The “war” on Christmas occurs not only in the U.S., reports The Christian Post. On Christmas Day, police across China tear gassed and beat Christians for worshiping at “unofficial” Christmas services, according to an American aid group in the region. “[On Christmas] morning at about 8.00 a.m. our church was holding a Christmas activity on Binjiang Road in Langzhong city,” Li Ming said in an interview with RFA on Monday. “There were around 20–30 police officers, and they used tear-gas canisters,” he said. “My eyes were so swollen I couldn’t see at all.” According to Li, police arrested three people and confiscated the group’s musical instruments and sound system. The alleged Christmas Day oppression was not limited to one city. ChinaAid, a Texas-based group that focuses on the abuse of Christians in China, reported that 30 members of Shouwang Church in Beijing were arrested while holding outdoor worship services. According to eyewitnesses who spoke to ChinaAid, police looked as if they “were getting ready for a big battle” as they streamed in to break up the proceedings and detain worshipers. “[The clampdown was] very harsh yesterday,” Chen, a Shouwang church member, said, according to RFA. “They announced that 39 people were taken to the police station. There is only one young woman who hasn’t been released yet.” Shouwang pastor Jin Tianming, told RFA that he does not know what the clampdown will mean for the future of his church, which has experienced persecution from the Chinese government in the past that caused it to permanently end outdoor services. “We rented a venue, but the authorities are putting the landlord under pressure, and he has said he wants to terminate our contract,” Jin said. “We haven’t decided what our next step will be.” In addition, six worshipers in a house, or unofficial, church were beaten and arrested in the coastal province of Zhejiang on Dec. 24, according to Pastor Luo Sennian. “They threw out all the things that belong to our church,” Luo said. “I went over there to talk to them, and immediately five or six of them set about beating me.” He added, “My son was beaten up by eight or nine people after he tried to stop them [beating me]. . . . I had a lot of blood on my face.” According to the Chinese government, religion is not illegal in China. Rather, it “is one of the important forces from which China draws strength.” However, according to Slovenian philosopher, Slavoj Zizek, the Chinese government prefers religions that “sustain social stability,” like Confucianism, over Christianity, Tibetan Buddhism, and sects like Falun Gong, which try to operate independently of authorities and end up causing “social disintegration.” Despite the Chinese government’s reputation as one of the world’s worst human rights violators, ChinaAid was “stunned” by its reaction on Christmas Day.“Why is the Chinese government, the so-called ‘People’s government,’ so scared of Christmas?” the group said in a statement.
- Counseling student Jennifer Keeton will not be returning to Augusta State University while she fights against the school’s attempt to make her complete a remediation plan designed to change her views on homosexuality, reports Baptist Press. In early December, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied Keeton’s request for a preliminary injunction, which would have forced the school to allow her to complete her studies while the case works its way through the courts. The Alliance Defense Fund, representing Keeton, filed suit against the east Georgia school in July 2010 after administrators put her on academic probation for acknowledging in private conversations and during class that she disagreed with homosexuality. School administrators claimed Keeton said it would be hard for her to counsel gay clients, a stance they said violates ethical standards for licensed counselors, as put forth by the American Counseling Association. After putting her on probation, school administrators required Keeton to complete a remediation plan that included going to gay pride events, attending sensitivity training, and writing monthly reflection papers. In arguments before a three-judge 11th Circuit panel, ADF attorney Jeff Shafer said Keeton’s First Amendment rights were violated because the school targeted her for her expressed viewpoints. He compared the school’s attempt to alter Keeton’s beliefs in order to remain in the counseling program to a business school that requires students to affirm capitalism or disavow socialism in order to graduate. Attorneys on both sides have declined to comment outside the courtroom, after a judge prohibited public statements about the case. Keeton has requested a jury trial in the Augusta Division of the U.S. District Court. A trial date has not been set.
- Presidential candidate Newt Gingrich has maintained that his divorce from his first wife, Jackie Battley Gingrich, was amicable and requested by his wife. Divorce papers recently uncovered by CNN suggest that is not true, according to The Christian Post. Gingrich’s daughter, Jackie Gingrich Cushman, wrote a May 8 article for Townhall.com in which she defended her father against accusations that he divorced Jackie Battley Gingrich because she had cancer and delivered the divorce papers while she was lying in a hospital bed. Jackie Gingrich Cushman was 13 at the time and present at the hospital visit. In her article, she says that her parents did not divorce because her mom had cancer. Her parents had already agreed to the divorce. Her mom was recovering in the hospital from the removal of a benign tumor. Newt Gingrich went to visit her in the hospital and the visit happened to coincide with when he had the divorce papers. “As with many divorces, it was hard and painful for all involved, but life continued. As have many families, we have healed; we have moved on. We are not a perfect family, but we are knit together through common bonds, commitment and love,” Jackie Gingrich Cushman wrote. While most of Jackie Gingrich Cushman’s defense of her father is not in doubt, there is one detail that the new documents appear to contradict—that her mother requested the divorce. Court documents reveal that Newt Gingrich, not his wife, filed for divorce. In a counterclaim, Jackie Battley Gingrich denied that the marriage was irretrievably broken and that she wanted a divorce. “Defendant shows that she has adequate and ample grounds for divorce, but that she does not desire one at this time,” the counterclaim states. In an interview with CNN, Leonard H. “Kip” Carter, a former close friend of Newt Gingrich, confirmed that Newt Gingrich asked for the divorce. He also told CNN that Jackie Battley Gingrich and her two daughters were living without food or utilities because of the lack of alimony payments. He recalled that their Baptist church held a food drive to help care for the family. When the pastor asked Newt Gingrich to give to the fund, he donated $100.
- Hundreds of Occupy activists from at least 10 states were expected to participate in a “People’s Caucus” near the Capitol to plot activities between now and the Jan. 3 caucuses, reports theblaze.com. The activists are promising to interrupt candidates at events and camp out at their Iowa campaign offices. They say they want to change the political dialogue, but critics fear their tactics could tarnish Iowa’s reputation for civil political discourse ahead of the contest. Activists say mass arrests are possible. They planned to break up into preference groups based on which candidates they want to target and present with a list of grievances. Organizers are encouraging activists who live in Iowa to show up on caucus night and vote “no preference” as a protest but say they have no plans to interfere with the voting itself. Nonetheless, state Republican Party officials have instructed precinct leaders to report any disruption to police and the party.
- The wealth gap between those governing the U.S. and the people they represent has dramatically widened, reports The Daily Mail. Against a backdrop of a vast budget deficit and fears of the fragility of the economy, analysis by the Washington Post shows that the median net worth of a member of Congress has nearly tripled over 25 years, while the income of an average U.S. family has actually fallen. It calculated that their median net worth, between 1984 and 2009 and excluding home equity, rose from $280,000 to $725,000.
- Cardinal Donald Wuerl, head of the Catholic archdiocese of Washington, D.C., issued a warning last week against the implementation of an Obamacare regulation that would place many Catholic employers in an “untenable position” by requiring all health care plans to cover sterilization and abortion-inducing contraceptives, in violation of religious liberty and particularly Catholic moral teaching, reports CNS News. His warning coincided with a full-page ad by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which said the regulation, set to start on Aug. 1, 2012, could “severely curtail” Catholic health care providers. Catholic institutions account for 12.7 percent of the nation’s hospitals, according to the 2009 American Hospital Association Annual Survey, with more than 5.6 million patients admitted to Catholic hospitals in a one-year period. An additional 1,400 long-term care and other Catholic health facilities are present in all 50 states, according to the Catholic Health Association of the United States. There are about 70 million Catholics in the United States. Wuerl, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Doctrine, sent out an e-mail action alert on Dec. 22 calling the Obamacare regulation “an issue of fundamental, national importance,” pitting Catholic religious beliefs against the Obama administration’s regulation.
- A former aide to Ron Paul has labeled the Republican White House hopeful as “anti-Israel” after the rediscovery of racially charged newsletters published under the lawmaker’s name in the 1980s and 1990s, reports newsmax.com. The staunchly libertarian candidate “wishes the Israeli state did not exist at all,” Eric Dondero wrote in a column for website RightWingNews.com published Monday. “He expressed this to me numerous times in our private conversations.” Dondero, a senior aide from 1997 to 2003 and earlier an assistant in various campaign roles beginning in the late 1980s, said the Texas lawmaker “sides with the Palestinians, and supports their calls for the abolishment of the Jewish state, and the return of Israel, all of it, to the Arabs.” However, he insisted that Paul is not a racist, as some critics have charged after the newsletters released in recent weeks foretold a “coming race war” in U.S. urban centers. In a statement to CBS, the Paul campaign on Tuesday dismissed Dondero as a “disgruntled former staffer who was fired for performance issues.” Paul already lacked key support from Republican Jewish leaders for his White House bid, largely over his consistent opposition to U.S. military aid to Israel, in synch with his views across the board against sending U.S. aid overseas, and scaling back U.S. military ambitions. Backing from influential Jewish leaders in the party is seen as key to gaining the Republican party nomination for president. Polls suggest that only around 2 percent of voters nationwide are Jewish, but they could wield decisive power in vital swing states such as Florida and Pennsylvania.
- The influence of “our Muslim president and his jihadist brotherhood” is changing the face of our U.S. military, says Godfather Politics. In the most recent change, the Department of Defense has supposedly given their approval to a measure that allows Muslim ROTC (Reserve Officers’ Training Corps) to wear traditional headscarves and turbans along with their uniforms. This was brought on by the involvement of the Council on American Islamic Relations. The action was taken by the DOD in response to a complaint filed on behalf of a Tennessee high school JROTC cadet who was told that she was not allowed to wear her hijab in the homecoming parade. That is when the Council on American Islamic Relations became involved her case and the complaint made its way to the Pentagon. Other Muslim involvement with the military includes the US Armed Forces Muslim chaplain program which was started in 1993. The organization responsible for the official endorsement of new Muslim military chaplains is the Islamic Society of North America. The ISNA has been conducting annual Muslim chaplain conferences for military and prison chaplains. The Army’s Muslim Chaplain Program was initially started by Abdul Rahman al-Amoudi, an Islamic cleric whose credentials included serving as President Bill Clinton’s Islamic Advisor. Al-Amoudi appointed Imam Abdul-Rasheed Muhammad to be the first Muslim military chaplain and was instrumental in the appointment of several others. Al-Amoudi is currently serving 23 years in prison for illegal financial activities involving terrorism and for his part in the Libyan plot to assassinate Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah. Imam Abdul-Rasheed Muhammad, the first military Muslim chaplain, who is still serving in the capacity, was converted to Islam through the Lost-Found Nation of Islam. This organization advocated racial separation and black nationalism. Muhammad has also admitted that he is involved with a group known as the Muslim World League, which is a Saudi based charity that has been accused of helping to finance terrorism and has also been linked to al-Qaeda.
- Great Britain’s prime minister has declared of his country what President Obama has notably denied of his own, according to Patriot Update. Speaking to an audience of Church of England clergy at Christ Church, Oxford, during one of the many official events celebrating the 400th anniversary of the King James Version of Scripture, Prime Minister David Cameron unashamedly declared of Britain, “We are a Christian country,” adding, “We should not be afraid to say so.” While he quickly emphasized that he was “not in any way saying that to have another faith—or no faith—is somehow wrong,” Cameron nonetheless acknowledged that “the Bible has helped to give Britain a set of values and morals which make Britain what it is today.” He challenged his audience that Biblical morals and values are something “we should actively stand up and defend,” warning that the “alternative of moral neutrality should not be an option. You can’t fight something with nothing—because if we don’t stand for something, we can’t stand against anything.” Challenging the moral neutrality that has infected British—as well as American—society over the past few decades, Cameron declared that “for too long we have been unwilling to distinguish right from wrong. ‘Live and let live’ has too often become ‘do what you please.’ Bad choices have too often been defended as just different lifestyles.” But, he added, “To be confident in saying something is wrong is not a sign of weakness; it’s a strength.” Cameron challenged that it is time for Britain to return to the Christian values that made it a strong nation in the first place, to “have the confidence to say to people—this is what defines us as a society, and that to belong here is to believe in these things.”
- A baby boy with two perfectly formed heads was born in Brazil this week, the country’s media and Fox News reports. The 10.1-pound baby was delivered by emergency C-section early Monday in Anajas, in the northeastern Para State. “And for us, it was a great surprise to find out that the child was in really good health,” said Claudionor Assis de Vasconcelos, director of Hospital Municipal de Anajas. The baby’s 23-year-old Brazilian mother was admitted to the Hospital Municipal de Anajas in severe pain, Diario do Para reported. She did not have any ultrasound exams during her pregnancy and was made aware of the baby’s condition only a few moments before the birth. Both heads have started nursing normally, doctors told the media. Joseph Brazil, the obstetrician responsible for the delivery, said the child has “an amazing appetite.” “Despite all the problems we have as a small interior hospital we managed to save both mother and baby, which was our aim,” Vasconcelos told reporters. The baby’s mother, who has other children, has bonded well with her newborn and wanted to take the child home straightaway, she added. However, the mother and baby were taken Wednesday by air ambulance to the city of Belem so doctors could carry out further tests. Neila Dahas, obstetrician and gynecologist at the Santa Casa de Misericordia Hospital, said the baby was born with two heads as a result of “a delay in the division of the egg.” “I want her [the mother] to understand that she does not have a monstrous son, a son with two heads, but she has two sons.” The mother named them Emanoel and Jesus. Dahas said that it “would be absolutely impossible” to separate the two heads, as their body shares a liver, heart, lungs, and pelvis. This is the second case of a two-headed baby being born in northeastern Brazil this year. Sueli Ferreira, 27, gave birth to a child with two heads in Campina in Paraiba state, but the baby died a few hours later because of lack of oxygen to one of the heads.
- A Christian college is suing the Obama administration over requiring businesses to pay for insurance plans that cover Plan B and ella, two types of birth-control pills the college and other prolife advocates view as abortifacient, reports The Washington Times. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius handed down the mandate last summer in a list of preventative services insurers must cover without copayments (i.e., free upon purchase) under President Obama’s health-care law. Colorado Christian University filed a lawsuit against the mandate, charging that it violates the constitutional rights of free speech and religion. “The government’s mandate unconstitutionally coerces Colorado Christian to violate its deeply-held religious beliefs under threat of heavy fines and penalties,” the lawsuit said. “The mandate also forces Colorado Christian to fund government-dictated speech that is directly at odds with its own speech and religious teachings. Having to pay a fine to the taxing authorities for the privilege of practicing one’s religion or controlling one’s own speech is un-American, unprecedented, and flagrantly unconstitutional.” While the rule does allow for some religious exemptions, opponents say they aren’t broad enough. In a full-page ad that ran in the New York Times and the Washington Post, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops said it puts many religious organizations and individuals in an untenable position. “As written, the rule will force Catholic organizations that play a vital role in providing health care and other needed services either to violate their conscience or severely curtail those services,” the ad said. “This would harm both religious freedom and access to health care.”