A Response to “John” Regarding Pastor Lively
Wednesday, August 21, 2013, 8:47 PM


Earlier this week, I posted a blog about a federal court decision to proceed in a lawsuit against Pastor Scott Lively of Massachusetts.  The lawsuit, brought by a group of Ugandan homosexuals, claimed that Pastor Lively’s advocacy in Uganda of a biblical standard of human sexuality constituted a “crime against humanity.”  In one of the comments in response to my blog, “John” observed the following:

Michael Avramovich: “Thus, under the judge’s theory of liability, if you oppose homosexual marriage, or have worked or contributed in opposition to such a “marriage,” or disfavor any special rights for homosexuals in the workplace, etc.”  Scott Lively is not simply opposing same sex marriage.  He is the most extreme of extremists and a sick and dangerous man.  Among his fever dreams are that gays helped mastermind the Holocaust and were responsible for the Rwandan genocide.  He has been active in stirring up hatred in a situation already charged with violence.  Judge Ponsor initially had doubts about allowing the case to go forward.  As I understand it, all Ponsor has done is allowed the case to go to discovery.  He states that, according to the complaint, “the Defendants actions have fallen well outside the protections of the First Amendment.”  Ponsor acknowledged that the “protection of ‘thought we hate’ is a centerpiece of our democracy,” but added that the complaint “sets out plausible claims to hold Defendant liable for his role in systematic persecution, rather than merely for opinions that Plaintiff finds abhorrent.”  I suspect that, because of ATCA, the plaintiffs will probably not prevail.  However, if Lively indeed encouraged “systematic persecution,” it is important that this comes out in discovery. This will allow us all to come to educated conclusions, regardless of the outcome of the case (which may be limited on technical grounds.)

I do not know Pastor Lively and have actually never heard of him until this lawsuit was well underway, so I cannot opine as to whether he is the “most extreme of extremists and a sick and dangerous man,” as “John” contends.  Moreover, “John” seems to have some inside knowledge about the Honorable Judge Ponsor, as “John” suggested that the judge had some initial doubts about allowing this case to go forward.

I have had the privilege to live and travel throughout the world, and those who have had the privilege to know Africans, and African Christians in particular, know that they are traditional and conservative, and oppose homosexual (and other non-matrimonial) sexual practices.  (I have heard one Sunday morning a Nigerian pastor, for instance, warn strongly that some of the women in his congregation were “whores” for taking up with both unmarried and married men.  It was not the typical message one hears on Sunday morning in the American heartland.)  In the lawsuit by the Ugandan homosexuals, they attributed Pastor Lively’s sermons in Uganda to be the primary impetus for Ugandan government restrictions on homosexual practices.  If true, this is an interesting attestation of Pastor Lively’s strong persuasive abilities, and may explain why the Soros-funded Center for Constitutional Rights targeted Pastor Lively.  But I remind my American readers that criminalization of sodomy statutes in the United States were not struck down by the Supreme Court until 2003, so perhaps for at least one American federal judge, the Ugandan government is not “evolving” as quickly as he thinks it should.

In any event, I wanted to take the time to respond to “John’s” thoughtful comment, but my original blog warned that Judge Ponsor’s decision could have a chilling effect on Christian pastors, missionaries, and devout believers to preach from the Bible.  The fact that this case is going forward in federal court federalizes and criminalizes viewpoint discrimination against Christians.  From comments made on pro-homosexual and Leftist blogs about this case, one reads vehement anti-Christian comments.  A small, unedited sample includes the following:

Mr. Pink: I thought I would have to wait decades to see this day. Literally, decades. There is justice in the world after all !!!!

Marcus Adams: Christianity is a Crime Against Humanity.

Jon Bond: Crimes against humanity, aid in the persecution and murder of fellow men the world over, unprovoked, unwarranted and out-of-the-way fanaticism to murder and kill GLBT peeps the world over; all perpetrated, accepted, sanctioned, blessed and justified in the NAME OF GOD?

David L. Martin: Terrific! We need to see more individuals and institutions that have advocated the persecution of gays sued. The catholic church which has taught anti gay hate from pulpits and in schools for centuries for comes resulting in much violence and discrimination against gays.

We can clearly see a trend by homosexuals and their allies who seek to silence and intimidate anyone who rejects affirmation of their “lifestyle.”  Moreover, I can expect that the anti-Christian rabble will increasingly use the legal and criminal justice system to extract high costs for proclaiming biblical truths.  So, you have been forewarned for such things have happened before.  (We must never forget what was done to my dear brother in Christ, Joseph Scheidler, by the forces of evil.  In case you have forgotten, please read here.)

As the legal issues in this case are clear, in normal times, I think that Judge Ponsor’s decision will be overturned sooner rather than later for his complete disregard of the Supreme Court’s recent decision restricting the use of the Alien Torts Claim Act in this type of case.  But, sadly, these are not normal times, and I can easily imagine appellate judges refusing to follow the law for fear from Leftists and their allies, and for Messrs. Obama and Holder intervening in this case to make sure that Pastor Lively’s views will be forever suppressed, and that he will be destroyed financially.  If you want to read the Honorable Judge Ponsor’s Opinion in this case, you can read it here.  I hope that this clarifies things more fully for you, my friend “John.”


Chicago’s Safe (and Unsafe) Zones for Kids
Friday, August 9, 2013, 11:03 AM

“Chicago Public Schools added nearly $8 million to the program and is hiring an additional 600 people to escort students along designated safety routes during arrival and dismissal times.”

Does the publishing of safe passage routes mean other routes are not safe? In many cases the “safe” passage is only one block long in each of four directions from the school–many other blocks undesignated “Safe Passage” must be traversed in order to get to school. These are not just high schools, but middle schools and elementary schools. They are not citywide, but selected–mostly determined by the fact that the City CLOSED many schools this year, forcing some students to walk from a closed local school district to one that is nearby, thus having to walk through areas they hadn’t before. But a one block-long safe passage zone seems to me to be a bandaid. They closed the schools to save money, and now they are spending $8 million to address the concerns of parents caused by the closings.

The streets here are a mess in terms of violence in certain neighborhoods (these safe passages are not all in what I would have called ‘bad neighborhoods, by the way), and the policies that have been put in place by the city leaders here for the past 40 years have not made the slightest difference in the prospects of a young child growing up in these neighborhoods, nor is there the slightest discernible difference being made today by these policies such that you could plausibly project a turnaround in the near or distant future. Until something really radical is done (and don’t ask me what–I am not running for office telling people how I will help change their lives), the local news coverage 40 years from now will be about shootings, gangs, drugs (maybe), and other features of a neighborhood in which a 5-year-old boy has the same chance of ending up in prison as one does now. This is not compassion. It’s indifference, as long as the votes can be farmed.


IRS Is Currently Harassing Pro-Life Groups
Friday, August 2, 2013, 10:18 AM

The Thomas More Society has issued a statement detailing the continuing harassment of Pro-Life groups by the IRS. Their press release for the statement includes:

“Despite claims by the Obama Administration that the harassment has ceased, the Society produced over 250 pages of documentation showing that the federal government is still interrogating pro-life groups beyond the scope of its legal authority, infringing upon these organizations’ First Amendment rights of assembly, free speech, and religious liberty.”

“Despite claims to the contrary, the IRS continues to target and harass pro-life and conservative charities, illegally questioning their religious activities and withholding their tax exemptions,” said Peter Breen vice president and senior counsel of the Thomas More Society. “We have now produced irrefutable evidence of six clients whose First Amendment rights were trampled upon by the IRS because of their position upholding the sanctity of life. Even after public disclosure of this wrongdoing, the Obama Administration’s IRS has refused to cease its illegal activity. We will continue to aid Congress in its investigation until those responsible are brought to justice and the IRS is made to respect every American’s constitutional rights.”

Dated July 19, 2013, Exhibit F-3 in supplemental documentation posted on-line includes this IRS request to a Florida pro-life organization which has been seeking non-profit approval for over a year: “Will you promote demonstrations and/or rallies at clinic [sic] and/or hospitals to stop abortions in your community? If so, please explain.” (The request can be seen on page 195 of the 227 pages.)

Perhaps American citizens might ask the IRS: “Will you drag your feet and ask improper questions to any pro-life organizations to hamper and/or stop pro-life activities in the United States? If so, please explain.”

A Plague of Insomnia Leads to Amnesia…
Friday, July 19, 2013, 12:10 PM

Bernard Aparicio writes at the blog at Dappled Things about the vocation of teaching and the goal of education through the lens of a fictional and fascinating “plague of insomnia.” (He is also the author of The Possible Dream: The Quixotic Wisdom of Don Quijote’s Sancho in the July/August 2010 issue of Touchstone.) His story of how he discovered meaning in education beyond training is encouraging.

Oscar Wilde & Orson Scott Card
Wednesday, July 17, 2013, 10:02 AM

By Greg Laughlin

In 1895, Oscar Wilde was convicted of “gross indecency” and sentenced to two years’ hard labor.  The term “gross indecency” was an legal euphemism for homosexual behavior.  As a result of his conviction, the librarians at the St. Louis Public Library and the Newark Public Library removed Wilde’s books from their collections.  The books had been on the shelves for a while and the librarians apparently had no objection to their contents.  The librarians removed them strictly because they disapproved of the behavior for which Wilde was convicted.  In 1984, in her book, Forbidden Books in American Public Libraries, 1876-1939: A Study in Cultural Change, Evelyn Geller used this incident to criticize censorship, specifically, in this case, censorship based on disapproval of the author, not his works.

Today, Orson Scott Card finds himself in a somewhat similar situation, again because of “gross indecency.” However, this time, the author’s “gross indecency” was having the temerity to condemn homosexuality and oppose same-sex “marriage.” A group called “Geeks OUT” is calling for a boycott of the movie Ender’s Game, based on Card’s best-selling and award-winning book of the same title.  The movie, which stars Academy Award winner Ben Kingsley and Oscar nominees Harrison Ford, Viola Davis, Hailee Steinfeld, and Abigail Breslin, is scheduled to open in theaters on November 1, 2013.

On its web site promoting the boycott, Geeks OUT quotes Card from a February 1990 article in Sunstone Magazine: “Laws against homosexual behavior should remain on the books, not to be indiscriminately enforced against anyone who happens to be caught violating them, but to be used when necessary to send a clear message that those who flagrantly violate society’s regulation of sexual behavior cannot be permitted to remain as acceptable, equal citizens within that society.”

Geeks OUT also points to Card being a board member of the National Organization for Marriage, an organization which has worked to prevent legal recognition of same-sex “marriage.”

As with Oscar Wilde, the opposition to Ender’s Game has absolutely nothing to do with its content.  Geeks OUT is calling for a boycott specifically because of Card’s conduct.  There is division within the gay rights community over this call for a boycott.  Oscar-winning writer and gay rights activist Dustin Lance Black has criticized the boycott, calling it “misguided.”

Free speech advocates who are aware of the censorship of Wilde’s work nearly 120 years ago condemn it as an indefensible act.  And so it was.  I am sure that those who are calling for boycotts of Ender’s Game would be among those condemning it if they are aware of it.  And they would likely do so for the simple fact that an author’s conduct which has no relationship whatsoever to his work is an especially bad reason to censor it.

Admittedly, there is a difference between calling for a boycott of a movie and pulling a book from a library shelf.  The former is a call for private action.  The latter is a state action.  Legally, they are different.  But the spirit behind them is the same.  As Dustin Lance Black observed, efforts to punish writers for their conduct unrelated to their work by in any way censoring their work is “misguided.”  Further, it represents an intolerance which groups like Geeks OUT purport to condemn.  Let’s hope that Geeks OUT recognizes this and withdraws their call for a boycott of Ender’s Game.  Otherwise, they will, in time, come to be identified with the long list of those who have sought to censor authors and artists not for the content of their works, but because they disapprove of their conduct.

–Greg Laughlin

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone Video Interview
Thursday, June 27, 2013, 11:35 AM

In this video, San Francisco’s Catholic Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone spends 25 minutes with Orthodox Priest Fr. Josiah Trenham discussing “gay marriage,” its rise, and its roots in the 60s.

Russell Moore on the SCOTUS Rulings
Wednesday, June 26, 2013, 2:22 PM

Senior Editor Russell, who is now President of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, weighs in today’s high court rulings on “‘Gay’ Marriage” on his blog here and at ERLC here, the latter with a list of things your church should do.

CiRCE Institute Conference July 16-19, 2013
Wednesday, June 26, 2013, 2:00 PM

READERS will be interested in Circe Institute’s summer conference, July 16-19, Baltimore, Maryland, on the topic: “A CONTEMPLATION OF JUDGEMENT” Speakers include Touchstone‘s Ken Myers (Contours of Culture) and also Touchstone authors Dr. John Patrick (author of “The Guilty Generation,” Vigen Gurioan (author of 7 Touchstone features), among others. A description of the topic:

The carelessness of the conventional mind is reflected in its judgment that one should never judge. The trouble is, thinking, opining, and speaking are already and always judgments. We humans are incessantly, inescapably moral beings, and that is our glory.

The question is not whether we will judge, but whether we will judge wisely.  It’s hard to imagine a more practical question.

To teach is to judge. To teach is to teach a student how to judge. Everything we do, from writing to singing, from throwing a football to playing a piano, from teaching to assessing, from planning to fund-raising, requires judgment. As Thomas Aquinas wrote, ‘it is the part of the wise man to order and to judge”.

Judge well and be wise. Judge badly and be foolish.

Which do you want for your children and students?

Join us this July as, for the twelfth consective year, we contemplate the purpose, essence, and practice of Christian classical education at the 2013 CiRCE Conference: A Contemplation of Judgment, as we contemplate how best to provide an education that cultivates wisdom and virtue, that produces students able to judge wisely what is Good and True and Beautiful.

REGISTER HERE or direct any questions to info@circeinstitute.org or call: 704.794.2227

Please assist the Fellowship of St. James today with a timely donation to help us avoid as much red ink as possible as we complete our fiscal year June 30! Donate securely on-line. Thank you!

Touchstone Article Wins Templeton Award
Friday, June 21, 2013, 12:21 PM

I received this cheering message earlier today:

Greetings from South Bend!

You may be interested to hear that my July/August 2012 Touchstone article, “Passing Through the Sirens: The Trials of the Christian Wayfarer in the World,” won an essay competition sponsored by the Character Project and Templeton Foundation. The press release is here. Thank you again for the opportunity to publish, and long live Touchstone!

In Christ,
David Elliot
University of Notre Dame

It’s always gratifying to win awards. Congratulations to David Elliot and his family!

Here is a snippet from the article:

Interestingly, those born after Christ are living in a sort of twilight period between the ages. With the victory won through the Passion and Resurrection of Christ, this aion is already a dissolving phantasmagoria; a sort of theatre burning to the ground while the Christians point to the Exit sign and the worldlings keep munching popcorn. (Read more)

I would be foolish, though a bit less aggressive, if I did not take this opportunity to ask readers to help Touchstone “live long” by making a gift today. Donations made to the publisher are tax-deductible, but more importantly, they help us provide such high-quality articles in the service of building up the Body of Christ in faith, hope, and love. Perhaps you aren’t currently a subscriber–subscribing today would also help keep Touchstone going on into the future, as long as the Lord wills.

I invite you participate in the edifying work of Touchstone with a subscription (print/digital/Kindle) and/or by making a donation today. Thanks!

About Those Emergency Contraception Pills for Young Girls
Tuesday, June 18, 2013, 10:45 AM

What you subsidize is what you’ll get more of–and the Federal Government’s push to get more pills into the hands of young girls to make sure that they don’t have to face the decision of whether or not to go to see the local abortionist is only going to increase promiscuity and the number of abortions. That’s my conclusion after reading John Jansen’s report at LifeSiteNews. Why? Because it’s already happened and is documented here. A 1998 “press release contained this comment from one Dr. Anita Nelson, an Ob/Gyn professor at UCLA”:

It is estimated that nearly 50 percent of all abortions and unintended pregnancies in this country could be avoided if women had access to emergency contraception.

“That’s no small prediction. And looking back, it’s turned out to be not simply wrong, but astoundingly wrong.”

Who decides these things? Are they stupid? Are they the same people who tout “science” when it suits their agenda, but ignore empirical evidence that a policy does not work? When you keep doing the same thing over and over again and expect to get different results, isn’t that insanity?

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