Oklahoma Baptist disaster relief workers were in action immediately after the tornado hit, responding with feeding units, debris cleanup, and chaplains, Baptist Press reports. Sam Porter, director of disaster relief for the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, said, “Anywhere from 24 to 40 chaplains [will be] on the ground every day all across the storm track just to give emotional and spiritual care to people and give them hope because that’s where we find a great place to minister in disaster relief.” Oklahoma Baptist chaplains were on the ground at the two destroyed elementary schools with the families as they searched for their children, Porter said, and the leader of the chaplaincy effort was involved in several official notification visits. Porter reported that 5,500 Oklahoma Baptists were trained in disaster response before the Moore tornado hit, “and today is the day. It’s game-time in Oklahoma with disaster relief.” Residents of Moore were being allowed back into their demolished neighborhoods Wednesday afternoon, and the death toll stood at 24, including at least 10 children. The National Weather Service upgraded the storm to an EF5, estimating its winds at more than 200 miles per hour. Early estimates indicate the cost of damage from the tornado could exceed $2 billion.
- The New York City Council passed a resolution Wednesday in support of Christians and other faith groups being granted “equal access” to gather for worship on public school property after hours, The Christian Post reports. The 38-11 vote is seen as another sign of progress in a years-long battle that threatens the right of Christians and other faith groups to use such spaces to gather for worship. “We had a huge, huge victory today,” Pastor Bill Devlin said of the “Right to Worship” resolution, according to World magazine. Despite the current victory, cited as “symbolic” by Alliance Defending Freedom attorney Jordan Lorence, there is still a federal battle waging in regard to the Bronx Household of Faith v. Board of Education of the City of New York court case. In June of last year, the Bronx Household of Faith, represented by Alliance Defending Freedom, was awarded a permanent injunction against the state ban by a federal district court judge. New York City appealed the judge’s ruling, and until a decision comes forward, Christians and other religious groups who depend on school property as a gathering place have been assembling without incident. The Daily News estimated that 40 faith groups currently rent public school spaces to gather for worship. According to the ADF, the Bronx Household of Faith’s battle with NYC has been waging for 17 years, with city officials claiming the congregation’s gathering for worship at empty public schools violates the U.S. Constitution’s Establishment Clause. The clause prohibits the government from establishing any official religion, showing preferential treatment to any single religion, or favoring religion over non-religion or vice versa. With the ban in place, “New York City remains the only major school district in the United States that prohibits private religious services in public school buildings during non-school hours,” according to the ADF. The presence of many of these churches that cannot afford their own buildings or find it more convenient to rent public school space have proven pivotal to the surrounding communities. Church members have been credited with providing school supplies to children of economically challenged households, aiding disabled residents, and donating things like computers and air conditioners to schools.
- Republican Rep. Darrell Issa declared Thursday that the IRS official who refused to testify Wednesday had no right to do so, and is now looking to haul her back before his committee, Fox News reports. The chairman of the House oversight committee made the call after consulting with attorneys about IRS official Lois Lerner’s bizarre appearance before the panel on Wednesday. Lerner, the head of the exempt organizations division that oversaw the controversial targeting of conservative groups, caused confusion Wednesday morning when she pleaded the Fifth and refused to answer questions—but also delivered an opening statement in which she asserted her innocence. Though Issa dismissed her from the hearing room, he questioned at the time whether she had waived her rights by delivering the statement. A spokesman told Fox News on Thursday that Issa had reached a decision. “After consulting with counsel, Chairman Issa has concluded that Ms. Lerner’s 5th amendment assertion is no longer valid,” spokesman Ali Ahmad said. “She remains under subpoena, the Committee is looking at recalling her for testimony.” Issa, citing the concerns over Lerner’s comments, never actually adjourned the hearing—where other current and former Treasury and IRS officials testified. He only called it into recess. The thinking among Republicans is that they can still call her back to testify. Issa told Fox News on Thursday that she can’t put the genie “back in the bottle.” Republicans are accusing Lerner of trying to have it both ways. “If you could do it the way she wants to do it, then every defendant would come, say ‘I didn’t rob the bank, and I’m not going to answer the prosecutor’s questions,'” Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., told Fox News. “So we’d all in life like to get out our version without having to answer anyone else’s questions. It’s just not fair. And I don’t think it’s legal.”
- A U.S. Senate committee has approved immigration reform legislation without including provisions for same-sex partners opposed by Southern Baptist and other evangelical Christian leaders, Baptist Press reports. The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 13-5 Tuesday night for a bill designed to provide broad reform for a system that seemingly everyone acknowledges is badly broken. The lack of enforcement of the current system has resulted in an estimated 11 to 12 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States illegally. It appeared support for the bill from many evangelicals, conservatives, and Republicans would have vanished had the controversial topic of same-sex partners been interjected by the committee. After recognizing the threat to passage of the overall bill, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D.-Vt., chairman of the Judiciary Committee, withdrew before a final committee vote his amendments supported by homosexual rights organizations. One of Leahy’s amendments would have recognized for immigration purposes a same-sex marriage that is legal in a state or foreign country. His other amendment would have enabled a same-sex partner of an American citizen to gain legal residency in the same way a husband or wife of a citizen does.
- Television audiences will soon be able to witness the “scandalous lives” of four friends as they choose to deliberately hurt those who love them, The Christian Post reports. Mistresses will debut on ABC, Monday, June 3 at 10:00 p.m. The audience can expect sex, lies, adultery, and some lesbian activities. The show is being promoted with the tagline, “Attraction. Passion. Deception. I can’t help it.” The television ads promoting the upcoming series proclaim it’s filled with “endless possibilities” and “thirteen weeks of seduction” and “who have you been doing?” The 10:00 p.m. hour is later in the evening, but viewer discretion is advised, since the bedroom scenes are soft porn. One Million Moms has an e-mail campaign to alert ABC of an effort to avoid all support for any advertisers of the show as well as alerting families across the nation to avoid “this vulgar program.”
- A judge has ruled that a North Texas lesbian couple can’t live together because of a morality clause in one of the women’s divorce papers, reports washingtonpost.com. The clause is common in divorce cases in Texas and other states. It prevents a divorced parent from having a romantic partner spend the night while children are in the home. If the couple marries, they can get out from under the legal provision—but that is not an option for gay couples in Texas, where such marriages aren’t recognized.
- Dr. Anthony Levatino is a pro-life physician from New Mexico, but before having a change of heart on the issue of abortion he was an OB-GYN who also performed abortions. Levatino did as many as 1,200 abortions—some of them after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Then, after his daughter died in a tragic automobile accident, he re-evaluated his position on abortion and stopped doing the procedures and has told Congress to ban them, lifenews.com reports. Meanwhile, a traditional-marriage organization said Wednesday that it was a victim of political abuse by the IRS and called for a congressional investigation into the matter, washingtontimes.com reports. The IRS “not only harassed conservative groups, it went so far as to release confidential and sensitive information to their liberal opponents in a presidential election year,” said Brian Brown, president of the nonprofit National Organization for Marriage.
- A soldier has been beheaded in a barbaric attack by two men on a street outside Woolwich army barracks in South East London, Worthy News reports. In the shocking scene, one of the killers addressed witnesses, saying, “You will never be safe.” In broad daylight two men in their mid-20s attacked a man dressed in a military uniform, killing him and apparently trying to behead him while shouting, “God is greatest” in Arabic, according to witnesses. The UK government has confirmed that the victim of the attack was a member of the British armed forces, the BBC reported. Shocking footage recorded by witnesses during the carnage and made public by ITV shows a man holding a meat cleaver with blood on his hands using jihadist rhetoric to justify the violence. “We swear by almighty Allah we will never stop fighting you,” the attacker said, with the body of the victim lying just yards away. “The only reason we have done this is because Muslims are dying every day.”
- The twisted cross of National Socialism flew for all to see over a mosque Monday in the West Bank, according to Worthy News and the Israel National News Service. In the predominantly Arab-Muslim town of Beit Omar, the large, black swastika that once symbolized Adolph Hitler’s Third Reich was clearly visible to astonished Israelis living in the southern suburbs of Jerusalem. “I felt we were going back 75 years, losing our hold on the land,” said Uri Arnon. “The Arabs no longer feel the need to hide their murderous tendencies (by) announcing out loud that they wish to annihilate us.” As the flag was affixed to a live electrical line, technicians were tasked to safely remove it. The connection between Nazism and Islamism goes back to the Second World War when the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haji Amin al-Husaini, not only politically supported Hitler but helped Heinrich Himmler form several all-Muslim Waffen SS units; one such unit, the 13th SS Handzar Mountain Division, carried out ethnic cleansing operations in the Balkan Mountains in order to carve out an autonomous Bosnian Muslim state. Both Hitler and Himmler would eventually develop stratagems employing Islam to advance the geopolitical goals of the Third Reich; after all, Nazis and Muslims already shared a common “theology” of racial purity as well as a mutual hatred of the Jews.