It was a bad Christmas for Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani, the Church of Iran pastor who, according to Christian Solidarity Worldwide, has been returned to jail on an earlier charge, reports assistnews.net. In September, a court acquitted Pastor Nadarkhani of apostasy, but sentenced him to three years for evangelizing Muslims. Since he had already spent close to three years in Lakan Prison in Rasht, the pastor was released after posting bail. However, CSW sources now report that Pastor Nadarkhani has now been returned to jail on the orders of the director of Lakan Prison, who claimed he had been released several days too early due to the insistence of his lawyer, Mohammed Ali Dadkhah. In November, Pastor Nadarkhani was a special guest at CSW’s National Conference in London, England, where he thanked all who had prayed and petitioned for him during his initial incarceration. Mervyn Thomas, CSW’s chief executive told the ASSIST News Service, “We are disappointed to hear Pastor Nadarkhani has been returned to prison in such an irregular manner. The timing is insensitive and especially sad for his wife and sons, who must have been looking forward to celebrating Christmas with him for the first time in three years.”
- The First Amendment dispute over Brookfield, Wis., public high school graduations inside Elmbrook Church could be headed to the U.S. Supreme Court, reports jsonline. With the help of a religious liberty group, a Stanford University law professor and one of the country’s biggest law firms, the Elmbrook School District on Friday filed a petition seeking high court review of a decision that went against the district in what advocates on both sides say could become one of the most significant church-state cases in years. Whether the case is heard is a long shot; the U.S. Supreme Court accepts less than 2 percent of the thousands of petitions filed each year. The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 7-3 in July that the district’s practice of holding graduations at the church violated the separation of church and state. The decision by the full court reversed an earlier finding by a three-judge panel. The majority found the risk of children perceiving the state as endorsing a religion is the same whether it happens in the classroom or at an off-site event. “We conclude that the practice of holding high school graduation ceremonies in the Elmbrook Church sanctuary conveys an impermissible message of endorsement,” the majority found. The case started in 2009 with a lawsuit filed by the Washington, D.C.-based group Americans United for Separation of Church and State. Now another D.C. group on the opposing side, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, is trying to take it to the ultimate forum. “Public schools across the country rely on churches to provide a comfortable, cost-effective facility for graduation ceremonies,” said Luke Goodrich, deputy general counsel for the Becket Fund. “Religion is not asbestos, and the Constitution does not require the government to treat churches as contaminated buildings that are uniquely unfit for public events.”
- The Planned Parenthood abortion business has given up trying to stop a 72-hour abortion waiting period in South Dakota, the longest abortion waiting period in the country, reports lifenews.com. The law in question, which has been embroiled in a legal battle since passage, would require women considering an abortion to visit a crisis pregnancy center before going to an abortion business to get counseling on abortion’s alternatives as well as the risks associated with having one. The idea behind the bill, which goes further than legislation in other states, is to get women tangible pregnancy help and support that they won’t normally find at an abortion center. The counseling would not require any out-of-pocket expense on behalf of the women considering an abortion. Meanwhile, bighealthreport.com reports that a federal judge ruled on Monday that the state of Oklahoma has the right to cut taxpayer funding to Planned Parenthood. The abortion giant sued the state of Oklahoma after state officials yanked taxpayer funds it received through a taxpayer-funded program that provides food for low-income women and their children. In October, Oklahoma officials dropped the abortion giant so it could “steer tax dollars to legitimate agencies helping women and children in need.”
- Jordan Sekulow of the American Center for Law and Justice has issued a warning concerning Islamic radicals. Said Sekulow, “Islamic radicals are intimidating and threatening Egyptian Christians to push through a new Shariah-based constitution. Crowds of Muslim Brotherhood supporters are marching through the streets chanting ‘Islamic, Islamic, despite the Christians.’ What is the Obama Administration’s response? It’s sending 20 fighter jets and 200 tanks to the Muslim Brotherhood-led government, the same government pushing Shariah law. That’s right, with religious freedom under attack in Egypt, Israel threatened, and our own fiscal cliff at home, we’re giving hundreds of millions of dollars of weapons to the Muslim Brotherhood. We cannot allow this to happen.”
- Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner said his department will take “extraordinary measures” to postpone a U.S. default for about two months while President Barack Obama and Congress work out a deficit-reduction deal, reports newsmax.com. Geithner, in a letter to congressional leaders, said the government will hit its statutory $16.4 trillion debt ceiling on Dec. 31. To avert a default, the Treasury will take action to create about $200 billion in headroom under the debt limit. “However, given the significant uncertainty that now exists with regard to unresolved tax and spending policies for 2013, it is not possible to predict the effective duration of these measures,” Geithner said.
- The Supreme Court on Wednesday refused to block the Obama administration’s contraception mandate from taking effect, reports thehill.com. Justice Sonia Sotomayor rejected a request for an emergency injunction that would have shielded employers from the mandate. The request was filed by Hobby Lobby, an arts-and-crafts chain. The company’s Catholic owners say the contraception mandate violates their religious freedom. Hobby Lobby might eventually win on that point, Sotomayor said, but the company didn’t meet the standard for an injunction blocking the mandate from taking effect. The administration’s policy requires most employers to include contraception in their employees’ healthcare policies, without charging a co-pay or deductible. Churches and houses of worship are exempt, and religious affiliated institutions such as Catholic hospitals don’t have to cover contraception directly. (Their insurance companies cover the cost of making it available at no cost to the employee.) But some employers say they should be able to opt out of the mandate simply because it violates their personal faith, no matter what type of business they run. Hobby Lobby had asked the Supreme Court for an emergency injunction preventing the contraception mandate from taking effect as scheduled on Jan. 1. Lower courts have split on narrow requests for case-by-case exceptions, so Hobby Lobby said the court should block the mandate and immediately hear arguments about whether the policy is constitutional. Although the court declined to block the contraception policy from taking effect, Hobby Lobby can still pursue its First Amendment arguments. “While the applicants allege they will face irreparable harm if they are forced to choose between complying with the contraception-coverage requirement and paying significant fines, they cannot show that an injunction is necessary or appropriate to aid our jurisdiction,” Sotomayor wrote in a short opinion rejecting Hobby Lobby’s request. The petition was filed to Sotomayor because she oversees the federal circuit where Hobby Lobby is challenging the mandate.
- Columnist Ralph Barker has issued a report in patriotupdate.com, concerning reasons for recent tragedies: “When we pause and seriously ponder tragedies like Columbine, Newtown, Aurora, and others, we shouldn’t really be shocked. These are logical and predictable out workings of a philosophical and religious worldview that is taught in government schools and supported and promulgated through our courts. Why is this so? Simple, our biblical foundations, our Judeo-Christian heritage have been destroyed. The first major foundational cracks occurred in 1962 and 1963 when the Supreme Court ruled Bible reading and prayer in the government schools unlawful. Prior to these decisions, teachers and students were free to express their faith and discuss it in the classroom. In fact, in those days, biblically based ethics were encouraged and enforced. What was right and wrong was pretty clear back then. Not so today. As time progressed other court rulings further restricted religious expression in our government schools. This presented a real dilemma for school administrations. How could they teach kids right and wrong without a clear standard? How could it be taught that murder, robbery, adultery, rape, and sexual activity outside of marriage were wrong without a religious standard to appeal to? Students need and want clarity about ethics. It’s only fair that they know the rules. Students want to know why certain things are supposed to be wrong. If teachers could no longer say that something was wrong ‘because God said so,’ what would they do? If a good answer could not be provided students might just decide that certain things are not wrong. As we look around, we realize that many have apparently come to this conclusion. . . . Beginning in the early 60s, and as God’s laws were put aside, other standards began to take their place. A moral vacuum was created and soon began to fill with ambiguous and situational ethics. These slowly became the new moral standard and they still prevail today and have great influence. Over time, absolutes in moral thinking have become almost obsolete. The Supreme Court ban on school prayer and Bible reading has proved to be disastrous for our country. One of the first obvious manifestations of these court rulings and the emerging new ethics occurred in 1973 when abortion was legalized. One day before the ruling abortion was considered to be the murder of a baby, a human being, and a mother could be criminally charged for aborting her child. The next day it was perfectly legal. The baby, now a nonperson, was still dead, but the mother was legally innocent. Today, abortion is as common as the cold. Over 55 million babies have died in the abortion chambers in this country. Life is cheap.”
- Inspired by concerns of unemployment, the economy, Benghazi, and matters of foreign policy, organizers are promoting a “Massive Anti-Obama Rally @ Obama’s Inauguration Day,” reports minutemennews.com. Their goal is to have 500,000+ protesters armed with signs identifying the reason for their participation in the rally. Organizers are encouraging those who aren’t able to participate in the rally, on Washington D.C.’s National Mall, to form groups and hold nonviolent protests at state capital buildings or other local government venues. The news source also claims that Obama was to spend at least $7 million alone on flying back from a vacation in Hawaii to address the fiscal crisis. Asked the report, “If he was so interested in avoiding the fiscal cliff, why did he fly on our dime to Hawaii last Friday only to turn around and jet back to Washington now for some photo ops?” Another source, whitehousedossier.com, said that Michelle would be spending more between 100k and 200k on the vacation.
- U.S. troops in Afghanistan, away from their families and thousands of miles from home, celebrated Christmas in their own way Tuesday with carols, candles, and the company of each other, reports Fox News. Soldiers from the U.S., France, and Germany packed a dining hall at the Kabul International Airport for a traditional Christmas meal. As the turkey was carved, they shared thoughts of their families. “I wish I could be home with my family and friends, but, I mean, I am surrounded by nothing but awesome people, so it is good,” U.S. soldier Vanessa Gann said. In Kabul, soldiers and service members with the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force sang carols and lit candles during a service on Christmas Eve at the U.S.-led coalition base.