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Colleges and Evangelicals Collide on Bias Policy

Posted by faithandthelaw on June 10, 2014

BRUNSWICK, Me. — For 40 years, evangelicals at Bowdoin College have gathered periodically to study the Bible together, to pray and to worship. They are a tiny minority on the liberal arts college campus, but they have been a part of the school’s community, gathering in the chapel, the dining center, the dorms.

After this summer, the Bowdoin Christian Fellowship will no longer be recognized by the college. Already, the college has disabled the electronic key cards of the group’s longtime volunteer advisers.

In a collision between religious freedom and antidiscrimination policies, the student group, and its advisers, have refused to agree to the college’s demand that any student, regardless of his or her religious beliefs, should be able to run for election as a leader of any group, including the Christian association.

Similar conflicts are playing out on a handful of campuses around the country, driven by the universities’ desire to rid their campuses of bias, particularly against gay men and lesbians, but also, in the eyes of evangelicals, fueled by a discomfort in academia with conservative forms of Christianity. The universities have been emboldened to regulate religious groups by a Supreme Court ruling in 2010 that found it was constitutional for a public law school in California to deny recognition to a Christian student group that excluded gays.

Reid Wilson, left, and Zackary Suhr, who have graduated, were part of the group.CreditKatherine Taylor for The New York Times

At Cal State, the nation’s largest university system with nearly 450,000 students on 23 campuses, the chancellor is preparing this summer to withdraw official recognition from evangelical groups that are refusing to pledge not to discriminate on the basis of religion in the selection of their leaders. And at Vanderbilt, more than a dozen groups, most of them evangelical but one of them Catholic, have already lost their official standing over the same issue; one Christian group balked after a university official asked the students to cut the words “personal commitment to Jesus Christ” from their list of qualifications for leadership.

At most universities that have begun requiring religious groups to sign nondiscrimination policies, Jewish, Muslim, Catholic and mainline Protestant groups have agreed, saying they do not discriminate and do not anticipate that the new policies will cause problems. Hillel, the largest Jewish student organization, says some chapters have even elected non-Jews to student boards.

The evangelical groups say they, too, welcome anyone to participate in their activities, including gay men and lesbians, as well as nonbelievers, seekers and adherents of other faiths. But they insist that, in choosing leaders, who often oversee Bible study and prayer services, it is only reasonable that they be allowed to require some basic Christian faith — in most cases, an explicit agreement that Jesus was divine and rose from the dead, and often an implicit expectation that unmarried student leaders, gay or straight, will abstain from sex.

“It would compromise our ability to be who we are as Christians if we can’t hold our leaders to some sort of doctrinal standard,” said Zackary Suhr, 23, who has just graduated from Bowdoin, where he was a leader of the Bowdoin Christian Fellowship.

The consequences for evangelical groups that refuse to agree to the nondiscrimination policies, and therefore lose their official standing, vary by campus. The students can still meet informally on campus, but in most cases their groups lose access to student activity fee money as well as first claim to low-cost or free university spaces for meetings and worship; they also lose access to standard on-campus recruiting tools, such as activities fairs and bulletin boards, and may lose the right to use the universities’ names.

“It’s absurd,” said Alec Hill, the president of InterVarsity, a national association of evangelical student groups, including the Bowdoin Christian Fellowship. “The genius of American culture is that we allow voluntary, self-identified organizations to form, and that’s what our student groups are.”

Some institutions, including the University of Florida, the University of Houston, the University of Minnesota and the University of Texas, have opted to exempt religious groups from nondiscrimination policies, according to the Christian Legal Society. But evangelical groups have lost official status at Tufts University, the State University of New York at Buffalo and Rollins College in Florida, among others, and their advocates are worried that Cal State could be a tipping point.

The Bowdoin group has about 45 people on its mailing list, including 25 regular participants, on a campus of 1,800 students. The group notes that its participants, young people still figuring out where they stand on many subjects, have varying views on issues like same-sex marriage.

Around the country, a number of colleges and universities are asking all student groups to agree they won’t discriminate, on any basis, in the selection of their members or leaders. Evangelical groups are balking, saying they have to be able to demand Christian faith of their leaders.CreditKatherine Taylor for The New York Times

A few weeks ago, the Bowdoin group gathered for a final dinner at the Center for Multicultural and Spiritual Life at the college, thanking not only the graduating seniors, but also Robert and Sim Gregory, who volunteered with Bowdoin for a decade but are no longer recognized as advisers.

The students, who plan to meet informally in the fall and may seek an off-campus site for worship, are bewildered by the turn of events. “We can’t discriminate on religion, and we’re a religious group!” exclaimed Olivia Cannon, 18, a Bowdoin student.

Reid Wilson, 23, a leader of the group who has since graduated, rued the turn of events. “It’s hard socially to find people on this campus who make faith a strong part of their identity — people who really understand me and who I can really be open with,” he said. “This group has been a tremendous resource for me.”

Bowdoin officials say they, too, are disappointed.

“I want them on campus, because it’s a sanctuary for many of our conservative evangelical students — Bowdoin has accepted these students, and they need a place, and they need to have their faith challenged,” said the Rev. Robert Ives, a United Church of Christ minister who is the director ofreligious and spiritual life at Bowdoin. “But every organization has to be open to every student, and every position of leadership has to be open to any individual, without discrimination.”

At Cal State, evangelicals are facing a similar conundrum. “We’re not willing to water down our beliefs in order to be accepted,” said Austin Weatherby, 20, a Cal State Chico student. He sometimes leads Bible study, and said he had to agree that he believes in the Holy Trinity and the Resurrection to do so. “Anyone can join, but if you want to lead a Bible study, you need to believe these things,” he said.

Cal State officials insist that they welcome evangelicals, but want them to agree to the same policies as everyone else. “Lots of evangelical groups are thriving on our campuses,” said Susan Westover, a lawyer for the California State University System. However, she said, there will be no exceptions from the antidiscrimination requirements. “Our mission is education, not exclusivity,” she said.

At Vanderbilt, the decision to push groups to sign antidiscrimination policies was prompted by a Christian fraternity’s expulsion of a member who came out as gay. About one-third of the 35 religious groups on campus have refused to sign and are no longer recognized by the school; they can still meet and recruit informally, and the campus Hillel has even opened its building for meetings of one of the Christian groups.

“I am hopeful for a better future, but I’m not naïve, there are some issues that are irresolvable,” said the Vanderbilt chaplain, the Rev. Mark Forrester, who is a United Methodist minister. “This is a larger social and ethical struggle that we as a society are engaged in.”

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Churches and Government Facilities: A Battleground for the Gospel

Posted by goodnessofgod2010 on April 28, 2014

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Two cases in Hawaii and New York City threaten the long tradition of churches using public school facilities. From the very beginning of the United States, churches have used government facilities for worship services. In 1795, a church used the United States Capitol building just two years after the cornerstone was laid and before Congress officially began meeting in the building. In fact, worship services were held in the Capitol building until around the time of the Civil War.

In the pioneer era, it was commonplace for church worship services to be held in public school buildings and for public schools to be held in church buildings. Indeed, it makes a great deal of sense for churches and schools to occupy the same physical space given that churches generally operate at times when schools are not in session and vice versa.

Despite this long history and the fact that church use of governmental buildings has not led our country any closer to establishing a national religion, there are forces that do not want churches to use school buildings for religious worship.

In one case, Alliance Defending Freedom has been representing the Bronx Household of Faith in New York City for close to 20 years. The New York City public schools established a policy that allows community groups to use school facilities but prohibits using them for religious worship. The case has bounced back and forth between the trial court and the appeals court in New York several times. In the most recent ruling, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the school’s policy excluding religious worship was constitutional. Alliance Defending Freedom appealed that ruling to the full Court of Appeals and will continue to fight for the ability of churches to use school facilities equally. Churches should not be discriminated against simply because they are religious.

In another case, Alliance Defending Freedom represents two Hawaii churches who were sued by atheists, claiming that the churches knowingly underpaid rental fees to the schools they were using. The lawsuit filed was brought under the state’s False Claims Act, which allows insiders who possess confidential information of fraud to file a whistleblower lawsuit to recover the money on behalf of the state and to assess triple damages. If successful, the atheists get to keep a portion of the money they recovered, and they are asking for an award of several million dollars. But the churches paid all the rent they were charged, and the Department of Education knew about the charges and payments by the churches. Alliance Defending Freedom asked the trial court to dismiss this lawsuit. Churches should not be bullied into giving up their right to equal use of government buildings.

These lawsuits are just a few of the attacks against churches using school facilities. So how should a church respond? Should they abandon any attempts to use school facilities for worship services?

No. This approach disregards the many startup churches who can only afford to rent government school facilities. It also ignores that in places like Hawaii and New York City, property is at a premium with frequently nowhere for churches to meet other than public buildings. And it overlooks the rich history of complementary use of government buildings by churches since the very beginning of this country.

Churches should not be pushed out of public spaces simply because some find the message of the Gospel “offensive.” Nor should churches themselves voluntarily abandon the public square where the proclamation of the Gospel message is sorely needed.

Alliance Defending Freedom has attorneys willing to defend a church’s right to have equal access to government facilities and not be subject to intimidation tactics seeking to forcibly remove churches. If you or your church are facing threats or encountering problems regarding use of governmental facilities, please contact us so an attorney can review your situation.

Courtesy of http://blog.speakupmovement.org/church/uncategorized/churches-and-government-facilities-a-battleground-for-the-gospel/

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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.

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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/

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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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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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37 Muslim Nations Persecuting Christians

Posted by goodnessofgod2010 on January 12, 2014

persecutionThe number of Christian martyrs was twice as high in 2013 as the year before, and radical Islamist governments and groups are responsible for the vast majority of deaths and persecution around the world, according to the 2014 World Watch List.

As WND reported, Open Doors USA, which assists the persecuted church around the world, compiled the World Watch list and reports 2,123 Christians were killed for their faith last year, compared to 1,201 in 2012. In fact, the killings in Syria alone (1,213) trumped the total from a year earlier.

“The target of violence is mainly taking place mainly from rebel groups who are Islamic extremists, so these are jihadists practicing extreme Islam and are targeting Christian areas,” said Emily Fuentes, communications director at Open Doors USA. “Many of these Christians have had to flee, and these towns have essentially become ghost towns because they’ve cleared Christians out. In October of last year, there was a massacre in one of these towns where more than 45 people died and hundreds were injured just because it was a Christian-dominated town.

“Syria is experiencing a whole new level of persecution and violence of Christians,” said Fuentes, noting that Syria is now the third worst persecutor of Christians, skyrocketing from the 36th spot it held just two years ago.

While Syria is the most deadly spot on earth for Christians, Fuentes said it fits a pattern in the Islamic world. She noted, of the 50 worst nations for persecution, 37 of them are Muslim. Fuentes said another disturbing twist is the melding of radical Islam with communist and other totalitarian ideologies.

“Some of (Christians in persecuted nations) experience different forms of persecution or combined forms of persecution. An example would be some of the central Asian countries, like Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and all those. You might still see persecution that comes from the the former days of the USSR, a little bit of lingering communism, where the government is sending officials to monitor churches and monitor any Christian activities and secretly spying on Christians and using governmental tactics,” Fuentes said.

“But you’re also seeing extreme Islam blended into that. So not only are they worried about the government, but they’re worried about sections of the government that are Islamic extremists or groups that are Islamic extremists coming in to attack them,” she said.

Nine of the worst 10 nations for Christians are Islamic. In addition to Syria in third slot, Somalia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Maldives, Pakistan, Iran and Yemen are among the worst of the worst.

But for 12 years running now, the communist North Korean regime is at the top of the list, and Fuentes said things there are only getting worse there.

“It is the most hostile place to be a Christian. It is an act punishable by death in North Korea to be a Christian, either by execution sometimes on the spot or execution very soon after finding out about your faith,” said Fuentes, who explained that those who are not killed are sent to Nazi-like concentration camps. She also said the pain inflicted by the regime goes far beyond the Christians themselves.

“The moral dilemma that North Korean Christians have that’s unlike any other place in the world is that if their faith is discovered, not only them but up to three generations of their family could be forced to go to these labor camps. So that’s their parents, their children, their grandchildren, all because of their faith in Christ,” she said.

The biggest movers on this year’s list were the Central African Republic, leaping to 16th after not even being on the list last year, and Mali, which dropped from seventh in 2012 to 33rd this year. Fuentes said although it is a majority Christian nation, Islamic groups have infiltrated the cities and have been targeting Christians for death. She said 13 pastors have been slain there in just the past couple of months.

Mali is the opposite story. International military action rooted many radical Islamists from that nation and greater religious freedom has emerged, although Fuentes hastens to add that any nation on the list is a nightmare for believers.

Fuentes said the annual World Watch List is designed for multiple purposes, including the desire to attract more media attention to the surge of persecution around the world, alert public officials to address these problems and inform pastors and believers around the nation. However, she said all of those take a backseat to the No. 1 goal.

“The No. 1 thing that persecuted Christians ask for in every country is our prayers. It’s not Bibles. It’s not money. It’s prayers, and they know that prayer is the most powerful thing. It can change the hearts of leaders who may not be as drawn to sharing the message of persecuted Christians. It can even change the heart of dictators like Kim Jong-Un,” Fuentes said.

The following is the full list:

1) North Korea
2) Somalia
3) Syria
4) Iraq
5) Afghanistan
6) Saudi Arabia
7) Maldives
8) Pakistan
9) Iran
10) Yemen
11) Sudan
12) Eritrea
13) Libya
14) Nigeria
15) Uzbekistan
16) Central African Republic
17) Ethiopia
18) Vietnam
19) Qatar
20) Turkmenistan
21) Laos
22) Egypt
23) Myanmar (Burma)
24) Brunei
25) Colombia
26) Jordan
27) Oman
28) India
29) Sri Lanka
30) Tunisia
31) Bhutan
32) Algeria
33) Mali
34) Palestinian Territories
35) United Arab Emirates
36) Mauritania
37) China
38) Kuwait
39) Kazakhstan
40) Malaysia
41) Bahrain
42) Comoros
43) Kenya
44) Morocco
45) Tajikistan
46) Djibouti
47) Indonesia
48) Bangladesh
49) Tanzania
50) Niger
Read more at http://www.wnd.com/2014/01/37-muslim-nations-persecuting-christians/#UoW1f248ls5re7r4.99

Posted in Attack on Christianity, Faith Issues in Our Times, Religious Freedom | Leave a Comment »

Police Arrest US Street Preacher in Scotland for Calling Homosexuality a Sin

Posted by goodnessofgod2010 on January 11, 2014

tony-mianoAmerican street preacher Tony Miano was arrested earlier this year in July. Christian Concern, a British legal group, helped Miano avoid paying a fine and receiving a ‘Caution’ after he was detained.

Scottish police arrested Tony Milano, a U.S. preacher and former Los Angeles Deputy Sheriff, for breach of the peace and for using “homophobic” language in the condemnation of sin.

“It is indicative of the suppression of the freedom to speak and live out the words of Jesus Christ in public and present the teachings of the Bible,” Andrea Minichiello Williams, chief executive of the British organization Christian Concern’s Christian Legal Centre, said about the arrest Wednesday night.

Milano’s colleague, Pastor Josh Williamson of the Craigie Reformed Baptist Church in Perth, pointed out, “Tony wasn’t focusing just on homosexual practice – it was about all sin.”

Milano, the second street preacher to address lunchtime shoppers on Wednesday, was preaching about sin in general. He then turned to mention sexual sin, including adultery, promiscuity, and homosexuality.

As Milano started preaching about sin, a woman reportedly yelled at him, shouting that her son was gay. Williamson said she tried to smash the camera he was using to film Milano’s preaching. The woman threatened she would get the preachers arrested, and proceeded to call the police.

The police arrived as the street preachers were packing up, and the woman kept shouting at Milano. “The female officer saw we had a camera and lunged for it,” Williamson recalled. “Then the male policeman grabbed it and threw it in the police van.”

According to Williamson, the male officer interviewed the woman and her friend, and then immediately arrested Milano, without questioning him or explaining the reason for his arrest. “I asked why he was being arrested and was told it was for a breach of the peace and for using homophobic language,” Williamson reported.

Williams noted that the incident “adds to the number of arrests of Christian street evangelists for preaching from the Bible,” and warned that it was a sign of the suppression of religious freedom.

Milano was arrested for a similar “crime” in London last July. “The officers that detained me specifically said the concern was the use of ‘homophobic hate speech,'” the retired deputy sheriff told Christian radio talk show host Frank Sontag during a segment on KKLA. Christian Concern helped him avoid paying a fine and receive a “caution” after he was detained.

“I was expositing 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8, where the apostle Paul admonishes the Thessalonians to abstain from all forms of sexual immorality,” the street preacher explained. “I began to preach from that text by describing different kinds of sexual immorality, from addiction to romance novels to pornography, fornication, sex outside of marriage, lust of the heart, lust of the mind, lust of the eyes and homosexuality.”

While spending seven hours in jail, he said police interrogated him about his faith in Jesus Christ. “I was asked if I believe homosexuality is a sin,” Milano recounted. “I was asked what portion of the Bible I was reading. I was asked that if a homosexual was hungry and walked up to me, would I give them something to eat.”

Milano explained he began street evangelism eight years ago when he realized “that I love myself more than I love lost people.” He admitted that “I was more concerned about me than where they would spend eternity – I was more concerned about what they thought of me instead of what they think of Christ.”

“There’s nothing more loving we will do for another human being than explain to them that God’s wrath abides upon them and that same God that will send them to hell is also the only that can save them from self through faith in Jesus Christ,” Milano declared.

Courtesy of http://www.christianpost.com/news/police-arrest-us-street-preacher-in-scotland-for-calling-homosexuality-a-sin-112366/

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

Christian Woman Sentenced to Hang for Blasphemy Writes Pope: ‘Only God Will be Able to Free Me’

Posted by goodnessofgod2010 on January 6, 2014

aaa1_456(CNSNews.com) – Asia Bibi, a Catholic Pakistani mother of five who was sentenced to death by hanging in 2010 for blasphemy, wrote a letter to Pope Francis sending Christmas greetings and adding that, even though in a Pakistan prison, she also “celebrated the birth of the Lord.” Bibi has been in prison in Multan, Pakistan for four-and-a-half years and currently is waiting for the conclusion of her appeals to the court.

“To His Holiness Pope Francis: in the name of our almighty and glorious Lord, I, Asia Bibi, would like to express my deepest gratitude to God and to you, Holy Father,” the imprisoned mother wrote in her letter, which was published in the Italian newspaper Tempi on Dec. 31.

“I hope that every Christian has been able to celebrate the Christmas just past with joy,” Bibi wrote. “Like many other prisoners, I also celebrated the birth of the Lord in prison in Multan, here in Pakistan.”

She continued, “I am very grateful to all the churches that are praying for me and fighting for my freedom. I do not know how long I can go on and on. If I am still alive, it is thanks to the strength that your prayers give me. I have met many people who speak and fight for me. Unfortunately, still to no avail. At this time I just want to trust the mercy of God, who can do everything, that all is possible. Only God will be able to free me.”

The mother of five thanked the “Renaissance Education Foundation” for bringing her husband and children to her prison in Multan so that she could see them at Christmas, calling it a “dream come true.”

“I would have liked to be in St. Peter’s for Christmas to pray with you,” she wrote to the Pope, “but I trust in God’s plan for me and hopefully it will be achieved next year.”

Regarding her prison conditions, Bibi wrote, “I am facing many problems this winter: my cell has no heating and no door for shelter from the bitter cold, the security measures are not adequate, and I do not have enough money for daily needs and am very far from Lahore so my family cannot help me.”

“Holy Father, I want finally for you to accept my best wishes for the New Year. I know you pray for me with all your heart. And this gives me confidence that one day my freedom will be possible,” she wrote.

Asia Bibi was arrested in June 2009 after an incident where she drank from a cup at a well. Bibi’s Muslim co-workers claimed that her use of the well made it “unclean” because she was a Christian. An argument ensued, and witnesses testified at her trial that she insulted the Prophet Mohammed.

A few days later a mob came to her house and beat her and her family, and she was then arrested by the police under Section 295 C of Pakistan’s Penal Code (the “anti-blasphemy” law), as reported by CNN.

In November 2010, Bibi was sentenced to death for blasphemy. She has remained in prison since then, enduring a lengthy appeals process.

Suzan Johnson Cook, the U.S. ambassador-at-large for International Religious Freedom, during a May 20, 2013 press conference said: “In terms of Pakistan, there’s a new government, there’s a new leadership, and I think it remains to be seen how people handle it. As to the question previously, blasphemy is very important to us, and there are many who are being held in prisons still – Asia Bibi and others – about 20 others who are in prison because of their belief. So we have to see what this new government will do. We certainly encourage him and will urge him to again hold accountable the perpetrators of violence and to make sure that there’s protection of religious minorities. And so that’s going to be very important. Human rights is a very high priority for this Administration.”

See more at: http://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/barbara-boland/christian-woman-sentenced-hang-blasphemy-writes-pope-only-god-will-be#sthash.A7YdQ0oa.dpuf

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

 
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