A measure to ban abortions based on the sex of a child failed last Thursday to earn enough support in the House, reports The Washington Post, and abortion opponents said they plan to use the vote to paint Democrats as disingenuously supporting women’s rights because they voted against a bill protecting unborn baby girls. The bill’s chief sponsor, Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), said his legislation would help fight “a war on unborn little girls,” noting that roughly 200 million abortions around the world can be tied to the practice of “sex-selective abortions,” which are more common in Asian and Eastern European countries. Ahead of the vote, the White House said President Obama opposed the bill because it would intrude on women’s abortion rights and would be hazardous for doctors who perform abortions. In response, Franks called Obama “the abortion president” because “there has never been a more pro-abortion leader in the White House in the history of the United States.” Before the vote, Franks conceded in an interview that the measure would probably fail, but said, “I think we’re doing the right thing strategically” by forcing Democrats to vote against it. The anti-abortion measure is part of a broader summer-long strategy by Republicans to hold votes on legislation with little chance of consideration in the Democratic-controlled Senate that should nevertheless generate support among conservative and independent voters. Most of the bills are tied to Republican attempts to boost job creation or to repealing portions of the 2010 health-care reform law. Several nations, including Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, and France, ban sex-selective abortions. The United States has no such law, even though the State Department has published reports critical of other countries, including China, for widely accepting the procedure. Sex-selective abortions are so common in some Asian and Eastern European countries, including China, India, Armenia, and Serbia, that the number of boys being born is much greater than the number of girls, according to the Guttmacher Institute, an abortion rights research center. Efforts to combat sex-selective abortions are more active at the state level. Eight states have introduced measures this year to ban the procedure, and three states—Arizona, Pennsylvania, and Oklahoma—ban sex-selective abortions. A similar law in Illinois was scrapped by state courts.
- Iran’s Basij Press is claiming a purported Gospel of Barnabas, discovered in 2000, will prove that Islam is the final and righteous religion, causing the collapse worldwide of Christianity, reports WorldNetDaily. Turkey confiscated the text, written on animal hide, in an anti-smuggling operation. Turkish authorities believe it could be an authentic version of the Gospel of Barnabas by the apostle known for his travels with the apostle Paul. Basij Press contends the text was written in the 5th or 6th century and predicts the coming of Muhammad and the religion of Islam. The Christian world, it says, denies the existence of such a gospel. Another known “Barnabas Gospel” dates to the late 16th century, which would post-date Muhammad. In the Barnabas text held by Turkey, chapter 41 states, “God has hidden himself as Archangel Michael ran them (Adam and Eve) out of heaven, (and) when Adam turned, he noticed that at top of the gateway to heaven, it was written ‘La elah ela Allah, Mohamad rasool Allah,’” meaning Allah is the only God and Muhammad his prophet. The Turkish army has taken possession of the text because the “Zionists” and the governments of the West are trying to suppress its contents, Basij Press claims. According to the Barnabas Gospel in Turkey’s hands, Basij Press says, Jesus was never crucified, He’s not the Son of God and He, Himself, predicts the coming of Muhammad. The book even predicts the coming of the last Islamic messiah, the report says. “The discovery of the original Barnabas Bible will now undermine the Christian Church and its authority and will revolutionize the religion in the world,” the Basij report says. “The most significant fact, though, is that this Bible has predicted the coming of Prophet Mohammad and in itself has verified the religion of Islam, and this alone will unbalance the powers of the world and create instability in the Christian world.” The Basij report concludes that the discovery is so immense, it will affect world politics, and that the world powers have become aware of its impact. Turkey plans to put the Bible on public display. Though Turkish authorities believe it could be an authentic version of the Gospel of Barnabas, others believe it only goes back to the 16th century and is a fake because it would have been written centuries after Muhammad’s life. Host Erick Stakelbeck of a Christian Broadcasting Network show and a close observer of Iranian affairs, said Iran is highlighting the book because it sees Christianity as a threat. “The Iranian regime is committed to stamping out Christianity by any means necessary, whether that means executing Christian converts, burning Bibles or raiding underground churches,” he explained. “In promoting the so-called Barnabas Bible—which was likely written sometime in the 16th century and is not accepted by any mainstream Christian denomination—the regime is once again attempting to discredit the Christian faith. Record numbers of young Iranians are leaving Islam and embracing Christ, and the mullahs see Christianity as a growing threat to their authority.” The Vatican has requested to see the text, but it is unknown if Turkey has provided access.
- A U.S. federal judge heard arguments Friday in an ongoing legal battle over whether churches should be allowed to hold weekend worship services in New York City’s public schools, reports The Christian Post. The Alliance Defense Fund, representing Bronx Household of Faith, argued against claims that letting churches worship at schools would amount to government endorsement of religion. Churches, the ADF contended, are not doing anything different from what student religious groups are already allowed to do. Jordan Lorence, ADF senior counsel, noted that Mayor Mike Bloomberg has sided against churches in this issue. “I think that there are school officials and also Mayor Bloomberg that unfortunately are clinging to a very absolute view of the Establishment Clause. They do not understand that the government should accommodate freedom of speech for religions. They view religions as something evil or bad that needs to be driven from the public schools. All we are asking is that we are treated the same as everybody else.” Pastor Bill Devlin of Manhattan Bible Church in Washington Heights, who has led protests and prayer vigils, been arrested, and fasted for well over a month in protest of the New York worship ban, believes there is a secularist agenda being driven by Bloomberg’s administration to restrict religious freedom as much as possible. Devlin, who was at Friday’s courthouse hearing, offered as an example to CP the 10-year memorial ceremony of 9/11 last year, where Bloomberg prohibited religious expression. “Mayor Bloomberg did not allow any Bible, no Scripture reading from any faith, no clergy, no prayers, no nothing, no expressions of faith at all,” he shared. “I think it is a continuous secularization, and desacralization of the city. I think that Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Walcott and some of the elected officials should put up signs at the Lincoln Tunnel and George Washington Bridge that say ‘People of faith not welcome in New York City.'” Devlin went further to call out the mayor on his hypocrisy—though he hosted a prayer breakfast expressing his gratitude to religious leaders earlier this year, he is also pushing efforts violating religious freedom. “It’s interesting because they are shaking our hand with the right hand, but then they are stabbing us in the back with the other,” the Manhattan Bible Church leader remarked. Notably, New York schools are grateful to churches that rent space and are dependent on the free lessons that students are offered on the weekends, as well as the books, book bags and other resources the congregations often provide, the pastor pointed out. “They are tutoring the children for free,” Devlin explained. “The [school officials] see it as a service to the community. They paint classrooms, they buy air conditioners, buy books and prove materials, notebooks, pens, crayons, pencils. I have not heard one complaint from a New York public school principal that they want these people to get out. Principals say they want to be connected to the social community. Many in the Bronx are from single-parent families, who are poor and live in housing projects, and kids don’t have money for a book-pack, or notebooks and pens and pencils. But then a religious house of worship, be it Buddhist, Jewish, Muslim, Christian, will come along and provide it. Why wouldn’t you love them?” he pondered. Lorence of ADF asserted that church worship services are not less deserving of full protection under the First Amendment compared to other forms of religious expression. “There is a distinction that the city makes, which the Supreme Court doesn’t, between religious speech and religious worship,” he noted. “They are both equally and fully protected under the First Amendment. Maybe someone can make a speech based on what the Bible says about helping the poor, or the death penalty, or something like that. That’s not worship—but that’s fully protected.” A court decision is expected by mid-June.
- Due to the efforts of a prominent Jewish businessman, a south Florida synagogue was recently compelled to call off an appearance by Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz that wouldn’t have allowed someone to rebut the highly partisan chair of the Democratic National Committee, reports onenewsnow.com. Wasserman Schultz has been a staunch supporter of President Barack Obama and has aggressively been working to help get him re-elected. She was invited to speak at a May 25 service at Miami’s Temple Israelby its Obama-aligned president, but that did not sit well with Stanley Tate, a personal friend and supporter of Mitt Romney. “I proceeded to call the president of the temple, and I objected to it,” he accounts. “I told him I didn’t feel it belongs in the house of worship.” When the temple president refused to reconsider, Tate resigned from the temple, where he had been a member for more than 60 years. “My resignation created a major upheaval in the temple,” he reports. “A large number of the members by far agreed with my position. I’m not even sure what happened, but eventually, the president of the temple came out with an announcement that Debbie Wasserman Schultz was not going to speak at the temple.” And that did not go over well with the DNC chair, according to Tate. “She gave a press release saying that free speech was denied her,” he details. “I never even responded to her. Obviously, she was mad, to say the least.” Tate says he intends to rejoin the congregation after the pro-Obama president of Temple Israel leaves office.
- Up to 15 people were killed and scores injured when a suicide bomber drove a car packed with explosives into an evangelical church in northern Nigeria Sunday, an evangelist and reporter told Worthy News. “There were at least 10 people killed and 35 injured at the ‘Living Faith Church [on the outskirts of] Bauchi city in Nigeria this morning,” said evangelist Paul Jongas, who is also a Worthy News stringer. Officials later revised the death toll to at least 15 and said 42 people were injured in the area, which occurred when worshipers left an early morning service. Witnesses said the powerful blast caused the church to collapse, trapping worshipers, killing civilians and security personnel, and leaving others with gruesome injuries.
- Authorities in China’s Sichuan province have asked a large house church to stop all its activities, reports Worthy News. “The authorities have asked us to end our family church congregations, calling our gatherings ‘illegal,'” said Pastor Li, spiritual head of a 1,500-member house church in Sichuan’s Langzhong city. Li said the government’s “request” was sent to the home of a church member, not the church’s meeting place. Chinese authorities have recently increased restrictions on house churches whose total membership they estimate to be about 40 million. On May 5, a house church in Shijiazhuang in Hebei province was disrupted by police who took worshipers’ names and then told them to pray only at government-approved churches. “The severity of the crackdown on family churches varies in different places,” said Zhang Mingxuan, president of the Chinese Association of Christian Family Churches. “In places where there are many family churches, the local government may have a better understanding of them, and officials will be more prudent. But in places where you have only a few believers, local authorities will treat them as an ‘evil cult.’”
- Iran has warned the United States not to resort to military action against it, saying U.S. bases in the region were vulnerable to the Islamic Republic’s missiles, reports Worthy News. The comments by a senior Iranian military commander were an apparent response to U.S. officials who have said Washington was ready to use military force to stop what it suspects is Iran’s goal to develop a nuclear weapons capability. World powers held talks with Iran in Baghdad on May 23 and 24 in an attempt to find a diplomatic solution to their concerns over its nuclear program, which Tehran maintains is entirely peaceful. Another round was set for June 18 and 19 in Moscow. “The politicians and the military men of the United States are well aware of the fact that all of their bases (in the region) are within the range of Iran’s missiles and in any case . . . are highly vulnerable,” Press TV reported Brigadier-General Yahya Rahim Safavi as saying. Safavi is a military adviser to Iran’s clerical Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and was until 2007 the commander in chief of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, the force that protects Iran’s Islamic system of governance. He also warned that Iranian missiles could reach all parts of Israel but played down any possibility of military action against his country as “faint” because of the current economic condition of the United States. Analysts say Iranian military officials use such fiery rhetoric as a way of keeping the West on edge over the possible disruption to global oil supplies in the event of U.S. or Israeli military action. Tehran has previously threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz, a vital crude shipping lane, if it is attacked, which experts say would result in a spike in the price of oil and could hit the U.S. economy as it seeks to recover from the financial crisis. Last month the U.S. ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro, said plans for a possible military strike on Iran were ready and the option was “fully available.” U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton said Iran needed to take steps to curb its nuclear activities during the next round of talks in Moscow. Israel is skeptical any progress can be made and has accused Tehran of simply buying time.
- Food packages, medicine, and evangelistic materials were delivered over the weekend to Syrian Christians as Lebanese Christians bravely risked their lives to deliver what they could, reports Mission Network News. “A series of house meetings were held,” says Bill Bray with Christian Aid Mission. “Over 600 emergency relief packages were delivered from missionaries in Lebanon who crossed the border, and they brought in medicine and conducted these meetings.” With far over 9,000 Syrians dead from atrocity after atrocity, thousands have fled the warring nation; but others cannot afford the risk of leaving. The meetings that took place over the weekend were a way to physically reach out to suffering believers who are trapped in Syria. The work was incredibly dangerous. Syrians leaving the country face the risk of death by shooting or mines. Those same risks cannot be far from Lebanese trying to cross into the guarded nation. Christians are at particular risk, says Bray. The government is unlikely to attack, but believers are an easy target for extremists when the government’s unable to protect them. In fact, Bray says, “There is a rise, an increase in attacks on Christians.” Despite the extreme threats facing the Lebanese believers coming into Syria and the Syrians in turn leaving the nation to stay with Lebanese church members. Christian Aid contacts have not backed down.