Faithandthelaw's Blog

The law as it relates to Christians and their free exercise of religion

No honor in his hometown: Jesus not welcome in Nazareth school

Posted by goodnessofgod2010 on April 8, 2014

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Alliance Defending Freedom filed a federal lawsuit Monday against a Pennsylvania school district on behalf of a 1st grade student and his parents. In February, Nazareth Area School District unconstitutionally prohibited the student from distributing St. Valentine’s Day cards to his classmates because the cards contained a note that mentioned God and included the Bible verse John 3:16 after a sentence about the history of St. Valentine’s Day.

“Public schools ought to encourage, not suppress, the free exchange of ideas, including those communicated through Valentine’s Day cards. A Bible verse and a reference to God does not make such a card unconstitutional,” said ADF Legal Counsel Matt Sharp. “Religious expression is just as protected by the First Amendment as other messages that students communicate.”

“To single out a faith-based message for censorship is exactly the type of hostility to religion that the First Amendment forbids,” added ADF Senior Legal Counsel Jeremy Tedesco. “We hope the school district will revise its policies to respect the constitutionally protected free speech of its students and make ongoing litigation unnecessary.”

In February, the parents of the 1st grader helped him assemble the cards for “Friendship Day,” the politically correct name the school district uses for St. Valentine’s Day. The cards included a note that stated, “Happy Valentine’s Day! St. Valentine was imprisoned and martyred for presiding over marriages and for spreading the news of God’s love. In honor of St. Valentine’s Day, I want you to know that God loves you!!! ‘God so loved the world that He gave His only son, so that everyone who believes in Him might not perish but have eternal life.’ John 3:16.”

When the student arrived with his cards at Floyd R. Shafer Elementary School in Nazareth, his teacher noticed the faith-based notes and brought them to the attention of the school’s principal, William Mudlock. Mudlock ordered them removed because of their religious nature and because they contained a Bible verse, telling the student’s parents that they could be “offensive” to others.

At a meeting with the student’s parents, Mudlock explained that the child’s note sought to “establish the supremacy” of his faith over others as prohibited by school district policy. He pointed to NASD Policy 220 on “Unprotected Student Expression,” which states that the school officials can prohibit student expression that seeks “to establish the supremacy of a particular religious denomination, sect or point of view.”

The complaint filed in J.A. v. Nazareth Area School District with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania explains that the same federal court struck down an identically worded policy at another Pennsylvania school district in 2008, saying that such policies “restrict what effectively amounts to all religious speech, which is clearly not permissible under the First Amendment.”

Ted Hoppe, one of nearly 2,300 attorneys allied with Alliance Defending Freedom, is serving as local counsel in the case.

Posted in Attack on Christianity, Faith Issues in Our Times, Hot Legal News, Religious Freedom | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Officials In Laos Tell Christians To Renounce Faith In Jesus Christ Or Be Deported

Posted by goodnessofgod2010 on April 2, 2014

Laos-Map-Christian-PersecutionImagine being told that if you did not give up your faith in Jesus Christ that you would be forced out of your town and lose all of your property. That is precisely what a group of Christian families in three villages in the nation of Laos were told by their government officials after it was discovered that they were meeting regularly for home Bible study and worship.

According to reports:

Local authorities in Laos are threatening Christians in three villages with expulsion unless they renounce their faith, with residents in one village calling the converts “pigs and dogs,” according to an advocacy organization.
In a public meeting of Christians and others in Huay village of Atsaphangthong District, Savannakhet Province, local officials on Saturday (Sept. 21) ruled that Christians will be expelled for converting away from indigenous beliefs and practices, a representative from Human Rights Watch for Lao Religious Freedom (HRWLRF) told Morning Star News.
“The Christians shared with us that they were called ‘pigs and dogs’ by those who attended the village meeting,” said the representative, who requested anonymity. “The Christians met among themselves and made a decision to reject the authorities’ decision.” (source).

 

The conflict with local authorites started in the Nongdaeng village in Borikan District, Borikhamsai Province. A Christian told the HRWLRF representative that on August 30th, local officials threatened 11 families with eviction if they did not renounce Christ. “They charged these Lao Christians with believing the religion of a foreign Western power, which is considered destructive to the Lao nation,” the representative said in a press statement. “Officials expressed their intention that no Christian faith can be adhered to or practiced in Nongdaeng.”

Despite the threats from their local chiefs, the 11 families continued to meet for house worship. On September 14th, the local official called a meeting for all residents and announced: “You Christians should stop believing in the Christian faith. If you want to lose your homes and your properties and be deported [evicted], then you go ahead and continue with your Christian faith.”

In Savannakhet Province, in the village of Nonsung in Phin District a similar meeting was called by the local official. At the meeting the Christians were ordered to participate in pagan rituals such as taking an oath to animist spirits and drinking water that had been “cleansed” by a medium who called on spirits to purify it. They refused and were also threatened with deportation.

“The tactic is however being used against Christians elsewhere. In Allowmai, which is just eight kilometers away from Vongseekaew, six Christian families, along with their pastor, Bounlert, were ordered on 18 October to take an oath with sacred water in order to be allowed to remain in the village.”

Christians in Laos told to renounce faith | Watchlist persecution no media coverage

The group went on to say that Pastor Bounlert was detained in September along with four other Christian leaders; two of them were released after two days. The provincial authorities subsequently ordered the release of Bounlert, Adang and Onkaew, saying that their arrest by the district police was unjustified. But the police have kept the pastors in custody and threatened to imprison them for two to three more years if Christians in Allowmai do not perform the rituals.
Christian leaders in Savannakhet province believe that the police are trying to force Christians to recant their faith through taking part in the spirit rituals because they were unsuccessful in pursuing legal action against the pastors. (source).

Pray For The Church in Laos

Christians in Laos told to renounce faith | Watchlist persecution no media coverage

 

Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you. – Matthew 5:10-12.

It may seem hard to believe that this level of persecution is taking place, but it is just one example in an alarming trend of Christian persecution worldwide. Laos, with a population of approximately 6 million, is 1.5% Christian (the majority of the country is Buddhist or follows a mix of Buddhism and animist religions). As a very small minority, the door is open wide for Christians to be oppressed, beaten, jailed and even killed for their faith. Open Doors USA, an international Christian aid group lists Laos as the 18th worst country in the world for Christian persecution.

Pray for the Christians in Laos – for their safety, that they can remain in their homes and most importantly for their faith. They are living a Christian life that puts their livelihood and life on the line every day. Pray that God will sustain them and strengthen them in the face of persecution, and that they will continue to proclaim the name of Jesus Christ and share His Gospel. And pray for your own faith and other Christians to show the same resolve and boldness in the face of far less opposition. Lord willing, those who were once enemies of God, will come to know and receive free forgiveness and eternal life in the name of Jesus Christ.

Courtesy of http://beginningandend.com/officials-in-laos-tell-christians-to-renounce-faith-in-jesus-christ-or-be-deported/

Posted in Attack on Christianity, Religious Freedom | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

US Supreme Court Argument Preview: Religion, Rights, and the Workplace

Posted by goodnessofgod2010 on March 20, 2014

us-supreme-court (1) 

At 10 a.m. next Tuesday, the Supreme Court will hold ninety minutes of oral argument on the government’s authority to require private businesses to provide birth control and other pregnancy-related services to their employees under the Affordable Care Act.  Arguing for the challengers to the so-called “contraceptive mandate” will be Paul D. Clement, of the Washington, D.C., law firm of Bancroft PLLC.  Defending the mandate will be U.S. Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli, Jr.   Each will have forty-five minutes of time, under an order issued Thursday expanding the time beyond the normal amount.  The consolidated cases areSebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Sebelius.

Background

For the first time since the broad new federal health care law partially survived its most sweeping constitutional challenge in the Supreme Court nearly two years ago, the Affordable Care Act comes up for a new test before the Justices.  This time, the Court will be examining whether the government may enforce against private businesses owned by religiously devout owners the requirement that employee health plans provide no-cost coverage for women’s pregnancy-related services, including birth control.

These services, required under the so-called “contraceptive mandate” in the Act and in government regulations, are not themselves in legal trouble:  the only issue before the Court at this point is which businesses can be ordered to provide the services to their female workers at no cost to them.

That issue will be debated by two of the legal gladiators who met in the last test at the Court of the Affordable Care Act:  Washington attorney Paul D. Clement, a former U.S. Solicitor General, and the current Solicitor General, Donald B. Verrilli, Jr.

There probably would be a significant loophole in the contraceptive mandate’s reach if the challengers win.  Some women’s rights groups have estimated that millions of women would be affected.  Female workers of the two companies involved and those of other religiously oriented companies would have to cover personally the cost of at least some of the birth-control services — unless the government were to set up a new program on its own to do so, which is a very unlikely prospect.

Thus, the two cases that the Court has combined for review set up a direct conflict between the interests of some employers against those of their female workers of child-bearing age.  The federal government is clearly on the workers’ side, but the lower federal courts have been divided on who should win.

The dispute only involves private businesses because religious groups, as such, are given an exemption by regulations the government has issued.  Even some businesses get exemptions, too, because their employee health plans have been “grandfathered,” but before long those, too, will actually have to provide the benefits at issue, or face heavy financial penalties.

At the level of their greatest potential, the two cases raise the profound cultural question of whether a private, profit-making business organized as a corporation can “exercise” religion and, if it can, how far that is protected from government interference.  The question can arise — and does, in these cases — under either the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause or under a federal law, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, passed by Congress in 1993.

In a manner of speaking, these issues pose the question — a topic of energetic debate in current American political and social discourse — of whether corporations are “people.”  The First Amendment protects the rights “of the people,” and the 1993 law protects the religious rights of “persons.”  Do profit-making companies qualify as either?

Aside from whether corporations do have any religious rights, as such, the cases also raise the question whether the religious rights of their owners — real people, who undeniably can act according to their faith — are violated by the requirement that their companies obey the contraceptive mandate.  Ordinarily, in business law, corporations are separate from their owners, but the owners in these cases resist that notion, at least so far as the owners’ religious views actually shape the business of their companies.

No one doubts that the owners of the two companies have sincere religious objections to some forms of birth control or that their beliefs do counsel them to avoid any role in providing those services to their employees.  The companies and their owners do not have to convince the Court that that is what they believe — only whether that belief controls enforcement, or not, of the mandate.

One company is Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., and a related company, Mardel, Inc.  Headquartered in Oklahoma City, the two companies are owned — through a trust — by members of the Green family.   Hobby Lobby is a chain of more than 500 arts-and-crafts stores across the country, with more than 13,000 employees.  Mardel is a chain of Christian book stores, with 35 outlets and about 400 employees.

The Green family members signed a formal commitment to run the two chains according to Christian religious principles — closing on Sunday, advertising their religious orientation, and playing religious music in the stores.   The owners and their stores do not object to every part of the contraceptive mandate, but they do object to the use of any drugs or intrauterine devices that — in the words of their lawyers — “end human life after conception.”

They have estimated that, if they follow their faith and violate the mandate, they face fines of about $1.3 million a day, or almost $475 million a year.  They believe that cancelling their health plan to avoid obeying the mandate would put them at a competitive disadvantage with other employers.   They do not believe that the government can force them to make such choices.

The other company is Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp., a company based in East Earl, Pennsylvania, that also has operations in other states, making wooden cabinets and wood specialty products.  It has about 950 employees.

The company is owned by members of the Hahn family, who are Mennonite Christians.  Their faith teaches them that it is wrong to take a human life and to prevent its creation through drugs and intrauterine devices  If the company or its owners were to violate the mandate to adhere to their beliefs, they estimate that they would face financial penalties of about $35 million a year.

Federal appeals courts ruled in conflicting ways.  The U.S. Court of Appeals f0r the Tenth Circuit decided that Hobby Lobby was likely to win its challenge because, even though it is a profit-making business, it can, indeed, act according to faith principles.  The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit decided that neither the company, Conestoga Wood Specialties, nor its owners could claim First Amendment religious rights — because, it found, the corporation is incapable of doing so, and because the owners had chosen the corporate form for their business and it stands apart from their personal interests.

Petitions for certiorari

The federal government asked the Supreme Court to review the Hobby Lobby case, while the Hahn family and their woodworking company did the same in their case.  As offered to the Justices, the two cases together raise both the First Amendment religious rights question and the RFRA statutory issue, as to both the companies and their owners.

The First Amendment provides that no law may be passed, at any level of government, that prohibits “the free exercise of religion.”  RFRA provides that government agencies (only at the federal level, since the Act no longer applies at the state and local levels) may not impose a “substantial burden” on the religious exercise of “a person,” even if the law is one that everyone ordinarily must obey, unless the government can justify the burden to satisfy a “compelling government interest,” and only if it is the “least restrictive means” of doing so.  It does not specifically define “person.”

On November 26, the Court agreed to review both cases and consolidated them for review.

Briefs on the merits

Hobby Lobby Stores — whose name will probably provide the label for the case in history – argued aggressively in its merits brief that the federal government was pursuing “a misguided shell game” in which only the Green family has rights and the corporation suffers alone the burden of the mandate.   That, it contended, was a move to ”drive a wedge” between the family and its corporation.

The brief insisted that, if the Court uses the definition of “person” that is in the federal Dictionary Act, it would refer not only to natural persons, but to corporations, too.  And, under the ACA regulations at issue, the filing said, the government is seeking to force employers to provide specific contraceptives, not just “an exchange of money.”  It is the contraceptives, not their cost, that burdens the Green family’s faith and the principles of Hobby Lobby Stores and the related bookstore chain, the brief argued.

Saying that the Court must apply “strict scrutiny,” the most demanding test for the validity of a government mandate or program, the Hobby Lobby brief said that the government has “not come close” to satisfying that standard.  The official claims that the mandates support public health and women’s equality are so broad that they could never meet that test, the brief said.

The retail chains’ filing said that the government has come up at the last minute with another attempted justification — that is, that the mandate is part of a comprehensive scheme of providing health benefits to all.  But that notion, the brief said, is belied by all the exemptions the government has allowed.

Because the question that the government raised in its petition in the Hobby Lobby case was restricted to the scope of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the retail chains’ merits brief is confined to that issue.

The merits brief for Conestoga Wood Specialties and its owners deals with its claims under both RFRA and the First Amendment.  The filing begins with a defense of the Hahn family’s claim that its members choose to practice their faith through business activity, as well as in their personal lives.  “The corporate formality of a business is not determinative of whether religious exercise occurs in that business,” it contended.

But, if the family’s religious interests could be separated from the company, the brief went on, the company itself “exercises religion, too.”  Under state law, the corporate form may be used “to pursue all lawful purposes, without excluding religion,” Conestoga’s lawyers told the Court.  The Supreme Court, they added, “has never limited religious freedom to natural persons.”

Aside from arguing that the contraceptive mandate substantially burdens the religious rights of the Hahns and of their company, the brief said that Congress in passing the Affordable Care Act did not require that contraceptive services be included in employee health plans; that was added by the federal government in ACA regulations.

And, like Hobby Lobby, the Conestoga filing asserted that “strict scrutiny” is the only valid test to apply and that the government cannot show that it has a compelling interest in enforcing the birth-control mandate against religious objectors.  If the government is intent on assuring access to birth control, the brief said, it could either expand existing programs which provide that service or create new ones.

The Obama administration’s merits brief in Hobby Lobby focused on the RFRA claim, and its separate brief in the Conestoga case sought to answer claims under both RFRA and the First Amendment.

In each filing, the government made the same basic points:  profit-making businesses do not “exercise” religion at all, for purposes of either federal law or the Constitution; the mandate only applies to corporations and not to their owners and, in any event, corporations law treats the business separate from the owner; and, even if the mandate did have to satisfy a compelling government interest, it does so by assuring that female workers have access to an important health benefit as part of a comprehensive health insurance scheme.

The contraceptive coverage requirement, according to the government, is a neutral obligation that applies to profit-making businesses in general, and does not target any religious exercise.  The exemptions that have been provided for other businesses — those whose plans are “grandfathered” and thus do not immediately have to obey the mandate — will only exist in a phased sequence, and that alone is not enough to deprive the mandate of its neutral character, the U.S. brief said.

In passing RFRA, the brief contended, Congress did not intend to “uniquely disable the government by working a dramatic expansion” of the claims for exemption based on religious liberty.  Besides, it added, there has not been a single decision by the Supreme Court that struck down a federal law — or required an exemption to it — on the theory that that was necessary “to protect the rights of a for-profit corporation or of the owners, managers, or directors of the corporation.”

The government brief also made a religious liberty argument of its own.  It said that giving for-profit businesses the chance to obtain an exemption from federal laws based on religion would threaten “the special place of religious institutions in our society.”  Congress has often given religious bodies exemptions from laws, but it has always “drawn the line at for-profit corporations,” the brief said.

If Hobby Lobby and Conestoga are legally entitled to exemptions, Congress would be discouraged from providing exemptions for non-profit religious organizations “for fear that doing so would automatically entitle for-profit corporations to the same accommodation,” according to the government’s argument.

The briefs for the government also asserted that there actually is no burden on any religious exercise by owners or corporations, because the choice to use a birth-control pill or device would be made independently by the female workers covered by a health insurance plan.   The connection between those choices and the interests of the employer who finances the plan, the brief went on, is “too indirect” to make a legal difference.

The amicus briefs

If numbers of amici were to make a difference, there is no contest in these cases:  the government drew two dozen briefs in support, while Hobby Lobby and Conestoga are backed by five dozen filings.  There are two briefs that do not take a position on how these specific cases should be decided, but they take opposite positions:  a brief by professors of history and law argues that the Court has always treated corporations differently from natural persons, while a brief by a group of traditional religious organizations urges the Court to adopt an expansive view of the right to religious exemptions from public laws.

The boldest brief in support of the government takes a position that the government did not, urging the Supreme Court to strike down RFRA as an unconstitutional attempt by Congress to scuttle a Supreme Court decision requiring religious organizations to obey laws that apply generally.  That is a brief by a disparate group of advocacy organizations, including non-believers and survivors of clergy sexual abuse of children.

There is, on the corporations’ side, a brief by constitutional law scholars seeking to answer that constitutional challenge.  That brief contends that RFRA is a valid exercise of Congress’s legislative powers, and that nullifying the law “would threaten thousands of statutes that protect religious minorities.”

There are predictable allies on each side:  civil rights and women’s rights groups, liberal organizations, professors of various disciplines, and liberal lawmakers on the side of the federal government and the ACA, and traditional religious organizations and advocacy groups, conservative and libertarian entities, professors of various disciplines, and conservative lawmakers on the side of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga.

Analysis

If the legal territory the Court enters in these cases is not entirely new, it is also not well traveled.  The Court has sort of assumed since 1886 — without ever ruling flatly — that corporations are “persons” in a constitutional sense.  And, over time, it has filled in some of the gaps on what rights corporations are to have under the Constitution.  But it has never said, explicitly, that they are endowed with the right to freely exercise a religious faith.

These two cases give it the chance to do just that, if it is so inclined, and that would be a profound constitutional shift, with deeply uncertain implications.  It would, at a minimum, pave the way for businesses to choose whom they serve according to the identities of the customers and how those square with the religious preferences of the company.

But the Court need not go that far, even if it should lean toward ruling in favor of an exemption within the business world from the ACA’s contraceptive mandate.  It could decide that the Green family and the Hahn family have a right to exercise their religious beliefs in the way they run their business firms, and that this mandate intrudes on those rights.

Along the way, of course, the Justices would have to find a way around the conventional business law notion that corporations stand apart from their owners.  But they could do that with a very narrow definition of the rights of the owners of a company that is so closely held that it is essentially not a public corporation, except in name.  Again, though, that would grow out of the rights of the owners, not of the corporate entity itself.

The problem in anticipating a victory for religious owners, though, is that the focus in that analysis may fall too heavily on the owner’s interests, and insufficiently on the interests of the employees.  What is at stake on that side of the legal controversy is the interest of female employees in managing their personal lives and their reproductive health, with obvious implications for their ability to carry on their work lives and careers.

Just as there are Justices now on the Court who would, indeed, view this controversy through sympathetic eyes for business management, there also are Justices now serving who would certainly view sympathetically the claims of female workers of child-bearing age.

In these two cases, those two perspectives seem distinctly at odds, and the chances of finding common ground between them seem remote, indeed.

For example, the easiest way to rule for a religious exemption for businesses or their owners in this case would be to interpret the Affordable Care Act as not even authorizing the government to include birth control in the requirements for employee health plans.  That is an argument that the lawyers for the businesses here actually make.  But to rule that way would be to read the purposes of the statute’s coverage of preventive health services so narrowly as to ignore the realities of the health of women who work in offices, factories, and shops.

In terms of the legal foundations for a ruling, the Court might well go into this case hoping to avoid making new constitutional law, on the institutional premise that it should not decide a constitutional question unless it has no way to avoid it.

But it would be hard to base a ruling in this case solely on the scope of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, because that Act is essentially designed to protect constitutional rights of religious liberty.  To know what that law does protect requires knowing what the Constitution embraces — either as to corporations, or as to their owners, or both.

Only one thing, perhaps, is certain as the argument in this case approaches: whatever the Court decides, it will not decide the fate of the Affordable Care Act.  The nation’s politics, and many of its legislatures (including Congress), are absorbed with debates over whether to keep the law, to amend it, to render it unenforceable, or to repeal it altogether.  None of that depends upon the outcome of this case.

The Court has not been asked to strike down any part of the law, and it almost certainly won’t volunteer to do so.  All that is at issue is who must obey the contraceptive mandate.

Posted in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby StoresConestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Sebelius,AnalysisFeaturedHealth CareMerits Cases

Recommended Citation: Lyle Denniston, Argument preview: Religion, rights, and the workplace, SCOTUSblog (Mar. 20, 2014, 3:30 PM), http://www.scotusblog.com/2014/03/argument-preview-religion-rights-and-the-workplace/

Posted in Faith Issues in Our Times, Hot Legal News | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Ross Raises The White Flag On Gay Marriage

Posted by goodnessofgod2010 on March 3, 2014

FAVS_0627_GayMarriage2-240x240

 

By Rod Dreher

All that’s left to decide is the terms of surrender that will be dictated to conservatives, says Ross Douthat. He says there were two scenarios that might have played out. In the first, after same-sex marriage was achieved, the culture would have settled down, and gays would have gone about their business getting married and divorced like everybody else, and things would have returned to normal. In the second, gay partisans and their supporters would have put constant pressure on any holdouts or pockets of resistance, attempting to crush any opposition. Excerpt:

In the past, this constant-pressure scenario has seemed the less-likely one, since Americans are better at agreeing to disagree than the culture war would suggest. But it feels a little bit more likely after last week’s “debate” in Arizona, over a bill that was designed to clarify whether existing religious freedom protections can be invoked by defendants like the florist or the photographer.

If you don’t recognize my description of the bill, then you probably followed the press coverage, which was mendacious and hysterical — evincing no familiarity with the legal issues, and endlessly parroting the line that the bill would institute “Jim Crow” for gays. (Never mind that in Arizona it’s currently legal to discriminate based on sexual orientation — and mass discrimination isn’t exactly breaking out.) Allegedly sensible centrists compared the bill’s supporters to segregationist politicians, liberals invoked the Bob Jones precedent to dismiss religious-liberty concerns, and Republican politicians behaved as though the law had been written by David Duke.

What makes this response particularly instructive is that such bills have been seen, in the past, as a way for religious conservatives to negotiate surrender — to accept same-sex marriage’s inevitability while carving out protections for dissent. But now, apparently, the official line is that you bigots don’t get to negotiate anymore.

Of course. We will hear how all of this would have been different if only SSM opponents had done this, that, or the other thing in the past. Don’t believe it. Had the country embraced civil unions in 2004, for example, gay activists would have done exactly what they did in California, which did embrace civil unions: sue for full marriage recognition. This was always how it was going to end. I’ve been saying for at least five years that we conservatives had better focus on trying to carve out some religious liberty protections for ourselves, but that was a futile task too, amid the hysteria of this cultural climate. Now that the goal of legal same-sex marriage from coast to coast is clearly in sight, the fight will turn to demonizing any remaining resistance from religious dissenters, who must not be allowed any quarter. You can bet on it. Douthat concludes:

Christians had plenty of opportunities — thousands of years’ worth — to treat gay people with real charity, and far too often chose intolerance. (And still do, in many instances and places.) So being marginalized, being sued, losing tax-exempt status — this will be uncomfortable, but we should keep perspective and remember our sins, and nobody should call it persecution.

I disagree. It is certainly true that Christian conservatives should not rush to embrace the “persecution” label, which rightly applies to what is happening to Christians in Egypt, Syria, and elsewhere. However, I think Douthat is being too quick to buy into the narrative of our opponents here — a narrative one often hears from pro-SSM readers of this blog: that unless you Christians are being rounded up, beaten, or killed, it’s not persecution, so quit complaining. The same rhetorical strategy could be used against gays, of course, and it would also be unfair, because many gay people have certainly been persecuted. If only pogroms count as persecution, then very few non-black Americans in our time have ever been “persecuted.”

Anyway, if it comes to pass in the next few years that religious institutions and churches begin to lose their tax-exempt status because they do not accept the status quo on homosexuality, many of these churches and institutions will have to close, or radically scale back their operations. They operate on such a close margin as it stands now. Do you think for one minute that activists will allow any breathing room to institutions that refuse to bend to their will? Of course not. In short order, Christians in America will be forced to decide how much their institutions mean to them, and how deep in their pockets they are willing to dig to keep them going.

When Christians cannot enter into certain professions because they cannot in good conscience sign statements required by licensing guilds, that will feel like persecution. When Christians are publicly vilified, and their children are taught that holding firm to their faith makes them social pariahs, that will feel like persecution. And Christians who hold to the traditions of our faith, and refuse to sell out to the Zeitgeist, will be instructed that we deserve everything coming our way — this, even though we were all told, and told, and told, that all the other side was seeking was fairness.

The Law Of Merited Impossibility: It won’t happen, and when it does, you people will deserve it.

I think it is impossible to overestimate the power of the media in bringing about what is and what is to come. I think it is also impossible to overstate the hostility within media circles to Christianity on this issue. Over the years, I’ve often found myself telling fellow conservatives that their idea of media bias and what the media are like is exaggerated. On this one, though, it’s as bad or worse than they imagine. Mollie Hemingway writes about media coverage of the Arizona law. Excerpt:

There are countless more examples (from the Washington Post to local papers) of how poorly reporters have handled this topic and how quickly they’ve joined the mob of activism against civil or rational discourse.

Religious liberty is a deeply radical concept. It was at this country’s founding and it hasn’t become less so. Preserving it has always been a full-time battle. But it’s important, because religion is at the core of people’s identity. A government that tramples religious liberty is not a government that protects economic freedom. It’s certainly not a government that protects conscience rights. A government that tramples religious liberty does not have expansive press freedoms. Can you think of one country with a narrow view of religious liberty but an expansive view of economic freedom, freedom of association, press freedoms or free speech rights? One?

A media less hostile to religious liberty would think less about scoring cheap political points, creating uncivil political climates and disparaging institutions that help humans flourish. A media with a higher regard for truth would, it turns out, have a higher regard for religious liberty.

Sadly, we seem to have left the world of reason and tolerance. Could our media climate demonstrate that any better? And what lies ahead, if left uncorrected, is illogical and tyrannical. Freedom of religion was the central principle in the moral case of our country. Once that’s gone, how long can the Republic stand? Does anyone even care?

When you have a prominent ESPN personality likening the Arizona bill to Nazi Germany’s making Jews wear yellow stars, and this is considered reasonable mainstream discourse, I think the answer, Mrs. Hemingway, is no, not in our media class. Watch Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon discuss this. Hysterics, both of them:

American Christians are about to learn what it means to live in a country where being a faithful Christian is going to exact significant costs. It may not be persecution, but it’s still going to hurt, and in ways most Christians scarcely understand. Maybe this will be good for us. Maybe. We’ll see.

Courtesy of http://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/ross-raises-the-white-flag-on-gay-marriage/

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Atheist group demands school stop allowing students to help starving children

Posted by goodnessofgod2010 on February 10, 2014

feedGOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. — Alliance Defending Freedom sent a letter Friday to Robbinsdale Area Schools after an atheist group complained about students participating in a community service project at a church to pack meals for needy families in Haiti.

“Public schools should encourage students to participate in as many community service opportunities as possible. The Constitution does not prohibit students from cooperating with a religious organization to help starving families, which is not any sort of government endorsement of religion,” said Legal Counsel Matt Sharp. “Neutrality toward religion does not permit schools to discriminate against beneficial programs simply because they are run by Christians. That is not neutrality but the very hostility toward religion that the First Amendment forbids.”

Students at the School of Engineering and Arts recently visited Calvary Lutheran Church to participate in a volunteer program sponsored by Feed My Starving Children, a non-profit organization run by Christians that seeks to eliminate world hunger for children. As part of the program, students prepared pre-packed meals that would be sent to malnourished children across the globe and did not engage in any religious activities.

The Alliance Defending Freedom letter explains that “public schools may constitutionally work with religious charities to provide food or other secular goods and services to impoverished children.” Moreover, the letter states, “Courts have consistently upheld instances where schools cooperated with religious organizations…where they had a valid educational purpose for doing so.”

“The School has not promoted any religious aspect of the church or the non-profit organization,” the letter adds. “Nor can AHA point to any such evidence. The School simply chose to cooperate with a local charity to do nothing more than prepare meals for impoverished children. The School is not advancing religion at all.”

“It’s shameful for groups like the American Humanist Association to attack charity groups that provide impoverished children with help they wouldn’t otherwise receive,” said Senior Legal Counsel Jeremy Tedesco. “We hope that our letter will help Robbinsdale Area Schools understand that they can continue to allow students to participate with Feed My Starving Children and other worthy humanitarian service programs for the benefit of the needy.”

Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.

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The New American Religion: The Rise of Sports and the Decline of the Church

Posted by goodnessofgod2010 on February 5, 2014

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Super Bowl XLVIII may have been a bust as a football game, but it was a blockbuster as a cultural event. The telecast of the event attracted a record 111.5 million viewers, making it the most-watched television event of all-time. That record will most likely be eclipsed by the next Super Bowl, and the trajectory shows no signs of dissipating. America takes its sports seriously, and Americans take football with the most seriousness of them all.

In a real sense, big-time sports represent America’s new civic religion, and football is its central sacrament.

The relationship between sports and religion in America has always been close, and it has often been awkward. The “muscular Christianity” of a century ago has given way to a more recent phenomenon: the massive growth of involvement in sports at the expense of church activities and involvements. About fifteen years ago, the late John Cardinal O’Connor, then the Roman Catholic Archbishop of New York, lamented the fact that Little League Baseball was taking his altar boys away on Sundays.

“Why is it religion that must always accommodate?” asked the Archbishop. “Why must Little League and soccer league games be scheduled on Sunday mornings? Why create that conflict for kids or for their parents? Sports are generally considered good for kids. Church is good for kids.”

The Archbishop blamed secularization for this invasion of Sunday: “This is the constant erosion, the constant secularization of our culture, that I strongly believe to be a serious mistake.”

So the cardinal took on Little League and the youth soccer league in New York City. And he lost. Nevertheless, he was right about the problem. The massive rise of sports within the culture is a sign and symptom of the secularization of the larger society.

New evidence for this pattern comes from academics Chris Beneke and Arthur Remillard in an essay recently published in The Washington Post. Writing with Super Bowl XLVIII in view, Beneke and Remillard note:

“American sports fans have forged imperishable bonds with the people, places and moments that define their teams. You might even call this attachment religious. But that would be unfair—to sports.”

In other words, the attachment many Americans now have to sports teams far exceeds attachment to religious faith—any religious faith.

The two academics then make their central case:

“While teams and fans are building powerful, cohesive communities—think Red Sox Nation or the legions of University of Alabama faithful who greet one another with ‘Roll Tide’—churches are losing followers. According to a 2012 survey by researchers at the University of California at Berkeley and Duke University, 20 percent of Americans ‘claimed they had no religious preference,’ compared with an unaffiliated population of 8 percent in 1990. Roughly two out of three Americans, a 2012 Pew report noted, are under the impression that religion is losing influence in the country.”

That impression is growing because it is true to the facts. Religion is losing ground and losing influence in American society. The fastest-growing segment of the American public in terms of religious identification is the “nones,” designating those who identify with no religious tradition at all. At the same time, a religious dedication to sports has been growing. While correlation does not prove causation, the links between these two developments are haunting.

Interestingly, Beneke, who teaches history at Bentley University, and Remillard, who teaches religious studies at St. Francis University, document the dramatic increase in the percentage of Americans who consider themselves to be sports fans. Just a half-century ago, only three in ten Americans identified themselves as sports fans. Fast forward to 2012 and the percentage is greater than 60 percent. At the same time, church attendance and other marks of religious activity (especially the number of hours each week devoted to church activities) have fallen sharply.

Beneke and Remillard describe the current picture in vivid terms: “Modern sports stadiums function much like great cathedrals once did, bringing communities together and focusing their collective energy. This summer, the Archdiocese of New York is expected to outline plans to close or merge some of its 368 parishes; 26 Catholic schools in the archdiocese have ceased operation. By contrast, the city and the state of New Jersey spent hundreds of millions to build new baseball and football stadiums.”

Cardinal O’Connor would no doubt see the pattern and lament it, but a good many evangelical Christians seem both unmoved and unconcerned. The problem is quite ecumenical in this respect. The youth minister or pastor at your local evangelical church is almost sure to tell you the same story. Team sports activities or other forms of organized athletics have taken many evangelical families away from church activities. Many children and adolescents know very little of church involvements, but they and their parents (and often their grandparents as well) would not miss a scheduled practice, much less a game or competitive event. The same is increasingly true of spectator sports.

Beneke and Remillard conclude by asserting that “when it comes to the passionate attachments that sustain interest and devotion, it’s time to acknowledge that sports have gained the edge. And they show no sign of relinquishing the lead.”

In the larger society, this is most certainly the case. This dramatic shift could only come to pass if the larger culture has been largely secularized. In this case, secularization does not necessarily mean the disappearance of religious faith, but merely the demotion of religious involvement and identification to a level lower than those granted to sports.

Americans may not know who their god is, but you can be sure most know who their team is.

Super Bowl XLIX is scheduled to be played next year in the cathedral currently known as the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. Let the pilgrimage begin.

Courtesy of http://www.albertmohler.com/2014/02/04/the-new-american-religion-the-rise-of-sports-and-the-decline-of-the-church/

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ADF: Atheists’ lawsuit against national motto should be thrown out

Posted by goodnessofgod2010 on January 28, 2014

In God we trustNEW YORK — Alliance Defending Freedom filed a friend-of-the-court brief with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit Thursday in support of the use of the national motto, “In God We Trust,” on U.S. coins and currency. Last February, a group of atheists filed a lawsuit against the federal government that claims the use of the national motto on money is unconstitutional even though it is a practice that has deep roots in American history and federal courts have repeatedly upheld it as constitutional.

The Alliance Defending Freedom brief explains that merely being offended is not a sufficient legal cause (known as “standing”) on which to file a lawsuit attacking the national motto.

“Americans shouldn’t be forced to abandon their religious heritage simply to appease someone’s political agenda,” said Litigation Counsel Rory Gray. “Courts have repeatedly ruled that the national motto, ‘In God We Trust,’ is constitutional and can be used on U.S. currency, and that is the correct conclusion. In addition to the fact that numerous courts have already rejected the lawsuit’s claims, those bringing this suit can’t do so simply because they are offended by a historical phrase.”

As the Alliance Defending Freedom brief filed in Newdow v. United States of America explains, the government’s expenditure of tax dollars to create coins and currency is “a secular government function” that does not further any religious ends. The brief also notes that “ideological frustration” or “subjective feelings of offense and alienation” are not legitimate reasons to file a lawsuit. “Federal courts are not forums for the ventilation of public grievances,” the brief says.

“The emotional response of offended atheists does not amount to a violation of the Establishment Clause,” added Senior Legal Counsel Jeremy Tedesco. “This lawsuit is based on a deep misunderstanding of the First Amendment. It should be dismissed.”
Joseph Ruta, one of nearly 2,300 attorneys allied with Alliance Defending Freedom, is local counsel for ADF.

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American Horror Story: Coven – Satanic Witchcraft Goes Mainstream

Posted by goodnessofgod2010 on January 21, 2014

american-horror-story-coven-promo-Promotion-of-Witchcraft-and-the-occult-on-television-e1385635218699

2013 saw a sharp rise in the blatant promotion of the occult, black magic and satanic witchcraft in mainstream pop culture. What was once reserved for late night television or R-rated movies, has now become prime time viewing. No better example of this is seen than in American Horror Story: Coven, the primetime cable series on the F/X Network that has become a runaway ratings success as it openly promotes some of the most violent, depraved and satanic imagery on television. As society continues to move away from God, shun the name of Jesus Christ and reject the Bible, it is swiftly descending into satanic rebellion. And this year’s television season is an indication that the deception of the Devil is now becoming mainstream, especially for young adults and children.

American Horror Story: The Most Satanic Show on Television?

From the show’s website:

“American Horror Story: Coven tells the secret history of witches and witchcraft in America. Over three hundred years have passed since the turbulent days of Salem and those who managed to escape are now facing extinction. Mysterious attacks have been escalating against their kind and young girls are being sent away to a special school in New Orleans to learn how to protect themselves. Wrapped up in the turmoil is new arrival, Zoe, who is harboring a terrifying secret of her own. Alarmed by the recent aggression, Fiona, the long-absent Supreme, sweeps back into town, determined to protect the Coven and hell-bent on decimating anyone who gets in her way.” (source).

Coven tells the story of a group of young girls who have been recruited to a witch’s coven with fronts as a prestigious all-girls boarding school. The purpose of the coven is to train the young women to hone their occult powers and skill and protect them from the world which seeks to destroy them. There are various factions of witches who are both for and against the coven and as a result numerous conflicts ensue. The show uses this plot to show some of the most gruesome, violent and blatantly satanic scenes and imagery ever on television. Numerous animals are cut open, bled and burned for witchcraft and voodoo rituals. Eyes are gouged and burned out. Throats are slashed. Witches use telekinesis to smash the heads open of men they do not like (with the shattered skull and brain in full view). In just the first several episodes, American Horror Story: Coven features:
◾A teenage witch using her powers to cause a bus accident the leaves the young men on the bus dismembered and dead (with their dismembered bodies and severed heads shown up close).
◾A flashback scene focuses on Madame LaLaurie (who is one of the many historical references on the show), a wealthy slave owner, keeping slaves chained in the attic of her mansion where they are tortured. They have the skin peeled from their faces and organs dug out of their bodies with a metal hook. The “Madame” then uses their blood as make up on her face to maintain her youthful look and for an enchantment spell to keep her husband faithful.

◾Two of the witches enact a spell that requires a pledge to Satan in order to resurrect a young man who had inadvertently died in the bus crash. They take his severed limbs and parts from other victims of the crash to reassemble his body (all shown on-screen).
◾A mother sexually abuses her injured son in extremely graphic fashion while he is laying in bed.
◾A young witch in the coven has sexual relations with an undead human-animal hybrid.
◾Zoe, the star of the show, has the ability to kill any man she has intimate relations with as they suffer violent brain aneurysm and their eyes explode in a bloody mess (shown on-screen). She uses this ability, (again shown in graphic fashion) to murder a young man while he is in a coma in the hospital.

All the while the power of the witches and their air of superiority are on full display. The show makes every attempt to show that witches are genetically and intellectually superior to normal human beings and have no need to regard society’s rules. And certainly God has no role or say in anything they do in their lives. Because they are playing “goddess” themselves.”

Promotion of Sinful Rebellion

Throughout the Bible, in particular in the Old Testament, a battle was constantly waged between the spiritual forces under Satan’s leadership, who sought to bring humanity into sinful rebellion and away from God and eternal life in Heaven. The occult was and is a major lure by Satan to seduce people into sin. Trying to access the spiritual realm in any way, apart from God (through prayer to the Lord, saving faith in Christ, etc) is witchcraft and a clear sin. In the book of Deuteronomy, the Bible goes into great detail is describing all the practices that are an “abomination” to The Lord:

When thou art come into the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not learn to do after the abominations of those nations. There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch. Or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer. For all that do these things are an abomination unto the LORD: and because of these abominations the LORD thy God doth drive them out from before thee. Thou shalt be perfect with the LORD thy God. – Deuteronomy 18:9-13.

American Horror Story Coven is satanic | Illuminati Antichist witchcraft and magic
The “Minotaur” character on the show bears a strong resemblance to the Baphomet.

Practicing witchcraft, using tarot cards and speaking with the dead are just some of the sins listed above that are all shown repeatedly on American Horror Show: Coven. The Bible is clear that demonic forces are real. And contacting them is an easy route to not just pull a person into sinful rebellion, but to being possessed by a demon themselves. Spirit beings are far older than human beings and this allows the Devil to use the same tricks over and over again to entice people into trying “magic.” But any temporary power or experience a magic practitioner may have is not worth spending eternity in hell and the Lake of Fire. This is why in the Old Testament law, practicing witchcraft was a capital offense: “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.” (Exodus 22:18). This is how dangerous the practice of witchcraft, Wicca, or any black magic truly is.

Making The Occult Cool

Satan’s fate has already been cast. He will be judged and suffer forever. And now he is seeking to take as many people with him. 1 Peter 5:8 says: “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.” Satan wants to destroy humanity and though he does not have the power to do that outright, he does have limited authority to set up a system of sinful temptation. And pop culture has provided a powerful weapon for the Devil to make the occult, magic and rebellion “cool” and “what’s hot” right now. And to no surprise, young people are tuning into the show in droves. The first two episodes of American Horror Story: Coven were 2 of the top 3 broadcasts in the F/X network’s history. Additionally, it broke the record for any F/X broadcast ever in the highly-coveted 18-34 demographic. Young people are tuning into the show by the millions. Scripture says: “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” (Isaiah 5:20). Hollywood is bombarding society with darkness and making it fun, exciting and even morally good.

And the more entranced by the occult a person comes, the easier it is to move away from God. In Scripture, King Saul, the first divinely appointed monarch of the nation of ancient Israel, was in constant sin against The Lord. His jealousy towards a young man named David (who would grow up to usurp him as King David) after his defeat of the Nephilim giant Goliath started his descent into evil. He plotted on numerous occasions to kill David, was willing to have his own son killed in his maniacal pursuit, performed divine sacrifices that were only supposed to be done by priests from the tribe of Levi (Saul was from the tribe of Benjamin) and repeatedly disobeyed God’s commands. The prophet Samuel, who served as a spiritual advisor to the king, reprimanded him sharply saying: “For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, he hath also rejected thee from being king.” (1 Kings 15:23).

So Scripture is clear that rebelling against God and witchcraft go hand in hand. After God’s Divine protection left him and the prophet Samuel died, Saul, who never repented for his sin, went to see a witch to help him rule his kingdom. It was this action that was the final straw and led to his death in the days following. And this is where coven wants to take its fanbase. The show encourages its many fans to send in their own photos of themselves dressed in black (as the witches in the show are instructed to do by the Supreme, the highest ranking witch). The pictures are then posted on the show’s Facebook page:

The Meaning of The Number 13

A coven is defined in the dictionary and the occult as a meeting of 13 witches. Why is there such an occult obsession with 13? God created all numbers, but that has not stopped Satan taking what God created and distorting it for his own purposes. And the Bible reveals all the “wiles of the Devil” for the reader to know and be warned. The number thirteen in Scripture is often aligned with spiritual rebellion. In fact the first time the word “rebel” appears in the Bible it is linked to the number: Genesis Chapter 10 describes the wicked Nimrod, the first emperor after the Flood, founder of Babylon and leader of the Tower of Babylon rebellion:

And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech. And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there. And they said one to another, Go to, let us make brick, and burn them thoroughly. And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for morter. And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth. And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded.
And the LORD said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do. Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech. So the LORD scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city. Therefore is the name of it called Babel; because the LORD did there confound the language of all the earth: and from thence did the LORD scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth. – Genesis 11:1-9.

The Tower of Babel was no normal building. It was an attempt to try and reach Heaven and replace God through occult means. And Nimrod was the King as the founder and ruler of Shinar (where the tower was located) was at the center of this effort. Nimrod’s name literally means “let us rebel.” And when you count the generations of humanity from Adam, the first man (the genealogy is provided in Chapter 10 of Genesis), Nimrod is in the 13th generation.

Some may find it odd to count generations of Old Testament patriarchs, but the Bible does it itself. Enoch, a Biblical patriarch who lived in the pre-flood world, was a believer in the Lord and was the first man to never die. Scripture tells us:

And Enoch lived sixty and five years, and begat Methuselah: And Enoch walked with God after he begat Methuselah three hundred years, and begat sons and daughters: And all the days of Enoch were three hundred sixty and five years: And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him. – Genesis 5:21-24.

Enoch was the first “Rapture.” Hebrews 11 confirms this: “By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God.” And what is the numerical significance attached to him? We are told in the book of Jude: “ And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints,”

So Enoch was a righteous believer, prophet and as raptured for his great faith. And the Bible makes the point of noting that he was in the 7th generation from Adam. Seven is a number repeatedly linked with God’s righteousness in Scripture. So we have a Biblical precedent for looking at the significance of numbers, even in generations. And Nimrod, who was in the 13th generation from Adam was clearly in strong rebellion against The Lord. He was the first conqueror, shedding blood in the post-flood world to establish his empire. He also made the first attempt at global government with the Tower of Babel project (a foreshadow of the Antichrist who will also set up a world government in the end times). His actions were so evil, that The Lord personally intervened and ended them.

In Genesis chapter 13 we see the first mention of Sodom and Gomorrah, two cities in open spiritual rebellion against The Lord. Genesis 13:13 says: “But the men of Sodom were wicked and sinners before the LORD exceedingly.”
In Genesis 14, the first use of the world “rebel” is also linked to the number: “Twelve years they served Chedorlaomer, and in the thirteenth year they rebelled.” (Genesis 14:4).

The Antichrist, the satanically-empowered false Messiah who will rule over the Earth for the final 3 ½ years before the Second Coming of Christ, is described in detail in Revelation Chapter 13. And his city of operations, also known as “Mystery Babylon”, has the full name “MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH” (Revelation 17:5), which just happens to be 13 words. While it may seem like coincidence, consider that in the occult there is a major emphasis put on the number 13. To no surprise, real-life witches are celebrating the occult explosion in Hollywood.

Here is an excerpt from an article published in the Huffington Post, from a practicing witch:

“The numerological symbolism [of the year 2013] was obvious of course: 13 moons in a year, 13 fertility cycles, 13 witches in a coven. It’s a number considered unlucky and unlovely for so long, we’ve seemed to have forgotten why, while still obliterating it from our tallest buildings. And so it’s a number inherently bound up in feminine magic, and thus represents a deification of something persecuted; a profanity resacralized, unsullied and crowned.
The archetype of the witch is long overdue for celebration. Daughters, mothers, queens, virgins, wives, et al. derive meaning from their relation to another person. Witches, on the other hand, have power on their own terms. They have agency. They create. They praise. They commune with nature/ Spirit/God/dess/Choose-your-own-semantics, freely, and free of any mediator. But most importantly: they make things happen. The best definition of magic I’ve been able to come up with is “symbolic action with intent” — “action” being the operative word. Witches are midwives to metamorphosis. They are magical women, and they, quite literally, change the world.
Amazingly, though not surprisingly, as soon as I named 2013 the Year of the Witch, I began to see synchronicities and sympathetic signs all around me. This year marks the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, and the 50th anniversary of The Feminine Mystique, two of the past century’s most quake-making reclamations of female power.” (source).

Grossman goes on to praise the new TV shows and movies promoting satanic witchcraft:

“And witch stories are being told all around us this year. Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, Beautiful Creatures, Oz the Great and Powerful, American Horror Story, Salem, and Witches of East End are just a few films and TV shows with 2013 releases. It’s not that we haven’t had centuries of these stories preceding us, but it seems we are witnessing a witchly tipping point.” (source).

These comments underscore a primary seduction of witchcraft and Wicca: it is seen as women’s empowerment. American Horror Story: Coven goes out of its way to emphasize a “women’s rights” angle to witchcraft. Equality in the workplace, politics and socioeconomic sphere is a valid and noble cause (as women have been historically denied this), but it should not come by being yoked with demonic forces. Jesus Christ said: “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26). Many women and young girls alike have been attracted to the occult for its offer of giving power and a means of leveling the playing field in a male-dominated world. However, this is all a lie as the cost of being yoked with the Devil is eternity in hell. Do not be deceived.

The Creators Of American Horror Story: Coven – Against Christianity

Ryan Murphy is the creator and writer of Coven. And he makes no bones about his stance against Biblical Christianity. We previously covered Murphy’s work as the creator of the hit musical show Glee and “The New Normal”, a sitcom about a gay married couple seeking to adopt a surrogate baby. Both shows have made blasphemous attacks on Christianity in particular The New Normal, whose episode “The Godparent Trap” devoted an entire show to mocking the Christian faith and blaspheming the name of Jesus Christ.

On American Horror Story, the lone Christian character, a neighbor named Joan Ramsey, is portrayed as an angry, semi-delusional woman who is mean to the ladies of the Coven from the onset and comes to their home clutching a Bible and telling them stay far away from her and her son. And once her son falls into a coma, she quickly abandons her faith and embraces one of the teen witches who has psychic abilities and is able to communicate with her unconscious son. The show in very clear fashion shows the lone Christian character giving up on prayer and her Bible in order to seek help from a witch who she then lovingly embraces and thanks for helping her.

More Witchcraft On The Way

As quoted above by the real life witch, there are indeed a number of occult-related programs debuting or set to debut in the near future. Witches of East End, a Lifetime show, which premiered in 2013, is about 2 sisters who discover in their 20s that they are powerful witches born into a family of witches. For centuries the two women repeatedly die and come back to life, forgetting their past history, as a result of a “curse of fertility” that was put on their mother. Though not as violent or vulgar as Coven, Witches of East End employs a great deal of real witchcraft, incantations and spells. To no surprise, the show has been a ratings success for Lifetime Network, and has been the network’s highest rated show ever in the 18-34 demographic.

The WGN Network is currently producing “Salem” a new TV series set in the 17th century during the time of the Salem witch trials. Like Coven, it uses real, historic witches as its basis. The lead character is Mary Sibley, a key player in the accusations which led to the witch trials, a series of trials and persecutions in Massachusetts in the 17th century that resulted in the execution of 19 alleged witches and one priest. Oz: The Great and Powerful a film released earlier in the year, starred James Franco who has strong connections to Satanism and the occult (as we detailed our article on his video for the song “Love In The Old Days” which features practicing warlocks and satanic rituals). The CBS Network is also planning a remake of the show Charmed.
Tune Out The Year Of The Witch

The Bible is clear that Satan will use any means to deceive and destroy humanity. In the midst of all of this occult promotion, the light of the Gospel still shines. God’s message is clear: no matter how deep a person has fallen into the occult, nature worship, Wicca or any type of mystical practice, they can be forgiven. While Satan wants believers to follow his Antichrist or burn in Hell, the Bible says that God: “…is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” TV shows like Coven and Witches of East End show powerful, intelligent, attractive women and young ladies who defy death through spells and incantations. All this ignores the truth: we are all going to die. The reason why reincarnation has to be constantly promoted in these programs is so that the viewer does not think about their sin and God’s impending judgment. The Bible says: “it is appointed unto men once to die, and then the judgment.” This life is our only chance to either choose God and eternal life or die in sinful rebellion like the many who have devoted their lives to the occult.

There is a way to eternal life and it does take supernatural power. But that power belongs to Jesus Christ. Christ took on human form to offer Himself, the just dying for the unjust, as a sacrifice to take the punishment we all deserve, not just for the occult, but for lying, stealing, blaspheming God’s name, racism, sexual sin and all the other ways we have violated God’s law. Jesus Christ chose to suffer on the cross and endure God’s wrath so that we would not. And it does not take any action on our part to receive this blessing of forgiveness. It just takes a humble heart to recognize our own sin and faith to believe in God’s way of restoring us.

Courtesy of http://beginningandend.com/american-horror-story-coven-satanic-witchcraft-goes-mainstream/

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Supreme Court Refuses to Hear Arizona’s Appeal for 20-Week Abortion Ban

Posted by goodnessofgod2010 on January 15, 2014

pro-life-marchersThe Supreme Court declined Monday to hear Arizona’s appeal against a lower court’s ruling that determined its ban on abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy was unconstitutional. The lower court’s ruling thus remains and the state’s ban on abortion after 20 weeks has been struck down.

The Supreme Court justices declined to provide a reason as to why they won’t be reviewing the case. In May 2013, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled that Arizona’s ban on abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy violated the legal precedents set by Roe v. Wade in 1973, and was therefore unconstitutional.

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed the 20-week abortion ban into law in 2012. The law has been considered to be one of the strictest pieces of pro-life legislation in the country, only allowing abortions after 20 weeks in the case of medical emergencies. Those who opposed the legislation argued it was stricter than other states with similar laws because the method for determining a gestation period barred abortions two weeks earlier than other states with 20-week abortion bans.

The governor’s spokesperson, Andrew Wilder, released a statement Monday decrying the high court’s decision to not hear the case, calling it “a clear infringement on the authority of states to implement critical life-affirming laws.”

“Governor Brewer will continue to fight to protect Arizona women, families and our most vulnerable population: unborn children.”

The Susan B. Anthony List, a pro-life political action committee, also released a statement defending the state’s 20-week abortion ban and the highly debated argument that fetuses can feel pain at 20 weeks of gestation. “Arizona legislators, led by pro-life State Rep. Kimberly Yee, were acting on the will of the people when they enacted this compassionate, common sense legislation to protect babies at 20 weeks,” Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser said in the statement.

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“Twenty weeks is more than halfway through pregnancy and the point at which babies have all their organs, hear and respond to their mother’s voices, and can even feel pain. A growing number of Americans simply reject the horror of late abortion and believe a reasonable line should be drawn. The 9th Circuit Court clearly erred. The law should reflect our natural recoil from this type of brutality.”

Pro-abortion groups heralded the Supreme Court’s decision, but also criticized the growing number of strict, anti-abortion bills being passed in states. “The Supreme Court soundly declined to review the Ninth Circuit’s sound decision that Arizona’s abortion ban is clearly unconstitutional under long-standing precedent,” Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement.

“… But women should not be forced to run to court, year after year, in state after state, to protect their constitutional rights and access to critical health care,” Northup continued, adding that women’s rights must not be “legislated away by politicians who are hell-bent on restricting access to the full range of reproductive health care.”

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court will begin hearing oral arguments regarding the 2007 Massachusetts law that blocks pro-life protests within 35 feet of an abortion clinic. Those opposing the “Buffer Zone” law argue it violates their constitutional rights to free speech. A U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit previously upheld the state law, and those who support the law argue it ensures public safety for women seeking an abortion and abortion clinic employees.

Dana Cody, an attorney and executive director of Life Legal Defense Foundation, told MassLive.com that the law specifically targets those who oppose abortion. Her pro-life group has filed an amicus brief opposing the law. “It’s content-based discrimination,” Cody said. “This is about limiting opposition to abortion in a public forum.”

Courtesy of http://www.christianpost.com/news/supreme-court-refuses-to-hear-arizonas-appeal-for-20-week-abortion-ban-11257

Posted in Faith Issues in Our Times, Hot Legal News | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Court Says Church Cannot Keep Tithes

Posted by goodnessofgod2010 on January 14, 2014

tithesOn December 16, 2013 the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a bankruptcy court’s decision and ruled that a church had to turn over to a bankruptcy trustee the tithes and offerings it received from a couple because they filed for bankruptcy. Shortly after the couple filed for bankruptcy, the trustee in charge of the bankruptcy went after the church to which the couple had given their tithes for the previous two years. The trustee claimed that the law, under 11 USC 548(a)(1)(B), authorized him to recover all the contributions made by the couple to the church in 2008 and 2009 because the couple contributed more than 15% of their gross annual income to the church (Word of Life Christian Center). The church agreed that the couple gave more than 15% but also held that the law protected the church from having to forfeit 100% of the contributions to the trustee. The church cited section 548(a)(2) and claimed that it was required to return only the portion of the contributions that exceeded 15% of the couple’s gross annual income. The court disagreed with the church. It ruled that the language of the law was plain; that even if the contributions exceeded 15% of the couple’s annual gross income by just one cent, the church would have to forfeit to the trustee all of the contributions it had received from the couple. Most churches in America do not know that the law allows bankruptcy trustees to render void the tithes that churches receive from its members if the member later files for bankruptcy if the members tithes and offerings combined is greater than 15% of their income. We will teach what a church should do to avoid the potential consequences of this law at our conferences.

How the courts calculate gross annual income

In this case, the court had to figure out whether the couple gave to the church more than 15% of their gross annual income. To make that determination the court examined the following:

In 2008, the couple earned $28,836.00, of which $22,036.00 came from Social Security benefits. The couple donated $3,478.00 to the church. That amounted to approximately 12% of their income.
In 2009, the couple earned $30,651.00, of which $23,164.00 came from Social Security benefits. The couple donated to the church $1,280.00, which amounted to approximately 4% of their income.
When you average out the two previous years, the couple gave approximately 7% of their income.
It appears that the couple never gave more than 15% to the church, yet the court said that the couple did give more than 15% because it ruled that income from Social Security benefits could not be counted as gross annual income under section 548 in calculating the couple’s gross annual income.

Tithes and offerings received are not always safe

This court case reminds us that the current bankruptcy laws leave open the possibility that a court-appointed trustee can recover offerings received by the church if the donor files for bankruptcy. This can cause severe financial disruptions to a church in cases of large donors that end up filing for bankruptcy.

Congress passes law to protect churches, but falls short

In 1998, Congress passed the Religious Liberty and Charitable Donation Protection Act. This law was designed to protect churches that have received tithes and offerings from members who later file for bankruptcy protection. Before this law, appointed trustees would go after churches, seeking to recover all of the tithes and offerings they had been given (by members now in bankruptcy) in the past. This caused a lot of grief and pain to churches. When the Religious Liberty and Charitable Donation Protection Act was passed it provided protection because it says that the giving of up to 15% of gross annual income is safe from bankruptcy trustees. Congress added this provision because many people tithe and also give additional funds to churches for building campaigns, missions, and other church programs. Yet the law falls short on two provisions, as shown below.

1. The law failed to clearly define what would happen if a person gave more than 15%. It just protected someone who gave less than 15%. Now the court has interpreted that if a person gives one cent more than 15%, the bankruptcy trustee can confiscate the entire amount of the contributions given to the church.

2. The law never defined gross annual income (GAI). In determining the definition of gross income for the purposes of section 548, the court leaned on current bankruptcy laws and ruled that Social Security income does not count as gross income. This leaves a gaping hole in the law. If a person tithes whose sole source of income comes from Social Security benefits, then 100% of his/her giving to a church is subject to confiscation if he/she files for bankruptcy.

The court went on to say that “the statute establishes a bright-line rule-donations not exceeding 15% of GAI are protected; donations exceeding 15% are not. While the statute may place a burden on churches and other religious and charitable organizations which may be faced with potentially having to turn over donations they receive to a trustee” . . . “its remedy lies with Congress, not this court.”

The defense argued “voiding entire transfers above 15% of a debtor’s gross annual income would place an undue burden upon churches. If the entire donation amount is voided churches would be obligated to investigate a donor’s financial background in order to use funds within two years of receipt.”

Courtesy of https://www.startchurch.com/blog/view/name/court-says-church-cannot-keep-tithes-part-1

Posted in Faith Issues in Our Times, Hot Legal News, Religious Freedom | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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