

France Loosens Abortion Restrictions Despite Strong Pro-life Protests

 

Missionaries Quarantined After Arriving in the U.S. from Liberia

Ebola Claims Another African Doctor

 

Christian Expats Lead Seoul Outreach Ministries: While South Korea is known for sending missionaries to other countries, the local church is not as good about addressing cultural needs at home

 

 

NATIONAL BRIEFS

 

INTERNATIONAL BRIEFS

 

                                                                                                                                   

Mars Hill Church Cancels Resurgence Conference

Cancellation caps eventful week at besieged church

By Warren Cole Smith

Seattle’s Mars Hill Church has canceled its annual Resurgence Conference, one of the megachurch’s flagship events, originally scheduled for Oct. 28-29.

The website for the conference, which until this week contained biographical sketches of speakers and registration information, now has only the cancellation notice. That notice reads, “The Resurgence Conference has always been born out of our love of Jesus and the church, and the desire to support efforts to grow leaders to grow churches. Unfortunately, we have decided to cancel this year’s conference due to unforeseen changes to our speaker line-up and other challenges we believe would make it difficult to provide the quality of conference people have come to expect from Resurgence. Anyone who has already purchased a ticket will be receiving a prompt refund. Thank you for your support of Resurgence and the ministries of Mars Hill Church.”

No other information is available on the web-site, but Mars Hill Church spokesman Justin Dean told WORLD via email that refunds would be automatically processed “within one week,” and all the church had already notified all ticket holders. Dean said he did not know how many people attended last year’s conference, or how many had signed up so far for this year’s event.

Among those scheduled to speak at the event were Driscoll, James MacDonald, Greg Laurie, Crawford Loritts, Paul Tripp, Terry Virgo, and – via video -- J.I. Packer.

 

MacDonald and Tripp had been members of Mars Hill Church’s Board of Advisors and Accountability (BoAA), though both have recently resigned. On Aug. 12, Tripp released a statement explaining his resignation. “It’s because of this love that I accepted the position on Mars Hill Church’s BoAA,” Tripp said. “But it became clear to me that a distant, external accountability board can never work well because it isn’t a firsthand witness to the ongoing life and ministry of the church.”

Tripp was not directly critical of Mars Hill Church, but he suggested that the church did not have a “biblically functioning internal elder board that is the way God designed his church to be led and pastors to be guided and protected.” Tripp concluded: “I would still love to see the leadership community of Mars Hill Church become itself a culture of grace and I am still willing to help, but not through the means of a board that will never be able to do what it was designed to do.”

The statement by Tripp and the cancellation of the Resurgence Conference capped a tough week for Driscoll and Mars Hill Church. Earlier this week, Driscoll was dropped from four upcoming “Act Like Men” conferences. He was scheduled to speak in Phoenix this October, Dallas-Fort Worth in November, and Miami and Chicago in 2015. He’s also been dropped from the Gateway Conference scheduled for Oct. 20-22 at Dallas’s Gateway Church. On Monday, Lifeway and Lifeway.com, the retail arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, said it was pulling Driscoll’s books from its 180-plus retail stores. Lifeway’s media relations manager Marty King said the retail chain made the decision to give Lifeway’s leadership time to “assess the developments regarding his ministry."

Family-Owned Pharmacy Leans on Hobby Lobby Ruling for Support

 

By Sarah Padbury

Posted Aug. 14, 2014, 10:21 a.m.

(WNS)--Attorneys in Washington state filed a brief in federal appeals court last week arguing their clients shouldn’t have to choose between their livelihoods and their consciences. State law requires all pharmacies to dispense the abortifacient drugs Plan B and Ella. A pharmacy and two pharmacists filed suit against the state for violating their religious rights. They say the Supreme Court’s decision in the Hobby Lobby case supports their claim.

In January 2006, the Washington State Board of Pharmacy investigated the refusal by some pharmacists to “dispense lawfully prescribed medications,” according to the lawsuit. The board’s investigation targeted the refusal of a few pharmacies and pharmacists to sell abortifacient drugs marketed as emergency contraceptives. The Food and Drug Administration requires the drugs be held behind the pharmacist’s counter, but any adult over 18 can buy them with proof of age. Minors can get the medication by prescription only.

Initially, the board unanimously approved a rule allowing pharmacists with religious objections to refrain from dispensing the medication or refer customers to other suppliers of the drug. But due to pressure from then-Gov. Christine Gregoire, in July 2007 the board instituted new rules requiring pharmacies to deliver and distribute all FDA-approved drugs and prohibiting them from refusing to do so on religious grounds. Though pharmacists have an individual right to refuse filling objectionable prescriptions, pharmacies do not.  

Kevin Stormans, one of the owners of Ralph’s Thriftway in Olympia, Wash., refuses to sell Plan B or Ella at its family-run pharmacy because he believes life begins at fertilization. Stormans filed suit and was granted a preliminary injunction from the rules. Two individual pharmacists who worked elsewhere joined the suit, claiming the rules could cost them their jobs. The practical effect of the new rules is that a pharmacy employing a pharmacist with religious objections to abortifacients must have a second on-duty pharmacist to deliver the medication.

“In effect, the conscientious objector costs the pharmacy twice what a single, non-conscientious objector does,” the suit said, “For pharmacies that need only one pharmacist per shift, such a cost is unreasonable, and the pharmacy’s only real option is to fire the conscientious objector.”

In Feb. 2012, a federal judge struck down the law, asserting “the state failed to explain why a refuse-and-refer policy creates greater difficulties when a pharmacy declines to stock a drug for religious reasons, rather than for secular reasons. A pharmacy is permitted to refuse to stock [the narcotic] oxycodone because it fears robbery, but the same pharmacy cannot refuse to stock Plan B because it objects on religious grounds. Why are these reasons treated differently under the rules?”

The state appealed the decision to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, where the case was put on hold in December 2013 until the Supreme Court ruled in the Hobby Lobby case. The Becket Fund and the Alliance Defending Freedom, representing the pharmacy, filed a joint brief on July 28. The brief states the Hobby Lobby ruling confirmed closely-held corporations like Ralph’s Thriftway have the right to free-exercise of their owner’s religious rights and that the

Washington law burdens those rights. Hobby Lobby also confirmed the plaintiffs’ rights to fully participate in the “economic life of the community” without fear of job or business loss due to religious views. The brief argues officials need to establish a workable alternative for Ralph’s Thriftway and other pharmacies like it.

 

Family Pleads for Detained American’s Release from North Korea

 

By Rachel Lynn Aldrich

Posted Aug. 13, 2014, 04:08 p.m.

(WNS)--The family of an American man detained in North Korea for “anti-state” crimes apologized to the country yesterday and pleaded with officials to show mercy and release him, saying in a statement that they were desperate for him to return home. 

Jeffrey Edward Fowle, 56, is from Miamisburg, Ohio. His wife and three children appeared at a newscast, but didn’t speak. Attorney and family friend Tim Tepe acted as their spokesperson, reading their statement and answering questions while they sat nearby. He said the family was not answering questions out of fear of compromising Fowle’s situation. 

Tepe said Tatyana, Fowle’s 40-year-old wife and their family is struggling to survive financially. Fowle told her on a recent phone call that he was afraid the benefits from his job at the city streets department would run out soon. 

“The kids miss their dad, that’s the bottom line,” Tepe said. “(Tatyana) is having to be mom and dad at this point for the past three months. … I hear the desperation in her voice to get Jeff home.” 

Fowle was detained sometime after arriving in North Korea on April 29 for what the country said were hostile actions that violated his tourist status. It is suspected that he left a Bible in a nightclub in Chongjin. 

Tepe said Fowle was not on a church mission, but on a vacation tour in the country. 

North Korean officials said they are preparing to bring Fowle and another American detainee, Matthew Todd Miller, 24, of Bakersfield, Calif., before a court. They have not specified what actions on the part of the Americans is considered hostile or illegal. The country has also not indicated what kind of punishment they might face. 

Tatyana Fowle and her three children have written to President Barack Obama to ask for his intervention. They also reached out to former presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Jimmy Carter. Tepe said only Bush responded, though they have received assistance from Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, Rep. Michael Turner, R-Ohio, and former congressman and U.S. diplomat Tony Hall. 

The U.S. has no diplomatic ties with North Korea and no embassy there, but has offered to send a human rights envoy to Pyongyang to seek a pardon for the detainees. The U.S. State Department works with the Swedish embassy in North Korea in cases like this. A small number of U.S. citizens visit North Korea as tourists every year, something the State Department has strongly discourages.

The State Department re-emphasized its commitment to Fowle’s release yesterday, but the Obama administration has not had any luck getting the North Koreans to release another American detainee, Kenneth Bae. The Korean-American missionary was sentenced to 15 years hard labor in late 2012 for plotting to overthrow the government.

But in February, the North Korean regime released Australian missionary John Short, who was arrested earlier this year for evangelizing. Short apologized to the government and begged for his freedom on a video released to the international media.

Tennessee Judge Issues First Ruling in Favor of Traditional Marriage

 

By Daniel James Devine

Posted Aug. 12, 2014, 02:45 p.m.

(WNS)--A judge in eastern Tennessee has dropped an anchor amid the deluge of state and federal court rulings favoring same-sex marriage. In a decision last week, Roane County Circuit Judge Russell E. Simmons Jr. said Tennessee, which defines marriage as only between a man and woman, need not recognize gay marriages performed in another state.

“The court finds that Tennessee’s laws concerning same-sex marriage do not violate the equal protection clause or the U.S. Constitution,” Simmons wrote in his opinion, which U.S. Supreme Court reporter Lyle Denniston posted online Monday.

The case involved two men, Frederick Michael Borman and Larry Kevin Pyles-Borman, who married in Iowa in 2010. They later moved to Tennessee, separated, and filed for divorce. But since Tennessee bans same-sex marriage in its constitution and does not recognize homosexual marriages made in other states, Tennessee officials would not grant divorce proceedings.

The case before Simmons dealt primarily with the question of whether Tennessee must recognize out-of-state marriages, but the judge wrote broadly on the constitutionality of same-sex marriage laws. Since the U.S. Supreme Court in its 2013 decision United States v. Windsor struck down the federal law protecting traditional marriage, courts in more than a dozen states have ruled against similar traditional marriage statutes.

But last week, Simmons argued the Supreme Court in Windsor didn’t explicitly say states could not define marriage as between one man and one woman. Nor did it say it was unconstitutional for states to ignore same-sex marriages formed elsewhere.

“The Windsor case is concerned with the definition of marriage, only as it applies to federal laws, and does not give an opinion concerning whether one state must accept as valid a same-sex marriage allowed in another state,” the judge wrote. “[N]either the federal government nor another state should be allowed to dictate to Tennessee what has traditionally been a state’s responsibility.”

Citing U.S. Supreme Court precedent, Simmons said the “Full Faith and Credit” clause of the Constitution that requires states to recognize one another’s laws need not apply when the laws of two states are diametrically opposed.

The judge also rebuffed the common argument that same-sex marriage bans discriminate against a “class” of people: “There are other marriages between opposite sex couples that are prohibited in Tennessee, such as prohibited degrees of relationship (a parent marrying their child, a brother marrying a sister, etc.) … Also, a second marriage before the dissolution of a first marriage is prohibited.”

While agreeing marriage is a “fundamental right,” Simmons concluded, “The battle is not between whether or not marriage is a fundamental right but what unions are included in the definition of marriage. The legislative branch of Tennessee and the voters of Tennessee have said that the definition of marriage should be as it always has been. That man’s best definition of marriage will always be the union of one man and one woman.”

The surprising ruling comes the same week that voters in Chattanooga overturned a new city ordinance giving health benefits to the domestic partners of city employees. The City Council had passed the ordinance in November, but an opposition drive led by a local tea party leader quickly gathered 7,755 signatures petitioning to put the measure to a popular vote.

Last Thursday, Chattanooga residents voted down the ordinance, 13,685 to 8,184.

The 6th U.S Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati last week heard arguments in several same-sex marriage cases, including a challenge attempting to force Tennessee to recognize gay marriages formed elsewhere.

New Nonprofit Exemption to Contraceptive Mandate Coming Soon

 

By Emily Belz

Posted Aug. 12, 2014, 10:40 a.m.

(WNS)--The Obama administration plans to release its new, new, new regulations for nonprofits objecting to the contraceptive mandate by Aug. 22, according to a court filing. The government set the deadline for itself in a filing at the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday in the Little Sisters of the Poor case challenging the mandate.

This will be the third time the federal government has issued regulations for nonprofits objecting to the contraceptive mandate. The administration issued a very narrow exemption when it first announced the mandate. After more than a year, it came up with a new “accommodation” for religious nonprofits that few found satisfactory. Now, after signals from the U.S. Supreme Court this year that the current nonprofit regulation might not work, the administration will try again.

The new proposal will be an “interim final regulation,” which means the government will hold a comment period before the rule is finalized. The administration’s lawyers asked the 10th Circuit that Little Sisters’ lawyers inform the court by Sept. 2 if the organization plans to continue its lawsuit under the new regulation. Oral arguments on the case before the 10th Circuit are scheduled for Sept. 29.

The Supreme Court at the beginning of the year gave Little Sisters an emergency injunction against the mandate, the first injunction from the court for an objecting nonprofit. Then in July the Supreme Court issued an order granting an emergency injunction against the mandate to Wheaton College. The order exempted Wheaton, but said the federal government was free to try to provide Plan B and Ella (the abortifacients Wheaton does not cover) to Wheaton employees.

The new regulation could resemble the Wheaton accommodation the Supreme Court came up with; but the court explicitly said no one should construe its order as a ruling on the nonprofit cases. So the government might come up with its own scheme to try to satisfy the justices.

In July, a White House official speaking on background about the new regulation said it would “provide an alternative way for objecting non-profit religious organizations to provide notification [of their objection], while ensuring that enrollees in plans of such organizations receive separate coverage of contraceptive services without cost sharing. "

Nonprofits and religious freedom lawyers are divided about the Wheaton approach. Some think that it is the most a nonprofit can demand—to be free of arranging any contraceptive coverage, and to notify the government of a conscientious objection to any provision. But others, foreseeing that the government could simply require the nonprofit’s insurance provider to cover the drugs, want a complete exemption from any coverage.

Who Will Get to Decide Definition of Marriage?

 

By Mary Reichard

Posted Aug. 11, 2014, 02:55 p.m.

(WNS)--The 6th U.S Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati last week held a marathon three-hour session to hear six marriage cases out of Michigan, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Ohio. In each case, lower courts had struck down state laws affirming marriage between a man and woman or forced states to recognize marriage licenses granted to same-sex couples by other states.

Themes of tradition and child rearing arose, as they have before. But in a new and different twist, one judge thought the issue was for the legislature and voters to decide, not the courts.

“I would have thought the best way to get respect and dignity is through the democratic process, not forcing one’s neighbors, co-employees, friends to recognize that these marriages or this status deserves the same respect as the status of a heterosexual couple,” Judge Jeffrey Sutton said.

But the attorney for a lesbian couple from Michigan who have adopted children said 

the “wait and see” approach was not a rational basis for denying marriage rights to her clients.

“No other group in society has to pass a parenting competency test before they’re allowed to marry,” attorney Carole Stanyar said. “There are groups of parents in society that we know tend to have poor outcomes, on average. Parents who have low incomes, parents with lower educational levels, parents who may have children, get divorced, and want to marry again—there’s no competency test for these parents, but we don’t bar them from marrying or having children.”

Stanyar argued that “doctrinal development” drives contemporary understanding of marriage, and that’s what judges should do, too. Sutton expressed skepticism, though.

“When you say ‘doctrinal development,’ is it fair to paraphrase that to mean reasoning that’s inconsistent with other lines of precedent? Isn’t that what you mean by a doctrinal development?” he asked. Stanyar called doctrinal development an evolution of concepts. She needs that argument to overcome the legal basis for rejecting same-sex marriage at the state level. 

The attorney for the residents of Michigan who voted for traditional marriage argued for democratic process in his opening statement.

“It is a fundamental premise of our democratic system that the people can be trusted to decide even divisive issues on decent and rational grounds. And that’s what this case is about. It’s about who gets to decide what the definition of marriage is, not what that definition must be,” Aaron Lindstrom said.

Lindstrom pointed out the state does not regulate friendships, but the reason the state regulates marriage is because of children, who are only produced by heterosexuals. It’s not much of a burden for the state to show that defining marriage as between one man and one woman is a rational state interest.

Sutton seemed to agree. Judge Debra Cook didn’t seem to buy into fundamental right of gays to marry, either. But the third judge, President Bill Clinton-appointee Martha Daughtry, leaned the other way. Of all the appeals courts to hear this issue, the 6th Circuit seems more likely to uphold traditional marriage in a 2 to 1 decision. The 10th and 4th circuits have already found traditional marriage rules unconstitutional. And last week, Utah filed a petition for review with the U.S. Supreme Court to look at a lower court ruling striking down its marriage amendment. Other states will follow with their own appeals.

So a split among the circuits will exist if the 6th Circuit rules in favor of letting voters decide, and that could make the Supreme Court take up the case sooner.

France Loosens Abortion Restrictions Despite Strong Pro-life Protests

 

By Courtney Crandell

Posted Aug. 12, 2014, 09:56 a.m.

(WNS)--French lawmakers legalized abortion on demand for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy under a new law passed Aug. 5 despite pro-life protests.

The law, part of a broader legal push to increase gender equality, alters France’s nearly 40-year-old law allowing abortions only for women who prove they are in situations of “distress.” Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, the country’s women’s rights minister, called that limited restriction obsolete. France’s population may be overwhelmingly Catholic, but about 220,000 abortions are performed in France annually. And, one out of every three French women will have an abortion.

“This might seem merely symbolic, but it’s a strong message,” Belkacem said. “Women must have the right to choose whether to continue a pregnancy without having to justify themselves.” 

The law also stipulates punishment for anyone who attempts to prevent a woman from obtaining information about abortion services. France’s government already pays for legal abortions and contraceptives for girls between 15 and 18 under a law passed last year. 

Lawmakers approved this year’s abortion law despite at least two pro-life protests while they debated the bill. In January, 40,000 people gathered for France’s annual March for Life. Protesters said the new law would “totally trivialize” abortions, The Christian Institute reported. Several conservative religious and pro-family groups also protested in Paris on Aug. 3. The protesters claim 40,000 attendees while police estimated about 16,000, the Huffington Post reported. They waved Spanish flags and shouted “viva Espagna”—a tribute to Spain’s proposal to further restrict abortion. 

Current law in Spain, France’s Catholic neighbor, allows abortions up to the 14th week of pregnancy. However, proposed legislation would restrict abortion up to 22 weeks if pregnancy endangers the mother’s mental or physical health. It also only allows abortion up to the 12th week in cases involving rape. Some human rights groups said in May that the legislation would conflict with laws in most European Union countries and subject Spain to criticism. One French politician said Spain’s proposed law would “take women back to the Stone Age,” the Huffington Postreported. 

But more conservative French politicians still expressed skepticism about weakening France’s abortion restrictions. Jean-Louis Borloo, former president of the centrist Union of Democrats and Independents, said in January that modifying the law equated to opening a Pandora’s Box. 

Former Prime Minister Francois Fillon agreed, saying the changes are risky both morally and politically. “It is moral fault as it risks trivializing abortion, which, according to the terms of Simone Veil (the minister who introduced it in 1975), should remain an ‘exception,’” he said. “It is a political fault as it risks once again dividing the French.”

 

 

Missionaries Quarantined After Arriving in the U.S. from Liberia

 

By Andrew Branch

Posted Aug. 11, 2014, 01:38 p.m.

(WNS)--David Writebol, husband of Ebola-stricken missionary Nancy Writebol, arrived in the United States on Sunday night with two other SIM staff members, the Christian aid group said Monday. But he won’t be allowed to visit his wife, who is in isolation at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, for up to three weeks. 

A chartered plane flew into a private portion of Charlotte-Douglas International Airport about 10:16 p.m. EDT, where North Carolina and Mecklenburg County officials found all three to be healthy. The trio began a mandatory 21-day isolation in Liberia, and state officials are requiring them to finish out the quarantine on SIM’s Charlotte campus. 

Writebol’s wife, along with Dr. Kent Brantly, are improving. Brantly issued the first public statement from either Ebola victim Friday, saying he was “growing stronger every day.” But in West Africa, Ebola has killed nearly 1,000 people after spreading from Guinea to Sierra Leone, Liberia, and now Nigeria.

While Saudi Arabian officials say a man who died there did not have Ebola after all, Nigerian officials reported the 10th confirmed case in Lagos, Nigeria’s largest city. And on Saturday, a Catholic humanitarian group based in Spain said a Congolese nun working in Liberia has died of the disease.

Spain continues to treat one of the nun’s colleagues, a 75-year-old priest, evacuated last week to Madrid. Spanish officials announced they had obtained some of the same experimental serum used to treat Writebol and Brantly. 

Just last week, U.S. officials said virtually no doses of the drug were available and that it could take months to develop a modest amount. No African has received the treatment, and Spanish media reports that despite the priest’s hopes, Spanish officials refused to allow the now-dead nun to evacuate with him for treatment. 

Ethical debates are becoming more heated, and Guinean officials on Monday asked for the drug. Nigerian officials said last week they had asked U.S. authorities about the serum but have not received any. The serum is still in the development stages and Brantly and Writebol were the first humans to get it. No approved treatment or vaccine for Ebola exists, and the fatality rate is as high as 90 percent without treatment. A World Health Organization official said a vaccine could be available in 2015, and WRAL-TV in Raleigh, N.C., reported Monday that Raleigh’s GlaxoSmithKline is the developer.

For now, the ill-equipped health systems in the poor African nations are struggling to keep up. Liberia announced that a donation of protective gear from China would arrive Monday. A shortage of full-body suits and even clean surgical gloves has prompted some health workers to refuse to treat Ebola patients. The European Union and USAID announced more than $23 million in new aid, along with more laboratory diagnostic support. 

But the situation has only gotten worse in Liberia. Riot police on Saturday raced to quell a demonstration blocking Liberia’s busiest highway as an angry crowd protested the government’s delays in collecting the bodies of Ebola victims. Protestors reported bodies lying by roadsides for days after villagers apparently complied with government orders to end dangerous burial rituals and cremate victims.

The deteriorating situation prompted Guinea, where the outbreak is improving, to close its land borders with Liberia and Sierra Leone. Those borders had remained largely open as the three countries focused on isolating themselves from other neighbors. Saudi Arabia has also refused to issue visas to 7,400 Muslim pilgrims from Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea for the hajj pilgrimage, which sees millions of people from around the world gather in Mecca. 

Ebola Claims Another African Doctor

 

By Andrew Branch

Posted Aug. 13, 2014, 03:38 p.m.

(WNS)--Another leading physician in Sierra Leone’s fight against Ebola has died from the disease, an official announced Wednesday.

So far, Ebola has infected more than 1,848 in Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia, and Nigeria, and 1,013 people have died. Those numbers include 52 new cases of Ebola reported between Aug. 7 and Aug. 9. Many of the dead are health workers, who often work with inadequate supplies and protection.

Dr. Modupeh Cole died on earlier today, according to Sidie Yayah Tunis, director of communications for Sierra Leone’s Ministry of Health and Sanitation. Trained in the United States, Cole was one of the top doctors working in the isolation ward in Freetown’s Connaught Hospital. He tested positive for the disease last week and received treatment from Doctors Without Borders. Fearful Connaught staff briefly went on strike Friday and Saturday upon hearing his diagnosis.

News of Cole’s death came amid further controversy about the use of experimental drugs to treat victims. The World Health Organization declared on Tuesday it is ethical to use untested drugs and vaccines, and Canada subsequently donated up to 1,000 doses of its experimental Ebola vaccine.

But the WHO revealed Wednesday it had denied a different Sierra Leonean doctor the now-depleted experimental serum given to American missionaries Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol.

Nearly three weeks ago, doctors decided against giving the drug to Sheik Humarr Khan, the chief doctor treating Ebola in Sierra Leone. WHO tried to airlift Khan out of the country, but “his condition had deteriorated too much,” officials said. He died July 29, before the Americans received the serum. 

In a statement issued this afternoon, Doctors Without Borders said it made the difficult decision to withhold the serum because Kahn had already started developing antibodies to fight the disease: “Every day, doctors have to make choices, sometimes difficult, about treatment for their patients. Trying an untested drug on patients is a very difficult decision, particularly in the light of the 'do no harm' principle.”

Anger has been rising in Africa because the only people to receive this particular experimental treatment, called ZMapp, have been Westerners. The Spanish government procured a dose to give a priest in Madrid, but he died Tuesday. It’s not clear whether he received the treatment or not.

Doses of ZMapp for two Liberian doctors could arrive as soon as Wednesday in Liberia, according to Liberian Health Minister Walter Gwenigale. But that caused a different discontent among some. “The Liberians can count on their government, but Guineans can only count on God in the face of Ebola,” said Assiatou Diallo, a nurse in Conakry, Guinea’s capital.

San Diego-based Mapp Biopharmaceutical says it has no doses of the serum left. Produced in tobacco plants, the antibodies necessary for another batch could take months to produce.

The body of Spanish priest Miguel Parajes was to be cremated Wednesday to avoid any public health risks, a Madrid hospital said. He was working for the San Juan de Dios hospital order, a Catholic group, helping to treat people with Ebola in Liberia when he became ill and was evacuated.

NPR reports that St. Joseph’s Catholic Hospital, which Parajes directed, has been shuttered for two weeks after the disease spread among staff. The hospital wasn’t equipped for Ebola, and the medical director said seven staff members were also diagnosed with the disease. St. Joseph’s had prided itself on staying open even through Liberia’s bloody civil war in the 1990s. But the 140-bed facility will stay closed at least two more weeks, as the Liberian Ministry of Health hasn’t disinfected the wards. Ebola has an incubation period of 21 days.

Christian Expats Lead Seoul Outreach Ministries

 

While South Korea is known for sending missionaries to other countries, the local church is not as good about addressing cultural needs at home

By Sophia Lee

Posted Aug. 13, 2014, 08:38 a.m.

(WNS)--The Starbucks near Seoul National University was like the iced drinks the young customers were shaking and sipping—cool, mixed, and tightly packed with bodies tumbling over one another as they bucked for the rare open seat. 

At a corner table for two, two Korean-Americans and a Canadian woman bowed their heads in prayer. They conversed in English, which attracted some cursory glances, but perhaps it was also their outfits and mannerisms that stood out. 

Starbucks isn’t the only rapid foreign expansion in Seoul, which now has more Starbucks stores than any city in the world. The number of expats living in Seoul has also exploded—and continues to grow. According to a 2012 city survey, more than 280,000 foreigners live legally in Seoul, a hike from 61,920 in 2000. Most are migrant workers, but some are bilingual Korean-American working professionals, college graduates with wanderlust tutoring English part-time, or Koreans who were adopted as children and have come back. 

In a nation that prides itself as one of the most ethnically homogeneous in the world, the seep of multiculturalism stirs alarm and hot discussions among native Koreans who worry about cultural and ethnic preservation, diseases, and crime. The debates aren’t that different from typical American anxieties about immigrants, but with greater emphasis on ethnic purity. Still, more and more Koreans, particularly the younger generation, are welcoming multiculturalism and embracing expats. 

The South Korean government has played a crucial role in pushing smoother integration for foreigners since 2006. On a quieter note, so has the expat church community, a small but dynamic group whose outsider perspectives open ways to minister in the many blind spots in Korean society. As the international community burgeoned, so has the need for and roles of international ministries. The three expats praying at Starbucks late on a Sunday afternoon offer a great example.

Jee Lee, a 34-year-old from northern Virginia, is a full-time volunteer at Jerusalem Ministry (JM), a Christian NGO that trains and equips international volunteers to serve children’s homes in Seoul. With her were two fresh volunteers: Young-rae Kim, 23, from Los Angeles, and Emily Boivin, 35, from Montreal. As Lee led the two-hour training session, in which she described Korean prejudices against orphans and stressed long-term commitment, the two orientation students took copious notes. 

Boivin, who moved to Seoul after the Korean bug “bit” her, told me she was drawn to JM after listening to sermons about orphans at New Philadelphia Church, the multi-site EM (English-speaking Ministry) branch of a Korean Presbyterian church. As an adoptee, she “knew the orphan spirit” and felt “tugging in the heart” to serve the abandoned children of a country she has come to love. Meanwhile, Kim is on a one-year stint in Seoul to teach English—but considers lengthening his stay to serve its community.

JM, founded in 2006 by John-Michael Becker, a gangly 32-year-old Virginia Tech graduate, is one of many Christian organizations founded by expats in South Korea. I joined Becker and his mostly expat team at his apartment/office for their weekly prayer meeting for North Korea. 

Becker has lived in Seoul for nine years, during which he married a Korean woman, learned conversational Korean, and now eats spicy, pungent Korean food without losing weight. Within five months of working full-time at a Christian children’s home, Becker noticed a pressing issue: Commitment from orphanage volunteers was weak, especially among Western volunteers who expected warm hugs and Orphan Annie smiles, and then disappeared when things got too difficult or a new job popped up. Such broken commitments only deepen the children’s spirit of rejection and distrust. 

When Becker first initiated JM, the orphanage staff, tired of foreign irresponsibility, refused to accept any expat volunteers despite the dire need for English tutors. Since then, JM has formed partnerships with nine children’s homes and has trained and sent about 100 expat volunteers who commit to serve a minimum of 6 to 12 months. Becker has broadened his ministry to include soccer and arts and crafts camps, and a college scholarship and mentorship program for orphans. Becker said he’s seen many foreigners recommit to a 10-year stay in Korea because “they recognize that God is doing something here.” 

Even though South Korea sends out many missionaries, Becker calls it “ironic” that not as much outreach goes to its own people—leaving many Christian expats to fill in the blind spots created by cultural barriers and social challenges. Orphans—socially typecast as undisciplined troublemakers and rarely adopted because of deep cultural emphasis on bloodline—are just one unreached pocket in South Korean society. Other typically overlooked issues include sex-trafficking, prostitution, North Korean refugees, the homeless, single mothers, and abortion. 

Eddie Byun, a 40-year-old Korean-American pastor from Illinois who’s been leading Onnuri Church’s English-speaking Ministry (OEM) since 2008, remembers being shocked to discover that some estimates of the women and children under sexual servitude in South Korea topped 1 million. He was even more shocked that not a single local church was doing anything about it. When he first started OEM’s anti-sex-trafficking ministry, he ruffled the feathers of many local pastors, who shunned taboo topics of sex and prostitution, suspected encroaching “social justice” liberalism, or just wasn’t used to a young, newly appointed pastor shaking up the rigid hierarchy based on position and age. 

Byun said if he had been raised in Korea, he probably wouldn’t have been able to leap past cultural prejudices and initiate the various justice ministries OEM leads today, including foster care for North Korean orphans. Because he is so obviously American, even elderly Korean pastors allow him certain leeway in saying something that would ordinarily be “shocking” or “offensive” from a native pastor. 

But sometimes, the shock factor helps. Becker said because he’s “the most random white guy,” there’s “a level of shame that hits Koreans” when he gets up on stage at benefit concerts to represent Korean orphans. “To them it’s kind of like, ‘Hello, wake up!’ I think if I was Korean, they wouldn’t be ashamed.” 

And some Korean churches are taking notice. OEM’s Korean parent church has recently partnered with OEM to form a “social mission” ministry to sex-trafficking victims and North Korean orphans. Byun said he believes God has placed “a very special role for the expat community” in Korea to speak up for traditionally repressed voices, and hopes one day Korean churches will lead such initiatives by placing “a higher value on the gospel and kingdom culture versus the Korean culture.”

NATIONAL BRIEFS

Appeals Court Saves Last Mississippi Abortion Center from Closure

 

(WNS)--A federal appeals court panel ruled in July that a Mississippi law that would close the state’s only abortion facility is unconstitutional. The three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued its 2-1 ruling in a case involving the state’s 2012 law, which required all abortionists at the Jackson Women’s Health Organization (JWHO) to obtain admitting privileges at a local hospital. Two abortionists at the facility were unable to get privileges at Jackson-area hospitals. The ruling appears to directly contradict a March decision by the same court that upheld a Texas law requiring abortionists to have hospital admitting privileges. But the difference has to do with geography and the availability of abortions in the two states. The Texas law would have caused some clinics to close, but not all. Women would have had to drive farther to get an abortion, but, “an increase of travel of 150 miles for some women is not an undue burden” on their constitutional right to an abortion, the court wrote in its opinion. But the Mississippi law would have closed the state’s only abortion center.

4th Circuit: Virginia Gay Marriage Ban an “Impermissible Infringement”

 

(WNS)--A federal court in Virginia struck down that state’s traditional marriage law this morning, striding lock-step with other courts who have ruled same-sex marriage cannot be banned. The state’s same-sex marriage bans “impermissibly infringe on its citizens’ fundamental right to marry,” Judge Henry F. Floyd wrote for the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Virginia voters approved a constitutional amendment in 2006 designating marriage as only between one man and one woman. State law also forbids recognition for same-sex marriages from other states. Although practically identical to cases in other states that outlaw same-sex marriage, the legal challenge in Virginia got a lot of attention because Attorney General Mark Herring, a Democrat, announced earlier this year he would not defend his state’s regulations. Herring was not the first attorney general to refuse to defend state marriage laws, but he took it one step further, joining the plaintiffs’ suit against the state.

Six Marriage Cases at the 6th Circuit

 

(WNS)--Attorneys from four states argued six challenges to traditional marriage laws on Aug. 6 before the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati. Federal judges recently overturned statewide bans on same-sex marriage in Kentucky and Michigan, forced Ohio to recognize marriages outside the state by listing same-sex spouses on birth and death certificates, and ordered Tennessee in spite of its state constitution to recognize three same-sex couples married outside the state.

Houston Rejects Petition to Send LGBT Anti-Bias Policy to Voters

(WNS)--Conservative Christians in Houston filed suit against Mayor Annise Parker’s administration after city officials ruled invalid a petition to overturn a new LGBT anti-bias ordinance. City officials threw out thousands of signatures that would have forced the city to put the ordinance on the November ballot. But conservatives are not willing to declare defeat yet.

Parker in May rammed through her “Equal Rights Ordinance” in hearings some called a sham. Supporters say the ordinance is a generic rights rule that simply adds “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to a list of other protected classes. But Parker, who is open about her homosexual relationship, has publicly declared the ordinance “about me.”

INTERNATIONAL BRIEFS

Is Hindu Nationalism Behind Crackdown on India’s Christians?

 

(WNS)--Christian minorities in central India face a new threat as Hindu extremists in more than a dozen village councils have passed restrictions on religions other than Hinduism. The laws, passed under the guise of stopping false conversions, made Christian prayer, services, and “propaganda” illegal, World Watch Monitor (WWM) reported. The Bastar district president of the World Hindu Council, Suresh Yadav, told The Times of India that more than 50 village councils have banned all non-Hindu missionaries. The state government of Chhattisgarh, where the tribal Bastar villages are located, has not moved to intervene on the rules, but plans to wait and see what happens, according to the Times. Chhattisgarh Christian Forum president Arun Pannalal told the newspaper that village councils were wrong to think they could pass resolutions that override constitutional protections. Pannalal noted that Article 25 of India’s constitution guarantees freedom of religion for all. Church leaders say the resolutions have already harmed Christians and called for higher government officials to overturn them.

                 

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 – August 8 2014

                                                                                                                                   

Ebola-Stricken Doctor Improving: As Kent Brantly gives thanks for people praying for his recovery, massive challenges remain in West Africa for combating the deadly disease

 

Appeals Court Saves Last Mississippi Abortion Center from Closure

4th Circuit: Virginia Gay Marriage Ban an “Impermissible Infringement”

 

Six Marriage Cases at the 6th Circuit

Houston Rejects Petition to Send LGBT Anti-Bias Policy to Voters

Demonstrators Demand Change at Mars Hill: Current and former church members call for the resignation of Pastor Mark Driscoll

For-Profit Colleges Raking in GI Bill Funds

How a Pro-Life Mother Helped Birth the Band Scythian

Is Hindu Nationalism Behind Crackdown on India’s Christians?

 

 

NATIONAL BRIEFS

 

INTERNATIONAL BRIEFS

 

                                                                                                                                   

Ebola-Stricken Doctor Improving

 

As Kent Brantly gives thanks for people praying for his recovery, massive challenges remain in West Africa for combating the deadly disease

By Jamie Dean

(WNS)--When Kent Brantly arrived in the United States on Saturday, the American doctor who contracted Ebola while treating virus-stricken patients in Liberia did something unexpected: He stepped out of an ambulance and walked into the hospital.

Three days earlier, Samaritan’s Purse, the Christian aid organization Brantly was serving in Liberia, described the doctor’s condition as “grave” and reported he had taken a turn for the worse. The Ebola virus has a high fatality rate, killing at least 887 people in the recent outbreak in West Africa.

Brantly’s survival looked precarious.

But by Saturday, as news helicopters captured his arrival at Atlanta’s Emory University Hospital, the doctor emerged from an ambulance in a bulky contamination suit, and walked slowly toward the building.

Though Brantly’s condition is still serious, and he remains in a high-tech isolation ward while he recovers, his remarkable comeback likely hinged on an experimental serum physicians administered while he was still in Liberia. (Samaritan’s Purse confirmed Brantly took the drug.)

CNN cited an unnamed source as saying the National Institute of Health offered the highly experimental serum, which reportedly hadn’t been tested on humans before.

Doctors also gave the drug to Nancy Writebol, an American working for the mission group Serving in Mission (SIM), who also contracted the virus. Writebol’s family said her condition was still serious, but improving. SIM said the same medical evacuation plane that transported Brantly to Atlanta was on its way back to Liberia to pick up Writebol. She’s expected to arrive at Emory on Tuesday.

On Sunday, Brantly’s wife Amber said she had visited her husband in the hospital’s isolation ward. Visitors to the sealed-off infectious disease unit see and communicate with patients through barriers. In a statement, Amber Brantly said her husband was in good spirits: “He thanked everyone for their prayers and asked for continued prayer for Nancy Writebol’s safe return and full recovery.”

Ken Isaacs of Samaritan’s Purse said Brantly remained unwavering in his faith as he faced the deadly disease: “It’s an absolutely incredible story of commitment to Christ, and wanting to glorify God.”

The aid group is working to evacuate other Samaritan’s Purse workers away from Liberia while the outbreak remains a threat. It’s a complicated process, and the group’s president, Franklin Graham, wrote a letter to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), asking for clearer protocols for bringing home workers leaving a country where the Ebola virus has taken hold.

“In the absence of guidelines from the CDC, Samaritan’s Purse has adopted what we believe to be a conservative policy,” he wrote on July 28. “Since the incubation period for Ebola is 21 days, we will require our personnel to remain on the African continent for 21 days after being in an area with possible exposure to Ebola.” Graham said the group would monitor the workers’ health, and “only allow their return to the United States if they are symptom-free at the end of that time.”

Meanwhile, some 400 national staff remain on-site in Liberia, working for Samaritan’s Purse. Isaacs said he didn’t know of any confirmed cases of Ebola among indigenous workers. He also said the morale among the local staff was “very high,” and they wanted to continue public education campaigns to help Liberians understand how to prevent contracting or spreading the disease.

Such efforts may be key to containing the deadly virus in a region where misinformation can lead to deadly errors. Liberian officials announced they would cremate the bodies of any patients who died from Ebola to prevent the spread of the disease through decaying corpses.

Since handling dead bodies is a common practice in Liberian funerals, it’s critical to educate people on the dangers of touching a corpse. Samaritan’s Purse plans to work with local pastors in its network of churches to help with education efforts about preventing the spread of the virus, and spotting its symptoms early.

Meanwhile, concerns persist about the virus spreading to other areas of West Africa. On Monday, Nigerian officials announced they had confirmed a second case of Ebola. The first case came from an Ebola-stricken doctor who traveled from Liberia to Nigeria before he knew he was infected. The doctor later died.

Appeals Court Saves Last Mississippi Abortion Center from Closure

 

By Lynde Langdon

(WNS)--A federal appeals court panel ruled in July that a Mississippi law that would close the state’s only abortion facility is unconstitutional.

The three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued its 2-1 ruling in a case involving the state’s 2012 law, which required all abortionists at the Jackson Women’s Health Organization (JWHO) to obtain admitting privileges at a local hospital. Two abortionists at the facility were unable to get privileges at Jackson-area hospitals.

The ruling appears to directly contradict a March decision by the same court that upheld a Texas law requiring abortionists to have hospital admitting privileges. But the difference has to do with geography and the availability of abortions in the two states.

The Texas law would have caused some clinics to close, but not all. Women would have had to drive farther to get an abortion, but, “an increase of travel of 150 miles for some women is not an undue burden” on their constitutional right to an abortion, the court wrote in its opinion. But the Mississippi law would have closed the state’s only abortion center.

“Mississippi may not shift its obligation to respect the established constitutional rights of its citizens to another state,” the court wrote. 

Pro-life advocates say the law was more than just an attempt to shutter abortion facilities. The staff at the Jackson center was known for practices that endangered women’s health.

“This case is really about whether the courts will compel the State of Mississippi to allow abortion clinics to continue subjecting women to below standard care,” Operation Rescue President Troy Newman told LifeNews.com. “Pregnant women are currently being treated as second-class citizens and are being denied the same high standard of care that everyone else expects. However, the Jackson Women’s Health Organization can’t and won’t raise their standards for the safety of their patients.” 

Operation Rescue has documented numerous safety violations at JWHO and at a Birmingham, Ala., facility, which shares the same owner, Diane Derzis. A judge ordered the Alabama facility to close in August due to health code violations and the hospitalizations of several patients who received abortions there.

4th Circuit: Virginia Gay Marriage Ban an “Impermissible Infringement”

 

By Leigh Jones

(WNS)--A federal court in Virginia struck down that state’s traditional marriage law this morning, striding lock-step with other courts who have ruled same-sex marriage cannot be banned.

The state’s same-sex marriage bans “impermissibly infringe on its citizens’ fundamental right to marry,” Judge Henry F. Floyd wrote for the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Virginia voters approved a constitutional amendment in 2006 designating marriage as only between one man and one woman. State law also forbids recognition for same-sex marriages from other states.

Although practically identical to cases in other states that outlaw same-sex marriage, the legal challenge in Virginia got a lot of attention because Attorney General Mark Herring, a Democrat, announced earlier this year he would not defend his state’s regulations. Herring was not the first attorney general to refuse to defend state marriage laws, but he took it one step further, joining the plaintiffs’ suit against the state.

The 4th Circuit judges did not immediately stay their ruling, so it’s not clear yet whether Virginia county clerks will have to begin issuing same-sex marriage licenses. In every other case in which the legal challenge is ongoing, courts have followed the precedent set by the U.S. Supreme Court in Utah’s marriage case. The nation’s highest court, which will eventually decide the issue, ruled that until it does, states cannot be forced by lower courts to issue licenses.

Six Marriage Cases at the 6th Circuit

 

By Ryan Hill

(WNS)--Attorneys from four states argued six challenges to traditional marriage laws on Aug. 6 before the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati. Federal judges recently overturned statewide bans on same-sex marriage in Kentucky and Michigan, forced Ohio to recognize marriages outside the state by listing same-sex spouses on birth and death certificates, and ordered Tennessee in spite of its state constitution to recognize three same-sex couples married outside the state. This week’s appeals to those rulings mark the beginning of yet another fight to defend state laws from federal intrusion, and to protect marriage from mockery. 

“We’re not required to honor a license from another state, just like I have a concealed carry license that can’t be recognized in other states,” said Phil Burress, president of Cincinnati-based Citizens for Community Values. Burress has fought for biblical marriage since 1995, helping spread Defense of Marriage Acts to 38 states and working with James Dobson, Chuck Colson, Tony Perkins, and other conservative leaders in the Arlington Group to amend 31 state constitutions in favor of marriage between one man and one woman. 

Burress told me federal courts have no business taking state licensing into their own hands: “In some states, even first cousins can marry if I’m not mistaken. But in our state they can’t, so are they going to rule on that too?” If any of the appeals in Cincinnati reach the nation’s highest judges, he believes “the Supreme Court, if they have an ounce of dignity and understand the United States Constitution, that they have to say this is a states rights issue.” 

The three judges presiding over Wednesday’s hearings didn’t say when they would rule on the cases. Hundreds of same-sex activists surrounded the courthouse in the afternoon, among them a man in a strapless white wedding gown whose male partner wore a slightly more traditional black suit and sunglasses. “It’s a statement, really,” said Jon Bradford, 26, the mock bride from Covington, Ky. “We want to be married.” 

For all the cries of “equality” resounding from LGBTQ groups nationwide, 96.6 percent of the U.S. population still identifies as straight, according to a survey the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released in July. Only 1.6 percent of 35,000 participating adults considered themselves gay or lesbian. 

Jeff Parker, 53, a Cincinnati resident, showed up at the courthouse to take a stand for traditional marriage. “I’m just praying for God’s will to be done,” he said. “I don’t have a lot of faith in the courts.” 

Inside the courtroom, Judge Martha Craig Daughtrey seemed skeptical of attorneys representing the states, saying “it doesn’t look like the sky has fallen in” in states where same-sex marriage is legal. David Fowler, president of the Family Action Council of Tennessee, told me she referred to state constitutions as “dynamic” documents: “Justice Daughtrey, who’s from Tennessee, seemed to be someone who … had her mind made up, that it was all about equality, and that the state had no reasonable basis to exclude same-sex couples from the institution of marriage.” 

The other two judges are nominees of President George W. Bush. Fowler said Judge Jeffrey Sutton seemed ready to defend marriage and thought Judge Deborah Cook, who asked a lot of questions, would decide the vote in either direction. 

If judges in Cincinnati or Washington, D.C., force states to recognize their neighbors’ licenses and public policies, Fowler told me, “you really are talking about a nationalized government.”

Houston Rejects Petition to Send LGBT Anti-Bias Policy to Voters

By Andrew Branch

(WNS)--Conservative Christians in Houston filed suit against Mayor Annise Parker’s administration after city officials ruled invalid a petition to overturn a new LGBT anti-bias ordinance. City officials threw out thousands of signatures that would have forced the city to put the ordinance on the November ballot. But conservatives are not willing to declare defeat yet.

Parker in May rammed through her “Equal Rights Ordinance” in hearings some called a sham. Supporters say the ordinance is a generic rights rule that simply adds “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to a list of other protected classes. But Parker, who is open about her homosexual relationship, has publicly declared the ordinance “about me.”

Religious liberty experts say the ordinance clearly forces Christian organizations and businesses to act against their biblical beliefs about sexuality. Among other things, the ordinance bans Christian colleges from enforcing sexual conduct policies in housing. It also opens public restrooms to anyone, regardless of gender. Expecting a legal challenge, Parker delayed the ordinance’s implementation.

Opponents included several Houston-area churches and the Houston Area Pastors Council, led by president Dave Welch. The group’s “No UNequal Rights” campaign dropped off a more than 31,000 signatures on 5,199 pages at City Hall on July 3. If even 17,300 signatures were verified, Houston would have had to place the ordinance on the November ballot. The confident group claimed its legal team verified more than 30,000 signatures before submitting the documents.

But Monday, Parker and City Attorney David Feldman declared the group only had 15,249 valid signatures. Officials threw out 2,750 pages of signatures—more than half. “In this instance, there are too many documents with irregularities and problems to overlook,” Feldman claimed.

Welch and other conservatives sued the city on Tuesday. “We are disappointed we don’t have honest government. We’re not surprised—because we honestly knew who we were dealing with,” Welch told me.

Conservatives were already prepared to sue after a July 25 meeting in which Feldman, Parker’s close ally, revealed he was intimately involved in the review process. “At that moment, we knew what they were up to,” Welch said.

The documents themselves back up at least some of Welch’s concerns. The city charter places the responsibility for verifying signatures on City Secretary Anna Russell. By her own admission, in a report sent to Parker, Russell said she verified more than enough signatures by July 27 to put the petition on the ballot. But before releasing her final decision, she allowed Feldman extraordinary power to review the petition.

Feldman threw out more than 2,000 pages—containing more than 11,000 signatures—because the circulator’s signature was too much like print and not enough like cursive. The circulator is a signee who also verifies a given sheet. In other cases, cursive signatures were ruled out because reviewers said they were illegible. Russell rubber-stamped all Feldman’s decisions to throw out pages, meaning no matter how many valid pages remained, the petition was doomed.

Russell claimed she “reviewed” the attorney’s analysis in an Aug. 1 letter to Parker, but Feldman’s detailed report to the secretary wasn’t sent until Aug. 4—the day Parker declared the petition invalid. The discrepancy casts even further doubt about how Russell could allow Feldman to determine a signature’s readability after she had already reviewed the page. WORLD left a message with Russell’s secretary seeking an explanation for the discrepancy, but Russell did not respond.

“What I witnessed was a mockery of the rule of law—again—by a mayor who blatantly interfered in the right of the citizens to petition our government,” Welch told the U.S. Pastor’s Council. Parker is a “radical” who is “willing to do anything in order to achieve a legacy,” he said.

Any court battle must be resolved by Aug. 18 for Houston citizens to vote on the ordinance in November.  Meeting that deadline became more difficult after Mayor Parker’s administration after City Attorney David Feldman requested to move their lawsuit to federal court.

Opponents called the move from state court a “delay tactic” to keep a referendum petition to repeal Parker’s “Equal Rights Ordinance” off the November ballot.

Demonstrators Demand Change at Mars Hill

 

Current and former church members call for the resignation of Pastor Mark Driscoll

By Warren Cole Smith

(WNS)--Carrying signs that read, “We are not anonymous” and “Question Mark,” more than 60 current and former members of Mars Hill Church in Seattle protested and prayed yesterday outside the church’s main site in Bellevue, Wash. The demonstrators called for changes in the church’s leadership and structure, including the resignation of Pastor Mark Driscoll.

“We just wanted to be heard,” said former Mars Hill deacon Rob Smith, who organized the demonstration. “We want to help Mars Hill members and the evangelical world at-large see what is really happening at Mars Hill Church.”

Driscoll has been dogged by charges of misconduct since last fall. The first charges to emerge were plagiarism, and those accusations were credible enough to force Driscoll and his publisher Tyndale House to release a statement admitting, “Mistakes were made,” while promising to revise future editions of his book A Call to Resurgence. Then WORLD broke a story documenting Driscoll’s use of nearly $250,000 in Mars Hill funds in an effort to put his book Real Marriage on the New York Times best-seller list. WORLD also obtained a copy of a non-compete agreement Mars Hill required pastors to sign that prevented them from planting new churches in the Seattle area—despite Mars Hill’s claim of supporting church planting. In March the church announced it would destroy all emails more than three months old as part of a new “document retention policy.” The church rescinded implementation after 16 former church members sent a letter to the church in protest.

Despite these very public and well-documented charges, all of which Driscoll subsequently admitted were true, the church posted a video two weeks ago in which Driscoll claimed his critics were “mostly anonymous” and the criticisms leveled against him were vague.

The video produced an immediate reaction on social media. Smith started a Facebook group (Dear Pastor Mark & Mars Hill: We Are Not Anonymous) that quickly grew to more than 500 members and was used to help organize yesterday’s demonstration. Smith said he plans to refute Driscoll’s assertion that the charges against him are vague by listing 50 specific charges against Driscoll and Mars Hill’s other executive elders. Smith said he would publish the list by Friday.

“Our primary goal is to change the by-laws of Mars Hill Church,” Smith said, adding he believes the troubles began at the church in 2007, when an earlier by-laws change concentrated power in the hands of Driscoll and two other executive elders, positions now held by Dave Bruskas and Sutton Turner.

Mars Hill also has a Board of Advisors and Accountability that includes Driscoll, Bruskas, Turner, and four others outside the church. But two of the four outside board members recently resigned—James MacDonald, pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel in the Chicago area, and Paul Tripp, a noted pastor and author who joined the board less than a year ago—leaving Driscoll, Turner, and Bruskas in the majority. The other two outside board members are Larry Osborne, pastor of North Coast Church in Vista, Calif., and businessman Michael Van Skaik.

MacDonald did not respond to WORLD’s request for an interview or offer a statement explaining his resignation. Tripp, through a spokesman, turned down WORLD’s request for an interview, though Mars Hill Church, in an email newsletter to its members, said Tripp resigned so he could “more extensively serve our church as a consultant.” Other members of the board have not responded to WORLD’s repeated requests for comment.

“Mark Driscoll is disqualified from ministry,” said former Mars Hill deacon Smith. “Might he, after a season of repentance, reflection, and restoration be qualified again for ministry? That would be my prayer. But the Board of Advisors and Accountability should do their job and ask Mark Driscoll to resign.”

Smith called Driscoll “an extraordinarily gifted man” but added that “his behavior has brought discredit on the church and on the Reformed theology that many of us still hold to and which he claims to love. … What he is doing comes clothed in Reformed theology, but it is not. The beautiful doctrines of Reformed theology—God’s sovereignty and God’s grace—are getting smeared in the process.”

For-Profit Colleges Raking in GI Bill Funds

 

By Laura Edghill

(WNS)--Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have flocked to for-profit colleges in recent years, including a troubled chain that is closing and selling its campuses amid a series of federal and state investigations.

A report released last week by Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) committee, found that for-profit colleges received $1.7 billion in Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits during the 2012-2013 school year. That represents more than 40 percent of the total $4.17 billion in benefits paid out during that time.

In the most generous update since the original GI Bill was passed in 1944, the Post-9/11 GI Bill provides benefits for both veterans and members of their immediate families. To receive the full benefit, service members must have served at least three years of active duty since Sept. 10, 2001.

Among the top 10 schools receiving GI Bill funds, eight were from the for-profit sector. One was Corinthian Colleges, which recently reached an agreement with the Education Department to sell or close its more than 90 U.S. campuses. The Education Department said its concerns about the chain’s operations include allegations of falsifying job placement data used in marketing to prospective students, and allegations of altered grades and attendance records.

Including Corinthian, which is not a Christian college, the report finds that seven of the eight for-profit companies face investigations by state attorneys general or federal agencies for “deceptive and misleading recruiting” or other possible federal violations. Even as overall enrollment at the eight schools decreased since 2009, the government says the number of veterans enrolled at the schools increased.

For-profit colleges are popular among veterans partly because of offerings in skilled trades and flexibility such as online classes.

“It is no surprise that members of the military choose our institutions because we provide them with career-focused programs, important support services, and flexibility they need to complete their education,” Michael Dakduk, the vice president for military and veterans affairs with the Association of Private Sector Colleges, said in a statement.

But the for-profit sector has among the highest student loan default rates and lowest graduation rates in higher education. For-profit tuition is also generally higher than tuition at public institutions. The HELP report shows the average cost for a veteran to attend a for-profit college is about twice that of a public college—$7,972 per semester compared to $3,914.

Part of the reason veterans are so attractive to for-profit colleges is that they don’t count toward the “90/10” rule that requires all colleges to receive at least 10 percent of their revenue from sources other than the federal government. Due to a loophole in the law, students using the new GI Bill aren’t classified as using federal funds, so veterans are aggressively targeted by the for-profit industry.

In 2011, Hollister Petraeus, of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, said the loophole in the 90/10 rule, “creates an incentive to see service members as nothing more than dollar signs in uniforms, and to use some very unscrupulous marketing techniques to draw them in,” according to the HELP report.

How a Pro-Life Mother Helped Birth the Band Scythian

 

By Warren Cole Smith

(WNS)--The summer music season has seen hundreds of thousands of people gather at festivals like Bonnaroo in Tennessee or Coachella near Los Angeles. The season kicks off with MerleFest, the annual bluegrass and Americana festival that attracted more than 76,000 people back in March to the Appalachian foothills in North Carolina.

I first met Danylo Fedoryka, one of the founders of the band Scythian, when I noticed the pro-life stickers on his guitar case at MerleFest. The band debuted its new album Jump at the Sun at MerleFest but just released it to the public this month. I sat down at MerleFest with Fedoryka to discuss the band’s music and philosophy of performing.

This is the 10th anniversary year of Scythian. Say a little about your evolution. We started out as street performers and then we became a pub band. We had a very strong conviction that we wanted … an apprenticeship. … We wanted to put in a lot of years playing the traditionals, the standards, so we could basically learn before we started writing our own originals.

You did this in the Washington, D.C., area, right? We started out in D.C., and then it wasn’t long before we made it up to Baltimore and Philadelphia and New York City. We just ran that circuit for about four years, and we did maybe about 500 shows before we got booked for our first festival. We just gave ourselves permission not to write music because we didn’t want to put something out that seemed forced. We were convinced that when it was time for it to come out, it would come out.

The first four years that you were playing, you were not writing any original stuff? We didn’t. We just felt no pressure because there was such a love of discovering this new tradition. I’m Ukrainian. I’m not even Irish. When we discovered [the Irish] tradition, we were like, “Who are these people that make this joyful music?” We just would listen. … We knew how to perform, and we had a sense of what was good musically. You have to be yourself with a tradition before you can start reflecting the tradition.

After four years you started writing some of your own music. Who is the primary songwriter for the band? I would say it’s my brother. I did the first ones because I’m a little bit more talky. I just wrote … some happy-go-lucky tunes. My brother—I think he’s introverted, but I think he does have a great knack for writing. He’s written probably about 75 percent of our tunes. They’re various topics, from just a hoedown dance, to a song dedicated to my grandparents. They escaped the communists and the Nazis during World War II. [He wrote about] what it may have been like for them to just pack up and leave and never to return. That was called A Song of Sacrifice.

We have somber tunes. We have happy tunes. We don’t put restrictions on ourselves about how the tune is going to sound. For that reason, a lot of people say, “It’s hard to put you into a genre because you have so many different sounding tunes.” We really do believe in this point, that the Holy Spirit is inspiring us.

You’ve alluded to faith in addition to family being an important part of who you are. You don’t bill yourselves as a Christian band or religious band at all. That’s true, and I think a lot of that comes from my mother’s influence. She went to The Juilliard School, and she was in the world, but not of it. She had the very strong conviction of the purpose of music, and she told us from the time we were very little every performance should start beforehand with a prayer. We offered it up for God’s greater glory, so it didn’t make a difference if you messed up or not. If your intention was to bring it to other people for God’s glory, then you had a successful show.

She said, “Music is for everybody.” If you’re called to do Christian music, then do it. But if you’re not, don’t feel guilty about not doing it. As long as you do it for His glory, and you try to represent the true, the good, and the beautiful, it’s going to touch people’s hearts. That’s how God moves in people’s lives, having their hearts touched through love and through beauty. If people are curious, then they can come and talk to you about your faith. She said, “That’s your only job: just reflect God’s love and beauty.” My mom taught us that early on, and I think it’s been awesome for us to always think about that throughout these years, because it’s the true purpose of music. When we get on stage, it’s an act of service.

At the same time you’re not bashful about your beliefs. I first met you because you had this big, fat pro-life sticker on your guitar case. There’s always a little bit of tension because you don’t want to be too political in people’s faces, but the pro-life movement is one of those things I’m just so deeply committed to. Being the eighth of 10 children, I know I’m here because my mother was pro-life. My grandfather was a freedom fighter. He was in Auschwitz, but he survived. I’m very aware how it’s affected my life, and someone needs to speak up for the people who can’t speak up. I just put the sticker on there. I know it ruffles some feathers, but I know if I’m just myself, and they get mad about that sticker, that they’ll talk to me eventually. And I know I can have a civil conversation.

Is Hindu Nationalism Behind Crackdown on India’s Christians?

 

By Julia A. Seymour

(WNS)--Christian minorities in central India face a new threat as Hindu extremists in more than a dozen village councils have passed restrictions on religions other than Hinduism.

The laws, passed under the guise of stopping false conversions, made Christian prayer, services, and “propaganda” illegal, World Watch Monitor (WWM) reported. The Bastar district president of the World Hindu Council, Suresh Yadav, told The Times of India that more than 50 village councils have banned all non-Hindu missionaries.

The state government of Chhattisgarh, where the tribal Bastar villages are located, has not moved to intervene on the rules, but plans to wait and see what happens, according to the Times. Chhattisgarh Christian Forum president Arun Pannalal told the newspaper that village councils were wrong to think they could pass resolutions that override constitutional protections. Pannalal noted that Article 25 of India’s constitution guarantees freedom of religion for all.

Church leaders say the resolutions have already harmed Christians and called for higher government officials to overturn them.

“In some places, the passing of the resolution has been followed by attacks on pastors and pulling down of village churches,” Rev. Aneesh Andrews, the Methodist district superintendent for the region, told WWM. He called it a “ploy to harass Christians” and explained that in some villages Christians were denied food or access to water. In other towns, Christians have been ordered to leave.

Indian Christian groups urged government officials in Chhattisgarh state to revoke the resolutions, according to Morning Star News (MSN). “The government must reverse the decisions of these [villages] immediately to restore the confidence of the Christian community in the state, which is under considerable stress in recent days,” Rev. Vijayesh Lal, the national director of the Religious Liberty Commission of the Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI), urged officials.

Rev. Akhilesh Edgar, a community relations manager for Alliance Defending Freedom India, also condemned the actions.“These resolutions must be immediately withdrawn, and the state should take strict measures so that non-state actors are prevented from inciting violence,” he told MSN.

While India’s constitution declares the nation secular in the sense that all religions are supposed to be treated equally, persecution still exists and stems primarily from Hindutva, the ideology that to be Indian is to be Hindu and that other faiths are foreign. According to International Christian Concern, Hindu extremists have attacked Christians, discriminated against them, and used anti-forced conversion laws to get them arrested.

Christians and other minorities in India have been concerned that things would worsen after Narendra Modi, the head of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), won a landslide victory in the May elections. The BJP also swept the parliamentary election in Chhattisgarh state, winning 10 out of 11 seats, according to The Indian Express.

Recent remarks by two BJP elected officials about a “Hindu nation” raised further alarm and stirred up controversy in the state assembly. “I am confident that under the leadership of Modiji, India will develop into a Hindu nation,” Cooperation Minister Dipak Dhavalikar said. Some legislators protested Dhavalikar’s remarks with a walkout. 

NATIONAL BRIEFS

The Good News Gets the Cold Shoulder in Portland

(WNS)--Liberal groups in Portland, Ore., are taking an evangelical children’s camp to task for talking to the city’s youngest residents about Jesus. The camps, which operate like a traveling Vacation Bible School, have endured protests, negative advertisements in local newspapers, and accusations of being a fundamentalist sect. Child Evangelism Fellowship’s Camp Good News focuses for a week or two in different cities each year. During the school year, the group rents public school buildings to host weekly after-school activities. It recently won a Supreme Court case that allowed it equal access to public schools.  But CEF’s arrival in Portland sparked unexpected anger and protests. Protect Portland Children formed to protest the camps. It heavily promotes a book called The Good News Club: The Christian Right’s Stealth Assault on America’s Children. It claims CES is a fundamentalist sect, teaches shame to children, and harms them psychologically with a doctrine of sin.

Mississippi Pro-lifers Sue Police for Harassment

 

(WNS)--Life Legal Defense Association (LLDF) filed suit July 23 against the Jackson, Miss., Police Department, for allegedly violating the First Amendment rights pro-life activists outside the state’s only abortion facility. LLDF, a non-profit law firm representing Pro-Life Mississippi, says the police frequently threatened activists with arrest without legal basis. The police have interpreted a statute to mean that anyone sitting or standing on the sidewalk creates an obstruction, even though the activists leave about 4 feet of space on the sidewalks said Allison Aranda, senior staff counsel at LLDF. “The Jackson Police Department has routinely harassed pro-life citizens, who have been peacefully exercising their legal right to oppose abortion in the public square and offer information about life-affirming alternatives to women seeking abortion,” LLDF president Dana Cody said. The city can’t provide comment on the pending suit, a city spokesperson told The Clarion-Ledger.

 

Conservatives Cheer Obama Nominee for Religious Liberty Post

 

(WNS)--President Barack Obama got rare commendations from conservatives on July 21 when he announced his nominee for a long-vacant State Department post charged with advocating for religious minorities around the world. If confirmed, Rabbi David Saperstein will be the first non-Christian appointed as ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom. He has worked for 30 years with the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, which he currently leads. He teaches law at Georgetown University and serves as one of Obama’s faith-based advisors. The State Department position has been vacant since Obama’s previous nominee, Suzan Johnson Cook, resigned in October. Conservatives have clamored for a new ambassador as conflicts in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia took brutal, religiously based turns for the worse.

 

Latest Pro-life Efforts Target Abortion Tourism

 

(WNS)--Pro-life abortion restrictions taking hold across the country are having unintended consequences in a few states with less regulation: women traveling across state lines to kill their babies. Half of the abortions performed in Kansas, more than a third of those in North Dakota, and almost a quarter in Tennessee are considered “out of state,” according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Overall abortion rates in all three states decreased between 2008 and 2011—35 percent in Kansas, 14 percent in North Dakota, and 15 percent in Tennessee. But pro-life activists hope to see those numbers drop even further with new laws designed to cut down on abortion tourism.

CCCU’s New President Praised for her Humility and Deep Faith

 

(WNS)--The Council for Christian College and Universities (CCCU) announced Shirley V. Hoogstra of Calvin College as its seventh president on Wednesday, closing a painful chapter that included some public and controversial stumbles with its previous president. Hoogstra, CCCU’s first female president, will take over her new position on Sept. 29. Hoogstra has been the vice president for student life at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Mich., since 1999 and before that served four years on Calvin’s Board of Trustees. She worked as a lawyer for 13 years in New Haven, Conn., until she found “a calling” to transition from legal duties to higher education, she told The Christian Post.

Atheist Group Court Victory Could Prove Good for Churches

 

(WNS)--An atheist group reached a settlement earlier this month with the Internal Revenue Service over stronger enforcement of policies against “church politicking,” and at least one religious freedom group is thrilled, claiming the IRS investigation could be “a good thing” in the long run. Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) has been campaigning to overturn the portion of the tax code that prohibits nonprofit organizations from “intervening in political campaigns as a condition of their tax-exempt status.” To achieve that, it has organized the annual Pulpit Freedom Sunday since 2008, for which it encourages pastors to exercise their First Amendment right to free speech—including political speech—from the pulpit and send copies of their sermons to the IRS. Once the IRS attempts to take away a church’s tax-exempt status, ADF will represent the church free of charge and seek to declare the law unconstitutional, said Eric Stanley, senior counsel with ADF.

Meriam Ibrahim Arrives in the U.S.

 

(WNS)--Meriam Ibrahim and her family arrived in the United States July 31, ending the Christian woman’s 10-month battle to escape execution for her faith and join family members in America. Ibrahim's arrival in the United States—along with her husband and two children—comes nearly 10 months after Sudanese officials arrested her and charged her with apostasy for not adopting her absent father’s Muslim faith, even though she was raised by her Christian mother. The Islamist court sentenced Ibrahim to death by hanging after she refused to recant her Christian faith. Her sentence came just weeks before she delivered a baby daughter in prison. 

INTERNATIONAL BRIEFS

China’s Crackdown on the Cross Spreads

 

(WNS)--Three months after Chinese officials ripped down the gigantic Sanjiang Church in Wenzhou, the number of churches facing persecution—whether that means demolition, cross removal, or threatening notices—in Zhejiang province has reached into the hundreds, according to Texas-based Christian human rights group ChinaAid. Every few days, news of cross removals and confrontations between church members and police streams out of the region. ChinaAid has compiled many of the reports into this list. The government claims the demolitions are part of a three-year campaign to deal with “illegal structures” in Zhejiang, but authorities have only focused their attention on churches. Many fear this is a beginning of a nationwide campaign to slow the rapid growth of Christianity in the country. The past few weeks saw a number of clashes. On July 21, 14 members of Salvation Church in Pingyang County were injured as more than 100 government officials broke through a human wall the congregants had formed around their church.

                 

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 – August 1 2014

                                                                                                                                   

The Good News Gets the Cold Shoulder in Portland

 

Mississippi Pro-lifers Sue Police for Harassment

Conservatives Cheer Obama Nominee for Religious Liberty Post

Latest Pro-life Efforts Target Abortion Tourism

 

CCCU’s New President Praised for her Humility and Deep Faith

Atheist Group Court Victory Could Prove Good for Churches

How Strong Families Help the Economy

 

Meriam Ibrahim Arrives in the U.S.: Long-awaited homecoming still leaves questions about U.S. efforts to help persecuted Christian woman

China’s Crackdown on the Cross Spreads

 

NATIONAL BRIEFS

 

INTERNATIONAL BRIEFS

 

                                                                                                                                   

The Good News Gets the Cold Shoulder in Portland

 

By Rachel Lynn Aldrich

(WNS)--Liberal groups in Portland, Ore., are taking an evangelical children’s camp to task for talking to the city’s youngest residents about Jesus. The camps, which operate like a traveling Vacation Bible School, have endured protests, negative advertisements in local newspapers, and accusations of being a fundamentalist sect.

Child Evangelism Fellowship’s Camp Good News focuses for a week or two in different cities each year. During the school year, the group rents public school buildings to host weekly after-school activities. It recently won a Supreme Court case that allowed it equal access to public schools. 

The group chose Portland for this year’s summer camps because of the city’s reputation for being un-churched. To put on the five-day camps, Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF) partnered with about 30 churches of various denominations throughout the Portland metropolitan area. Each church helps organize camps in three different locations.

CEF’s arrival in Portland sparked unexpected anger and protests. Protect Portland Children formed to protest the camps. It heavily promotes a book called The Good News Club: The Christian Right’s Stealth Assault on America’s Children. It claims CES is a fundamentalist sect, teaches shame to children, and harms them psychologically with a doctrine of sin.

“We believe that these doctrines are harmful to 5-year-old children,” Protect Portland Children founder Robert Aughenbaugh told The Oregonian

Aughenbaugh’s group even bought a full-page ad in an alternative weekly newspaper to warn parents about the camps. It features a picture of a child wearing a sign that says “sinner.”

Mike Albin is the pastor of New Hope Church, a conservative evangelical church of about 150 members in Oregon City, a suburb 45 minutes south of Portland. New Hope is one of three Oregon City churches that have partnered with CEF this week for camps, providing about 24 volunteers to work with the four or five trained volunteers from CEF. Together they are hosting nine five-day camps in the Oregon City area. The church volunteers help with things like registration and games while the CEF volunteers do most of the teaching. They hold the camps at area public parks and mobile home communities.

All of the churches CEF partners with are traditional, evangelical denominations, Albin said. His church has a good relationship with the Oregon City Chamber of Commerce, and is well-respected in the community. CEF teaches basic evangelical theology and is “not a cult whatsoever,” Albin said.

CEF volunteers hand out the “wordless book” which basically teaches the Romans Road and is similar to teaching tools used at most vacation Bible schools, he said. The handouts they provide have stories about Jesus being our best friend, and Bible-themed games and crossword puzzles. 

“You can go into any evangelical church that preaches the gospel and you can year what CEF is talking about,” said Albin, who attended his first camp in 1978. He described the accusations against the organization as “angry” and “uninformed.” 

Albin rejected accusations that CEF’s methods were subversive or deceptive. Parents have to sign permission forms before their children can come to the camps and are encouraged to visit. 

The anger is not directed just at the summer camps, but the long-term goal for churches to establish relationships with the families so they can lauanch once-a-week programs in the schools come fall. The churches pay to rent space and for extra janitorial service. They have the same kind of access to the schools as any other group. Albin emphasized that CEF doesn’t cross any church-state barriers. 

“We can’t even pass out literature while we’re there,” he said. “The rhetoric that’s coming across in this cultural war we’re in is really to discredit and spread information that’s not true about the organization.”

He added that despite claims the teaching of sin and salvation coming from CEF harms children psychologically, school districts in other states have specifically asked CEF to continue holding clubs, because they bolster school morale. 

“It’s been a positive impact, not a negative one in any way,” he said.  

Mississippi Pro-lifers Sue Police for Harassment

 

By Courtney Crandell

(WNS)--Life Legal Defense Association (LLDF) filed suit July 23 against the Jackson, Miss., Police Department, for allegedly violating the First Amendment rights pro-life activists outside the state’s only abortion facility.

LLDF, a non-profit law firm representing Pro-Life Mississippi, says the police frequently threatened activists with arrest without legal basis. The police have interpreted a statute to mean that anyone sitting or standing on the sidewalk creates an obstruction, even though the activists leave about 4 feet of space on the sidewalks said Allison Aranda, senior staff counsel at LLDF.

“The Jackson Police Department has routinely harassed pro-life citizens, who have been peacefully exercising their legal right to oppose abortion in the public square and offer information about life-affirming alternatives to women seeking abortion,” LLDF president Dana Cody said.

Filed in federal court, the suit cites nine instances of harassment between February 2013 and June 2014, though rights violations allegedly began before 1996. Causes for arrest included blocking sidewalks and holding signs while sitting on public benches. Most of the recent cases were dropped or charges weren’t recorded.

The city can’t provide comment on the pending suit, a city spokesperson told The Clarion-Ledger.

In July, Jackson police failed to stop a man from stealing sidewalk signs set up outside Jackson Women’s Health Organization by Created Equal, an Ohio pro-life activist organization. The owner of the facility’s building, Mike Peters, took the signs to his basement as officers watched and the protestors videoed their requests for police intervention. The police threatened to arrest him, but ultimately did nothing. “I'm dealing with something right now,” one officer said. Though Mark Harrington of Created Equal has filed charges against Peters in a separate suit, the inaction is typical of Jackson’s police, Aranda said. They frequently either charge both parties or drop all charges. The police have also failed to arrest pro-abortion activists, Aranda said.

“For police to be selective and prejudicial as to how they enforce the law outside of Mississippi’s only abortion vendor does a disservice to the people of Jackson,” Cody said. “When those charged with upholding the law violate the basic rights of citizens, it cannot be tolerated.”

In 2008, a court issued a consent order requiring training in First Amendment rights. After the order expired a year later, the police returned to harassing and threatening the activists, Aranda said. Controversy has surrounded Jackson Women’s Health Organization in recent years. Just this week, it won a legal appeal challenging a state law that would have forced it to close because its providers do not have privileges at a local hospital. The facility’s owner has come under fire for a poor safety record that led Alabama officials to close an abortion center she owned in Birmingham.

 

Conservatives Cheer Obama Nominee for Religious Liberty Post

 

By Andrew Branch

(WNS)--President Barack Obama got rare commendations from conservatives on July 21 when he announced his nominee for a long-vacant State Department post charged with advocating for religious minorities around the world.

If confirmed, Rabbi David Saperstein will be the first non-Christian appointed as ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom. He has worked for 30 years with the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, which he currently leads. He teaches law at Georgetown University and serves as one of Obama’s faith-based advisors.

The State Department position has been vacant since Obama’s previous nominee, Suzan Johnson Cook, resigned in October. Conservatives have clamored for a new ambassador as conflicts in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia took brutal, religiously based turns for the worse.

Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) of the Southern Baptist Convention, led the lobbying efforts and praised the nomination Monday. “Rabbi Saperstein is a respected thinker and leader who brings gravity to this important task,” Moore said in a statement. “He has my prayers and my pledge of full cooperation.”

Long-time religious liberty champion Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., also praised the nomination and urged a swift confirmation, even as he continues to speak out against the genocide of Christians in Iraq.

Such praise for Saperstein confused some conservatives because on most domestic social issues, he stands with Obama. He asked the president not to include religious exemptions in this month’s executive order on LGBT employment among federal contractors. He also opposed the Hobby Lobby case, supporting the Obama administration’s demand that businesses cover abortifacient drugs under their insurance policies. And he’s staunchly pro-abortion.

“We’re not in any agreement with the administration … or Rabbi Saperstein there,” said Barrett Duke, the ERLC’s vice president for public policy and research. “However, David has for decades proven a very strong advocate for religious freedom understood in the international context, a lot of which we’re looking at today.”

Wolf helped create Saperstein’s position in 1998. His International Religious Freedom Act established the International Religious Freedom Office (IRFO) and its ambassador-at-large. The act also created the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), a watchdog often critical of Obama’s handling of international human rights. Saperstein endorsed Wolf’s legislation and served as the commission’s first chair.

“I had the business community against me, I had [Secretary of State] Madeleine Albright against me, I had President Clinton against me. But I had Chuck Colson with me, and I had Rabbi Saperstein with me,” Wolf told me Tuesday, referring to Saperstein as “there from the beginning.”

And because Saperstein is from the president’s own circles, Duke told me, he likely could influence policy in a way Cook could not. “I’ve worked with David since I got to Washington in 2003,” Duke said. “We disagree on a lot of issues. … But I’ve always found him agreeable on matters of religious persecution like we’re dealing with in the international context.”

Wolf told me Saperstein was instrumental in the passage of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, working again with conservatives like Colson. On issues like this, he told me, you make coalitions around what you agree on. “Frankly, the nation has to come together,” Wolf said. “And this administration has been a fundamental failure.”

 

Latest Pro-life Efforts Target Abortion Tourism

 

By Courtney Crandell

(WNS)--Pro-life abortion restrictions taking hold across the country are having unintended consequences in a few states with less regulation: women traveling across state lines to kill their babies.

Half of the abortions performed in Kansas, more than a third of those in North Dakota, and almost a quarter in Tennessee are considered “out of state,” according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Overall abortion rates in all three states decreased between 2008 and 2011—35 percent in Kansas, 14 percent in North Dakota, and 15 percent in Tennessee. But pro-life activists hope to see those numbers drop even further with new laws designed to cut down on abortion tourism.

In 2000, the Tennessee Supreme Court struck down three of the state’s abortion restrictions—a 48 hour wait period, an informed consent law, and a law requiring hospitalization for late-term abortions. The court cited privacy right infringement in its ruling. 

As a result, Tennessee has become a destination state for abortions, according to a coalition of pro-life organizations campaigning for an amendment that would allow the state to pass more abortion laws that directly target out-of-state abortions. Surrounding states, including Mississippi and Alabama, have more stringent abortion guidelines, including wait periods. In a recent story, The Tennessean profiled a 27-year old woman who drove from her home in Alabama to Nashville, Tenn., to get an abortion. Her local abortion facility had closed due to surgical care standards passed by the Alabama legislature earlier this year.

But the goal of the new amendment isn’t to ban abortion, David Fowler, president of Family Action Council of Tennessee (FACT), told WORLD in December: “The goal is to put the constitution back where it was before the Supreme Court effectively amended it.”

While laws play a significant role, some women may travel out-of-state for convenience. North Dakota’s only abortion facility borders Minnesota, which can draw women across the state line even though Minnesota has more facilities, said Carol Tobias, president of National Right to Life Committee. Similarly, South Dakota also has only one abortion facility, located about 250 miles from North Dakota’s.  

Meanwhile, Kansas has been playing legislative catch-up with bordering Missouri. “Historically, Missouri’s laws were better for a long time,” said Mary Kay Culp, executive director of Kansans for Life (KFL). The Kansas pro-life movement has embraced an incremental approach to passing legislation, partly due to liberal judges on the state’s Supreme Court, Culp said. Kansas facilities have drawn some Missouri women because a facility in Columbia, Mo., closed earlier this year after the state passed laws increasing facility regulations, leaving only one abortion provider in the state.

But facility closings in other states don’t mean that women who want abortions automatically choose to travel out-of-state, said Cheryl Sullenger, senior policy advisor for Operation Rescue. Many women choose abortion as a knee-jerk reaction to a crisis situation. “Abortion clinics prey on their vulnerability,” she said. Texas abortions have decreased by about 9,600 since the state enacted more stringent facility regulations, and Sullenger expects the number of Texas facilities to drop from 41 to 6 by September. But she said that doesn’t mean bordering state Oklahoma will necessarily see a spike in out-state-abortions. If abortion centers don’t exist, women won’t get abortions, she said.

If a region doesn’t have an abortion facility, women have more time to consider other crisis pregnancy options, sometimes through crisis pregnancy centers, Sullenger said. Brian Harris, president of Tennessee Right to Life, agrees. Strict laws don’t necessarily drive women to other states for abortions. “A certain number of [Mississippi] women who mistakenly think abortion is the only option will come to Memphis,” Harris said. But even though Tennessee currently doesn’t require pre-abortion counseling or a wait period, as Mississippi does, laws meant to educate women about abortion give them an opportunity to think. 

“When given the fullest information, many more women will make the choice for life,” Harris said.

CCCU’s New President Praised for her Humility and Deep Faith

 

By Sophia Lee

(WNS)--The Council for Christian College and Universities (CCCU) announced Shirley V. Hoogstra of Calvin College as its seventh president on Wednesday, closing a painful chapter that included some public and controversial stumbles with its previous president. Hoogstra, CCCU’s first female president, will take over her new position on Sept. 29.

Hoogstra has been the vice president for student life at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Mich., since 1999 and before that served four years on Calvin’s Board of Trustees. She worked as a lawyer for 13 years in New Haven, Conn., until she found “a calling” to transition from legal duties to higher education, she told The Christian Post.

“I’m excited for this opportunity because I am passionate about Christian education generally and Christian higher education specifically,” Hoogstra said in a statement. “The world is increasingly complex, and the liberal arts education that CCCU institutions offer prepares students to understand why faith deeply matters to people. And the Christian faith gives hope and meaning when hope and meaning in life can seem illusive."

Hoogstra’s experience in both law and higher education gave her a leg up among the list of candidates, especially during today’s tense atmosphere in which Christian higher education constantly has to fight anti-Christian political and social currents. While at Calvin, Hoogstra helped CCCU plan and facilitate several Leadership Development Institutes, and served as an officer on two CCCU commissions.

Charles W. Pollard, chair of the CCCU Board of Directors and president of John Brown University, said Hoogstra now “knows firsthand the heartbeat of the organization and its membership.” He called her “a person of deep faith, humble courage, intuitive judgment, legal insight, and convicted civility.” Her experience “will enable her to represent the CCCU winsomely and effectively in Washington and elsewhere,” he predicted.

Advocacy in Washington isn’t the only challenge the 119-member, 55-affiliate association must tackle today. The controversy with Hoogstra’s predecessor, Edward O. Blews Jr., has also eroded the organization’s credibility. When CCCU fired Blews after just 10 months in office, he lashed back with a $2.2 million lawsuit. The case was settled out of court in April, according to court documents, but neither side publicized the details of the agreement.

Hoogstra will need to provide a new vision for CCCU’s financial model. The group’s biggest money-maker, the Best Semester Program—a study-abroad program that at its peak drew about 750 students per semester—now faces significant competition from its own member institutions. Enrollment in Best Semester programs has dropped dramatically, leaving three-fourths of CCCU’s total budget hanging on a thread.

Though supporters have praised Hoogstra’s legal expertise and experience with higher education, Calvin also recently suffered some financial missteps, for which Hoogstra apologized to her faculty. She pledged to learn from the fiscal mistakes and to “work harder and hopefully wiser than ever.”

Rick Ostrander, provost of Cornerstone University, a school near Calvin, said he was “pleasantly surprised” to hear about Hoogstra’s appointment and called her “an excellent choice.” Other than her legal experience, Ostrander praised her for being humble and compassionate and having “a heart for people.”

Atheist Group Court Victory Could Prove Good for Churches

 

By Sarah Padbury

(WNS)--An atheist group reached a settlement earlier this month with the Internal Revenue Service over stronger enforcement of policies against “church politicking,” and at least one religious freedom group is thrilled, claiming the IRS investigation could be “a good thing” in the long run.

Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) has been campaigning to overturn the portion of the tax code that prohibits nonprofit organizations from “intervening in political campaigns as a condition of their tax-exempt status.” To achieve that, it has organized the annual Pulpit Freedom Sunday since 2008, for which it encourages pastors to exercise their First Amendment right to free speech—including political speech—from the pulpit and send copies of their sermons to the IRS. Once the IRS attempts to take away a church’s tax-exempt status, ADF will represent the church free of charge and seek to declare the law unconstitutional, said Eric Stanley, senior counsel with ADF.

The IRS has yet to bite at ADF’s challenge, but the tide turned after the Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) filed suit in November 2012, criticizing the IRS for not enforcing electioneering restrictions against churches and religious organizations. As a result of the agency’s non-enforcement, “churches and religious organizations have been blatantly and deliberately flaunting the electioneering restrictions,” the suit claims, alleging election-year violations by The Billy Graham Evangelical Association and several churches.

But the IRS hasn’t always had the power to censor what is said from the pulpit, Stanley said in a recent radio interview. The law was introduced by then-Senate Minority Leader Lyndon B. Johnson as an amendment to a tax overhaul bill in 1954. His aim? To silence two powerful, secular nonprofits that were opposing his reelection in Texas. “Johnson Amendment was slipped into the tax code with no debate, no analysis, no committee hearings, no anything,” Stanley said. “And since that time, the IRS has been monitoring and censoring what a pastor says from the pulpit.”

The IRS currently has a moratorium on investigating any nonprofits for alleged political activities, including churches, due to an ongoing congressional probe into the agency’s targeting of conservative groups’ tax-exempt applications with unwarranted examinations. But as soon as the suspension is lifted, the IRS has now “adopted procedures for reviewing, evaluating, and determining whether to initiate church investigations,” FFRF said in its press release.

On Jul 22, ADF used the Freedom of Information Act to petition the IRS for documentation regarding the agency’s new procedures for investigating churches. Stanley said the agency’s decision not to make the procedures public fuels more suspicion of the already mistrusted organization.

This year on Oct. 5, more than 2,000 pastors are expected to participate in Pulpit Freedom Sunday, during which they will “plainly speak scriptural truth about the qualifications of candidates for public office, regardless of candidates’ political affiliation,” according to the project’s website. Stanley believes FFRF’s latest win could lead to a legal resolution that benefits ministries.

“Churches are tax-exempt as a matter of constitutional right because there is no surer way to destroy the free exercise of religion than to begin taxing it,” Stanley said. “That exemption cannot be conditioned on the surrender of constitutional rights.”

How Strong Families Help the Economy

 

By Rikki Elizabeth Stinnette

(WNS)--The government will never provide for you as well as a stable two-parent family will. That’s the summary of the Heritage Foundation’s first annual report on America’s societal and economic trends, released July 23. The 2014 Index of Culture and Opportunity states that while abortion and violent crime are on the decline, the marriage rate is also dropping, giving rise to single-parent homes and accompanying economic troubles.

“We need to be talking about what it is that’s going to get at the roots of … poverty in America,” said Jennifer Marshall, the co-editor of the report.

Marshall, who is also vice president of the Heritage Foundation Institute for Family, Community, and Opportunity, wanted to create a manageable report compiling the latest statistics on the economy and the state of families in America. Unlike other reports studying the two factors separately, this one suggests connections between broken families and a broken economy.

The report provides some good news. Abortion has fallen to its lowest level since the Supreme Court passed Roe v. Wade. Women had 16.9 abortions per 1,000 in 2011, compared to a peak of 29.3 in 1981. While the statistics aren’t conclusive because several states don’t report abortion figures, the trend shows more women choosing life. 

“That’s the result of some focused attention in policy circles and in communities,” Marshall said.

A plummeting violent crime rate and a rise in school choice offer more good news, but the report notes a disturbing lack of interest in marriage and work. The marriage rate has dropped by 23 percent since 2001, and the percentage of people working or looking for work has dropped by 2 percent since 2003.

While the 2008 recession caused some of that decrease, Marshall believes single parenthood contributes to it: “Unwed childbearing is enormously important.”

Children of unwed mothers are four times more likely to live under the poverty line than children of married couples, and they are more likely to go into crime or become single parents themselves.

Meanwhile, the poor are relying more on government housing and food stamps. While the government has spent billions more dollars on welfare, the number of people who live below the poverty line and are not self-sufficient has remained a steady 15 percent since the 1980s. All of these factors lead to a multi-generational dependence on a welfare state, said Heritage fellow W. Bradford Wilcox. “If you are worried about growing inequality in America, you should care about marriage,” he said.

While the index doesn’t include much new information—statistics come from governmental and civil institutions—it does compile the information and add analysis from Heritage fellows. Heritage plans to update this report every year so it can track changes.

Marshall said she hopes the report will equip lawmakers to form policies and encourage citizens to support families: “It is critically important that we continue to uphold the ideal of marriage.”

Meriam Ibrahim Arrives in the U.S.

 

Long-awaited homecoming still leaves questions about U.S. efforts to help persecuted Christian woman

By Jamie Dean

(WNS)--Meriam Ibrahim and her family arrived in the United States Thursday afternoon, ending the Christian woman’s 10-month battle to escape execution for her faith and join family members in America.

Ibrahim's arrival in the United States—along with her husband and two children—comes nearly 10 months after Sudanese officials arrested her and charged her with apostasy for not adopting her absent father’s Muslim faith, even though she was raised by her Christian mother. The Islamist court sentenced Ibrahim to death by hanging after she refused to recant her Christian faith. Her sentence came just weeks before she delivered a baby daughter in prison. 

An international outcry brought intense attention to Ibrahim’s plight, and the court eventually overturned her sentence. Sudanese police re-arrested her when she attempted to leave Sudan in June. Ibrahim and her family lived in the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum until Sudanese officials allowed her to leave the country on July 26—shortly after diplomats from Italy negotiated her release. 

U.S. lawmakers who had called for a stronger push to help Ibrahim said Italy’s success in securing her freedom underscored tepid efforts by the Obama administration to advocate for the wife and children of an American citizen. 

Wani—who was born in Sudan and became a U.S. citizen after immigrating to America—said U.S. Embassy officials in Khartoum were unhelpful when he initially approached them about his wife’s plight. At one point, the U.S. State Department questioned Wani’s paternity of the couple’s children, and suggested he take a blood test.

“I thought this would be the one place which would help me, but they told me they didn’t have time to do anything,” Wani told The Daily Mail in late May. “I was upset because now that I am an American citizen I thought they would help me.”

Italy’s deputy minister of foreign affairs, Lapo Pistelli, said he offered to help negotiate Ibrahim’s release during a visit to Khartoum in early July. The offer may have given Sudanese officials a way to respond to international pressure without handing U.S. officials a diplomatic victory: Sudan has a strong relationship with Italy but remains on the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism because of its ties to terror groups across the region.

During Pistelli’s visit, Sudan’s state-sponsored news agency reported on productive talks between the countries, “especially in the economic field,” and pointed out that Italy holds the current chairmanship of the European Union and “could play a great role for enhancing the role of Sudan in the regional and international levels …”

In an interview with Think Progress after Ibrahim’s release, Pistelli indicated Sudanese officials needed to resolve her case because of the bad international publicity. When asked what Sudan wanted in return for Ibrahim’s release, Pistelli said: “If you are able to build up a win-win strategy, you don’t need another supplementary benefit.”

Even if Ibrahim’s release provided a temporary publicity “win” for Sudan, the country still faces well-deserved scrutiny for its severe human rights abuses and ties to terrorism. (The country’s president remains under indictment by the International Criminal Court for war crimes, and Sudanese military planes continue to bomb Christians in the Nuba Mountains.)

And if Ibrahim’s release is a partial win for U.S. officials who were under pressure to secure her freedom, the U.S. State Department still faces questions about why it didn’t push harder to help the condemned wife of an American citizen from the beginning of her plight. 

For now, the true win comes for Ibrahim, her family, and the many who advocated and prayed for her release for months. 

After arriving in Philadelphia, the family traveled to Manchester, N.H., to settle with Wani’s brother, Gabriel. Wani and a handful of family members came to the U.S. years ago after fleeing violence in Sudan. Many other Sudanese refugees also flowed into the area, and the Sudanese community in Manchester now numbers more than 500.

Members of the local Sudanese Evangelical Church plan to throw a party to welcome the family and to celebrate God’s answer to their many prayers for Ibrahim’s release. 

“People are really happy to receive them when they come home,” pastor Monyroor Teng told AP. “It’s a miracle to me. I didn’t think that something like this would happen because in Sudan, when something happens like that, it’s unreal. … Maybe, who knows, I’m praying for [others] who are in jail and those who have died.”

China’s Crackdown on the Cross Spreads

 

By June Cheng

(WNS)--Three months after Chinese officials ripped down the gigantic Sanjiang Church in Wenzhou, the number of churches facing persecution—whether that means demolition, cross removal, or threatening notices—in Zhejiang province has reached into the hundreds, according to Texas-based Christian human rights group ChinaAid.

Every few days, news of cross removals and confrontations between church members and police streams out of the region. ChinaAid has compiled many of the reports into this list. The government claims the demolitions are part of a three-year campaign to deal with “illegal structures” in Zhejiang, but authorities have only focused their attention on churches. Many fear this is a beginning of a nationwide campaign to slow the rapid growth of Christianity in the country.

The past few weeks saw a number of clashes. On July 21, 14 members of Salvation Church in Pingyang County were injured as more than 100 government officials broke through a human wall the congregants had formed around their church.

“More than a hundred security guards with batons in their hands rushed to [church members] standing at the door and beat up whoever was in their way,” church member Xu Dingdu told ChinaAid. “I was dragged to the middle of the road by security guards and savagely beaten up by a batch of people, about a dozen. A second batch of people came up shortly after and gave me another beating.”

Photos online show bloodied church members, including an 78-year-old man, outside the church before they were rushed to the hospital. But congregants continued to sing hymns and chant “Defend the cross and resist forcible demolition.” Even non-believers joined in to protest the action, according to ChinaAid.

A church member wears a T-shirt with the Chinese words "Defend the cross" as he stakes out overnight to protect the cross from being demolished at a Christian church in Ao'jiang, Pingyang county.

In Taizhou, another city in Zhejiang, authorities had difficulty trying to demolish the two crosses perched on Chengguan Church, a house church. The first two attempts were thwarted by the typhoon Matmo at the beginning of last week. Then on Friday, the government’s machinery started malfunctioning, keeping officials from removing the larger of the two crosses. The government sent as many as 4,000 officials to face the Christians who had come to sing hymns and pray at the church, according to The New York Times. About 40 people were detained.

Other churches don’t put up as much resistance. At Longgang Township Gratitude Church in Wenzhou, about 200 Christians in the area held an overnight prayer vigil but didn’t put up a fight when officials came to cut off the 10-foot cross, according to the Times. “We didn’t want to get in a fight with them, but obviously what they did was illegal,” Qu Linuo, pastor of a nearby church, told the Times. When the police handed the cross to the congregants, “many of them were weeping inconsolably,” Qu said.

While authorities have mainly targeted government-sanctioned churches, many of the house churches have put aside differences to help protect the symbol of their faith. One house church pastor from northern China said everyone fell silent as their train entered Wenzhou and they saw church after church with crosses torn off. “When we saw the crosses demolished, we were heartbroken,” he said.

And things seem only to be getting worse: Churches in other provinces also are starting to receive demolition notices, and house churches that previously had some amount of autonomy are seeing increased persecution. As news of the cross removals spreads through major media outlets, ChinaAid’s Bob Fu said the crackdown is no longer just on the churches but also the Christians who are leaking the information out to foreign media.

A church member of Zengshan Village Christian Church stands near rocks piled up in front of the gate to prevent government workers from moving in equipment to demolish the cross.

In June, leaders from 135 government-sanctioned churches in Pingyang County released an open letter, claiming the crosses are not illegal structures, that taking down the crosses violates China’s constitutional clause on the freedom of religion, and that the demolitions place pressure on their local officials.

“We believe that the Chinese society needs the spirit of the cross—that is, the love, forgiveness, humility, and life-saving,” the letter read. “The cross, as the only symbol of Christianity, is irreplaceable in the hearts of believers.”

NATIONAL BRIEFS

Christian Newspaper Editor Files Discrimination Complaint Over Firing

(WNS)--An Iowa newspaper editor is claiming his former employer fired him because of his biblical beliefs about sexuality. Bob Eschliman, the former editor-in-chief of the Newton Daily News, filed an official discrimination charge on Jul. 24 with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). “No American—especially people in the journalism field—should be fired simply for expressing their religious beliefs,” said Jeremiah Dys, senior counsel for the Liberty Institute, a nonprofit legal group representing Eschliman. Eschliman, a Christian, took to his personal blog in April to lambast the Queen James Bible, a revision put forward by gay activists. They say Greek and Hebrew passages on homosexuality either refer to pagan rituals or promiscuity. “We edited those eight verses in a way that makes homophobic interpretations impossible,” the editors say.

Trumpeting a Dinosaur Horn

 

(WNS)--A few miles outside Glendive, Montana, on May 12, 2012, three researchers were hunting fossils scattered in the Hell Creek Formation, a geological trove for dinosaur bones. After paying the landowner $3,000 for one fossil, the scientists hauled it to their lab to see if it contained any unfossilized soft tissue the ravages of time might have left untouched. They found soft tissue and structures that appeared to be original dinosaur cells. In February 2013, two members of the team, including Mark Armitage, a part-time employee at California State University, Northridge, (CSUN) published their discovery in the journal Acta Histochemica. A few days afterward, CSUN dismissed Armitage from his job in the microscope lab, claiming it had inadequate funding to continue his position. Last week, the Pacific Justice Institute filed a religious discrimination lawsuit against the school on Armitage’s behalf. The organization claims the school fired Armitage because of his view – which this discovery seems to support -- that dinosaurs lived much more recently than the millions of years ago that some scientists claim. The lawsuit accuses the university of violating the Fair Employment and Housing Act, as well as Armitage’s First Amendment right to free speech and his academic freedom.

INTERNATIONAL BRIEFS

Meriam Ibrahim Released From Sudan

 

(WNS)--Meriam Ibrahim and her family have arrived safely in Rome, ending a year-long effort in Sudan to put her to death for her Christian faith. “This is a day of celebration,” said Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, who welcomed the family at the airport last Thursday. Ibrahim’s release came only hours after the U.S. House of Representatives held a hearing to highlight the stalled efforts to get her out of Sudan, but the wheels were already in motion before the proceeding began. Sudanese authorities gave Ibrahim back her passport on Wed., July 23, and told her she could leave, shortly before Lapo Pistelli, Italy’s deputy minister for foreign affairs, arrived in Sudan to accompany her back to Italy. Italy’s effort illustrated the kind of advocacy lawmakers said was lacking from the Obama administration.

                 

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WORLD News Service – July 25 2014

                                                                                                                                   

 

Christian Newspaper Editor Files Discrimination Complaint Over Firing

 

Trumpeting a Dinosaur Horn: A partially fossilized triceratops horn offers evidence the animal lived less than 65 million years ago, say scientists who discovered it

 

SIDEBAR: University Fires Scientist After Dinosaur Discovery Offers Young Earth Evidence

 

Changing Course? After a public apology and the adoption of a softer tone from the pulpit, star pastor Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church face new challenges

 

Meriam Ibrahim Released From Sudan: After diplomatic efforts by the Italian government, the family arrived safely this morning in Rome

 

Steady Destruction -- and Deafening Silence: The Islamic State destroys Jonah’s tomb and other Judeo-Christian sites in Mosul while President Obama remains mute

 

NATIONAL BRIEFS

 

INTERNATIONAL BRIEFS

 

                                                                                                                                   

Christian Newspaper Editor Files Discrimination Complaint Over Firing

 

By Andrew Branch

(WNS)--An Iowa newspaper editor is claiming his former employer fired him because of his biblical beliefs about sexuality. Bob Eschliman, the former editor-in-chief of the Newton Daily News, filed an official discrimination charge on Jul. 24 with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

“No American—especially people in the journalism field—should be fired simply for expressing their religious beliefs,” said Jeremiah Dys, senior counsel for the Liberty Institute, a nonprofit legal group representing Eschliman.  

Eschliman, a Christian, took to his personal blog in April to lambast the Queen James Bible, a revision put forward by gay activists. They say Greek and Hebrew passages on homosexuality either refer to pagan rituals or promiscuity. “We edited those eight verses in a way that makes homophobic interpretations impossible,” the editors say.

Eschliman’s April 28 post brought statewide attention. “I’d like to talk a little bit about deceivers among us, most notably the LGBTQXYZ crowd and the Gaystapo effort to reword the Bible to make their sinful nature ‘right with God,’” he wrote. 

He accused Queen James editors of “'proselytizing' to church leaders” on homosexuality, citing New Testament prophesies that false prophets will encourage lawlessness. “If you ask me, it sounds like the Gaystapo is well on its way,” Eschliman concluded. “We must fight back against the enemy.”

The Newton Daily News is a member of Shaw Media, a small Iowa and Illinois news network. Shaw Media and Daily News leaders suspended Eschliman and eventually fired him on May 5, even though he took down his blog in response to their concerns. While some people defended Eschliman, others called the post “hate speech,” and four former Newton staffers wrote to company managers decrying his “deep-seeded, zealously hateful views toward a societal group.” By declaring “gays the enemy,” wrote media critic Jim Romenesko, he likely compromised his journalistic integrity.

In an editorial in the Daily News, Shaw Media President John Rung claimed Eschliman damaged the organization. “While Mr. Eschliman is entitled to his opinion, his public airing of it compromised the reputation of this newspaper and his ability to lead it,” he argued. Shaw Media has a right to an editor that best represents the company, he said. And one of the responsibilities of a media company is “to advocate for the communities we serve.”

Liberty Institute lawyers argue that Rung fired Eschliman for expressing his biblical beliefs—not for the nicknames he used to refer to LGBT activists. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of religion. 

“I think Bob would like to redo some of what he wrote,” Dys told me. “But he made his decision to write what he wrote, and he’ll have to live with that.” But ultimately, Dys argues, the wording doesn’t matter. “They cannot fire him just because they would have used different words than he did,” Dys said. “He was expressing his religious beliefs on that blog.”

Daily News publisher Dan Goetz, largely silent on the “personnel matter” since the beginning, continued his silence Thursday. “We have no further comment on this matter,” he told me.

The EEOC often takes 6 to 12 months to decide such cases, Dys said. If Eschliman wins, he could be awarded back pay and other damages. 

Trumpeting a Dinosaur Horn

 

A partially fossilized triceratops horn offers evidence the animal lived less than 65 million years ago, say scientists who discovered it

By Daniel James Devine

(WNS)--A few miles outside Glendive, Montana, on May 12, 2012, the sun beat down on three researchers as they hammered away at sandstone. They were hunting fossils scattered in the Hell Creek Formation, a geological trove for dinosaur bones. They had no power tools—just chisels, muscle, and the excitement of watching a large triceratops horn emerge inch-by-inch from sediment that swallowed it long ago.

The team spent three hours chipping away the rock. “That wears you out, especially for a bunch of old scientists,” recalled Kevin Anderson, a member of the team and a microbiology professor at Arkansas State University in Beebe, Ark. The Triceratops horridus horn they excavated was 2 feet long and weighed 20 pounds: “We always joked, this would have been the grandpa triceratops.”

After paying the landowner $3,000 for the fossil, the scientists hauled it to their lab to see if it contained any unfossilized soft tissue the ravages of time might have left untouched. After giving the fossil an acid bath that dissolved the hard material, they found—sure enough—soft tissue and structures that appeared to be original dinosaur cells.

In February 2013, Anderson and another member of the dig team, Mark Armitage, a part-time employee at California State University, Northridge, (CSUN) published their discovery in the journal Acta Histochemica. A few days afterward, CSUN dismissed Armitage from his job in the microscope lab, claiming it had inadequate funding to continue his position.

This week, the Pacific Justice Institute filed a religious discrimination lawsuit against the school on Armitage’s behalf. The organization claims the school fired Armitage because of his view that the Earth was created a few thousand years ago. Both Armitage and Anderson are affiliated with the Creation Research Society, a creation science organization based in Chino Valley, Ariz.

Pacific Justice Institute declined to make Armitage available for an interview because of the pending lawsuit, but Anderson, the co-author of the triceratops horn paper, spoke to me about the fossil discovery and its implications. While the Acta Histochemica paper doesn’t make any claim on the age of the fossil, Anderson said the preservation of soft tissue—absent a convincing explanation—suggests the horn is far less than 65 million years old, the approximate date that would be assigned to the triceratops based on a standard interpretation of the Hell Creek Formation.

This isn’t the first time scientists have found soft tissue inside a dinosaur fossil. In 2005, North Carolina State University researcher Mary Schweitzer famously reported her discovery of “transparent, flexible, hollow blood vessels” inside a Tyrannosaurus rex leg bone. Others have found soft tissue inside fossils from a mosasaur (an extinct marine reptile), a Brachylophosaurus (a duck-billed dinosaur), and a Tarbosaurus (a theropod).

Soft tissue has also emerged from triceratops bones, but Anderson and Armitage were the first to report the discovery of soft tissue within a triceratops horn—a structure presumably less likely than bone to preserve original tissue over a long period.

Once the two scientists had decalcified the fossil by submerging it in a mild acid for four weeks, they discovered, in the words of their report, “clear to milky-white or reddish brown pieces of soft material, which swayed gently upon bone surfaces when solutions were disturbed.” When Armitage examined the horn under a powerful scanning electron microscope, he saw structures appearing to be vessels that would have supplied blood to the horn, and even what may have been crystalized blood proteins. In addition, he found what appear to be osteocytes, cells involved in building and maintaining bone.

“These are real dinosaur tissues, loaded with real dinosaur cells,” Anderson said. “How is it they were preserved?” He believes the preservation of soft tissue challenges the assumption that the fossil is at least 65 million years old. According to the evolutionary timescale, triceratops lived at the end of the Cretaceous Period, which would have spanned 65 to 145 million years ago. “We have biological evidence that it’s not 65 million years,” Anderson said of his discovery.

Other scientists have recognized the quandary created by soft dinosaur tissue. In 2008, some researchers attempted to solve the problem by suggesting the soft tissue was not part of the original dinosaur, but a later “biofilm” formed by bacteria.

Anderson and Armitage explained in their paper why they thought the biofilm theory broke down on consideration. It is unclear, they wrote, “how such biofilm structures could themselves survive the ravages of time, as once produced other microorganisms could begin to digest even these.”

Other researchers have also been unconvinced by the biofilm explanation. Instead, they’ve proposed another solution: Last year, Schweitzer, who discovered the T. rex tissue, co-authored a paper in Proceedings of the Royal Society B suggesting the iron in hemoglobin molecules played a role in preserving the tissue for millions of years by producing a chemical effect similar to formaldehyde. Other than that, the paper admitted, “the persistence of original soft tissues in Mesozoic fossil bone is not explained by current chemical degradation models.”

As a test of the theory, Schweitzer submerged ostrich blood vessels in hemoglobin, and found it preserved them for more than two years.

Anderson says extrapolating a two-year laboratory study to 60 or 80 million years of deep time leaves “a lot of questions” unanswered. He remains unconvinced soft tissues could survive so much longer than the dinosaurs that produced them.

SIDEBAR:

 

University Fires Scientist After Dinosaur Discovery Offers Young Earth Evidence

 

By Sarah Padbury

(WNS)--A scientist is suing California State University, Northridge (CSUN) for firing him after he publicized a discovery that suggests dinosaurs roamed America thousands of years ago, rather than the millions most evolutionists cite.

Mark Armitage, who specializes in microscopic evidence for a young earth, unexpectedly stumbled upon soft tissue in a triceratops fossil and wrote about his discovery for a scientific journal. Two weeks later, he was out of a job. Armitage filed suit against the university’s board of trustees on Tuesday, citing wrongful termination and religious discrimination.

Armitage’s fascination with microscopes and tiny creatures started as a teen when he spent a summer on a marine science station staring at tiny planktonic algae through double lenses. Since then, he’s founded a successful microscope sales and consulting company, patented an optical inspection device, and discovered two new parasites. He holds memberships in several national scientific societies, and also serves as a Creation Research Society board member.

In 2012, while at a world-famous fossil dig in Montana called Hell Creek Formation, Armitage uncovered the largest triceratops horn ever found at the site. To his surprise, he discovered soft tissue in the horn when he examined it under a high-powered microscope back at CSUN. Armitage believes the fact that the soft tissue wasn’t completely fossilized indicates dinosaurs roamed in the United States only thousands of years ago. Evolutionists claim dinosaurs went extinct more than 60 million years ago.

As the manager for the Electron and Confocal Microscopy Suite in the CSUN biology department, Armitage trained students to use the school’s high-powered microscopes. In the summer of 2012, while demonstrating one of the instruments, Armitage showed students the horn’s tissue samples and engaged them in “brief Socratic dialogue about the age of the horn,” according to the lawsuit. He believed the exchange was in keeping with leading students through the scientific method. A student reported the event to Armitage’s supervisor.

According to the suit, the supervisor stormed into the lab, shouting, “We are not going to tolerate your religion in this department!” and berating Armitage for his “creationist” views. Armitage informed the biology department chair and the head of technical services that what the supervisor said was a “clear example of religious discrimination.” Both of them assured Armitage his views would “not be a problem” and to “forget about the confrontation.” But they took no action to correct the supervisor or prevent future discrimination in the department, the suit claims.

Armitage published his findings in February 2013 with a peer-reviewed article for Acta Histochemica, a journal dedicated to the structural biochemistry of cells and tissues. His findings mirrored other recent discoveries of soft tissue in dinosaur bones. Two weeks later, CSUN fired Armitage, claiming his contract was temporary and the school lacked funding to continue the position.

On July 22, Pacific Justice Institute (PJI) filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court on Armitage’s behalf, declaring he was fired due to his “perceived” religious views and, contrary to the school’s claim, his position was not temporary nor was funding an issue in the department. Armitage’s contract defined his position as “permanent part-time” and he was enrolled in the university’s benefits package. On the job for three years, he held progressively increasing responsibilities, received numerous commendations from co-workers and supervisors, and was told by his supervisor via email there were “big plans” to increase his lab, “complete with it’s own building(!)”

The lawsuit accuses the university of violating the Fair Employment and Housing Act, as well as Armitage’s First Amendment right to free speech and his academic freedom. A CSUN spokeswoman said on Thursday she couldn’t comment on the lawsuit because the school hadn’t been served.

“Terminating an employee because of their religious views is completely inappropriate and illegal,” Brad Dacus, president of PJI, said in a press release. “But doing so in an attempt to silence scientific speech at a public university is even more alarming. This should be a wakeup call and warning to the entire world of academia.”

Changing Course?

 

After a public apology and the adoption of a softer tone from the pulpit, star pastor Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church face new challenges

By Warren Cole Smith & Sophia Lee

(WNS)--On a hazy Sunday morning in downtown Seattle, cars crawled around a century-old, terra cotta–domed church, one of the city’s oldest church buildings. The reason: Seattle’s 40th annual gay pride parade closed a portion of 4th Avenue near the historic church. Police officers in kilts and colorful beads patrolled the area, and volunteers set up purple balloons and rainbow flags in preparation for the thousands that would swarm downtown that afternoon.

But before the parade, drivers, cops, and volunteers got a good blast of Mars Hill Church’s rock ’n’ roll remix of the classic hymn “Nothing but the Blood of Jesus.” Mars Hill moved its downtown location to this old church a year and a half ago to be a local church amid a community, and “preach the Bible clearly, without compromise, without excuse, but still loving our neighbors,” said Justin Dean, deacon and communications director of Mars Hill.

The church’s rugged black cross with the bold words “Jesus Saves” is hard to miss, and so is the aroma of coffee and soy milk from the welcome station, both parked at the top stairs to the entrance. Sometimes, Dean said, passersby enter the church to use the bathroom or score free hot coffee—and then stay for the service. When trend watchers want to point to a successful example of hipster Christianity, they often cite Mars Hill Church because of its rapid growth.

Mars Hill and its pastor Mark Driscoll are also known for controversy: brash, in-your-face preaching, and Driscoll’s own sometimes unfiltered language. Lately, the controversy includes behavior that stepped over ethical boundaries. Last year, a plagiarism controversy forced Driscoll and his publisher Tyndale House to issue a joint statement admitting “mistakes were made.” This year, WORLD reported Mars Hill Church spent a quarter-million dollars in church funds to put his book Real Marriage on The New York Times bestseller list. Former staff members have increasingly taken to the internet to voice their grievances with what some have called Driscoll’s overbearing management style.

These controversies came to a head in March, when Driscoll made a remarkable public apology. In a letter to his congregation that received national coverage, he said his “angry-young-prophet days are over” and he would take steps to become “a helpful, Bible-teaching spiritual father.” Among the steps Driscoll planned to take included refraining from posting on social media until “at least the end of the year” and to doing few, if any, media interviews.

Driscoll has kept his word in at least one area: The normally media-hungry pastor would not agree to an interview for this story. But in other ways, Driscoll’s critics charge, it’s business as usual. Just weeks after Driscoll’s public confession, the executive elders (Mark Driscoll, Sutton Turner, and Dave Bruskas) surprised Mars Hill staff by announcing a new document retention policy that would destroy all staff emails more than three months old. The plan was dropped only after a group of former staff, elders, and members sent a letter to the church saying the new policy was an attempt to destroy documents that might be used in litigation against the church. The group’s attorney, Brian Fahling, asked the church to “preserve electronically stored information that may contain evidence” for legal action in which the church, Driscoll, and others in church leadership “will be named as defendants.” The letter lists anticipated litigation in the areas of “RICO [Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act], Fraud, Conspiracy, Libel, Slander, Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress.”

In late May, Phil Smidt, a respected Mars Hill elder and pastor, refused to sign a non-compete agreement that prevented him from serving in a leadership position of any other church within 10 miles of a Mars Hill location if he left the church. Such non-compete agreements have become common for departing staff. Given Mars Hill’s many locations in the Seattle area, the agreement would make it difficult for him to find a church anywhere in western Washington—the most populated area in the state—where he could serve as a pastor, deacon, or elder. For refusing to sign such a restrictive document, the church fired Smidt without severance compensation.

It is common for churches to require departing staff to sign non-disparage agreements, but “non-compete agreements cross over into paranoia,” said Clint Pressley, pastor of the large Hickory Grove Baptist Church in Charlotte, N.C. Pressley said he could name nearly a dozen former staff members of his church who were on church staffs within a 10-mile radius. “The Kingdom of God is big enough for us all,” he said.

Smidt’s story ended well. In an unusual show of support, 206 of Smidt’s friends—many of them former Mars Hill Church members—donated more than $50,000 in just five days using the crowd-funding platform GoFundMe.com. The public show of support for Smidt, and an equally public online show of disdain for Mars Hill administrators for the way they treated Smidt, caused the executive elders to offer Smidt severance compensation without his having to sign the non-compete agreement.

Controversies have also surrounded Mars Hill Global. At issue: whether millions of dollars raised for what many believed was the foreign missions arm of the church actually went to foreign missions. The mission statement for Mars Hill Global says, “Mars Hill Global is how we as a church participate in the worldwide mission of Jesus.” Mars Hill spokesman Justin Dean said Mars Hill Global raised more than $10 million dollars during fiscal years 2009-2014.

However, it is difficult to determine where the money went, though it is now clear some of the money went not to international efforts but to domestic church plants, including some in the Seattle area. When WORLD asked via email for an itemized accounting of those funds, Dean wrote, “Since donations given by the Mars Hill Global family were never intended to be designated solely for international efforts, we don’t provide an itemized accounting of those funds.”

Mars Hill has apologized for donor “confusion caused by a lack of clarity,” and offered to redirect previous donations to international missions if requested. According to Dean, “Only a small handful of people have decided to designate their donations solely for international efforts, and we have gladly made those changes.”

The Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA) conducted a review of Mars Hill Global and issued a statement that read, in part, “The Church has gone the second mile to address use of any funds if they were not used consistently with donor intent. This commitment, which ECFA will periodically verify, demonstrates the integrity of Pastor Mark Driscoll and Pastor Sutton Turner.”

Meanwhile, church life goes on at Mars Hill.

Melissa Yao, a middle-aged, long-time Christian who has attended Mars Hill’s satellite location at U-District with her husband for two years, said she’s familiar with the controversies brewing within her church. But she shrugged and quoted a Chinese saying: “A big tree encounters wind.” Mars Hill is huge, so it attracts scrutiny that uncovers flaws other churches can hide, Yao said. She plans to continue attending Mars Hill, because she finds the sermons “very clear” and “biblically sound.”

During a recent 10:30 a.m. Sunday sermon at Bellevue, the main campus where Driscoll preaches, almost every one of the 900 seats was filled. Bellevue, a booming suburban town-turned-city, is home to large companies like Microsoft and Nintendo. Mars Hill Bellevue’s demographics reflect that with many working professionals and young families of various races.

That Sunday morning, young and old couples sat with arms around each other. Teenagers sat in the middle-front row and took notes. Parents took turns rocking babies in their arms. People came with beards, pubescent pimples, tattoos, hipster glasses, button-up shirts, sundresses, cardigans, and skinny ties. The audience murmured in agreement as Driscoll, dressed in a polo shirt, jeans, and his usual black sneakers, continued a sermon series on Acts. A sign language interpreter translated while Driscoll preached about healing. Jesus will wipe away every tear even if you don’t receive physical relief on earth, he said. Several people wiped away their own tears.

Driscoll is a gifted speaker. Neither supporters nor critics deny that, and under his leadership the multisite church has grown to nearly 7,000 members. Since the late 1990s, Mars Hill has burgeoned across five states in 15 locations. Each Sunday, more than 12,000 people attend a Mars Hill worship service, and an estimated 250,000 people listen to a Mars Hill sermon each week via podcast and website. According to the latest annual report, Mars Hill baptized 1,141 people last year.

These days, Driscoll screams less and uses more self-deprecation. In a recent sermon, Driscoll recalled his college days. He said he was “very self-righteous, thought I was better than everyone, very proud, very independent.” Then he joked, “Some of you would say, ‘And what has changed?’ You know, it’s still in process, right? I’m a hard colt to get a saddle on and Jesus is still working on me.” But he also gets serious about his flaws. In that same sermon, Driscoll said God has been allowing him to see himself “through the eyes of the Lord, accurately, and soberly, and honestly” and then asked for prayers to “grow in godliness.”

Many Mars Hill pastors, including Driscoll, have said the past year has been one of the toughest seasons for Mars Hill. Due to financial pressures possibly related to recent controversies, Mars Hill laid off nine staff members on June 20. But Steve Tompkins, pastor at Mars Hill Shoreline for eight years, said he believes Mars Hill is growing “healthier.” He said he’s seen Driscoll become “quicker to repent publicly, demonstrate humility, and express love.” AJ Hamilton, pastor at Mars Hill Huntington Beach in California, said he’s seen a “pattern of confession and repentance emerge” among church leaders over the past 12 to 18 months, starting with Driscoll’s open description of his failures.

Dave Kraft, a former Mars Hill pastor and elder who raised some of the original questions, said the process of repentance and reconciliation in Mars Hill is in “very early stages” and has “a long way to go,” but he is “cautiously optimistic” about Mars Hill’s progress. 

Meriam Ibrahim Released From Sudan

 

After diplomatic efforts by the Italian government, the family arrived safely this morning in Rome

By J.C. Derrick & Jamie Dean

(WNS)--Meriam Ibrahim and her family have arrived safely in Rome, ending a year-long effort in Sudan to put her to death for her Christian faith.

“This is a day of celebration,” said Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, who welcomed the family at the airport on Thursday.

Ibrahim’s release came only hours after the U.S. House of Representatives held a hearing to highlight the stalled efforts to get her out of Sudan, but the wheels were already in motion before the proceeding began. Sudanese authorities gave Ibrahim back her passport on Wed., July 23, and told her she could leave, shortly before Lapo Pistelli, Italy’s deputy minister for foreign affairs, arrived in Sudan to accompany her back to Italy. Italy’s effort illustrated the kind of advocacy lawmakers said was lacking from the Obama administration.

Others had advocated for Ibrahim’s release as well. American pastor Bill Devlin traveled to Sudan last week to urge Sudanese officials to release the mother and her family. Devlin—a ministry leader who has visited Khartoum four times during the last several years—said he met with Foreign Minister Ali Karti and other Sudanese leaders during his six-day visit.

He also met with Ibrahim, her husband, and their two children in a conference room at the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum, where the family had lived since Ibrahim was re-arrested at the airport in June. In a phone interview on Wednesday (before news of her release broke), Devlin said the family was eager to leave Sudan but seemed healthy and in good spirits. He also said a pediatrician had advised Ibrahim’s infant daughter appeared healthy, although the baby would need further tests to assess her health. After her release from prison, Ibrahim said she feared the baby might be disabled due to the circumstances of her birth.

After her sudden release on Wednesday, it was unclear how the next steps in the family’s journey would unfold. On Thursday morning, the family met with Pope Francis at his residence at the Vatican. They may soon travel to the United States. Ibrahim’s husband, Daniel Wani, is an American citizen and a long-time resident of Manchester, N.H.

“Mission accomplished,” Pistelli wrote on his Facebook account.

Steady Destruction -- and Deafening Silence

 

The Islamic State destroys Jonah’s tomb and other Judeo-Christian sites in Mosul while President Obama remains mute

By Mindy Belz

(WNS)--Islamic State militants have destroyed tombs long ascribed to the Old Testament prophets Jonah and Daniel yesterday in Mosul, according to eyewitness reports and video footage posted on YouTube. The demolition came as the Sunni-led, al-Qaeda-linked militants—who stormed Mosul June 10 and have since occupied Iraq’s second largest city and the surrounding area in Nineveh province—also demolished tombs and related sites sacred to Shiite Muslims. Already the fighters have chased thousands of Christians out of Mosul, confiscating their homes and belongings.

In addition—according to Archimandrite Emanuel Youkhana, an Assyrian Christian leader who heads the Christian Aid Program in northern Iraq—Islamic State fighters have seized all 30 churches and monasteries in the Mosul area, removing their crosses and burning or destroying many of the buildings. They have converted to a mosque the Syriac Orthodox Cathedral in Mosul’s Al Shurta district, Mar Ephraim, installing loudspeakers issuing calls to Islamic prayer. Two ancient monasteries have been looted and their residents forced to convert to Islam or be killed, forcing them to flee into exile farther north.

“What comes next is a real concern,” Youkhana said in an email. “Our fears are that all the churches, Ancient Assyrian archeological sites, Mosul Museum, and other sites will have the same thing happen. This is a huge loss for human beings everywhere.”

Islamic State militants also are targeting non-Sunni Muslim communities, and Youkhana said he believed all Yezedis, a minority Kurdish religious community, have been forced out of the area since June.

In a further sign of Islamic State brutality, reports emerged yesterday that the terror group is ordering women ages 11 to 46 in and around Mosul to undergo female circumcision. The BBC and Al Jazeera quoted a top UN official who said that militants controlling the city since June issued the decree, which could affect 4 million women.

“This is not the will of Iraqi people, or the women of Iraq in these vulnerable areas covered by the terrorists,” said Jacqueline Braddock, the UN’s resident and humanitarian coordinator in Iraq. The decree was posted on Twitter, but several sources in Iraq have questioned its authenticity.

Female genital mutilation, a ritual cutting and suturing of women’s genitals, has been practiced by some groups in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia as way to prepare women for marriage. It poses many health risks: severe bleeding, infection, problems with urinating, and increased risk of newborn deaths in childbirth. Its practice in Iraq is not common or widespread, and many countries have banned it in recent years. The UN approved a resolution calling on member states to ban the procedure in 2012.

Events have reached a point of madness on Iraq. With the worst atrocities and injustices being carried out in broad daylight, the Obama administration is determined to pretend that the Iraq war did not happen—that thousands of American families didn’t commit their loved ones to serving there, that lingering security pacts no longer exist, that the United States having been the primary force for change there for almost a decade has no control over events, and that it can feign indifference without consequence.

Since the Islamic State ordered the ethnic and religious cleansing of Christians (mostly Assyrians in a city long a mix of Arab, Kurd, Turkmen, and Assyrian) a week ago, President Barack Obama has made no statement on those events. The silence is deafening, considering that former military commanders and Democrats are vocally taking issue with the president’s posture, and that Muslim leaders in Mosul have spoken against ISIS. One, University of Mosul law professor Mahmoud Al-Asali, was killed as a result of his outspoken opposition of the terrorists’ reign.

Newspapers have noted the void, with the British Spectator saying, “The mass culling of Chaldean and Assyrian Christians brings out in Obama a streak of insouciance and laid-back cowardice that is very much his own.”

The lack of concern is more striking considering the way Obama and the State Department under Hillary Clinton, both Democratic leaders affiliated with Christian churches, stood up for Muslim Brotherhood extremists in Egypt, joined a NATO war on the side of Muslim revolutionaries in Libya, and have sided with Islamic State affiliates in bringing down the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria.

Thus far this week the only reaction to ethnic and religious cleansing in northern Iraq has been from the State Department. One week ago it issued a statement calling “abominable” the Islamic State’s announcement “that Christians in Mosul must either convert, pay a tax, leave or face execution.”

When deputy spokesperson Marie Harf was again asked about the situation on Monday, she repeated that statement. Asked if there had been any change since Friday, she said, “No. … All about consistency here.” Asked on Tuesday if the State Department was equipped to deal with the persecution of Christians in Iraq, she said, “Well, we’re very well-equipped to deal with this kind of issue. We have a number of people working on it. I don’t have an update for you on that. I’m happy to check.”

Early on in the war U.S. officials and military commanders recognized that Mosul was strategic to overall security in the country—given its mix of ethnic and religious groups, a progressive and thriving business climate, low crime rate, proximity to oilfields, and welcome of U.S. troops. In 2004, troops under Gen. David Petraeus, then commander in the north, walked the streets and mingled with locals freely, even at night. In Mosul under Petraeus, U.S. troops first stood up the Iraq Civil Defense Corps, a homegrown security force of Kurds and Arabs that successfully trained and policed alongside the 101st Airborne Division.

Now those gains—along with the ancient mix of the population itself and its vast archaeological treasures—has been lost. U.S. opportunities to impose a no-fly zone (as it did for 10 years over northern Iraq between the two Gulf wars), to carry out surgical air strikes to weaken the Islamic State and protect civilians, or to send any kind of aid or military assistance to Kurdish forces are dwindling. And, at any rate, as Christians and other minorities disappear from lands they have occupied for nearly 2,000 years, none of those options to protect them are apparently on the table.

NATIONAL BRIEFS

Plan to Overturn Hobby Lobby Ruling Stalls

 

(WNS)--A bipartisan attempt to overturn the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision has failed—for now. In mid-July, the Senate 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.”

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

 

(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 in July 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. 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. 

Judge Rules Florida Same-Sex Couples Can Narry 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.

Christian College Loses City Contract Over Biblical Teachings About Sexuality

 

(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.

 

Court Rules for Christian College in Transgender Dispute

 

(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.

Government Survey: Gay Population Smaller Than Previously Thought

 

(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.

INTERNATIONAL BRIEFS

Dutch Official Pleads with Britain to Keep Euthanasia Illegal

 

(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.

                 

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 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

                 

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