Tennessee lawmakers are now backing Christian student groups at Vanderbilt University, reports cbn.com. The Statehouse and Senate approved a bill last week that would rescind the school’s controversial “all-comers policy” that has made headlines. It requires student clubs to allow anyone to run for a leadership position, regardless of their beliefs. The bill counters that, saying “a religious student organization may determine that the organization’s religious mission requires that only persons professing the faith of the group . . . qualify to serve as members or leaders.” A number of Christian groups on campus say it’s critical that their leaders subscribe to a belief statement that supports their organization’s mission.
- U.S. talks with Hamas are “almost inevitable” if President Obama is reelected, John Bolton, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, declared in a radio interview Monday, reports WorldNetDaily. “I think that’s almost inevitable,” Bolton told Aaron Klein on his WABC Radio show in response to a question about whether the former diplomat thinks the U.S. will engage the U.S.-designated terrorist group Hamas during a second Obama term. Bolton, now a member of Mitt Romney’s campaign, said that since “many Europeans” already believe that Israel should negotiate with Hamas, the Obama administration “would come to the same conclusion.” He said, “It used to be the American position that we don’t negotiate with terrorists. Well, we are doing that now with the Taliban. We are doing that with the government in Iran, which is not only terrorist, but [also] is pursuing nuclear weapons.” “So Hamas is an easy case, I think under that perspective, for the Obama administration,” he added. Hamas is on the State Department’s list of official terrorist organizations. The group is responsible for scores of violent attacks targeting civilians. Meanwhile, conservativebyte.com reports that the heads of the House and Senate intelligence committees on Sunday declared that the Taliban has grown stronger since President Obama’s deployment of 33,000 more troops to Afghanistan in 2010. The pessimistic report by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D.-Calif.) and Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) challenges Obama’s own assessment last week in his surprise visit to Kabul that the “tide had turned” and that “we broke the Taliban‘s momentum.”
- The Revolutionary Guards and its Quds Forces, which run Iran’s terror networks worldwide, have created two special units to undermine the regimes in the Persian Gulf and push America out of the region, reports WorldNetDaily. The Guards are using Imam Ali mosques around the globe, including some in the U.S., as terror command centers. Gholam Hossein Gheib Parvar, one of the regime’s most radical military commanders, is in charge of all Guard forces. According to a former intelligence officer who served in that specific region, their orders are twofold: Incite uprisings within the Shiite minorities in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and other countries in the region, and prepare for military operations against those countries’ governmental facilities. Bahrain’s monarchy faces daily protests and occasional terrorist attacks against its police forces and facilities. Protests are also taking place in Saudi Arabia within the minority Shiite population. Yemen is battling al-Qaida forces in addition to government protesters. Bahrain and Saudi Arabia are key Gulf allies of the United States. Bahrain hosts the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet, and Saudi Arabia can help stabilize oil markets should a conflict develop with Iran. The Guards’ intelligence office also runs operations out of mosques and Islamic centers around the world, according to sources. It finances the facilities, guides assets, recruits Muslims for reconnaissance of potential targets in host countries and forms alliances with other Islamic minorities such as Afghans, Pakistanis, Turks for terrorist operations. In Afghanistan alone, the Guards have more than 1,000 terror cells that help fund the Taliban and al-Qaida and provide intelligence to attack NATO forces with the hope of pushing America out, according to a former intelligence officer. The former officer, who defected to a country in Europe, revealed that all Imam Ali mosques worldwide are under the operation of the Guards’ intelligence office. Noteworthy are the ones in Stockholm and Hamburg. Other mosques are in New Jersey, New York, and Ohio, the former officer said.
- Vladimir Putin took the oath of office in a brief but regal Kremlin ceremony on Monday, while on the streets thousands of helmeted riot police prevented hundreds of democracy advocate demonstrators from protesting his return to the presidency, reports conservativebyte.com. Putin, 59, has ruled Russia since 2000, first as president and then during the past four years as prime minister. The new, now six-year term will keep him in power until 2018, with the option of running for a fourth term.
- The U.S .has been secretly releasing captured Taliban fighters from a detention center in Afghanistan in a bid to strengthen its hand in peace talks with the insurgent group, Fox News and The Washington Post reported Monday. The “strategic release” program of high-level detainees is designed to give the U.S. a bargaining chip in some areas of Afghanistan where international forces struggle to exercise control, the report said. Under the risky program, the hardened fighters must promise to give up violence and are threatened with further punishment, but there is nothing to stop them resuming attacks against Afghan and American troops.
- In its most recent crusade against posting the Ten Commandments in schools, the American Civil Liberties Union is arguing that their display is unconstitutional if people who actually believe in the Biblical laws advocate it, reports WorldNetDaily. U.S. District Court Judge Michael Urbanski will hold a summary judgment hearing on a case in Virginia, in which the School Board of Giles County is fighting to allow a private individual to donate a display of dozens of American law’s foundational documents, including the Ten Commandments. And according to The Roanoke Times, one of the ACLU’s arguments against the display is a school board member’s admission that he voted to allow the donation based on his own Christian beliefs. The case Doe v. School Board of Giles County began in 2010, when the Freedom from Religion Foundation filed a complaint over a long-standing display of the Ten Commandments hung at Narrows High School in Narrows, Va. After the school removed the display, however, there was significant local backlash. Based on legal counsel, the school then permitted a private citizen, using no public funds, to create a display for the school featuring a number of important historical documents, including the Magna Carta, Declaration of Independence, Mayflower Compact, the Ten Commandments, and even Thomas Jefferson’s letter to the Danbury Baptists, from which American law derives the phrase “separation of church and state.” Yet despite federal court rulings finding such inclusive displays within constitutional bounds, the ACLU filed suit based in part, according to the Times, on the community’s outcry over the original removal of the 10 Commandments and School Board Member Joseph Gollehon’s admission—when asked if he voted for the display because he was a Christian—“It had right much to do with it.” But according to Liberty Counsel, which is representing the school board in the case, the actions the board took are entirely constitutional, whether the members happen to be Christian or not. “The ACLU has done everything it could to run from the facts and the laws that control this case,” said Mathew D. Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, in a statement. “The Foundations of American Law and Government display has been upheld by multiple federal courts of appeal. It is clearly appropriate to include the Ten Commandments in a display on law, because there is no dispute that they helped shape American law and government.”
- A Canadian high school student was suspended for a week because he wore a T-shirt promoting his Christian beliefs. He was told if he wears it again, he could be suspended for the remainder of the school year, reports Worthy News. William Swinimer, a student at Forest Heights Community School in Nova Scotia, was punished for wearing a shirt that read, “Life is wasted without Jesus.” The shirt is a reference to a passage of Scripture from the New Testament. Swinimer told Fox News that he was told the shirt was a form of “hate talk.” “I’ve been told by my principal that it is hate talk and is disrespectful to other people’s religions,” Swinimer said. “She said it [the shirt] cannot be in school because people would get offended.” Swinimer confirmed that he had been disciplined a number of times for wearing shirts with religious references. “I’ve found that they have dissed Christianity quite a bit,” he said. “I do not want to be disrespectful of anybody else’s religions. I don’t want to put down anybody’s opinions. All I want to do is stand up for rights and freedoms of Canadians.” The school does not have a dress code, and Swinimer said students wear a variety of T-shirts. But he said for whatever reason, his Christian shirts seem to get him sent to the office. “They treat other religions differently than they do Christianity,” he said. “The staff and principal and school board have been very hostile toward Christianity.” But, he said, they promote other religions in the school.
- A press conference was held in Washington, D.C., May 3 at the National Press Club’s Bloomberg Room in hopes to address religious freedom and the dramatic increase in the persecution of Christians, reports crosswalk.com. According to reports, nearly 70 percent of the world’s 6.8 billion people live in countries with little or no freedom of religion, including many countries in the Middle East and Africa. About 20 print and broadcast media outlets, and others, gathered to hear from Dr. Carl Moeller, president/CEO of Open Doors USA; Nina Shea, director for religious freedom at the Hudson Institute; Rev. Dr. Katharine Rhodes Henderson, president of Auburn Theological Seminary in New York City; Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein, director of Interfaith Affairs for the Simon Wiesenthal Center; who were among the panel of speakers that addressed the issue of embattled Christian communities. (Rabbi Abraham Cooper, Associate Dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, was also scheduled to participate. However, he was unable to stay due to a family emergency. Adlerstein shared a statement from Cooper at the press conference.) “We at Open Doors USA were here to champion the rights of persecuted Christians around the world,” said Moeller. “Basically, the thought behind the whole conference was to demonstrate a unity in regard to religious freedom.” He said that the persecution of Christians and the attack on religious freedom was a major problem around the world. These organizations are coming together to say that it needs to be stopped. They are calling on government officials and the administration for help. There are also tools in place, such as the Congressional Scorecard to help. Additionally, they are in support of HR 440, a bill that calls for the establishment of the Special Envoy to Promote Religious Freedom of Religious Minorities in the Near East and in South Central Asia. Proposed by Congressman Frank Wolf, the bill was read the second time on Jan. 23, and it has been placed on the Senate Legislative Calendar under General Orders (Calendar No. 292). “It is important to everyone involved to come together as a group to say we are going to call on the United States government, administration, and the candidates, President Obama and Mitt Romney, to make our religious freedom a major component of the discussion of our freedoms here in the United States,” Moeller said. To go hand-in-hand with the raised awareness, Open Doors USA has been urging candidates for the past several months to sign the Presidential Pledge for Religious Freedom. A candidate’s signature indicates that he or she commits to upholding religious freedom for people of all faiths in America, nominating U.S. federal judges who are committed to upholding religious freedom as defined in the pledge and prioritizing religious freedom concerns in U.S. foreign policy.
- According to the latest U.S. Religion Census that was just released on May 1, the fastest growing religion in America is Islam, reports newsforchristians.com. The data for the census was compiled by the Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies, and the results were released by the Association of Religion Data Archives. From 2000 to 2010, the census found that the number of Muslims living inside the United States increased from 1 million to 2.6 million—a stunning increase of 66.7 percent. That is an astounding rate of growth. Meanwhile, most Christian denominations had rates of growth that were far below the overall rate of population growth in the United States, and some Christian denominations actually lost members.