The public’s perception of the military since the repeal of “Don’t ask, don’t tell” less than a year ago is being manipulated by the U.S. Department of Defense, says the director of a chaplain alliance group. The military department is censoring opposing views to portray a trouble-free time after the repeal of the policy that barred openly gay, lesbian, or bisexual persons from the military for nearly 18 years, according to Chaplain (Col.) Ron Crews, executive director for the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty. Also, chaplains working with commanders to diffuse problems are another reason for the relative calm. “Part of the impression that is now in the public has been caused by the Department of the Defense refusal to allow chaplains and other service members who have expressed problems with this repeal,” Crews, who retired from the USAR, told The Christian Post. “They have denied them the opportunity to speak openly about these problems while at the same time, Department of the Defense officials are highlighting how this repeal has benefited soldiers and military personnel who engage in homosexuality.”
- The Presbyterian Church U.S.A. has narrowly rejected a proposal to revise the traditional definition of marriage on Friday, a year after it struck down a barrier to ordaining gays, reports chron.com. The body’s assembly, meeting in Pittsburgh, voted 338–308 against changing how marriage is defined in the church constitution from a “civil contract between a woman and a man” to a “covenant between two people.” The assembly also rejected measures that would have affirmed a traditional definition of marriage or sought more theological study of the issue. Other mainline Protestant churches have approved gay ordination or have permitted individual congregations to celebrate same-sex unions in recent years. The U.S. Episcopal Church, which is holding its national convention through next week in Indianapolis, will consider official prayers for blessing same-sex unions. However, only one major Protestant denomination, the United Church of Christ, has endorsed same-sex marriage outright. The Presbyterian Church U.S.A., like many Protestant groups, has debated for decades whether the Bible prohibits same-sex relationships. The discussion has focused mainly on whether to ordain gays and lesbians who aren’t celibate. But as gay acceptance has grown in the broader culture, marriage has become a larger part of the church discussion of homosexuality. Six states and the District of Columbia have legalized gay marriage, and three more could do so this year, but 30 states have passed constitutional amendments limiting marriage to unions of a man and a woman. Throughout debate on the measure Friday, Presbyterian clergy from states where gay marriage is legal said they have been inundated with requests to officiate at same-sex weddings and were upset that they had to risk prosecution in church courts to preside at the ceremonies.
- The Alliance Defense Fund is changing its name, reports The Christian Post. The ADF states, “For some time, many within our organization have been concerned that our name, Alliance Defense Fund, does not sufficiently, accurately convey who we are and what we do. It was the name chosen by our Founders, for good reasons at the time. Back then, we were not engaged in any direct litigation ourselves—we provided legal and financial resources for other Christian attorneys. So, the term “fund” was very appropriate. Nowadays, though, we do our own litigating. We actively defend clients and engage the opposition. We are moving beyond our country’s borders, seeking out means and opportunities to protect the freedom of people of faith all over the world. ‘Alliance Defense Fund’ did not really capture any of this very well. So, after thorough research, careful planning, and intense preparation, we are making a transition. Beginning this month, the new name of Alliance Defense Fund is ‘Alliance Defending Freedom.'”
- According to a new House subcommittee report, abstinence education is a better approach to preventing teen pregnancy than is comprehensive sex education, reports onenewsnow.com. National Abstinence Education Association director Valerie Huber says the report from the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee reinforces the conclusion of a separate report her organization released a month earlier. “This was not just written by a member of Congress, and it didn’t just emanate out of any committee,” she details. “The fact that this report came from the committee in the House where policy for sex education emanates is very, very important.” She hopes this report will lead to much needed changes in government policy regarding sex education. “The policies that need to be changed . . . which are outlined in greater detail in this report, basically would change the emphasis to encourage teens to wait [until marriage] to have sex and to reinforce the many good behaviors that so many teens are already exhibiting,” Huber details. The NAEA director adds that 75 percent of 15- to 17-year-olds have reportedly never had sex. She believes that is a trend the federal sex-education policy should reinforce.
- The economy has been the centerpiece of the presidential campaign, but President Obama’s re-election team apparently wants to make it also about abortion and has launched a 30-second TV ad drawing a distinction between Obama’s pro-choice position and Mitt Romney’s pro-life view, reports Baptist Press. The ad, which will air in eight battleground states, shows pictures of women, and then Romney, as a female narrator says, “Every woman who believes decisions about our bodies and our health care should be our own is troubled Mitt Romney supports overturning Roe vs. Wade. Romney backed a law that outlaws all abortion, even in cases of rape and incest.” Romney is pro-life and supports overturning Roe v. Wade, but his campaign told The Washington Post that he does not favor outlawing abortion in cases of rape and incest, a position identical to the one held by President George W. Bush. The Post reported the ad will air in eight swing states: Virginia, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Florida, Ohio, Iowa, Colorado, and Nevada. The Obama campaign ad also criticizes Romney for wanting to defund Planned Parenthood.
- Representatives Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) and Diane Black (R-Tenn.) introduced legislation Tuesday that would limit the Department of Health and Human Services requirement that employers provide coverage for contraception, sterilization, and some abortifacient drugs, reports The Christian Post. The bill would prevent the government from penalizing religious employers who choose not to follow the mandate due to the teachings of their faith. Citing a report by the Congressional Research Service, Sensenbrenner noted that religious employers who refuse to comply with the mandate could be required to pay $100 per day, per employee, which would add up to millions of dollars annually for some employers. “If these taxes are levied and they are enforced, there will be no religious affiliated institutions left in this country,” Sensenbrenner said. The HHS birth control mandate was announced in January by HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. Sebelius argued that the mandate was necessary for women’s health. Authority to issue the mandate came from the Affordable Care Act (2010), also known as Obamacare, which was recently ruled constitutional by the Supreme Court. There were strong objections from many religious groups who were not included in the religious exemption. The only religious groups that could obtain an exemption from the mandate are those that primarily serve co-religionists and whose primary purpose is the conveyance of religious dogma.
- A newly released, three-part video series, produced by former Girl Scouts members and their families, offers compelling evidence of the Girl Scouts’ ties to abortion advocacy groups, reports lifenews.com. The producers say the videos demonstrate how the Girl Scouts’ official curriculum and website connects girls to pro-abortion role models and groups, as well as explicit sexual content. The video series provides an in-depth look at the facts behind the pro-life concerns over the Girl Scouts, including troubling content in the Journeys curriculum books and the Girl Scouts’ financial and mission-oriented relationships with pro-abortion groups like the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts. The producers also put together an online documentation guide that accompanies the three-part series by providing screen shots and links from the Girl Scouts’ websites, page scans from the Girl Scouts’ curriculum, and copies of the Girl Scouts’ tax returns. Rochelle Focaracci, a former Girl Scout leader and a spokesperson for the website Girl Scouts Why Not, says the “videos and accompanying documentation clearly implicate the Girl Scouts on their continued denials of the many allegations brought forward by faith based and pro-life groups regarding their ties to pro-abortion groups and agendas.”
- Police in China’s far western region of Xinjiang raided a house church Sunday School, rounded up 70 children and their teachers for questioning, and locked up seven female teachers in a local detention center, ChinaAid has learned and has been reported by ChristianNewsWire. The children were attending special summer classes arranged by the house church in the regional capital city of Urumqi when the police action occurred on the morning of July 2. Police from the Qiangfanggou police station and agents from the Sha district Domestic Security Protection Department rounded up all the children and Sunday School teachers and took them to a school where they were questioned. Some of the children’s parents and school principals and teachers were also summoned and questioned. “To prevent children from having access to religious education in the faith of their parents is a direct contravention of the U. N. Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief (1981) and U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) which was adopted by China in 1992,” said ChinaAid’s founder and president, Dr. Bob Fu. “Arbitrarily detaining peaceful Sunday school teachers is a violation of their citizens’ right to basic religious freedom,” he added. “We urge the Xinjiang authorities to immediately release them and to halt their continuously intensifying persecution of religious believers, including those the Uyghur minority group who peacefully engage in their religious practices.”
- Jailed Christian pastor Youcef Nadarkhani is approaching his 1,000th day in an Iranian jail, where he faces additional charges and possible execution, all because he refused to allow his children to be taught Islam, reports WorldNetDaily. Arrested in 2009, Iranian pastor Nadarkhani remains on death row and fighting a battle for his life. Middle East Concern is now reporting that he will face new charges in September. Even with international pressure, an Iranian court is letting the death sentence for blasphemy stand.
- Sen. Marco Rubio has told Newsmax that President Obama’s refusal to extend the Bush-era tax cuts for Americans earning more than $250,000 a year is “all about class warfare” and is designed to placate the “left-wing extremists” in his party. The Florida Republican also states that raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans won’t put a dent in the deficit and will “cost a bunch of jobs.” Rubio outlined what the government can do to encourage economic growth that has been lagging during the Obama administration. Rubio is the author of the new book, An American Son: A Memoir. He was elected in 2010 in a three-way race that included then-Gov. Charlie Crist. Rubio is considered a key figure in the tea party movement and has been talked about as a possible running mate for Mitt Romney.
- Dozens of Swedish home educators will walk 100 miles from Sweden to the Åland Islands, Finland to symbolize the freedom to home educate that exists in Finland—in contrast to the current persecution of homeschoolers in Sweden, reports hslda.org. The group will walk for six days, July 13–19, and travel from Askö to Stockholm before taking the boat to the Åland Islands. The Åland Islands are a self-governing province within Finland where a number of Swedish families live in exile today. The Finnish constitution explicitly protects the right of parents to direct the education of their children. Home education is in effect illegal in Sweden, and Swedes are fleeing to the neighboring Swedish-speaking Åland Islands in increasing numbers. Home educators in exile on the islands include the president of Rohus, the Swedish Association for Home Education. Meanwhile, hslda.org reports that four homeschooling families living in Austria say local officials are “frustrating” their efforts to home educate their children. The families are contesting the thousands of euros in fines placed upon them and say they are prepared to “confront the school authorities” on this issue. Similarly, several families in France have decided to challenge national education inspectors who they say “consistently overstep the law.” The Deveaux family of Francheville, France has declared they will “fight to earn back our rights under the law.” In Austria, school officials are requiring a group of foreign families to follow the national curriculum and have demanded that their children be tested in the German language, even though their mother tongue is English. However, the Austrian Ministry of Education has already permitted hundreds of other English-speaking children to be tested in English-speaking private schools.
- One month after President Obama signed a back door amnesty executive order for hundreds of thousands of young illegal aliens, his administration, reports conservativebyte.com, is now planning to shut down nine Border Patrol stations, something the people living in border states, Border Patrol agents, local sheriffs, and some congressman are up in arms about. Critics of the move warn the closures will undercut efforts to intercept drug and human traffickers in well-traveled corridors north of the U.S.-Mexico border. Though the affected stations are scattered throughout northern and central Texas, and three other states, the coverage areas still see plenty of illegal immigrant activity—one soon-to-be-shuttered station in Amarillo, Texas, is right in the middle of the I-40 corridor; another in Riverside, Calif., is outside Los Angeles.