North Carolina voters approved a constitutional amendment on Tuesday defining marriage solely as a union between a man and a woman, making it the 30th state to adopt such a ban, reports Fox News. With 35 percent of precincts reporting Tuesday, unofficial returns showed the amendment passing with about 58 percent of the vote to 42 percent against. In the final days before the vote, members of President Barack Obama’s cabinet expressed support for gay marriage and former President Bill Clinton recorded phone messages urging voters to reject the amendment. Opponents also held marches, ran TV ads, and gave speeches, including one by Jay Bakker, son of televangelists Jim Bakker and the late Tammy Faye Bakker. Meanwhile, supporters had run their own ad campaigns and church leaders urged Sunday congregations to vote for the amendment. The Rev. Billy Graham, who at 93 remains influential even though his last crusade was in 2005, was featured in full-page newspaper ads supporting the amendment. Both sides spent a combined $3 million on their campaigns. North Carolina law already bans gay marriage, like nine other states, but an amendment would effectively slam the door shut on same-sex marriages. The amendment also goes beyond state law by voiding other types of domestic unions from carrying legal status, which opponents warn could disrupt protection orders for unmarried couples. Six states—all in the Northeast except Iowa—and the District of Columbia allow same sex marriages. The North Carolina amendment was placed on the ballot after Republicans took over control of the state Legislature after the 2010 elections, a role the GOP hadn’t enjoyed for 140 years. Joe Easterling, who described himself as a devout Christian, voted for the amendment at a polling place in Wake Forest. “I know that some people may argue that the Bible may not necessarily be applicable, or it should not be applicable, on such policy matters. But even looking at nature itself, procreation is impossible without a man and a woman. And because of those things, I think it is important that the state of North Carolina’s laws are compatible with the laws of nature but, more importantly, with the laws of God.” President Barack Obama’s campaign says he’s “disappointed” with North Carolina’s constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, reports Fox News. Obama campaign spokesman Cameron French said in a Tuesday statement that the ban on same-sex unions is “divisive and discriminatory.” French says same-sex couples deserve the same rights and legal protections as straight couples. Obama officials have been embroiled in a national discussion of same-sex marriage since Vice President Joe Biden said Sunday that he is “absolutely comfortable” with gay marriage.
- The chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee suggested Tuesday that the Obama administration may have misled the public in keeping the lid on the latest Al Qaeda-affiliate bomb plot, and called for a review into the way the government handles top-secret information. “I think we have to find a better way in the future to see or at least do [a review on] how we can tell the public, what we should tell the public,” Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., told Fox News. King described the challenge as walking a “fine line,” but said that if officials are trying to keep a secret, they should “do it in a way not to mislead the public.” Law enforcement sources also told Fox News that the credibility of the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI has been undercut by this—because in the run-up to the anniversary of Usama bin Laden’s death they issued a bulletin saying there was no plot, when the administration, in fact, knew an explosive device was being tracked and intercepted.
- Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., lost a primary battle Tuesday to tea party challenger and Indiana state treasurer Richard Mourdock for the seat he has held since 1977, reports Fox News. Lugar’s defeat makes him the first and likely only senator to lose renomination this year. After returns from the primary came in, Lugar conceded to Mourdock before a crowd of supporters. He says he wants to see a Republican in the White House and will support Mourdock in his race against Democrat Joe Donnelly for the Senate seat. Mourdock’s supporters cast Lugar as too moderate and out of touch after 35 years in the Senate. The American Conservative Union gave Lugar a 77 percent “lifetime” rating. Lugar’s supporters claimed it hardly constituted a moderate voting record. But tea party conservatives argued Mourdock would provide more “purity” and wouldn’t bow to compromise with Democrats. Sens. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and John McCain, R-Ariz., avoided situations similar to Lugar’s by moving further to the right ideologically. Lugar, however, initially refused to do the same. He didn’t run a slew of negative advertisements against his opponent until late in the primary campaign. Even then, some critics said they stood in contrast to his reputation as a statesman. Lugar’s campaign spent $6.7 million compared to Mourdock’s $2 million. But Mourdock’s political action committees spent $2.9 million attacking Lugar over the incumbent backers’ $1.7 million. One advertisement from Mourdock’s campaign called Lugar “President Obama’s favorite Republican.” It showed clips of President Obama saying, “I’ve worked with Republican Senator Dick Lugar to pass a law” and “What I did was reach out to Senator Dick Lugar.” Lugar, 80, built a Senate career largely focused on foreign policy. The two-time chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee became a leading voice on nuclear weapons. His signature achievement was the 1991 Nunn-Lugar Act, which he wrote with former Sen. Sam Nunn, D-Ga. Lugar didn’t help his campaign when it came to light that he no longer owned a residence in Indiana. He instead stayed in an Indianapolis hotel when he returned to the state—using taxpayer funds. Mourdock’s campaign said the revelation symbolized how Lugar had become too entrenched in Washington.
- It seems the Wesleyan Church denomination won’t be dealing with investments that have raised serious concerns among some pastors, reports onenewsnow.com. The evangelical, Protestant denomination is to meet in early June in Lexington, Ky. Pastor Dale Walker of the Union Hill Wesleyan Church in Whitleyville, Tenn., is behind a resolution that has apparently disappeared from the agenda. “The General Board of the Wesleyan Church, I understand, voted down the resolution that the Tennessee Wesleyans voted on July of last year to clean up the Wesleyan pension plan from the incongruent holdings to where we pastors can profit from the things that are literally destroying America,” Walker details. Some of those areas include pornography, casino gambling, abortion-related issues, and tobacco. “The Wesleyan Church not only believes in salvation, but they also believe in sanctification, which is even more of a holiness issue,” the pastor notes. “You would think that the leaders of a holiness denomination would take it very seriously that their pastors have the ability to profit off of things that we call sin.” Though he admits it is a David vs. Goliath situation, Walker asserts that the battle will go on. He hopes pastors will contact denomination leaders to press for debate and a vote on the issue.
- Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer has put an end to tax dollars going to Planned Parenthood by signing a bill that she says closes loopholes for funding abortions, reports latimes.com. The bill, known as the “Whole Woman’s Health Funding Priority Act,” tightens existing state regulations and prevents any government entity—city, county, or state—from giving money to an organization that offers family planning that may indirectly fund abortions. It “closes loopholes in order to ensure that taxpayer dollars are not used to fund abortions, whether directly or indirectly,” Brewer said in a statement Friday after she signed the bill. Arizona’s Republican-led Legislature passed other reproductive healthcare bills during a 116-day session that ended Thursday. Brewer signed a bill last month banning most abortions after 20 weeks. “Planned Parenthood’s abortion-centered business model does not need or deserve taxpayer dollars,” said Rep. Marilyn Musgrave (R-Colo.) in a statement for the Susan B. Anthony List, an advocacy group opposed to abortions.
- The Chinese government is engaging in a three-phase campaign to eradicate Protestant house churches, according to China Aid Association information from an unnamed source and reported by Baptist Press. The source indicates the government’s strategy was clearly outlined in a document released during a training class last September for “Patriots in the Christian Community” conducted by the State Administration for Religious Affairs. The ChinaAid information was circulated in a Compass Direct News report in late April. The existence of an elevated government crackdown on house churches also has been verified by Baptist Press. The Chinese government’s strategy document calls for local authorities, in phase one, to conduct a thorough investigation of house churches nationwide from January through June of this year and create dossiers on each of them. In phase two for the following two to three years, authorities would strongly encourage unregistered churches to affiliate with the government-approved Three-Self Patriotic Movement. In phase three, to be completed within 10 years, churches refusing to comply would be shut down, according to the ChinaAid information. Officials also would ban the words “house church” and all reports on house churches from websites and other media and replace the term with “house gatherings,” a term that would refer to groups meeting in sites affiliated with the TSPM. In a random survey conducted by ChinaAid’s source in several provinces, more than 95 percent of house church leaders said they had already felt the impact of these investigations, while 85 percent said local religious affairs departments already had created a dossier for their group. “Since the beginning of , we have noticed an increase in the frequency of persecution,” ChinaAid said in a press statement, dated April 20. “In addition to the continuing persecution of Shouwang Church in Beijing, the number of similar cases has risen 20 percent over last year and has spread into other areas, including Christian education, publication and bookstores.”
- Celebrations have been taking place in London these days to mark 400 years since the founding of the first Baptist church in Britain, reports christiantoday.com. The Baptist Union of Great Britain chose London as the venue for this year’s General Assembly in tribute of the first British Baptist church, founded by Thomas Helwys in the Spitalfields area in 1612. The assembly opened with a look back over four centuries of Baptist achievements in Britain and the world, from the pioneering mission work of William Carey, to the legacy of preacher Charles Spurgeon and civil rights leader Martin Luther King. A message from the Queen read to the audience congratulated Baptists on this “auspicious occasion.” The assembly is meeting under the banner of “Beyond 400.” General Secretary of the BUGB Jonathan Edwards said, “We’re here because we want to capture God’s vision of where we go next.” Christiantoday.com also reported that attendees were told that the church must put Jesus back at the centre of its message. Agu Irukwu, the senior pastor of Jesus House, in London, said some churches were too focused on trying to make Jesus and the cross palatable and acceptable to 21st century society. “Thank God for advances in theology, thank God for thinkers in the church, thank God for churches that have to be seeker-friendly and all these other nice terms. But it seems that the more seeker-friendly we get, the less of Jesus we get so when people come to church they are not sure whether they are in church or at a gathering where someone is giving a motivational speech and the power is not in motivational speaking. The power is in Jesus,” he said.
- In testimony before the House Education and Workforce Committee, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said that she did not know if religious freedom is being violated by the new HHS mandate that requires employers to provide free surgical sterilizations and abortion-inducing drugs through their health plans, regardless of their religious or moral convictions. Sebelius also admitted she was unfamiliar with key Supreme Court religious freedom cases. But Sebelius will get a lesson on the U.S. Constitution on June 8. On that day, at noon local time, tens of thousands of Americans in over 100 cities coast to coast will take to the streets in public protests against the HHS Mandate during the second nationwide Stand Up for Religious Freedom Rally, reports christiannewswire.com. The rally will be held at federal buildings, Congressional offices and historic sites in such cities as Chicago, New York, Detroit, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, and Philadelphia. The full list of rally sites was being made available at StandUpRally.com/locations. The date for the Stand Up Rally was chosen to highlight the HHS Mandate’s unconstitutional infringement of religious freedom, coming just weeks before the highly anticipated ruling on Obamacare from the U.S. Supreme Court, expected at the end of June. “If Obamacare is ruled unconstitutional, we must ensure that religious freedom will be protected in subsequent health care legislation,” explained Stand Up Rally national co-director Monica Miller. “But if Obamacare is not struck down, we’ll be sending the federal authorities a clear message that the faith-based institutions and private businesses affected by the HHS Mandate simply will not comply with it.” “The federal government has no business defining the scope of religious ministry,” said Miller, referring to a “religious exemption” in the HHS Mandate drawn so narrowly that it excludes such religious institutions as Catholic schools and hospitals. The June 8 Rally will take place on the 223rd anniversary of the day James Madison introduced the Bill of Rights to the 1st Congress, including what would become the First Amendment.
- Pastor Wiley Drake, who was arrested Friday outside the White House, says he’d do it again. Drake, a presidential candidate and pastor of the First Southern Baptist Church of Buena Park, Calif., was released Friday in Washington, D.C., after paying a fine. “If I’m back in D.C., I’ll go back to the White House and pray again,” Drake said in a telephone interview Saturday, reports ocregister.com. He was in Washington, D.C., for the National Day of Prayer on Thursday, as well as the monthly Congressional Prayer Conference. He and the Rev. Pat Mahoney decided to pray at noon Friday outside the White House for Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng, who had been taken to a hospital after leaving the U.S. Embassy, news reports state. Drake said he, Mahoney, and three Christian women were kneeling next to the fence to pray when security officials told them to move along because they couldn’t pray there. After repeated requests, Drake, Mahoney, Gwyn Epeppard, 56, Tina Whittington, 37, and Sarah Maher, 23, were arrested. “We felt like compared to what Chen Guangcheng has suffered in jail… what we did was very minimal compared to what he has sacrificed,” Drake said. He hopes that President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will grant asylum to Guangcheng. “We do not believe we violated any law,” Drake said.
- With the signature of Gov. Nathan Deal on House Bill 39 on May 1, 2012, Georgia enacted significant improvements to its homeschool law, reports the Home School Legal Defense Association. Effective with the 2012–2013 school year, parents will no longer have to submit monthly attendance records to their local public school superintendent. Instead, the records will be submitted only once a year to the Georgia Department of Education. Additionally, the initial and annual declaration of intent to conduct a home study program will be filed with the department of education instead of the local superintendent. Submission of monthly attendance records was said to have been a thorn in the flesh of homeschoolers in Georgia. Problems with parents missing the end-of-month deadline by a few days or misplaced records by school officials often led to inappropriate action by the school district. School districts routinely reported families to social services for educational neglect or threatened truancy charges against family members. They also initiated action to bring about the revocation of the driver’s license of students by reporting excessive absences to the department of driver services. Annual reporting at the end of the school year should bring an end to these excessive and unwarranted enforcement actions. Filing the declaration of intent with the department of education removes the local school district from the administrative process of beginning and continuing a home study program. HSLDA’s experience has been that the less involvement homeschoolers have with the local school district, the fewer legal problems they have.
- Three Iowa judges who lost their jobs in the wake of a controversial decision to legalize same-sex marriage in Iowa were rewarded this week with the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage award, reports The Des Moines Register. The awards were presented at the Kennedy presidential library in Boston to former Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justices Marsha Ternus and former Justices David Baker and Michael Streit, all of whom were ousted in a 2010 retention vote. The audience included three sitting Iowa Supreme Court justices and enough friends and relatives of the honorees that Carolyn Kennedy, president of the library foundation’s board of directors, thanked “half the state of Iowa” for attending. Meanwhile, the Iowa Family Leader issued a statement praising ”the approximately 525,000 Iowans who had the courage to remove these three activist Iowa Supreme Court justices” in 2010. Bob Vander Plaats, president and chief executive of the organization, said in the statement that the “elitist” Kennedy Library Foundation award “applauds the abuse of power for agenda acceleration” and is “a direct insult to over one-half million informed and constitutionally astute Iowans” who voted to remove the honorees.
- Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) is calling on the IRS to investigate whether someone on the inside could have leaked the private tax files of a prominent anti-gay marriage group, reports Fox News. Hatch, in a letter Tuesday to IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman, said, “Evidence suggests that the IRS may have been the source of the unauthorized disclosure of donor information.” The Republican Utah senator was referring to the recent publication of documents listing 2008 contributors to the National Organization for Marriage. Among those contributors was Mitt Romney. Both the gay advocacy group the Human Rights Campaign and the Huffington Post posted the documents—the National Organization for Marriage has claimed it appears someone in the IRS fed the documents to the Human Rights Campaign. That possibility “is a matter that I take with the utmost seriousness,” Hatch wrote, calling the allegation “disturbing.” “Our political history shows the absolute necessity of maintaining the nonpartisan integrity of the IRS,” Hatch wrote, calling for an investigation.