The United States Supreme Court on Wednesday delivered “a knockout blow to the White House in the cause of religious liberty,” reports Fox News. Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for a unanimous court, dismissed the government’s claim that a Lutheran Church did not have the right to fire a “minister of religion” who, after six years of religious training, had been commissioned as a minister. The fired minister, who also taught secular subjects, claimed discrimination in employment. “The Obama administration, always looking for opportunities to undermine the bedrock of First Amendment religious liberty, eagerly agreed,” remarked Peter Johnson, Fox News Legal Analyst and attorney. “There was just one big problem standing in the way of the government’s plan: the U.S. Constitution. For a long time American courts have recognized the existence of a ‘ministerial exemption’ which keeps government’s hands off the employment relationship between a religious institution and its ministers or clergy. Here, in this case, the Department of Justice had the nerve to not only challenge the exemption’s application but also its very existence. But, Chief Justice Roberts pushed back hard, telling the government essentially to butt out: ‘Requiring a church to accept or retain an unwanted minister, or punishing a church for failing to do so, intrudes upon more than a mere employment decision. Such action interferes with the internal governance of the church, depriving the church of control over the selection of those who will personify its beliefs. By imposing an unwanted minister, the state infringes the free exercise clause, which protects a religious group’s right to shape its own faith and mission through its appointments.’ . . . The Supreme Court clearly announced Wednesday that the First Amendment itself gives special recognition to the rights of religious organizations and rejected the government’s view that the Religion Clauses of the Constitution don’t apply to religious organizations’ freedom to select their own ministers, priests, rabbis and imams.”
- Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow’s success on the football field hasn’t just gotten the attention of every sportswriter in the country or sparked the use of a new verb (“Tebowing”) this year. If some legislators have their way, it could pave a whole new avenue for homeschoolers to be able to play on organized sports teams at their public schools, reports citizenlink.com. Tebow, 24, grew up in Florida, one of 24 states with “equal access” laws that allow homeschooled students to participate in extracurricular activities at their public high schools. But in recent years, at least three other states—Alabama, Arkansas, and Kentucky—have introduced legislation specifically named after Tebow to have the same privilege. And Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell said Tuesday he’d support similar legislation planned for introduction when the session starts today. “Homeschool parents pay taxes like everybody else,” he said. “It’s just fair.” That was the same point Tebow’s mother, Pam, told the citizens of Alabama in 2006; Tebow spent time there on a recruiting visit before ultimately accepting a scholarship from the University of Florida. All five Tebow children were homeschooled, and all five attended college on either athletic, academic, or music scholarships.
- The leader of a large Baptist church in Texas has announced that his congregation will no longer be using the NIV due to “accuracy concerns,” reports The Christian Post. Pastor Gregg Matte of Houston’s First Baptist Church recently made the announcement, deciding that the church would use the Holman Christian Standard Bible instead. “Upon review of the changes made to the NIV, Pastor Gregg believes that it is no longer as accurate in terms of reflecting the meaning of the original biblical texts,” reads the church’s website. “Members and guests are welcome to use any translation of their choice—during the worship services, in Life Bible Studies, or for personal study of God’s Word.” As the debate over the effectiveness of the translation continues, some Texas pastors have drawn similar conclusions about the latest NIV translation. Andrew Werley, pastor of Jersey Village Baptist Church, also located in Houston, told CP that he has also felt that the NIV 2011 has “drifted.” “I believe the TNIV or the NIV 2011 revision has drifted from what I would consider a true literal translation,” said Werley. “As a communicator of God’s Word I want the Bible I use to be as accurate as possible to the literal intent of the authors.” The latest translation of the New International Version was released last year by the Committee for Bible Translation. It sparked controversy over allegations of being too gender neutral, with the Southern Baptist Convention in particular voicing opposition.
- Kathleen Jones (name changed), 69, a retired schoolteacher, has been working in the red light districts of India for more than three years, sharing Christ’s love with the women working in a brothel, says Baptist Press. With four children, 12 grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren at home in the United States, coming to India was not an easy decision, but Jones says she knew it was what God called her to do. “I am living proof that God can use anybody at any age,” Jones says. She has no plans to head home anytime soon. Jones serves through the ministry of Rahab’s Rope, a faith-based nonprofit fighting human trafficking in India through prevention, rescue, and aftercare. “My heart just broke for [the women here],” Jones says. “It seems that God has just put a burden in my heart for women in need.” In society, Jones says, “these women are scum of the earth. No one wants to talk to them, be their friend, associate with them. They are outcasts.” She spends time with them, offering her friendship, and teaching them basic knowledge and practical skills.
- Expectant mothers and their unborn babies won an important victory in federal court this week, says LifeNews.com. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit rebuffed a challenge to the Texas sonogram bill, a new law that, among other things, requires abortionists, before doing an abortion, to take and display to the mother a sonogram of the unborn baby and to let the expectant mother hear the baby’s heartbeat. The American Center for Law and Justice had filed an amicus brief, on behalf of itself and the Houston Coalition for Life, supporting the Texas law, which had been scheduled to apply to abortions after Oct. 1, 2011. However, abortionists had filed a federal lawsuit challenging the new bill, and a federal district court on Aug. 30 had granted a preliminary injunction forbidding enforcement of key sections of the statute.
- If Rick Santorum is elected president, a pro-family activist who works to expose the truth about homosexuality hopes he will keep his pledge to work to reinstate the ban on homosexuals serving openly in the military, reports onenewsnow.com. The GOP presidential hopeful has already been pummeled by the media and homosexuals for his support of traditional marriage and his pledge to restore order and discipline in the military by working to “repeal the repeal” of the homosexual military service ban. Peter LaBarbera, founder and president of Americans for Truth About Homosexuality, appreciates the contender for taking the issue seriously. “Santorum’s on record as agreeing with the pro-family movement on issues of homosexuality, and he’s pledged to repeal the repeal of the ban on homosexuality in the military,” according to LaBarbera. “And it’s just interesting that the media does not treat this as a serious issue.” But he hopes the former Pennsylvania senator, if elected president, would continue to stand firm on his pledge. “You never know if these politicians will follow through on what they say, but Rick Santorum said he’s going to try to repeal the repeal of the ban on homosexuals in the military–and we take him at his word.” LaBarbera concludes that the military is not the place for homosexual activism, so he hopes somebody will “take action to restore sanity to the armed forces.”
- An employee of the Girl Scouts in Arizona has resigned after expression of her pro-life beliefs was squelched. Renise Rodriguez, 21, is a religious studies major at the University of Arizona in Tucson and, until recently, was an employee for the Girl Scouts of Southern Arizona. Bryan Kemper, a youth outreach director, told OneNewsNow that Rodriguez often wears one of the outreach’s T-shirts to express her pro-life beliefs and that this got her in hot water with her employer last week. “She went in to work, off duty, to pick up a few things and was told immediately by somebody in the Girl Scouts office to take her shirt off, and that if she was going to stay in the office at all she’d have to turn it inside out,” he explains. The shirt Rodriguez was wearing displayed the message “Pray to End Abortion.” “She wasn’t at work, she wasn’t on the clock—and she was pretty offended,” adds Kemper.
- The New York City Housing Authority has extended the lease of a Bronx church that uses one of its facilities after the congregation accused authorities of trying to evict them in the context of an alleged clampdown on worship groups in government buildings. Infinity NY Church, a nondenominational ministry led by Pastor Dimas Salaberrios, has been fighting to keep its space at the Bronx River Community Center after it received a notification from NYCHA that its lease was going to expire, and that the church would need to move by February. A number of congregants staged a protest in front of the New York City Law Department offices last week, in which Salaberrios and other participants were arrested while praying. Some claim the case is linked to the recent ban on church services in public school buildings. “New York City Law Department is working on getting rid of churches from community centers. Now they’re targeting us,” Salaberrios told The Christian Post on the day of his arrest. “What’s happening here is that the city government is interpreting the court order dealing in the public schools of New York, to be an all-purpose permission slip to throw out the churches in the public building where they allow private groups to meet,” Jordan Lorence, senior counselor for the Alliance Defense Fund, which has been working to help the displaced churches maintain their legal right to worship in community centers, told CP the day of the protest.
- Vision to America has issued a statement of concern over what they say is a deceptively named “Student Non-Discrimination Act,” (H.R. 998 & S. 555). The concern is that the law would “indoctrinate an entire generation of American children with pro-homosexual propaganda and eliminate traditional values from American society.” Better named the Homosexual Classrooms Act, its chief advocate in Congress is Rep. Jared Polis, an open homosexual and radical activist. The bill is close to becoming law, Vision to America says, with 150 co-sponsors in the House and 34 sponsors in the Senate. The Homosexual Classrooms Act contains a list of anti-family provisions that will, in part, force private schools to teach a pro-homosexual curriculum and purge any reference to religion if a student claims it creates a hostile learning environment for homosexual students.
- A coalition of livestock and poultry organizations sent a letter urging Congress to “reject additional costly and unnecessary animal rights mandates proposed by the Humane Society of the United States,” reports cattlenetwork.com. Kristina Butts, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association executive director of legislative affairs, said legislation to mandate on-farm production practices, like the HSUS agreement with the United Egg Producers would do, sets a dangerous precedent to allow the federal government to set prescriptive production practices.
- A distinguished university professor is suing his school, claiming that he is being discriminated against for his views on creation and intelligent design, reports onenewsnow.com. John Oller, a communicative disorders professor at University of Louisiana–Lafayette, writes and lectures on creation and intelligent design, arguing that linguistic and genetic complexities are not a matter of chance. For this reason, the university has severely restricted his teaching opportunities. David Hacker of the Alliance Defense Fund describes the discrimination that the educator faces. “Despite a stellar academic record, this professor has found himself exiled from participating in the instruction of any department students simply because he holds views that some university officials don’t favor,” Hacker explains. As a result, he says Professor Oller feels he has no choice but to sue the university. “Universities, which are supposed to be a marketplace of ideas, are increasingly censoring views that challenge campus orthodoxy,” Hacker points out. “It is our hope that this lawsuit will vindicate Dr. Oller’s academic freedom while demonstrating the right of professors to pursue the truth without censorship when their academic conclusions don’t match the fashionable consensus.”
- A federal appeals court has upheld a ruling that blocked the implementation of an Oklahoma law barring judges from considering international or Islamic law in their decisions, reports The Los Angeles Times. The U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, in a ruling released Tuesday, affirmed an order by a district court judge in 2010 that prevented the voter-approved state constitutional amendment from taking effect. The ruling also allows a Muslim community leader in Oklahoma City to continue his legal challenge of the law’s constitutionality. The measure, known as State Question 755, was approved with 70 percent of the vote in 2010. The amendment would bar courts from considering the legal precepts of other nations or cultures. “Specifically, the courts shall not consider international law or sharia law,” the law reads. Proponents of the law argued that it was intended to ban courts from considering all religious laws and that sharia was simply used as an example. The appeals court, however, disagreed.