Texas officials are vowing to cut off funding for Planned Parenthood after a federal court sided with the state in a challenge over a new law that bans clinics affiliated with abortion providers from getting money through a health program for low-income women, reports cnsnews.com. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans late Tuesday reversed a federal judge’s temporary injunction that was allowing the funding to continue, pending an October trial on Planned Parenthood’s challenge to the law. State officials are seeking to halt money to Planned Parenthood clinics that provide family planning and health services as part of the state’s Women’s Health Program because the Republican-led Texas Legislature passed a law banning funds to organizations linked to abortion providers. Planned Parenthood provides services like cancer screenings—but not abortions—to about half of the 130,000 low-income Texas women enrolled in the program, which is designed to provide services to women who might not otherwise qualify for Medicaid. The appeals court’s decision means Texas is now free to impose the ban. “We appreciate the court’s ruling and will move to enforce state law banning abortion providers and affiliates from the Women’s Health Program as quickly as possible,” Stephanie Goodman, a spokeswoman for the state Health and Human Services Commission, said in a statement.
- A prayer vigil has resulted in the shutting down of a UK brothel, reports charismanews. com. Elyse knew she needed to do something. After having been in a community outreach program for the last nine months, busy with ministry, her world was turned upside down by a DVD she watched one night emphasizing that having sympathy was not enough. Elyse and two teammates felt they should do something in response. Jumping into the car, they headed to a brothel 10 minutes away. “We got there and our plans that night were just to go out and pray,” explained Elyse. “But we soon realized it was more serious than we knew. As we prayed, we all felt like someone was standing on our chests.” The three stood across the street from the brothel and prayed together for those inside. “At that point,” says Elyse, “we decided we were going back every single night.” Thus began a month of prayer, with a small group posted across the street from the brothel each night, praying for those inside. “When we were praying, there was this sense that ‘We’re not alone in this,’” said Elyse. “Even when pimps were angry and telling us to leave, I had no reason to be afraid. God was in our midst.” One particularly painful night came one week into prayer when the team witnessed young girls being delivered to the brothel. “It’s the difference between watching a documentary and seeing it right before your eyes,” related Elyse. A month after praying began, the signs were removed, a notice was put on the door, and the brothel was shut down. The team couldn’t believe it at first; they continued to pray another night before actually reading the sign on the door that confirmed it. In the United Kingdom, there are untold numbers of human trafficking victims, said the report, and believers were urged to continue to pray that more brothels would be permanently shut down, and for people involved in all aspects of human trafficking to meet living hope in Jesus Christ.
- A California jury says a Muslim hotel owner discriminated against a Jewish group during a poolside charity event in Santa Monica, reports onenewsnow.com. The case was brought by Friends of the Israel Defense Forces, who had gathered two years ago at the ocean-view Hotel Shangri-LA, which is owned by Tehmina Adaya, a Muslim of Pakistani descent. The Los Angeles Times says hotel workers acting on Adaya’s orders told the Jewish group to remove its literature and banners and to get out of the pool. The jury determined Wednesday that the hotel and Adaya violated California’s Civil Rights Act, which bars hotels and other business from discriminating on the basis of sex, race, color, or religion. The jury awarded more than 1.2 million in damages. Punitive damages will be determined later.
- The New Mexico Supreme Court has agreed to review the case of a Christian photographer who refused to take pictures of a same-sex commitment ceremony for two women, reports cbn.com. The case began five years ago when Elaine Huguenin, co-owner of Elane Photography, refused to do the job because of her Christian beliefs. The state Human Rights Commission fined Hugenin’s company nearly $7,000, saying the business was guilty of discrimination against “sexual orientation.” The New Mexico Court of Appeals upheld the fine. Attorneys for the Alliance Defending Freedom appealed that ruling. They’re now expressing confidence that the state Supreme Court will rectify the matter. “Americans in the marketplace should not be subjected to legal attacks for simply abiding by their beliefs,” said Jordan Lorence, senior counsel for ADF. “We trust the New Mexico Supreme Court will agree because the government should not be allowed to force this photographer to promote a message that violates her conscience,” he added. “The Constitution clearly prohibits the state from forcing unwilling artists to advance a message with which they disagree.”
- Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “is determined to attack Iran before the U.S. elections,” Israel’s Channel 10 News claimed on Monday night, reports timesofisrael.com, and Israel is now “closer than ever” to a strike designed to thwart Iran’s nuclear drive. The TV station’s military reporter Alon Ben-David, who earlier this year was given extensive access to the Israel Air Force as it trained for a possible attack, reported that since upgraded sanctions against Iran have failed to force a suspension of the Iranian nuclear program in the past two months, “from the prime minister’s point of view, the time for action is getting ever closer.” Asked by the news anchor in the Hebrew-language TV reporthow close Israel now was to “a decision and perhaps an attack,” Ben-David said, “It appears that we are closer than ever.” He said it seemed that Netanyahu was not waiting for a much-discussed possible meeting with President Barack Obama, after the UN General Assembly gathering in New York late next month—indeed, “it’s not clear that there’ll be a meeting.” In any case, said Ben-David, “I doubt Obama could say anything that would convince Netanyahu to delay a possible attack.” The report added that Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak believe Obama would have no choice but to give backing for an Israeli attack before the U.S. presidential elections in November.
- The Iranian pastor who has spent more than 1,000 days in prison for his faith in Christ is headed back to court, reports charismanews.com. Iranian authorities are demanding Youcef Nadarkhani face a judge in Iran on Sept. 8 to answer for “charges brought against him.” According to the American Center for Law and Justice, it is unclear if the charges are new or are connected to his apostasy conviction. Nadarkhani was convicted and sentenced to death for essentially becoming a Christian. When Iranian officials demanded that he recant his faith in Jesus Christ or die, he responded, “I cannot.” He has been illegally imprisoned and separated from his wife and two boys since 2009. The ACLJ has obtained a copy of the official Iranian court summons demanding his appearance. What is clear is that his new court date will come after more 1,060 days spent in prison for nothing but his faith in Jesus Christ, an imprisonment that violates Iran’s own constitution. The ACLJ is continuing to work with contacts in Iran, the U.S. State Department, and foreign diplomats to pressure Iran for the release of this persecuted pastor. The “Tweet for Youcef” campaign continues to grow, now reaching more than 2.8 million Twitter accounts around the world with daily information and updates about Nadarkhani.
- A substantial tax credit that couples or individuals receive when they adopt is set to expire at year’s end unless Congress acts, and experts fear that without it fewer families will adopt. At issue is the adoption tax credit—last year it was a maximum of $13,360—that allows low- and middle-income families who otherwise couldn’t afford it to adopt. Unlike a tax deduction, which only reduces taxable income, a tax credit actually reduces a person’s tax liability. “I would say we are very concerned,” Bill J. Blacquiere, president of Bethany Christian Services, a nationwide adoption agency, told Baptist Press. “We are hearing from people on the inside [in D.C.], this may not pass this year.” Congress, Blacquiere, said, should not view the adoption tax credit as something that costs the federal government money but instead as something that saves it money. That is because, he said, the adoption process—in the long run—prevents children from growing up without a family.
- The U.S. Army has reported that there were 38 total confirmed or suspected suicides in its ranks in the month of July, 2012 , reports blogs.christianpost.com. This is the highest number of suicides in a month ever. The Army has confirmed 120 suicides for both active- and non-active-duty soldiers in , with 67 other deaths suspected as suicides but still under investigation. Twenty-five of those were attributed to soldiers who did not have any previous deployments. The Army reported 242 suicides in 2009, 305 in 2010, and 283 in 2011. As part of its coverage of the serious issue, CNN carried an article titled, “Can Nasal Spray Prevent Military Suicides?””Apparently, the Army has endorsed a grant for Dr. Michael Kubek, an Indiana University of Medicine professor, to determine whether a nasal spray could be a safe and effective way to administer a specific antidepressive neurochemical to the brains of soldiers to help calm suicidal thoughts. “The stressors that members of our Armed Services are under are significant” noted christianpost.com. “But choices to take one’s life come from deep within their soul, spirit and mind. Any long-lasting and permanent solution to the high suicide rate will not come from administering chemicals through a pill or a spray. The solution must be at a deeper lever than that. The solution must be spiritual, because the problem is spiritual. Only when our military leadership recognizes that spiritual fitness must be addressed more and that it must include our Creator, God, will the suicide rates subside. The God of the Bible should be offered as the primary intervention for this suicide challenge. Through a relationship with God, and applying the wonderful ‘spiritual exercises’ found in His guidelines to handling life, the Bible, our soldiers will be able to much more effectively cope with the issues that cause so many to take their lives.”
- Two University of Colorado professors have devised a model to predict who will win the presidential election under current economic circumstances, reports denverpost.com. The victor, they say, will be Republican Mitt Romney. The model uses economic indicators from all 50 states to predict the race’s outcome. The forecast calls for Romney to win 320 electoral votes out of 538. It says Romney will also win virtually every state currently considered a swing state, including Colorado. The professors who created the model, Ken Bickers from CU-Boulder and Michael Berry from CU-Denver, say it correctly forecast every winner of the electoral since 1980. They warn the model does not account for sudden changes in the economy or unexpected developments in states split 50-50. Polls in many states, including Colorado, show a virtually deadlocked race.
- A Wisconsin-based group has accused a Georgia high school football coach of violating the First Amendment by allowing local churches to prepare meals for his team. The Freedom From Religion Foundation sent a letter to the superintendent of Walker County Schools demanding an “immediate investigation” into Ridgeland High School football coach Mark Mariakis. The FFRF is demanding the school system launch an investigation into allegations that Coach Mariakis allowed churches to prepare pregame meals for his football team. They also allege that the coach prayed with his team, used Bible verses in motivational speeches and on team shirts, and participated in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. The Walker County School system released a statement acknowledging they have received the letter and are reviewing its contents. The FFRF said a local individual complained about a longstanding tradition of local churches providing meals to the teenage football players on game day. The complainant said a minister would typically deliver remarks “about the Christian religion.” The Chattanooga Valley Baptist Church is scheduled to provide a meal for the football team in late October. Richie White, the church’s youth director, said he was quite surprised to hear that an outside group had issues with feeding children. “It would be interesting to see what part of the Constitution we violated by simply offering a meal to fellow Americans,” he told Fox News. “These are kids from our area that we do love and we do care about.” White said several members of the church youth group are on the football squad—and it’s been a tradition to show their support for school athletics. “We as Christians don’t force our religion on anyone,” he said, suggesting that perhaps Christians are treated differently. “We’re being persecuted because we believe there is a God who created us,” White said. “I don’t think there’s an equal playing field because we base our lives and our views on the Scripture.” Robert Jeffress, the pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas, and a national commentator on social issues, said it’s time for Christians to stand up against the attacks from the FFRF. “The Freedom From Religion Foundation has dedicated itself to perverting the very real First Amendment freedom of religious expression for an imaginary freedom from religious expression,” he told Fox News. “It is time for all Christians to push back against the attempts of atheistic groups and judicial activists to erase our constitutional right of freedom of religious expression.” Ken Klukowski, special counsel for the Family Research Council said the FFRF has a long history of going after public displays of religion. Their mission, he said is very clear. “They believe all religious faith is inherently and irredeemably harmful to human society,” Klukowski told Fox News. “It’s not their mission to separate church and state. It’s their mission to eradicate religion from American culture altogether.”
- With an eye on Rep. Todd Akin’s comments and the GOP’s mad dash away from the Missouri Senate candidate, the Democrats are turning their upcoming presidential convention into a pro-choice assault on the Republicans with the help of major abortion supporters, reports washingtonexaminer.com. Just as the Akin crisis was reaching a crescendo, the Democrats on Wednesday announced that three starlets of the pro-choice movement will be featured at the convention, an event that will now drive the liberal charge that the Republicans are anti-women. Democrats said that they will feature Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parent Action Fund; Nancy Keenan, president of the NARAL Pro-Choice America; and Sandra Fluke, the Georgetown University student whose plea for federal birth control funding drew the ire—and a subsequent apology—from Rush Limbaugh. For abortion opponents, bailing on the staunchly anti-abortion Akin after years of 100 percent ratings from the National Right to Life made no sense, especially when his comments came as he clumsily defended unborn children who are the result of rape, reports bighealthreport.com.
- A professor who was fired in July by the Interdenominational Theological Centersays the Atlanta consortium of black seminaries discriminated against his conservative Christian views, reports Christianity Today. The Rev. Jamal-Dominique Hopkins, an African-American expert on the Dead Sea Scrolls, filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. He accused ITC administrators of harassment that included “disagreeing with my conservative religious ideals, intimidating me, slandering my character, giving me poor evaluations, and changing student grades from failing to passing with no merit.” Hopkins, 42, told Religion News Service that tensions arose after a speaker from InterVarsity Christian Fellowship addressed an informal session he organized in February. During the session, attendees were offered a book that declared homosexuality was a sin. He said his department chair, the Rev. Margaret Aymer, questioned the distribution of the book and threatened his job. “It was primarily the book that created an issue,” said Hopkins, a former associate professor of New Testament. Hopkins provided RNS with grade sheets, with redacted student names, that show several grades changed from his original marking, including one that was altered from an F to an A-. “It says to a student that you don’t have to respect that professor; you can go to the department head or the provost and change the grade,” said Hopkins. Joe C. Hopkins, Hopkins’ father and a California-based lawyer, is representing his son and said a suit could be filed if negotiations cannot resolve the case. “This is retaliation for standing up for his rights, bottom line,” Joe Hopkins said.
- There has been an alarming increase in the number of West Nile cases nationwide, with more than 1,100 reported, according to officials with the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, reports The Washington Post. The latest CDC figures, released Wednesday, show that the national total for West Nile infections is three times as many as usually seen at this point in the year, officials said. Seventy-five percent of those cases were reported in five states—Louisiana, Oklahoma, Mississippi, South Dakota and Texas—with about half in Texas. An outbreak of antibiotic-resistant bacteria killed six despite extreme measures taken to stop its spread. “We are in the midst of one of the worst West Nile virus outbreaks ever seen in the U.S.,” Lyle R. Petersen, director of the CDC’s Division of Vector-Borne Infectious Diseases, said at a briefing. West Nile cases can be reported in various ways, as mild fevers or more serious diseases. Of the reported infections, at least 629 were of the more serious neuroinvasive diseases, Petersen said. Currently, he said, one of every 150 people infected with the virus develops the more serious illnesses, such as West Nile encephalitis, meningitis, or poliomyelitis. More than half of those infected in Dallas County this year developed the more severe illnesses.
- Due to mistaken information from a higher education organization, some colleges were recently claiming that homeschool graduates are no longer eligible for federal student aid unless they have a GED. The Home School Legal Defense Association reports that it has been working hard to refute this erroneous claim: “We brought this issue to the attention of the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Non-Public Education. The ONPE staff immediately started working within the U.S. Department of Education to see if they could help clarify that homeschoolers are fully eligible for all federal student aid. They were successful, and on June 28, 2012, the Department of Education published a guidance letter to all colleges and universities across the country clarifying that there have been no changes to homeschool students’ eligibility for federal student aid. The letter plainly states that homeschool students are eligible for federal student aid if “the student has completed a secondary school education in a homeschool setting that qualifies as an exemption from compulsory school attendance requirements under State law.” This fully covers every homeschool graduate, and again reiterates the law: homeschool graduates are fully eligible for federal student aid and they do not need a GED. The HSLDA “thanks the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Non-Public Education for their hard work to ensure that homeschool graduates are treated equally under the law. This letter is an excellent resource to send to a college or university if it tries to claim that homeschool graduates need a GED in order to be eligible for federal student aid.”
- Bishop Earl Walker Jackson Sr. (E. W. Jackson) has issued a plea for all Christians to leave the Democratic Party, reports Dave Jolly in godfatherpolitics.com. Like Barack Obama, Jackson is a graduate of Harvard Law School. Unlike Obama, Jackson served in the U.S. Marine Corps. Following law school, he was a practicing attorney for 15 years in Boston. During his time in Boston, he served as chaplain for the Boston Red Sox for five years and as a Protestant chaplain for the Boston fire department. He was involved with The Samaritan Project to help churches that had been damaged by arson. In 1998 Jackson was ordained as a bishop and head of Exodus Faith Ministries in Chesapeake, Virginia. In 2009 Bishop Jackson launched a national grassroots organization aimed at restoring America’s Judeo-Christian foundations. S.T.A.N.D. (Staying True to America’s National Destiny) is dedicated to restoring the faith, values, and Christian culture that America once had but has since lost. Earlier this year Jackson ran for U.S. Senate in the Virginia primary, but was defeated by fellow Republican George Allen. In his plea for Christians to make an exodus from the Democratic Party, Jackson refers to the party as “cult-like”and cited the following reasons for his statement and actions:pPro-abortion; rejection of Biblical family model and values; open hostility to anyone who expresses their Christian values, including Dan Cathy of Chick-fil-A and Olympic gold medal gymnast Gabby Douglas; actions taken against cities and towns for displaying crosses at memorials; actions taken against anyone who invokes the name of Jesus during prayers at official events.
- Muslims torched Christian homes and “destroyed” a church in a slum area of Islamabad while suspected militants shot at another church outside Pakistan’s capital, after the jailing of a mentally handicapped Christian girl for “blasphemy,” reports Worthy Christian News. Worthy News also reports that rebels linked to Islamic terror groups are reportedly targeting Syrian Christians, and it remained unclear whether everyone fleeing the violence would be able to reach neighboring Turkey. “Religious minority groups have become a primary target” of rebels linked to terror group “Al-Qaida and other Islamists who are executing attacks in ‘the name of Allah’,” said International Christian Concern, a major advocacy group.