A federal appeals court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act in a unanimous ruling Thursday, becoming the first appeals court ever to rule against the federal law defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman, Baptist Press reports. The three-judge panel of the First U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston affirmed a lower court’s ruling that DOMA is unconstitutional because it denies federal benefits to same-sex couples in states where they can legally marry. The ruling, which will be appealed, would force the United States to recognize same-sex marriages from the seven states and the District of Columbia where it is legal, and by extension grant federal benefits, such as tax breaks and federal employee spousal insurance, to same-sex couples. DOMA was passed in 1996 by a bipartisan 84 percent of those in Congress and signed by President Clinton. The appeals court ruling did not overrule another major section of DOMA that gives states latitude in defining marriage. That section was not challenged. The ruling struck down Section 3 of the act, the part defining marriage for federal purposes. “Invalidating a federal statute is an unwelcome responsibility for federal judges; the elected Congress speaks for the entire nation, its judgment and good faith being entitled to utmost respect,” the court said. “But a lower federal court such as ours must follow its best understanding of governing precedent, knowing that in large matters the Supreme Court will correct mis-readings.” DOMA limits tax and social security benefits to couples in opposite-sex marriages, the court said, and in cases where one partner in a legally recognized same-sex marriage is a federal employee, the act prohibits the other partner from receiving provisions for retirement and medical care, which are, “in practice, the main components of the social safety net for vast numbers of Americans.” Dale Schowengerdt, legal counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund, said society should protect and strengthen traditional marriage rather than undermine it. “The federal Defense of Marriage Act provides that type of protection, and we trust the U.S. Supreme Court will reverse the First Circuit’s erroneous decision,” Schowengerdt said in a statement. The ruling comes less than a month after President Obama became the first sitting president to endorse same-sex marriage.

Other news:

  • Homosexuals have gone to the courts to obtain the right to marriage in Illinois—in spite of the legislature approving same-gender civil unions last year. The homosexual activist group Lambda Legal and the American Civil Liberties Union filed suit against the Cook County clerk in Chicago on behalf of 25 same-gender pairs who were refused marriage licenses. Laurie Higgins of the Illinois Family Institute told OneNewsNow the legal action was initiated despite the fact the state now allows civil unions, which grant the same rights as heterosexual marriage. “For those conservatives who were saying, Oh, just give them civil unions and that’ll be the end of it-–they were naïve and ignorant,” she offered. “I don’t mean [they’re] stupid—I mean [they’re] unaware, not knowledgeable; and they should have been [aware] that this was what was coming.” Higgins contends that going to court to force homosexual marriage on Illinois residents is yet another clear example that homosexuals are never satisfied with civil unions. “Because yes, they do want the benefits—but what homosexuals want centrally is cultural approval,” explained the family advocate. “They want there to be no formal public recognition that homosexual unions are different from heterosexual unions.” IFI executive director David Smith made the following observation in a prepared statement: “It’s now painfully obvious that the purpose for securing civil unions legislation last year was to gain legal leverage in the left’s attempt to overturn the Illinois Defense of Marriage law.”
  • The Alliance Defense Fund has filed a lawsuit on behalf of a Texas third-grader who was told he couldn’t give a few friends invitations to a church event, even though he complied with the school’s requirements, onenewsnow.com reports. Attorney Jeremy Tedesco says the Nederland boy wanted to invite a few classmates from Hillcrest Elementary School to Awana. But he was told he would have to invite everyone so no one would feel left out. “So he brought in all the [handwritten] invitations, which triggered a policy in the school district that required him to get prior review,” Tedesco explained. “If you hand out more than ten pieces of literature, then you have to get prior approval. And when he went for that prior approval, the answer was ‘no.'” He believes these incidents keep occurring throughout the country because school officials are afraid some parents will complain about their children receiving literature with religious content. Meanwhile, birthday party invitations are allowed. “That is not a constitutionally sound reason to say ‘no’ to religious speech,” the attorney asserts. “It’s called a heckler’s veto. You can’t restrict speech because somebody else doesn’t like that speech.”
  • The U.S. House of Representatives fell short in its effort to prohibit abortions based on a baby’s sex, reports Baptist Press. In a roll call Thursday, the House voted 246–168 for the Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act but lacked the two-thirds majority required for passage. Supporters needed 30 more votes based on the number of members who participated in the roll call. The bill came to the floor for a vote under “suspension of the rules,” which mandates a super-majority for approval. The proposal likely would have advanced no further had it gained the two-thirds margin. The Democrat-controlled Senate likely would have rejected it, and the White House had indicated President Obama’s opposition to the bill.
  • A group of current and former Southern Baptist leaders has signed a statement affirming what they call the “traditional Southern Baptist” understanding of the doctrine of salvation, with the goal of drawing a distinction with the beliefs of “New Calvinism,” reports Baptist Press. The statement was posted May 31 at SBCToday.com and includes a preamble and 10 articles, along with signatures from two entity presidents (Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s Paige Patterson and New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary’s Chuck Kelley), four state executive directors (Georgia’s Bob White, Mississippi’s Jim Futral, Louisiana’s David Hankins, Alaska’s Mike Procter), and in addition to Patterson, five other former SBC presidents (Bailey Smith, Jimmy Draper, Jerry Vines, Morris Chapman, and Bobby Welch). The document was titled, “A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation.” “For the most part, Southern Baptists have been glad to relegate disagreements over Calvinism to secondary status along with other important but ‘non-essential’ theological matters,” the document reads in the preamble. “The Southern Baptist majority has fellowshipped happily with its Calvinist brethren while kindly resisting Calvinism itself. And, to their credit, most Southern Baptist Calvinists have not demanded the adoption of their view as the standard. We would be fine if this consensus continued, but some New Calvinists seem to be pushing for a radical alteration of this long-standing arrangement.” The document further asserts that the “vast majority of Southern Baptists are not Calvinists and that they do not want Calvinism to become the standard view in Southern Baptist life.” David Rogers, son of the late Adrian Rogers and senior editor at the Adrian Rogers Pastor Training Institute, wrote at SBCVoice.com that he doesn’t know which group he’d fit in and that Southern Baptists are “likely never going to come to full agreement” on these issues. Jon Akin, pastor of Fairview Church in Lebanon, Tenn., stated concerning the issue, “The SBC is big enough to include Calvinists and non-Calvinists. We agree on far more than we disagree on, so let’s unite and fight a common enemy.”
  • Unlike the United States, the former mayor of an Israeli village says his home country is not naive enough to accept Iran’s claim that it is pursuing a nuclear program for “peaceful” purposes, reports onenewsnow.com. President Obama recently sent word to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khameni that the United States can accept a peaceful Iranian nuclear program. That led to the recent fruitless talks between Iran and the five members of the United Nations Security Council and Germany. David Rubin is a former mayor of the Israeli village of Shiloh and the author of The Islamic Tsunami: Israel and America in the Age of Obama. He says it is absurd to believe that Iran is pursuing a peaceful nuclear program. “Iran is the second largest oil-exporting country in the world, and they have no need for a nuclear program. It makes absolutely no sense that it would be for peaceful purposes because they don’t need the energy,” he contends. “President Obama and Hillary Clinton, either they’re very, very naive and very gullible, or they’re very deceptive.” But Rubin says Israel will not be fooled by the promises of the Ayatollahs. Instead, the country is prepared to take out the Iranian sites, even without U.S. help. “I think that we need to wake up and to see that when you’re confronted with evil. . . . You have to meet it head-on,” the expert concluded. Meanwhile, former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld told Newsmax that diplomacy and economic sanctions imposed on Iran by the United States and its allies have a “close to zero” chance of ending Iran’s nuclear weapons ambitions. He also predicted that given the dire threat Iran poses, Israel may have “no other choice” but to attack the Islamic Republic’s nuclear facilities.
  • Frank VanderSloot grew up a poor kid in rural Idaho. His father made $300 a month. His clothes came from the Salvation Army. Yet through determination and hard work—and with the help of America’s free-enterprise system—today he’s the successful CEO of a global supplier of wellness products. But VanderSloot’s success came with a price—he decided a write a check to a super PAC that supports Mitt Romney. VanderSloot traveled from Idaho this week to visit The Heritage Foundation and speak. VanderSloot said his life changed forever on April 20. That’s when President Obama’s campaign created the first presidential “enemies list” since the Nixon era. Eight private citizens were singled out for their donations to Romney, reports heritage.org. They committed no crimes, sought no attention, and yet they became the subject of Obama’s scorn. VanderSloot got his first taste of the left’s tactics in February when he was the subject of hit pieces by left-wing publications. “We have an excellent reputation everywhere we go,” VanderSloot said. “I don’t have a PR firm. My attitude has been, ‘If we’re worthy of a good reputation, we’ll have one.’ And that’s worked for 26 years until this comes out. And then people are saying all kinds of things about us.” But that backlash paled in comparison to the negative attention created by Obama’s team. The campaign website castigated the eight Romney donors as having “less-than-reputable records. Quite a few have been on the wrong side of the law, others have made profits at the expense of so many Americans.” The resulting attention led to a loss of business for Melaleuca. Only when VanderSloot began speaking out to publicly defend his reputation and the company’s record did he begin to receive an outpouring of support. Conservatives, meanwhile, quickly pounced on Obama’s attack. The Heritage Foundation’s Rory Cooper wrote, “President Obama has relied on a vast grassroots network to coerce, bully, boycott and vilify individuals lawfully taking part in the political process, just as his own donors and supporters are freely allowed to engage.”
  • Students at Clearwater Christian College are starting to receive letters from the school notifying them that their student health insurance fees next term are going to more than double, reports godfatherpolitics.com. Fox News reported on the case of one student who had paid $600 for his health fee this past year being billed more than $1,300 for the coming fall. According to Clearwater administrators, the cost increases are directly attributable to Obamacare. A letter sent to students read, in part, “Due to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA—commonly known as health care reform), the cost of student health insurance has doubled. In addition, most insurance carriers are hesitant to provide contracts for this insurance due to the unpredictability of the cost of the claims.” Some Catholic universities, including Franciscan University in Ohio and Ave Maria University in Florida, have dropped student health insurance plans due to the Obama Administration’s mandate that they cover abortions, sterilizations, and contraceptives, against Catholic teachings. At least 43 Catholic organizations, including the University of Notre Dame, have sued the federal government over the Obamacare mandate. Rep. Bill Young, who represents Clearwater, was among those in Congress who opposed Obamacare. He said, “Despite our warnings and telling our colleagues this was bad legislation, they passed the bill, and now we’re finding out that all of the things we told them are coming true.”
  • A flurry of news media reports have been highlighting a Harlem public elementary school that will become the first in New York to require students to study Arabic, reports WorldNetDaily. Entirely unreported, said WND, is that the organization that co-created and funded the Arabic language program for the New York school maintains close ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, while the group’s founder also started the Al Jazeera television network.
  • Former Democratic Rep. Artur Davis is abandoning his former ally, President Obama, to become a Republican, lamenting that the country has “gone backward” since Obama took office, reports Fox News. Davis is making the announcement in the run-up to a possible congressional comeback in Virginia, though he says he has not yet made up his mind whether he’ll challenge Democratic incumbent Rep. Gerry Connolly. He formerly represented Alabama. In an interview with Fox News on Thursday, Davis explained the rationale behind his switch. He said he “took inventory” and decided “what we’re doing is not working.” Davis said the government’s policies are “counterproductive,” suggested businesses were hurting, and described economic growth as stagnant. “Every time we think we’re beginning to move forward, we fall backward,” he said. He also sounded a note of disenchantment with Obama. “I supported President Obama four years ago because I wanted to see this country come together. I want us to change the way we talk to each other. . . . Unfortunately, we’ve gone backward on both fronts over the last several years.” He said Obama’s “main offer” was that he could bring the country together, “and we’ve gone backward.”
  • A Black Earth, Wis., pastor who taught his flock to discipline their children, some as young as 2 months old, with wooden spoons and rods was sentenced Friday to two years in prison, reports madison.com. Philip Caminiti, 55, was pastor of Aleitheia Bible Church, which meets in the homes of its members. His lawyer, Yolanda Lehner, asked that he be given probation. But Dane County Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi said the sentence, in part, was intended to send a message that child abuse will not be tolerated and to prevent Caminiti from once again teaching members of his church to spank their children with wooden objects to cure them of selfishness. “What is important to me,” Sumi also said, “is there was and continues to this day no expression of remorse or repentance for the consequences of those actions, or what the whole chain of events has led the family and the community through.” Caminiti was found guilty by a jury in March of eight counts of conspiracy to commit child abuse for teaching church members what he said was a literal interpretation of discipline prescribed by the Bible, on children who were between the ages of 2 months and 5 years. Caminiti will be on extended supervision for six years after his release from prison. Despite objections on constitutional grounds by Caminiti’s lawyers, Sumi ordered that he not have any contact with the Aleitheia Bible Church and have no leadership role in any church. While that barred Caminiti from having contact with members of his extended family who are church members, Sumi did allow him to be with his wife, their children, and their grandchildren.
  • President Obama awarded radical open border advocate Dolores Huerta with the Medal of Freedom, the highest honor a civilian can receive. There’s just one problem, notes cowboybyte.com: Huerta is an honorary chair of the Democratic Socialists of America and “likes to pal around with Hugo Chavez.” The Democratic Socialists of America is the largest socialist organization in the United States, and the principal U.S. affiliate of the Socialist International. DSA’s members are building progressive movements for social change while establishing an openly socialist presence in American communities and politics.
  • A Christian couple in Pakistan sentenced to life imprisonment for blasphemy have been cleared on appeal, reports Worthy News. The parents of six children, Munir Masih and his wife, Ruqqiya Bibi, were acquitted May 17 following a three-and-a-half year appeal. The couple were first charged in December 2008 following an argument between their children and Muslim children after the Muslim father accused the Christian parents of blasphemy under section 295-B of the Pakistan Penal Code: desecration of the Qu’ran. Pakistan’s infamous blasphemy laws are often used by Muslims to settle personal disputes; non-Muslims are helpless against any false accusations since there are never any penalties for the Muslim accuser(s). Although the prosecution couldn’t produce any witnesses, the couple were still convicted and given a mandatory life sentence. After Munir made bail in November 2010, Ruqqiya remained in custody. After the acquittal, she thanked God with a quote from Psalm 94: “But the Lord has become my fortress, and my God the rock in whom I take refuge.” The couple were assisted throughout their legal ordeal by the Center for Legal Aid Assistance and Settlement, which is supported by Barnabas Aid; CLAAS helped with their legal defense, provided basic needs, and even arranged for their children to visit Munir in prison.