Stall Brook Elementry School, Bellingham, Mass., under fire for changing the lyrics of Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA” to “We Love the USA” for an upcoming fourth-grade concert, reversed course Thursday after drawing a backlash from parents and hints of legal threats from Greenwood, who penned the 1984 tune. District Superintendent Edward L. Fleury, reports The Washington Times, acknowledged in a statement that “political correctness” was the motivation behind a proposed change, but the school ultimately decided against booting “God” from the song. “Students will be allowed to sing or not sing ‘God Bless the USA.’ . . . No other words will be substituted,” he said. “We believe the use of the word ‘God’ is acceptable in patriotic songs. The district has no intent to censor any patriotic songs. We are certainly sorry if this approach was perhaps considered as disrespectful. That was never the intent.”
- Thomas Kinkade, 54, one of the most popular artists in America, has died at his California home, reports cnn.com. Family and friends recalled the artist as a generous man who inspired others and will missed. “He had a rare ability to exude a sense of warmth, a transcendent light,” said Robert Goodwin, who wrote the book Points of Light: A Celebration of the American Spirit of Giving, with Kinkade. “He had a great commitment to inspire others—one who was nurtured in his early life by family and friends and church to really be an example of selfless acts of service,” he said Saturday. Kinkade’s death appeared to be from natural causes, according to the family. Art from the self-described “painter of light” adorns many living rooms in America. It emphasizes simple pleasures and warm, positive images of idyllic cottages, lighthouses, and colorful gardens. “My mission as an artist is to capture those special moments in life adorned with beauty and light,” Kinkade said in a message on his website. “I work to create images that project a serene simplicity that can be appreciated and enjoyed by everyone. That’s what I mean by sharing the light.” In 2006, the artist recalled one of his earliest lessons during an interview with CNN’s Larry King. “When I was a young boy, my mother told me, ‘Your talents are God’s gifts to you, and what you do with those talents are your gift to God,'” he said.
- As Christians around the world celebrated Easter, Iranian Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani remains in jail, already having passed his 900th day behind bars for being a Christian and still facing a possible execution. Nadarkhani, whose first name also can be spelled “Youcef,” was able to visit with a son on the son’s birthday April 2, according to the American Center for Law and Justice, which is closely monitoring the case. His 900th day in jail occurred in late March. For weeks now, rumors have floated on Facebook and Twitter that he has been executed, with a picture of a body often accompanying the post. But that picture was taken well over a year ago of another person, and it’s highly unlikely Iran would take a picture of Nadarkhani if he was executed, says Jordan Sekulow, executive director of the American Center for Law and Justice. “We’re able to confirm that he’s alive pretty regularly, at least weekly,” Sekulow told Baptist Press. Often, Sekulow said, rumors of Nadarkhani’s execution are easily dismissed, particularly if a rumor starts on the weekend. That’s because the Iranian government shuts down around mid-Thursday and doesn’t reopen again until Sunday in recognition of the Muslim calendar. Nadarkhani was sentenced to death in 2010 for converting from Islam to Christianity in a case that began in 2009. In March, Iran acknowledged to the U.N. Human Rights Council, meeting in Switzerland, that Nadarkhani was charged with faith-based crimes. Specifically, Iran’s human rights representative, Mohammad-Javad Larijani, said Nadarkhani was charged with telling youth about Christ without their parents’ permission, leading an illegal house church in his home, and offending Islam “by saying that Jesus was the only way to heaven,” Sekulow said.
- Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) added to his pro-life list of accomplishments Friday by signing bills the pro-life movement supported, including measures to stop abortion funding in Obamacare and webcam abortions. Walker, who faces a tough recall election battle launched by pro-abortion Democrats, signed Senate Bill 92, which prohibits any plan in Wisconsin’s prospective health insurance “exchange” created by Obamacare from covering abortion. He also signed Senate Bill 306, which prohibits abortion businesses from using so-called telemed abortions, where a non-doctor allows a woman to receive the abortion drug via a videoconference with a physician. This practice violates FDA guidelines concerning a doctor visit before using the dangerous drug that has killed dozens of women worldwide and injured thousands in the United States alone. Senate Bill 306 is authored by Sen. Mary Lazich (R-New Berlin) and Rep. Michelle Litjens (R-Oshkosh) and contains two vital components: it would protect a woman who is being coerced into having an abortion and from being prescribed RU 486 abortion drugs without being seen in person by the prescribing physician. Wisconsin Right to Life applauded passage of the pro-life measure and told LifeNews the Coercive and Web Cam Abortion Prevention Act passed by a margin of 60 to 33. “The enactment of this measure into law will be a tremendous victory for women and babies,” said Susan Armacost, Legislative Director of Wisconsin Right to Life.
- Americans have until April 17 to file their federal tax returns this year, and ironically, according to the Tax Foundation, the average American will have to work from Jan. 1 until exactly that day just to pay his or her share of the taxes that government will absorb this year, reports cnsnews.com. Each year, the Tax Foundation calculates “Tax Freedom Day.” It determines this date by adding up all the taxes Americans pay to local, state, and federal governments, then calculating what those taxes equal as a percentage of the total national income, and then convert that percentage into the equivalent number of days in a 365-day year (compensating for leap years to keep the date comparable for all years). This year, government will tax away 29.2 percent of the nation’s total income. That means Americans must work from Jan. 1 until April 17 just to produce the income the government will take away. If the federal government taxed Americans enough to cover the projected $1.014 trillion in deficit spending it will do this year, the Tax Foundation says, Americans would need to work until May 14 to cover the total tax bill. This year’s April 17 Tax Freedom Day falls seven days later than Tax Freedom Day in 2009, the year President Barack Obama took office. That year, Americans needed to work only until April 10 to produce all the income that government took away in taxes. According to the Tax Foundation, this year (as in other recent years) Americans will pay more to government in taxes than they spend on groceries, clothing, and shelter combined. Government has become the greatest basic expense that American families face.
- Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin said President Obama’s policies are the cause of rising gas prices, not a lack of energy resources, reports conservativebyte.com. Fallin said Saturday that the problem stems from a lack of leadership and questioned Obama’s role in increasing the nation’s energy output and in the holdup of the Keystone XL pipeline, especially as gas prices hover near an average of $4 a gallon. In the weekly Republican address, Fallin said “our pro-energy policies stand in stark contrast though to the policies supported by President Obama and the Washington Democrats, who seem to view American-made energy as a hazardous waste rather than a resource.” Meanwhile, conservativebyte.com reports that the Obama administration is quietly diverting roughly $500 million to the IRS to help implement the president’s healthcare law. The money is only part of the IRS’s total implementation spending, and it is being provided outside the normal appropriations process. The tax agency is responsible for several key provisions of the new law, including the unpopular individual mandate. Republican lawmakers have tried to cut off funding to implement the healthcare law, at least until after the Supreme Court decides whether to strike it down. That ruling is expected by June, and oral arguments last week indicated the justices might well overturn at least the individual mandate, if not the whole law. President Barack Obama’s rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline taught Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper one thing: it’s time Canada expand its list of oil buyers, reports cowboybytecom. In an interview with the Canadian Wilson Centre think tank, the Prime Minister said the pipeline’s rejection, even if only temporary, was enough to underscore the need to find other buyers for oilsands crude. The Prime Minister also mentioned that Canada has been selling oil to the United States at a discounted price. But now that the Great White North is expanding its oil export market, that discount will probably disappear. The outcome, suggested the report, is that the U.S. will not only have less access to Canadian oil but it will also have to pay more for it because the market for oilsands crude is expanding (and therefore more competitive).
- Iowa Republicans are taking aim at the state’s top law school for denying a faculty position to a conservative law professor, who an assistant dean once said embraces politics the rest of the faculty “despises,” reports conservativebyte.com. Teresa Wagner, an associate director of writing at the University of Iowa College of Law, is suing former dean Carolyn Jones for employment discrimination, claiming she was not hired for a professor position because Jones and other law faculty disapproved of her conservative views and activism. To hold a law faculty position at the publicly funded university is viewed as a “sacred cow,” Wagner said in an interview, and “Republicans need not apply.”
- Why Did President Obama invite Al Sharpton to his prayer breakfast but not Southern Baptist leaders? asks a report in theblaze.com. Fox News’ Todd Starnes reports that Christian leaders from across the nation were invited to attend the event in the White House’s East Room. But the Obama administration is getting criticism for not inviting some of the most prominent names in the Christian sphere. According to the Southern Baptist Convention, top leaders, including SBC President Bryant Wright and SBC Executive Committee President Frank Page, weren’t extended invitations. Richard Land, too, who serves on the SBC’s Religious Liberty Commission, was also not invited. But Land, who is outspoken and never afraid to share his views, claims that his feelings “are not hurt.” As for the Sharpton invitation, he said, “As my east Texas grandmother once said, ‘Birds of a feather tend to flock together.’ The SBC is the nation’s most populous Protestant denomination. This fact alone, it would seem, would warrant an invitation for someone within the church. Of course, it is possible that this was merely an oversight. But the failure to send the invitation caused some, like Robert Jeffress, a pastor at First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas, to harshly respond. “It appears that the Obama administration is more interested in the views of race-baiting, black liberation theology spokesmen like Jeremiah Wright and Al Sharpton than those of mainstream, evangelical Christians,” Jeffress said in an interview with Fox News. “To not invite leaders of the nation’s largest Protestant denomination to the White House Easter Prayer Breakfast is more evidence of this administration’s tin ear toward evangelical Christians.”
- A car bombing in the northern Nigerian town of Kudana killed dozens of people and damaged churches during an Easter worship service Sunday, reports Worthy News. Witnesses said a suicide car bomber detonated his explosives Sunday morning on a busy road near the All Nations Christian Assembly Church and the ECWA Good News Church. A suicide bomber attempted to drive an explosive-laden car into the compound of the churches before it detonated, but was blocked by barriers in the street and was turned away by a security guard as police approached, news reports said. At least 38 people were killed in the blast, said Abubakar Zakari Adamu, a spokesman for the Kaduna state Emergency Management Agency in published remarks. There was no immediate claim of responsibility. However, the Islamic militant group Boko Haram, or “Western Education is a sin” has been carrying out attacks across the country in its attempt to establish a state based on Sharia, or Muslim, law.