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Former SEALs Chaplain Could be Kicked Out of Navy for Christian beliefs

Posted by goodnessofgod2010 on March 9, 2015

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A chaplain who once ministered to Navy SEALs could be thrown out of the military after he was accused of failing “to show tolerance and respect” in private counseling sessions in regards to issues pertaining to faith, marriage and sexuality, specifically homosexuality and pre-marital sex, according to documents obtained exclusively by Fox News.

Lt. Commander Wes Modder, who is endorsed by the Assemblies of God, has also been accused of being unable to “function in the diverse and pluralistic environment” of the Naval Nuclear Power Training Command in Goose Creek, S.C.

“On multiple occasions he discriminated against students who were of different faiths and backgrounds,” the Chaplain’s commanding Officer Capt. Jon R. Fahs wrote in a memorandum obtained by Fox News.

Modder told me he was devastated by the accusations. He believes charges have been trumped up.

Modder is a highly decorated, 19-year veteran of the military. Prior to becoming a Navy chaplain, he served in the Marine Corps. His assignments included tours with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit and Naval Special Warfare Command – where he served as the Force Chaplain of the Navy SEALs.

His record is brimming with accolades and endorsements – including from Capt. Fahs.

In Modder’s most recent review, Fahs declared that the chaplain was “the best of the best,” and a “consummate professional leader” worthy of an early promotion.

So how did Chaplain Modder go from being the “best of the best” to being unfit for service in the U.S. military in a span of five months?

The Navy did not return my calls seeking comment – so all we can do is rely on their written accusations and evidence.

Michael Berry, a military veteran and attorney with Liberty Institute a law firm that specializes in religious liberty cases is representing Modder. He accused the military of committing a gross injustice against the chaplain in a letter to the Navy. He told me they will respond forcefully and resolutely to the allegations – which they categorically deny.

“We are starting to see cases where chaplains have targets on their backs,” Berry said. “They have to ask themselves, ‘Do I stay true to my faith or do I keep my job?’”

He said Modder is being punished because of his Christian faith.

“They want chaplains to be glorified summer camp counselors and not speak truth and love into people’s lives,” Berry told me. “There are some anti-religious elements in our military. Anytime somebody wants to live their faith out – there are people who say that is offensive.”

Modder told me he was devastated by the accusations. He believes charges have been trumped up.

“The military now wants a 2.0 chaplain instead of a legacy chaplain,” Modder said. “They want a chaplain to accommodate policy that contradicts Scripture.”

Modder’s troubles started on Dec. 6 when an assistant in his office showed up to work with a pair of Equal Opportunity representatives and a five-page complaint documenting grievances against the chaplain.

The lieutenant junior grade officer went on to detail concerns about Moody’s views on “same-sex relationships/marriages, homosexuality, different standards of respect for men and women, pre-marital sex and masturbation.”

Modder said the young officer had only been working with him for about a month and would constantly pepper him with questions pertaining to homosexuality. He had no idea that the officer was in fact gay – and married to another man.

“His five page letter of complaint was unconscionable,” Modder said. “He said I had a behavioral pattern of being anti-discriminatory of same sex orientation.”

The chaplain was not even given a chance to defend himself. He was immediately removed from duties and told to clean out his office.

“It was insulting and it was devastating,” Modder said. “I felt discriminated against. How could something like this happen at this stage of my career?”

Zollie Smith, the executive director for the Assemblies of God, U.S. Missions, told me they stand firmly behind the chaplain.

“We stand behind him 100 percent,” he said.

In hindsight, Berry believes the officer was setting up his client – and in doing so may have committed a crime.

“I believe some of what the lieutenant has alleged could constitute a military crime – false statements – taking what the chaplain said and twisting or misconstruing it – in an attempt to get the chaplain punished,” he said. “He abused the position he was placed in as a chaplain’s assistant.”

He believes the officer may have gained access to private counseling file

“To be clear, Chaplain Modder does not dispute that during private, one-on-one pastoral care and counseling sessions, he expressed his sincerely held religious belief that: sexual acts outside of marriage are contrary to Biblical teaching; and homosexual behavior is contrary to Biblical teaching; and homosexual orientation or temptation, as distinct from conduct, is not sin,” Berry said.

Modder said many Americans may be shocked to discover how much military culture has changed over the past few years.

“This new generation is very secular and very open sexually,” he said. “The values that the military once held – just like the Boy Scouts of America – are changing. The culture wants this. Culture is colliding with truth. That’s at the heart of this.”

Modder recalled an incident that occurred when he first arrived on the base. He was about to deliver the invocation at a graduation ceremony when the captain pulled him aside.

“He looked at me and said, ‘Hey chaplain – do not pray in Jesus’ name,’” he recalled.

Modder said he understands the firestorm he is about to enter – but he remains resolute.

“Every fiber in my being wants to run away from this – but if I do I’m not being obedient to the Lord,” he told me. “I need to stand up for righteousness and this is something I cannot walk away from.”

The reality is that many other chaplains could find themselves in Chaplain Modder’s shoes. The Roman Catholic church and the Southern Baptist convention have nearly identical positions on the issues that the Navy found problematic with Modder.

“It’s going to be a hard road for me,” he said. “But it’s what God has called me to do.”

Ultimately, it’s about leaving a legacy and setting an example for his family – his wife and four young children.

The day he was relieved of his duties, Chaplain Modder’s 14-year-old son tagged along to help pack up his dad’s office. A few senior enlisted men were there as well.

As they were driving away, the boy told his father that the enlisted men had spoken to him.

“They told my son that ‘you can be proud of your father because he’s keeping the faith,’” Modder said. “The whole command knows that Chaplain Modder is keeping the faith.”

Todd Starnes is host of Fox News & Commentary, heard on hundreds of radio stations. Sign up for his American Dispatch newsletter, be sure to join his Facebook page, and follow him on Twitter. His latest book is “God Less America.”

Courtesy of http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2015/03/09/former-seals-chaplain-could-be-kicked-out-navy-for-christian-beliefs/

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Georgia Tech’s Speech Code Declared Unconstitutional

Posted by goodnessofgod2010 on March 4, 2015

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Ruth Malhotra and Orit Sklar, unleashed all the worst furies of the Left when they stood up in support of their faith and their conservative views on the campus of Georgia Tech. The two united in their vocal opposition to the school’s ironclad speech codes, which severely curtailed any student conversation, publications, events, or activities administrators arbitrarily deemed “intolerant.” The codes banned free exchange of ideas except in very limited areas of campus, denied student activity funds to clubs and organizations that engaged in ‘religious activities,’ and officials even instituted a program, “Safe Space,” designed to demonize anyone or any group that considered homosexual behavior immoral.

When Ruth and Orit asked the Alliance Defending Freedom to sue Georgia Tech on their behalf, they found themselves mocked, cursed, defamed on posters, and threatened with rape and even murder.

The young women’s courage was rewarded when their case ended victoriously. Georgia Tech was forced to eliminate their anti-religious program and remove the speech code that violated the First Amendment. This critical outcome serves as a precedent for other schools around the country to abandon their similar speech codes and censorship.

Courtesy of http://www.speakupmovement.org/StudentStories/Details/23219

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COURT TELLS FLORIST: “TOLERANCE” WILL NOT TOLERATE YOUR RELIGIOUS BELIEF

Posted by goodnessofgod2010 on February 26, 2015

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The Washington Attorney General is exerting the weight of his office on a 70-year-old grandmother. Amazingly, that grandmother is still standing. But she could lose everything she owns, all because she is unwilling to abandon her religious convictions and create unique artistic expression that violates her beliefs.

The parties:

Barronelle Stutzman is a mother of eight, a grandmother of 23, and a floral artist. She is the owner of Arlene’s Flowers and Gifts, a corporation founded in 1989 and previously operated by her mother, before Barronelle purchased the company 12 years ago.

Robert Ingersoll was a regular customer of Arlene’s Flowers. During the past nine years, Barronelle estimates she sold flowers to Robert at least 20 times. They also became fast friends; Barronelle says, “[h]e has a very creative mind and we just kind of hit it off.” Barronelle knew that Robert was gay, and some of those floral arrangements were for Robert’s partner, Curt Freed.

Bob Ferguson is the Attorney General of Washington.

The offense:

In early 2013, Robert asked Barronelle if she would use her artistic talents to design floral arrangements for his same-sex wedding ceremony. Because Barronelle follows the Bible’s teaching that marriage is only between a man and a woman, she felt obligated to politely decline the invitation. She explains, “as much as I loved Rob, I just couldn’t be a part of that. If I did Rob’s wedding, it would be from my heart because I think he is a really special person and I would want to make it really special for him.”

After communicating her regrets to Robert, Barronelle referred him to several other local florists and the two continued to chat about Robert’s wedding plans. Before he left the store, they embraced. Robert and Curt had no trouble finding another source for flowers; in fact, they received several offers for free flowers.

The charges:

While no formal complaint was filed with the State by the couple, Attorney General Ferguson heard about the matter and filed a lawsuit against Barronelle, accusing her of unlawful discrimination in violation of the Washington Law Against Discrimination (WLAD) and Consumer Protection Act (CPA). This was the first time that the Attorney General’s office has sought to single out and punish a private citizen under the CPA.

The ACLU was quick to follow suit, and filed a lawsuit on behalf of Robert and Curt.

Notably, both the ACLU and the Attorney General’s office filed suit not only against Arlene’s Flowers, but against Barronelle personally. Barronelle thus found herself at risk of losing not only her business, but also her home, her entire life savings, and everything she owns.

The ruling:

A Washington state trial court ruled on February 18 that Barronelle had committed unlawful discrimination. Perhaps most appalling is the efficiency with which the court obliterated any possibility that faith could coexist with “tolerance.” Indeed, the court was explicit in its finding that Barronelle’s religious belief could no longer be tolerated: “[Barronelle] cannot comply with both the law and her faith.”

Barronelle’s attorneys plan to appeal.

What the court failed to acknowledge in its conclusion is that aside from the state’s intolerance of her faith, Barronelle is also being asked to create artistic expression that she disagrees with. This too violates the First Amendment. The Supreme Court has held not only that First Amendment protection extends “beyond written or spoken words” but also that the freedom of speech “includes . . . the choice of what not to say.” Hurley v. Irish-Am. Gay, Lesbian & Bisexual Grp. of Bos., 515 U.S. 557, 569 (1995); Pac. Gas & Elec. Co. v. Pub. Utils. Comm‘n, 475 U.S. 1, 16 (1986) (citing Miami Herald Publ‘g Co. v. Tornillo, 418 U.S. 241, 258 (1974)).

The punishment:

Unless the appeal is successful, Barronelle faces the loss of everything she owns—her business, her home, her entire life savings, and other personal belongings. All because she made the principled choice to live—and create expression—in a manner consistent with her religious beliefs, a foundational freedom Americans have always enjoyed.

The offer:

On Thursday, February 19, the Attorney General offered to drop his lawsuit if Barronelle would pay $2,001 and agree to give up her religious freedom. (Notably, the ACLU has made no similar offer.)

Not surprisingly, Barronelle quickly rejected the offer. In her letter, she told the Attorney General that “you don’t really understand me or what this conflict is all about. It’s about freedom, not money.” Barronelle added that “I certainly don’t relish the idea of losing my business, my home, and everything else that your lawsuit threatens to take from my family, but my freedom to honor God in doing what I do best is more important.”

The irony:

There are at least three separate ironies to the state and ACLU’s oppression of Barronelle.

First, the law that is being used as a sword against Barronelle exists, ostensibly, to protect Washington’s citizens from unlawful discrimination. Yet the result of this prosecution has been a ruling that Barronelle’s Christian faith—and rights of expression—are incompatible with her private business, and that her religious convictions and expression will not be tolerated. In the meantime, Robert Ingersoll and Curt Freed easily obtained flowers from another vendor for their wedding—the court’s ruling notes that Ingersoll and Freed incurred a whopping $7.91 in mileage costs related to their efforts to select an alternative source of flowers.

Barronelle noted the irony of a one-way street of tolerance in her letter, stating, “Our state would be a better place if we respected each other’s differences, and our leaders protected the freedom to have those differences. Since 2012, same-sex couples all over the state have been free to act on their beliefs about marriage, but because I follow the Bible’s teaching that marriage is the union of one man and one woman, I am no longer free to act on my beliefs.”

Second, not only is Barronelle being sued by a friend she had served for nearly a decade, Arlene’s Flowers has served—and employed—gays for years. Yet even in the midst of this lawsuit, and while facing the loss of everything she owns, Barronelle continues to proclaim her care and concern for Robert Ingersoll, stating “I kindly served Rob for nearly a decade and would gladly continue to do so. I truly want the best for my friend.”

Third, it seems that some of the very individuals the Attorney General purports to be protecting by his dogged prosecution of Barronelle may in fact oppose his efforts to do so.

Barronelle also says she has received many cards, emails, and calls from those who identify as homosexual and support her right of free expression and religious freedom.

The conclusion:

Just two days ago, Secretary of State John Kerry referred to the administration’s efforts to “reaffirm the universal human rights of all persons.” He stated that “[d]efending and promoting the human rights of LGBT persons is at the core of our commitment to advancing human rights globally – the heart and conscience of our diplomacy.” Nowhere, however, did Secretary Kerry reference religious liberty, or the plight of individuals like Barronelle.

Just last week I blogged about former Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran, who was fired because he dared to express his Christian faith. Elaine Huguenin of Elane Photography in New Mexico, Jack Phillips of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Colorado, and Brendan Eich, founder and former CEO of Mozilla Corporation, have also faced serious repercussions for exercising their freedom of conscience, freedom of speech, and/or free exercise of religion. And there are countless others.

Religious freedom, freedom of expression, and freedom of conscience can no longer be assumed. Thankfully, people like Barronelle seem determined to make sure it doesn’t fade away with a whimper.

Courtesy of http://bowlingwithed.com/2015/02/26/court-tells-florist-tolerance-will-not-tolerate-your-religious-belief/

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City of Houston demands pastors turn over sermons

Posted by goodnessofgod2010 on October 15, 2014

Annise-ParkerThe city of Houston has issued subpoenas demanding a group of pastors turn over any sermons dealing with homosexuality, gender identity or Annise Parker, the city’s first openly lesbian mayor. And those ministers who fail to comply could be held in contempt of court.

“The city’s subpoena of sermons and other pastoral communications is both needless and unprecedented,” Alliance Defending Freedom attorney Christina Holcomb said in a statement. “The city council and its attorneys are engaging in an inquisition designed to stifle any critique of its actions.”

ADF, a nationally-known law firm specializing in religious liberty cases, is representing five Houston pastors. They filed a motion in Harris County court to stop the subpoenas arguing they are “overbroad, unduly burdensome, harassing, and vexatious.”

“Political and social commentary is not a crime,” Holcomb said. “It is protected by the First Amendment.”

The subpoenas are just the latest twist in an ongoing saga over the Houston’s new non-discrimination ordinance. The law, among other things, would allow men to use the ladies room and vice versa. The city council approved the law in June.

The Houston Chronicle reported opponents of the ordinance launched a petition drive that generated more than 50,000 signatures – far more than the 17,269 needed to put a referendum on the ballot.

However, the city threw out the petition in August over alleged irregularities.

After opponents of the bathroom bill filed a lawsuit the city’s attorneys responded by issuing the subpoenas against the pastors.

The pastors were not part of the lawsuit. However, they were part of a coalition of some 400 Houston-area churches that opposed the ordinance. The churches represent a number of faith groups – from Southern Baptist to non-denominational.

“City council members are supposed to be public servants, not ‘Big Brother’ overlords who will tolerate no dissent or challenge,” said ADF attorney Erik Stanley. “This is designed to intimidate pastors.”

Mayor Parker will not explain why she wants to inspect the sermons. I contacted City Hall for a comment and received a terse reply from the mayor’s director of communications.

“We don’t comment on litigation,” said Janice Evans.

However, ADF attorney Stanley suspects the mayor wants to publicly shame the ministers. He said he anticipates they will hold up their sermons for public scrutiny. In other words – the city is rummaging for evidence to “out” the pastors as anti-gay bigots.

Among those slapped with a subpoena is Steve Riggle, the senior pastor of Grace Community Church. He was ordered to produce all speeches and sermons related to Mayor Annise Parker, homosexuality and gender identity.

The mega-church pastor was also ordered to hand over “all communications with members of your congregation” regarding the non-discrimination law.

“This is an attempt to chill pastors from speaking to the cultural issues of the day,” Riggle told me. “The mayor would like to silence our voice. She’s a bully.”

Rev. Dave Welch, executive director of the Texas Pastor Council, also received a subpoena. He said he will not be intimidated by the mayor.

“We’re not afraid of this bully,” he said. “We’re not intimidated at all.”

He accused the city of violating the law with the subpoenas and vowed to stand firm in the faith.

“We are not going to yield our First Amendment rights,” Welch told me. ‘This is absolutely a complete abuse of authority.”

Tony Perkins, the head of the Family Research Council, said pastors around the nation should rally around the Houston ministers.

“The state is breaching the wall of separation between church and state,” Perkins told me. ‘Pastors need to step forward and challenge this across the country. I’d like to see literally thousands of pastors after they read this story begin to challenge government authorities – to dare them to come into their churches and demand their sermons.”

Perkins called the actions by Houston’s mayor “obscene” and said they “should not be tolerated.”

“This is a shot across the bow of the church,” he said.

This is the moment I wrote about in my book, “God Less America.” I predicted that the government would one day try to silence American pastors. I warned that under the guise of “tolerance and diversity” elected officials would attempt to deconstruct religious liberty.

Sadly, that day arrived sooner than even I expected.

Tony Perkins is absolutely right. Now is the time for pastors and people of faith to take a stand. We must rise up and reject this despicable strong-arm attack on religious liberty. We cannot allow ministers to be intimidated by government thugs.

The pastors I spoke to tell me they will not comply with the subpoena – putting them at risk for a “fine or confinement, or both.”

Heaven forbid that should happen. But if it does, Christians across America should be willing to descend en masse upon Houston and join these brave men of God behind bars.

Pastor Welch compared the culture war skirmish to the 1836 Battle of San Jacinto, fought in present-day Harris County, Texas. It was a decisive battle of the Texas Revolution.

“This is the San Jacinto moment for traditional family,” Welch told me. “This is the place where we stop the LGBT assault on the freedom to practice our faith.”

We can no longer remain silent. We must stand together – because one day – the government might come for your pastor.

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University of South Alabama Restricts Freedom of Speech

Posted by faithandthelaw on August 25, 2014

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MOBILE, Ala. — Alliance Defending Freedom filed an amended complaint Friday in a pro-life student organization’s lawsuit against the University of South Alabama.

The university relegated the group’s pro-life display to a small speech zone on campus because it deemed the nature of the event “controversial.” Under the university’s policies, students must also obtain a permit 72 hours in advance in order to use the speech zone.

“Universities are supposed to be the marketplace of ideas,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel David Hacker. “Free speech should not be censored or limited to a ridiculously small area on campus, nor should students need permission to exercise their constitutionally protected freedom of speech. The First Amendment protects speech for all students in the outdoor areas of campus, regardless of their religious or political beliefs.”

Last October, Students for Life USA requested permission to a hold a “Cemetery of the Innocents” event, which consists of students placing small crosses in the ground to represent the innocent lives lost to abortion. University officials denied the request and said it would need to be held in the campus’s speech zone, even though other groups have exercised free speech on other portions of the campus. At the time, the speech zone was restricted to the Student Center, which was less than one percent of the college’s main campus. Although the university has since expanded its speech zone, it still restricts speech throughout the campus.

The lawsuit, Students for Life USA v. Waldrop, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Alabama, explains that the university’s speech policy violates the First Amendment and gives university officials “unbridled discretionary power to limit student speech in advance of such expression on campus and to do so based on the content and viewpoint of the speech.”

“Free, spontaneous discourse on college campuses is supposed to be a hallmark of higher education rather than the exception to the rule,” added ADF Senior Counsel Kevin Theriot. “We hope that the University of South Alabama will revise its policy so that its students can exercise their constitutionally protected freedoms.”

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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/

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

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 »

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/

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

 
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