Twenty-five same-sex couples exchanged vows in a group wedding ceremony at First Baptist Church in Seattle Dec. 9, the first day that gays could legally marry in Washington State, reports abpnews.com. Hundreds of couples stood in lines on Thursday to obtain marriage licenses on the day Washington’s voter-approved marriage law took effect. Following a required three-day waiting period after a license is issued, dozens of same-sex couples tied the knot on Sunday in ceremonies in both public and private venues across the state. First Baptist, a congregation in the American Baptist Churches, is  active in the Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists and has included members regardless of sexual orientation for decades. The ABC is generally a liberal group. The General Association of Regular Baptist Churches left the denomination in 1932, and the Conservative Baptist Association broke with the ABC in 1947.  “We have for many, many years welcomed everyone,” Pastor Craig Darling said in a HuffPost Live interview prior to the weekend. “The congregation performed its first same-sex marriage in 1979, and we’ve been marrying all couples ever since. So realistically, internally to our congregation, it will feel very little different, but we’re very excited.” Darling, pastor for vocation and call at First Baptist since 1993, said he knows personally the excitement that the newlyweds feel. “My own husband and I kind of jumped the gun a couple of years ago,” he said. “After a decade of being together, we snuck off to Washington, D.C., and got married at the National Cathedral. It was lovely, but now I wish we had waited a little longer.” Voters in Washington, Maine, and Maryland recently passed marriage equality laws, making them the first three states to do so by popular vote. Couples in Maine will begin marrying Dec. 29 and in Maryland on Jan. 1. The U.S. Supreme Court decided a week ago to hear two constitutional challenges to laws dealing with gay marriage. One appeal involves the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which denies federal benefits to same-sex couples legally married in their own state. The other is a challenge to California’s Proposition 8, a voter-approved referendum that took away the right of same sex-marriage that previously had been approved by the state’s courts.

Other news:

  • President Obama is working to reduce the tax deduction that charities depend upon for donations, reports onenewsnow.com. According to a story in The Washington Post, the president sees the move as part of his plan to reduce the federal deficit. If Obama has his way, the government would limit the charitable deduction for high-income earners, the people that groups such as the Red Cross and the United Way depend upon for donations. According to the Post story, nonprofit group leaders say lowering or eliminating the deduction would reduce giving by wealthy donors. Studies have shown that people would donate less if the deduction were reduced, but estimates of the effect vary widely.
  • A longtime U.S. senator and touted champion of truth about global warming is revealing to taxpayers that Barack Obama in recent years has sent billions of taxpayer dollars to the United Nations to use for global warming issues—secretly, reports WorldNetDaily. “Three years ago, President Obama helped create a United Nations Green Slush Fund that would redistribute over $100 billion from developed countries to developing countries,” Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) said in a video message released online. “While he has been racking up huge deficits and talking up tax increases, the president has already sent billions of American taxpayer dollars to the United Nations—and he’s managed to do it quietly so that no one will notice,” Inhofe said. “How many billions have already been handed over in the last three years? It’s hard to tell. There appears to be little in the way of transparency. Bloomberg reports that the European Union, the United States, Japan and other developed nations paid out in the range of $23 to $34 billion,” Inhofe said.
  • The Michigan Legislature gave final approval Tuesday to a bitterly contested right-to-work plan limiting the power of unions, “a devastating and once unthinkable defeat for organized labor in a state considered a cradle of the movement,” reports The Washington Post. “Unswayed by Democrats’ pleas and thousands of protesters inside and outside the state Capitol, the House approved two final bills, sending them on to Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, who signed. One dealt with private sector workers, the other with government employees. Both measures cleared the Senate last week.” In response to this legislation—which would effectively make Michigan the 24th “right-to-work” state—union thugs are in an uproar. Michigan representative Douglas Geiss was quoted as saying that if this measure passed, “There will be blood.” Outside the Capitol, union supporters rioted, inciting violence and causing a ruckus. Conservative comedian and reporter Stephen Crowder was assaulted by being punched repeatedly, and a Conservative Americans For Prosperity tent was torn down that held among others children and people in a wheelchair. “Right-to-work” means, as defined by  The Free Dictionary, “State laws permitted by section 14(b) of the Taft-Hartley Act that provide in general that employees are not required to join a union as a condition of getting or retaining a job. . . . Right-to-work laws forbid unions and employers to enter into agreements requiring employees to join a union and pay dues and fees to it in order to get or keep a job.” It is a law that allows individuals freedom from union membership. “This violence is just another example of the intolerance of the tolerant. Those who dare to go against them get the brunt of their anger,” said the report. Political observer David Horowitz remarked, “You have all seen what has taken place in Michigan over the past week. Big labor bosses and union thugs are using Communist tactics to try and thwart the legislative and democratic process. They will do anything to keep their power, beatings, killings, intimidation. Anything. The Unions have engaged in an all out radical assault on our electoral system, attempting to intimidate elected state and local officials and blackmail average people worried about public safety and the education of their children. What is happening in Michigan today is just the follow up to what happened in Wisconsin with the attempted recall of Governor Scott Walker.”
  • Michigan’s sudden legislative decision to declare itself a right-to-work state has prompted angry protests from President Obama and organized labor, but voters by a two-to-one margin think right-to-work laws are good for a state economically. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 45 percent of Likely U.S. Voters believe right-to-work laws are good for a state’s economy. Just half that many (22 percent) disagree. Seven percent (7 percent) think right-to-work laws have no impact.
  • A recently released Bible translation based off of the King James Bible boasts of being the first ever “Gay Bible” in the world. Titled the Queen James Bible, its publishers argued in a statement that it accurately translates certain verses pertaining to homosexuality, which have been misunderstood by religious conservatives. “Homosexuality was first overtly mentioned in the Bible in 1946 in the Revised Standard Version. There is no mention of or reference to homosexuality in any Bible prior to this—only interpretations have been made,” said the editors. “The Queen James Bible addresses those controversial verses by editing them very slightly for interpretive clarity. The edits all confirm that the Bible does not condemn homosexuality, and therefore renders such interpretations impossible.” Douglas J. Moo, Wessner Chair of Biblical Studies at Wheaton College and a professional Bible translator, told The Christian Post that the Queen James editors’ assessment of past translations is not entirely accurate. “Few, if any English translations use the actual words ‘homosexuality’ or ‘homosexual.’ But the history of English translation shows that versions have consistently used other language to refer to what we would call homosexual relationships,” said Moo. “For instance, the King James Version of Romans 1:27 refers to ‘men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly.’ It would be very difficult to deny that this language, and the language found in many other places in both the OT and the NT, refers to homosexuality.” The Queen James has a mysterious background. On its official website, no specific publisher is mentioned nor any editors or translators listed by name. On its Amazon purchase page, the author is listed as God and the contributor as Jesus Christ. It also only contains two preview pages, the cover and the following page, which simply has the title of the translation in small print. In an interview with The Christian Post, an unnamed spokesman said that the translation was the result of the ongoing debate over same-sex marriage. “The controversies surrounding gay marriage using faith as a basis led us to more closely examine what people were citing in the Bible,” said the spokesman. Christopher Yuan, author of Out of a Far Country: A Gay Son’s Journey to God, A Broken Mother’s Search for Hope, who serves as an adjunct instructor of the Bible at Moody Bible Institute, told The Christian Post that the concept of the “Queen James” is not new. “Revisionist interpretations which attempt to affirm homosexual sex and relationships have been around for decades. This is just another attempt to make these revisionist interpretations official or more mainline,” said Yuan. “I do believe that this new Bible translation will only add to the confusion of these revisionist translations and interpretations which are based upon poor exegesis and selective contextual studies.”
  • The leader of the American Center for Law and Justice, Jay Sekulow, has expressed concern in a communique with friends and supporters that “despite the escalating threats coming from Egypt’s terrorist-led government, the Obama Administration is set to give Egypt 20 American-made F-16 jets and require American servicemen to train Egyptian pilots. The F-16 fighter jet is one of America’s most lethal weapons.” Sekulow said, “Egypt’s President has declared that Egyptian Christians must ‘convert, pay tribute, or leave.’  The Muslim Brotherhood—the ruling party of Egypt—has declared that the Jewish people are the ‘source of evil in the world.’ We cannot allow the possibility of American weapons being pointed at Israel or the Egyptian people.” Sekulow encouraged citizens to join the ACLJ in demanding that all aid to Egypt be cut off until Congress can certify that it is in the interest of U.S. and Israeli national security.
  • Parents in the Missoula County, Mont., school district have taken bullying accusations to a whole new level, reports conservativebyte.com. They’re claiming Christmas songs that refer to “our Lord” are “unfair, unconstitutional and [are] a form of bullying,” according to the Billings Gazette. The parents say there are all sorts of faiths represented in the community and children singing the songs at a recent school concert “were uncomfortable.” The school district responded by saying, “During the holidays we, as a school district, are very cognizant regarding our district policy pertaining to the holidays and the importance of separation of church and state,” Superintendent Alex Apostle said. “But at the same time, we as a school system, want our children to enjoy the holiday season. In the process, we are obviously respectful of the beliefs and cultures of all children and their families.” Meanwhile, Fox News reports a longtime substitute teacher in Phillipsburg, N.J., faces a 90-day suspension after he was accused of sharing a Bible verse with a student and then giving the child a Bible. The school board said Walter Tutka broke two policies—distributing religious literature on school grounds and directing teachers to be neutral when discussing religious material. The controversy has generated outrage among the region’s religious community, with many claiming that Tutka is being “persecuted” for simply being a Christian. The electrical company retiree is a well-respected member of the community. “It was appalling,” said Joe Imhof, a close friend of Tutka. “They read him the riot act. They used words like separation of church and state and inclusion. And then they sent him home for violating school district policy.” Imhof and Tutka serve together in the Gideons International, a ministry known for providing Bibles to school children and others across the world.
  • Jon Hammar, a former Marine who served in Afghanistan and Iraq, is being held in a notorious Mexican prison where Zetas gang members hold power, reports townhall.com: “His crime? Declaring an antique shotgun to Mexican officials after registering the gun with U.S. Customs Agents on his way to Costa Rice. Hammar has been in a prison in Mexico for months now and this week, his parents got an extortion call demanding they wire thousands of dollars to the prison. Hammar spoke to his parents on the phone, saying he thought he was going to be killed. Hammar has been tortured during his time in the prison. He’s been beaten and chained to a bed. Mexican officials have justified Hammar’s arrest, saying it came in accordance with gun laws in the country, have no plans to release him and the State Department has done nothing to get Hammar released. He could face as many as 15 years in prison.”
  • The Michigan State Senate passed HB 5711, an omnibus anti-abortion bill that sparked widespread protests over the summer when it was first considered in the House, by a 27-10 vote on Wednesday afternoon, reports bighealthreport.com. The legislation has been stalled since it passed Michigan’s House in June. The measure represents one of the nation’s most far-reaching abortion restrictions. When Michigan lawmakers first took up HB 5711 over the summer, hundreds of protesters rallied against the massive 45-page, GOP-sponsored legislation. HB 5711 would impose a host of new restrictions on women seeking to terminate a pregnancy—such as requiring doctors to prove that their patients haven’t been “coerced” into having the procedure, limiting abortion access for women in rural areas, and imposing guidelines for disposing of fetal remains in the same way that the state disposes of dead bodies. The legislation also seeks to mandate unnecessarily and complicated regulations that could force the state’s abortion clinics out of business.