Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is reaching out to Christians with warm wishes, even as Israel supporters are urging Christians to continue praying for the Holy Land, reports capitolresource.org. “I want to wish the Christian citizens of Israel, as well as Christians around the world, a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Israel is proud of its strong and growing Christian community, and we are proud of the deep and passionate support of so many Christian friends of Israel around the world,” Netanyahu said in a video. “In a region where Christians are routinely persecuted and where there is little tolerance for the faith of others, Israel safeguards the holy places of the great religion and ensures freedom of worship for all.” Netanyahu urged Christians who have never been to Israel to visit Jerusalem, Galilee, and other places where Jesus preached and lived a message of universal peace that spread across the world. As Christians celebrate Christmas and the New Year, he said the people of Israel join believers in hoping for a year of prosperity, a year of security, and, above all, a year of peace. “During these perilous times, as God’s people, we need to intensify our support for Israel, the nation fighting to protect the world,” says Robert Stearns, founder and director of Eagles’ Wings, a global movement of churches, ministries, and leaders. “As we remember the coming of our Savior to this earth, we must protect the Holy Land of His Covenant and keep it holy, which makes the prime minister’s greetings so important.”
- A group of five-, six- and seven-year-old children will be able to sing “Silent Night” in their Christmas program after Alabama school officials decided to ignore a complaint filed by a group that called the song “unconstitutional.” The news came as a relief to students and teachers at G. W. Trenholm Primary School in Tuscumbia, Ala., after they found themselves thrust into the war on Christmas. “We’ve always sung ‘Silent Night’ and we’ve never had a problem,” Principal Janice Jackson told Fox News & Commentary. “We were just surprised, very surprised.” Jackson said she received a letter from Americans United for the Separation of Church and State asking them to drop the song from their annual Christmas pageant.
- University of Iowa journalism professor Stephen Bloom has set off a firestorm in Iowa because of his comments in an article in The Atlantic magazine that described Iowans as “uneducated Jesus freaks who love hunting and don’t deserve the political clout they will exercise on Jan. 3,” reports The Christian Post. Bloom, who is currently a visiting scholar at the University of Michigan, is taking criticism from many of the state’s more prominent citizens, including Dr. Sally Mason, the president of the University of Iowa, where he is employed. “I disagree strongly with and was offended by Professor Bloom’s portrayal of Iowa and Iowans,” wrote Mason in an open letter to The Atlantic. “Please know that he does not speak for the University of Iowa.” Bloom, citing “uncomfortable truths and unconventional truths” as the reason he penned the article, wanted to challenge why Iowa should retain its coveted position as the first political contest in the race for the White House. Calling the state “politically schizophrenic with Republicans living west of Des Moines and Democrats to the east,” Bloom tried to reason that Iowa lacked the sophistication and was unworthy to receive the amount of attention that is given to a state that could make or break a candidate’s political future. Bloom, who is Jewish and a native of New Jersey, said Iowans talked constantly of “Jesus and hunting” and that the Hawkeye state could be “the place that may very well determine the next U.S. president.”
- Open-air preacher Ray Comfort said he will purposefully begin evangelistic campaigns in areas of the U.S. where atheist organizations file or threaten lawsuits in their attempt to remove Christian references from public property. After reading about the demand by the atheist group Freedom From Religion Foundation to have a nativity scene removed from a Texas courthouse lawn in Henderson County, the Living Waters ministry founder from Los Angeles said he began learning about the group’s other actions around the nation on its website. In addition to asking for the removal of nativity scenes from places such as in front of city and county halls, the Madison, Wisc.–based FFRF has been active in attempting to remove crosses from government property. Christians argue that it is their constitutional right to express their faith in the public square. The claim by most atheists that religious expressions tied to the government are not allowed based on separation of church and state has been proven by some historians to be a false assumption. Comfort, who is never shy about confronting atheists about their non-belief, has taken the opportunity during a seemingly escalating cultural battle over Christmas symbolism in the U.S. to make sure he is heard. “This isn’t a war on Christmas. It’s much deeper than that. They want to do away with Christianity for the same reason criminals would like to do away with the police,” Comfort told The Christian Post. “Their motive for being anti-God is moral, not intellectual. They deny God’s existence because if they admit He exists, they are admitting that they are morally responsible to Him. This isn’t a pleasant thought for a guilty sinner.” Comfort vows to “make some phone calls” whenever the FFRF tries to remove crosses, nativity scenes, and other Christian symbols from the public square. “Whenever they try and bully people with their anti-God agenda, we will make that place ground zero for an evangelistic campaign,” he said. “Atheists may use the law to make a mayor remove a cross from a water tower, but we will then make it our business to take the cross to thousands.”
- An atheist group has sued a small town in Tennessee over a cross on a city water tower. Several years ago the residents of Whiteville raised money to erect a large cross atop the town’s water tower, reports onenewsnow.com. Freedom From Religion Foundation objected, and finally Mayor James Bellar had one arm of the cross removed. “As a result of what they had done to Whiteville, the people in Whiteville just more or less took it upon themselves to start a campaign to put crosses up all over this part of Tennessee that they could,” the mayor explains. “And it’s just been like a crusade down here with people making crosses and sticking ’em in their yard, putting ’em on sides of buildings, and everything else.” In front of city hall, citizens placed two other crosses on the right of way and the mayor put up a cross outside his business. That action made the atheist group angry, so they filed suit on behalf of a lone atheist. Mayor Bellar says the town will not stand for it and will defend itself against the lawsuit. In other news, world famous atheist Christopher Hitchens died Thursday from pneumonia, a complication resulting from his stage IV esophageal cancer, reports The Christian Post. The 62-year-old essayist passed away at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston in the presence of friends, according to a statement released by Vanity Fair. “There will never be another like Christopher,” Graydon Carter, Vanity Fair editor said in a statement, according to ABC. “A man of ferocious intellect who was as vibrant on the page as he was at the bar. Those who read him felt they knew him, and those who knew him were profoundly fortunate souls.”
- A Wisconsin teacher who favors the state governor’s reform efforts is now being denounced and threatened by union leaders, but one pro-family advocate says the educator is just corroborating news reports, according to onenewsnow.com. Because Kristi LaCroix, a public school teacher at Lakeview Technology Academy, appeared in a TV ad to commend Governor Scott Walker’s (R) budgetary reforms, union leaders are threatening her and her family and calling on school officials to fire her. In the ad, she says she is “not big on recalls,” and she contends that Scott Walker did what was right for Wisconsin. Julaine Appling of the Wisconsin Family Council says LaCroix is just corroborating news reports. “Teachers’ jobs have been saved, school districts have been saved money . . . they have now reduced class sizes in many of our school districts that for the first time . . . for many school districts in recent years at least, the school districts have been able to actually balance their budgets,” Appling points out. And she believes LaCroix has shown an amazing amount of courage in speaking out in favor of the reforms. “With the air as toxic as it is in Wisconsin right now, and with the recall effort ongoing to recall our governor, our lieutenant governor, and four state senators, it takes enormous courage for someone who is currently a public school teacher to step out and make an ad that supports what the governor has done,” she decides. The Wisconsin Family Council spokesperson adds that this is an example of how the unions treat their own when they contradict union dictates. Meanwhile, conservativebyte.com reports that according to a new study from the Bureau of Labor statics, public school teachers are now the highest paid state workers. In fact, public school teachers receive more than twice as much in average hourly wages and benefits as workers in private industry, on average, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Public school teachers “are paid an average of $56.59 per hour in combined wages and benefits,” which is twice the $28.24 an hour in wages and benefits paid to workers in the private sector.
- A group of Christmas carolers was thrown out of a U.S. Post Office in Silver Spring, Md., after the post office manager told them they were not allowed to sing Christmas carols on government property. A spokesperson for the U.S. Postal Service confirmed the incident occurred Saturday at a branch office in the Aspen Hill Shopping Center. A trio of carolers walked into the building dressed in attire reminiscent of Charles Dickens and began singing. “They were only a few notes into their carol when suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a scowling postal manager rushing to confront the carolers,” said JP Duffy, who was standing in a line with his wife and two-year-old daughter. Duffy, a staff member of the Family Research Council, said he was stunned by what happened next. “He told them that they had to leave immediately because they were violating the post office’s policy against solicitation,” Duffy said. “He told them they couldn’t do this on government property. He said: ‘You can’t go into Congress and sing and you can’t do it here either.’ ” A spokesperson for the U.S. Postal Service’s Capital Metro Area said the carolers had “beautiful voices” but were told they could not perform in the lobby. “Public assembly and public address, except when conducted or sponsored by the Postal Service, are prohibited in lobbies and other interior areas open to the public,” the spokesperson told Fox News & Commentary. “The only reason you should be inside is for postal business.” The carolers explained that they had been performing at businesses in the shopping center for several years, including the post office, and they’ve never encountered any problems. Duffy said that customers standing in line began to boo the postal worker. “Over the last several years, we have watched militant secularists team up with federal bureaucrats in the effort to sterilize the public square of anything remotely connected to anything religious,” Duffy said. “This postal manager has clearly received the memo which has led him to stamp out Christmas caroling. But I have my own memo to all the Christmas carolers out there. Let’s not surrender to the secularist version of Christmas future.”
- The State Department began a three-day, closed-door meeting Monday, reports The Daily Caller, to talk about U.S. free speech rules with representatives from numerous Islamic governments that have lobbied for 12 years to end U.S. citizens’ ability to speak freely about Islam’s history and obligations.
- The U.S. Supreme Court Monday announced it will decide whether the Arizona immigration law passed last year violates the Constitution, and a new survey finds that half of voters still support a similar immigration law for their own state. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey of likely U.S. voters shows that 52 percent favor passage of an immigration law similar to Arizona’s in their state. Thirty-four percent oppose such a law in their state, while 15 percent more are undecided.
- A California appeals court has ruled that a Lutheran church had the right to fire its preschool director because she was living with her boyfriend, reports The Christian Post. The Fourth District Court of Appeals in Santa Ana decided last week that Red Hill Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tustin could legally fire Sara Henry for religious reasons. According to the opinion given, the court decided that the California Fair Employment and Housing Act did not apply to Henry’s employment with Red Hill Lutheran because as a religious organization the church had a “ministerial exception.” “Evidence presented at the trial demonstrated that the church is a religious corporation not organized for private profit,” wrote the court. “Because the church is not considered an employer for purposes of the FEHA, it is not subject to the FEHA’s prohibitions.” Henry was fired from her position in May 2009, after Red Hill administrators became aware that she had a child with her boyfriend, whom she was living with, and had no confirmed plans to marry him. She first filed suit against Red Hill Lutheran in 2010, but lost the case as Orange County Superior Court Judge Derek W. Hunt ruled that as a religious organization Red Hill Lutheran had the right to terminate her employment due to behavior outside of her employment. “[Henry] knew she was to serve as a Christian role model to the students and their parents, both in and out of school,” wrote the court. “Henry’s employment was terminated for religious reasons for which the church and school are exempt under title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.”