A Christian of Integrity Resigns His Office
Monday, October 20, 2014, 9:35 AM

John Kallam, Jr., is a Rockingham County, North Carolina, magistrate.  The county is referred to as “North Carolina’s North Star.”  In North Carolina, magistrates typically adjudicate smaller legal cases and conduct preliminary matters in criminal cases, such as setting bail.  Magistrates also conduct civil marriages.  One of the shining stars of this county is Magistrate Kallam, who is a devout Christian believer.  Late last week, Magistrate Kallam resigned his office because he did not wish to violate his oath, and “marry” homosexual and lesbian couples as such “marriages” are now permitted in North Carolina.  In his resignation letter to Chief District Judge Fred Wilkins, Magistrate Kallam wrote the following in pertinent part:

It is with deep regret that I must inform you of my intent to resign from my current position as Magistrate effective 31 October 2014.  It is my intent to use my remaining administrative days for the remainder of this month.  When I took my oath of office, I understood I would be required to perform weddings and have done so throughout my tenure.  I did not however take that oath with any understanding that I would be required to marry same sex couples.  It is my personal belief and a position of my Christian faith that doing so would desecrate a holy Institution established by God Himself.  Since performing marriages is an integral part of being a Magistrate and in light of recent changes in North Carolina law. I can no longer fulfill my oath of office in good faith.

Emphasis added.  The Honorable Judge Wilkins said that Magistrate Kallam is “a good honorable man and a good man who stuck by his convictions.”  Notwithstanding the gracious words of Judge Wilkins, he went on to say that if Magistrate Kallam refused to “marry” homosexual or lesbian couples, then he would be suspended.

Magistrate Kallam’s resignation merits deep respect and admiration.  It often seems that there are few Christians in modern-day America who are willing to take a principled, moral stand that affects their professional standing and livelihood.  Far too often, American Christians, particularly as compared to Christians in other countries who face daily persecution and violence against them, simply go along to get along, and avoid rocking the boat.  I don’t say that to impugn an improper motive; rather in our politically correct world, American Christians are often intimidated not to speak.  And as has been observed by many, such intimidation is accomplished because Christians are often not informed and are uncomfortable with these issues.  After all, no Christian wants to be seen as a “hater.”  In Magistrate Kallam’s resignation letter, he concludes powerfully:

I am reminded of the last words of David who said, “He that rules over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God.”  Where there is no “fear of God,” there can be no justice!”

Homosexualists and other evildoers have long sought to silence Christians who have stood courageously against what Jesus described as unbelieving and perverse generations.  Ancient sources tell us that the Roman Emperor Nero, who sent St. Peter and St. Paul, and many other now-unknown Christians, to their martyrdom, was “married” to two men, Sporus and Pythagoras.  Please pray for Magistrate Kallam and his family as he begins a new stage of his life on November 1, but let us thank God for his Christian witness, strength, and courage.  He is truly a shining, bright light in North Carolina’s North Star.  May God continue to bless you richly, Magistrate Kallam.



High Court Affirms Death Sentence for Asia Bibi
Thursday, October 16, 2014, 4:05 PM

On these pages, I have written a series of blogs regarding the plight of Asia Bibi.  My regular readers will recall that Asia Bibi is a Pakistani Christian woman who was sentenced to death under Pakistan’s notorious criminal code section 295(c), which prescribes the death penalty for “insulting” Mohammed and Islam.  She is a 47-year-old Roman Catholic rural farm worker and a married mother of five.  In June 2009, while working in the fields, she was sent to bring water for the other farm workers.  Some of the Moslem workers refused to drink the water she brought as they considered water touched by Christians to be “unclean.”  Her co-workers then complained to the authorities that she made derogatory comments about Mohammed.  What was the derogatory comment she purportedly made against Mohammed?  The Moslem women claimed Asia Bibi said: “I believe in my religion and in Jesus Christ, who died on the cross for the sins of mankind.  What did your prophet Mohammed ever do to save mankind?”  Asia Bibi is illiterate, and is considered an uneducated woman, but she asked a deeply profound question.  One of the great differences between the Holy Bible and Islamic teaching is that the Holy Bible teaches in Ephesians 2: 8 and 9 that salvation is by grace through faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, and our salvation does not depend upon our good works or any personal merit.  In contrast, the Qur’an teaches that salvation is by sincerity and good works (see, e.g., Qur’an 3:135; 7:8-9, 21:47, 66:8-9).  Thus, Islam teaches that one cannot know and experience God’s assurance of eternal salvation unless one dies in jihad.

Six days after the water incident, a violent mob came to Asia Bibi’s home, damaged it, and assaulted and beat her and members of her family.  In response, Pakistani police arrested her, and she spent more than one year in jail awaiting trial.  Finally, in November 2010, The Honorable Judge Muhammed Naveed Iqbal sentenced her to death by hanging, and he fined her the equivalent of $1,100, a princely sum in rural Pakistan.  Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari refused to pardon her after large demonstrations were held against her.  My readers may remember that several Pakistani government officials who publicly called for Asia Bibi’s release and the abolition of the Pakistan’s blasphemy law have been assassinated, including the Governor of Punjab, Salmaan Taseer, who was murdered by his bodyguard.  Shahbaz Bhatti, the only Christian member of Pakistan’s cabinet, was assassinated for speaking out on her behalf as well.

In my blog from last July regarding Asia Bibi, I wrote the following:

Asia Bibi’s case is now up for further appeal by the High Court of Lahore, Pakistan.  In fact, for the fifth time over a number of years, the hearing for her appeal didn’t happen.  No reasons are ever given for the delay, and no new hearing dates are set.  The excuses given for the delays have been varied; there have been sick judges and sick lawyers who couldn’t make it at the appointed day and hour.  As you can well imagine, the government fears the people if she is released, and the government further fears that financial donors from the international community will cut off or curtail foreign aid if she is executed.  Pakistan, an erstwhile ally of the United States in what used to be the war against terrorism, has received tens of billions of our tax dollars in foreign and military aid over just the past decade, and continues to receive large sums.  Thus, with the moral courage of Pontius Pilate, the High Court judges find every excuse not to give Asia Bibi her day in court.  And justice delayed is justice denied.

However, in recent days, the High Court in Lahore rejected her appeal and upheld her death sentence.  Over the past four years, Christian lawyers in Pakistan have been working on the appeal of her case, along with numerous others who sit on Pakistan’s “blasphemy death row.”  Although Asia Bibi was represented in court by her legal team and had support from the Provincial Minister for Minorities Affairs, as well as support from human rights activists from other NGOs, the courtroom at her appeal was packed with lawyers from the Islamic Organization, Khatam-e Nabowat, and an estimated twenty mullahs who were there to support the complainant.  The New York Times reported:

The Lahore courtroom was packed with clerics and members of extremist groups who supported the prosecution, and they erupted in celebration upon hearing the two-judge panel’s decision to dismiss Ms. Bibi’s appeal.  “Let us celebrate by distributing sweets!” said one cleric who was reciting verses from the Quran throughout the almost two-and-a-half-hour court proceeding.  “I am very happy,” said Qari Salaam, a co-worker of Ms. Bibi’s and the main complainant in the case.  “The judges have given a verdict on merit, and Asia deserved it.”

Ms. Bibi’s husband, Ashiq Masih, expressed disappointment after the verdict.  As he left court, he poignantly said, “We were hoping for some relief, but alas.”  Asia Bibi now has 30 days to appeal to the Supreme Court of Pakistan.  The New York Times, quoting unnamed analysts, noted that given the huge backlog of cases at the Supreme Court, it could take at least three years before her appeal will be heard.

Last Christmas, Asia Bibi wrote a letter to Pope Francis, in which she thanked him and all the churches praying for her.  She credited the prayers of God’s people for her survival after years in prison.  In her letter to Pope Francis, she expressed her desire to be in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome to pray with Pope Francis for Christmas 2014.  Lord Jesus, may it be so.  Please continue to pray for Asia Bibi and her family, and her legal team, and let us work together so that she can worship or Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in Rome later this year.



Indiana State Trooper Sued for Witnessing to Jesus Christ
Monday, October 13, 2014, 9:28 AM

On August 9, 2014, Ms. Ellen Bogan, 60, was pulled over by Indiana State Trooper Brian Hamilton for an alleged illegal pass while speeding.  During the traffic stop, Trooper Hamilton issued a warning ticket.  (A warning ticket for speeding and an illegal pass?  They are so nice in Indiana!)  However, Ms. Bogan has now alleged in a lawsuit filed on her behalf by the American Civil (Criminal?) Liberties Union (“ACLU”) against Trooper Hamilton that he asked her if she had accepted Jesus Christ as her personal Savior, and whether she attended church.  She further alleged that he gave her a pamphlet that outlines “God’s plan for salvation,” which includes a recommended suggestion to “realize you’re a sinner” and to “realize the Lord Jesus Christ paid the penalty for your sins.”  (Yes, it is true that all speeders are sinners.)  The pamphlet, published by the First Baptist Church of Cambridge, Indiana, advertised a radio program called “Policing for Jesus Ministries” hosted by “Trooper Dan Jones.”  In an interview with the Indianapolis Star, Ms. Bogan said, “It’s completely out of line and it just — it took me aback.  The whole time, his lights were on.  I had no reason to believe I could just pull away at that point, even though I had my warning.”  You can read the lawsuit here.

Indiana University Professor of Law Jennifer A. Drobac, who holds a doctorate in law from Stanford University Law School, told the Indianapolis Star, “The most important thing for people to understand is that the First Amendment specifies that the government shall not prefer one religion over another religion, or religious adherence over anything else.  The police officer is representing the government … so that means, as a representative, this person, while on duty, while engaged in official action, is basically overstepping and is trying to establish religion.”  Of course, Professor Drobac did not speak to the issue of the Trooper’s free speech rights.  In fact, Micah Clark of the American Family Association of Indiana, told USA Today, “I have people pass out religious material all the time, and it doesn’t offend me.  [This case] might not be the most persuasive time to talk to someone about their faith, but I don’t think that a police officer is prohibited from doing something like that.”  Mr. Clark is questioning whether a police officer should lose his right to free speech merely because he is wearing a badge.  After all, according to Indiana State Police spokesman Captain David Bursten, there is not a specific policy that addresses officers who distribute religious materials.

Over the years, I have attended a number of events sponsored by the Fellowship of Christian Peace Officers (www.fcpo.org), and I know that we have many devout brothers and sisters in Christ who deal daily in a sordid and dangerous world that is unimaginable for most of us.  (According to the National Law Enforcement Officers organization, through October 12, there have been 91 police officers killed in the line of duty across the United States in 2014.)  But I have to admit that if I were pulled over and an officer asked me to consider conversion to Islam, the Church of Euthanasia, or the Creativity Movement, I would be deeply troubled.  However, if he were to ask me to consider Scientology, or The Church of All Worlds, or even the Prince Philip Movement, it would simply be a funny story to tell my buddies at work and at the gym.  In my recent blog about the Fields of Faith event at government-run schools, one commenter noted, “One English teacher asked [my son] on the first day what the religion of every student was and made it clear she did not believe in God.  Knowing her stance and the way she required self-disclosure left [my son] feeling pressured and defensive about his faith.”  In contrast, Ms. Bogan was able to drive away from Trooper Hamilton with a warning ticket within a few minutes, but my commenter’s son and his classmates will have to sit through her class for an entire academic year.  But if the State of Indiana decides to punish and/or fire Trooper Hamilton, then so should lots of teachers and school administrators in government schools, and professors in state universities be punished as well.  After all, as Professor Drobac claims, a government employee, “while on duty, while engaged in official action,” should not be allowed to impose their religious (and consistent with Professor Drobac’s logic, a non-religious) worldview.  In any event, Ms. Bogan, a gaggle of ACLU lawyers, at least one judge, and a jury of Ms. Bogan’s peers will now be eternally responsible for their study and response to the Holy Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Please pray for Trooper Hamilton and for Ms. Bogan.  I know that attorneys at Alliance Defending Freedom are also reading this blog, and I think that Trooper Hamilton may need some help from you very soon.  And if you wish to contact Indiana Governor Mike Pence, you can reach his office via email at http://in.gov/gov/2333.htm.  I already let Governor Pence know how I stand on this matter.



Fields of Faith Day
Thursday, October 9, 2014, 8:52 AM

Yesterday, October 8, 2014, was “Fields of Faith” day, in which students and teachers participated in an annual, student-organized, and student-led gathering at school athletic fields at the end of their school day.  At the Fields of Faith, students read the Holy Bible together, heard Christian testimonies, worshipped together, and prayed for one another.  A school athletic field is used because it provides a neutral place where an entire community can come together.  First organized by the Fellowship of Christian Athletes in 2004, it is beautiful to see many young people boldly proclaim their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  You can watch a promotional video here.  Hundreds of Fields of Faith events took place throughout the United States.  For information on the rallies near you, please go to www.fieldsoffaith.com.

Since the first Field of Faith, however, some government school officials have sought to unconstitutionally keep teachers and students from sharing about and participating in the event.  This was usually done under the pretense that schools were prohibited from holding such events by the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution.  In actual fact, the opposite is true.  Student groups have the constitutionally protected freedom to participate in Fields of Faith prayer and worship activities, and to inform their fellow students about the event to the same extent that other student groups are allowed to promote, participate, and use school facilities for other types of activities and events.  Importantly, coaches, teachers, and yes, even school administrators can participate in the event as private citizens.  Alliance Defending Freedom (“ADF”), a major civil liberties law organization with thousands of allied attorneys throughout the United States, has published a legal memorandum to support the rights of students to gather for such an event.  (It is also an excellent summation of the constitutional rights of religious students beyond Fields of Faith.)  The law memorandum is available here.  The ADF memorandum states in part:

The Supreme Court has squarely stated that a student’s free speech rights apply ”when [they are] in the cafeteria, or on the playing field, or on the campus during the authorized hours.” . . . This includes prayer: “nothing in the Constitution as interpreted by this Court prohibits any public school student from voluntarily praying at any time before, during, or after the schoolday.”

The memorandum also notes that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that “religious speech is protected by the First Amendment and may not be singled out for discrimination.”  It is truly astounding to me that so many government school administrators and teachers do not understand these simple and well-established principles of American jurisprudence. ADF Senior Legal Counsel Jeremy Tedesco recently stated, “Christians don’t abandon their constitutional freedoms at the schoolhouse gate.  Their freedom to peacefully express their beliefs extends to after-school events, and that certainly includes activities like those at Fields of Faith.”

Let us join together to pray for the powerful witness of so many young people who gather to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ.  For there is no legitimate basis for government school officials to prohibit or impede students and teachers from engaging in the activities for Fields of Faith.  Students, may God bless you and your schools richly.  I sure would have liked this event when I was in school.



Please Pray for Ebola Victims, Here and Abroad
Friday, October 3, 2014, 9:56 AM

In recent days, the Ebola virus has come to the United States.  Thomas Eric Duncan is the first person who was confirmed to contract Ebola virus during his recent visit to Liberia.  He is being treated under intensive care in a hospital in Dallas, Texas.  The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) has been caught somewhat flat-footed from the arrival of Ebola in the United States.  As one example, in a recent interview with Dr. Sanjay Gupta, chief medical correspondent for CNN, Dr. Thomas Frieden, CDC Director, intended to reassure the American people that it is very difficult to contract Ebola.  However, his comments were quite unsettling as there was troubling debate over the definition of “contact” with an Ebola victim.  You can view the short interview here.  However, a person with Ebola will rapidly contaminate others through touching surfaces with body fluids.  It is believed that Mr. Duncan had contact with a number of children as well, and schools are among the most germ-laden places.  According to studies conducted by Dr. Charles Gerba, a University of Arizona microbiologist and a leading expert in infectious disease, he found that classroom surfaces in kindergarten through fifth grades, in particular, are germ-laden.  Desktops, computer keyboards, mice and touchpads, pencil sharpeners, water fountains, and restrooms are surfaces where germs thrive.  In one study, Dr. Gerba found that school teachers had the most germs in their offices by a factor of 20 times compared to other professions.  (Interestingly, the average desktop at work has 400 times more bacteria than the average toilet seat.)  So notwithstanding the assertions of Dr. Frieden, I fear that we can expect a rapid spread of Ebola in the United States.  Although Mr. Obama is sending 3,000 American soldiers to Liberia to provide logistical and engineering support to suppress the Ebola outbreak, Americans are also likely to require help from Ebola outbreaks in the coming few weeks.  Senator Rand Paul, Republican from Kentucky who is trained as a medical doctor, expressed concerns about what happens when our troops go back on their ship.  In an interview with CNN on Wednesday evening, Senator Paul said, “Can you imagine if a whole ship full of our soldiers catch Ebola?”  Indeed.

A dear friend from Liberia wrote to me in recent days.  Although she lives in Monrovia, the capital city of Liberia, and is in a medical field, she and her family have been spared illness.  She simply attributed this to God’s grace and to God’s promises in Psalm 91.  However, she did ask for us to pray for an end of Ebola in West Africa, and for the victims and their families.  She also made two interesting observations: First, she asked for prayer as food supplies grow scarcer in Liberia because quarantines and border closures have disrupted farmers.  Further, Liberia now requires additional food imports.  In a recent interview with the British newspaper, The Guardian, Axel Addy, Liberia’s Minister of Commerce and Industry, said that the agricultural sector has been hardest hit by Ebola as it has crippled domestic rice production, the nation’s staple food.  Second, my friend further stated that with the arrival of Ebola in the United States, Liberian Christians are praying for the United States and its Ebola victims, and for an end to the Ebola crisis here.  She indicated that given the desperate poverty in Liberia and that nation’s high unemployment, Liberians rely heavily upon remittances from family members and friends in the United States to survive.  (According to World Bank data, the average per capita GDP in Liberia is $414 in 2012, and we can expect significant reductions since then.)  Please continue to pray for the African victims of Ebola and their families, and for the quick end to an Ebola outbreak in the United States, and for the safety for the 3,000 American troops going to Liberia.  May God have mercy on us all.



Second Anniversary of Pastor Abedini’s Imprisonment
Wednesday, October 1, 2014, 10:27 AM

pastor27n 1 web 300x223 Second Anniversary of Pastor Abedini’s ImprisonmentOn these pages, I have written numerous times about the plight of Pastor Saeed Abedini, an American pastor imprisoned for his faith in Iran.  Pastor Abedini is serving a virtual death sentence of eight years in one of Iran’s most notorious prisons.  The second anniversary of his imprisonment was September 26, 2014.  Pastor Abedini has faced repeated beatings, malnourishment, lack of proper medical treatment, and death threats from other prisoners as well as from Iranian Revolutionary Guards.

Saeed Abedini grew up in Iran before converting to Christianity at the age of 20.  He later traveled with his family back and forth between Iran and the United States to meet other members of his family and for Christian relief work.  During one such trip in 2009, Pastor Abedini was detained by the Iranian mullahs and interrogated about his Christian conversion.  While he was released with a warning against engaging in underground church activities, he was once again arrested in 2012 while working on a non-sectarian orphanage project.

Pastor Abedini and his wife, Naghmeh, have two beautiful children.  His daughter, Rebekkah Grace, turned 8 on September 12.  Pastor Abedini was able to write a letter to her for her birthday.  In his letter to her, made available by the American Center for Law and Justice, which is representing Pastor Abedini and his family in the United States, he wrote the following:

You are growing so fast and becoming more beautiful every day.  I praise God for His faithfulness to me every day as I watch from a distance through the prison walls and see pictures and hear stories of how you are growing both spiritually and physically.  I know that you question why you have prayed so many times for my return and yet I am not home yet.  Now there is a big why in your mind you are asking: why Jesus isn’t answering your prayers and the prayers of all of the people around the world praying for my release and for me to be home with you and our family?  The answer to the why is who.  Who is control?  Lord Jesus Christ is in control.  God is in control of the whole world and everything that is happening in it is for His good purpose, for His glory, and will be worked out for our good.  People die and suffer for their Christian faith all over the world and some may wonder why?  But you should know the answer of why is who.  It is for Jesus …But if not, we will still sing together as Habakkuk did “Hallelujah,” either separated by prison walls or together at home.  So, let Daddy hear you sing a loud Hallelujah that I can hear all the way here in the prison!  I am so proud of you, my sweet courageous daughter.  Glory to God forever, Amen.

Last week, more than 500 prayer vigils were held in 33 countries and territories, calling on people to pray for Pastor Abedini’s safe release and to urge their respective governments to act on his behalf.  In a speech this past weekend, Senator Ted Cruz, Republican from Texas, referred to the plight of Pastor Abedini.  He said in pertinent part:

[Tomorrow night] you will hear from Naghmeh, his wife, who I visited with several times.  A woman of incredible faith.  She is an American.  Her husband is an American.  Their two little kids are American children living in Idaho. . . . Today is the two-year anniversary of the Republican Guard showing up and throwing Pastor Saeed in prison for professing his Christian faith.  Two years!  You know one of the incredible things talking to Naghmeh is hearing the story, that Pastor Saeed, while in an Iranian prison, has led dozens of fellow prisoners and their jailers to Christ. . . . Just as with Paul and Silas, the jailers are turning to pastor Saeed and saying what must I do to be saved?  God is present in the darkest corners. And we are standing on the promise of the Word.  You know right now this week the government of Iran is sitting down with the United States government, swilling chardonnay in New York City, to discuss what Prime Minister Netanyahu rightly describes as an historic mistake, a very, very bad deal, that tragically is setting the stage for Iran to acquire nuclear weapon capability.  We so desperately need a president who will stand up and say, these discussions do not even begin until you release Pastor Saeed and send him home.

Emphasis added.  Please continue to pray for Pastor Abedini and his family, and also for the host of new Christian believers who sit in jail with him.



Please Pray for Persecuted Christians in Ukraine
Wednesday, September 24, 2014, 11:40 AM

Foreign policy attention for most Americans has now shifted away from Russian disruptions in Ukraine.  But the threats from Russian president Putin’s aggression continue.  The Russian military tests and probes air defenses in Alaska, as well as those of other nations, as the attention of Americans has shifted to events in Iraq and Syria.  However, in Ukraine, the situation continues to be deeply troubling, and particularly so for evangelical Christian believers who face persecution and martyrdom.  On September 18, 2014, Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko addressed a joint session of the U.S. Congress in Washington.  In his speech, Mr. Poroshenko declared Ukraine’s right to self-defense and territorial integrity, and asked the United States to provide military aid and ongoing political support.  His speech concluded with a standing ovation from American lawmakers.  (Some of my readers may remember that on December 5, 1994, the United States and Great Britain made commitments to protect Ukraine from Russian aggression in exchange for Ukraine giving up its nuclear weapons under The Budapest Memorandum of Security Assurances.)  After President Poroshenko’s address to Congress, the United States announced an additional $53 million in economic aid to Ukraine, which is, of course, petty cash compared to what United States taxpayers have given, for example, in foreign aid to Hamas in Gaza.

Ukraine’s evangelical Christians today carry a heavy burden from the country’s conflict with pro-Russian separatists and their Russian allies.  As one example, Vladimir and Elena Velichko, and their eight children ages 2 to 16, lived in one of the towns attacked by pro-Russian separatists.  Vladimir was an evangelical church leader, but as a result of the fighting, Vladimir sent his wife and children to another city for safety.  Elena said, “He took us to the train station, and we said goodbye.  He said, ‘I love you.’  He kissed me and kissed the children, and left.”  On June 8, 2014, their church was half empty as many parishioners had left the city because of the fighting.  But when church services ended, a number of church leaders were kidnapped.  Elena said, “The church called and said that my husband, along with three other believers, had been taken by men who were waiting outside the church.”  A church deacon who was present at church that morning, Alexander Gayvoronski, said, “The men wore masks and had machine guns.  They told the four Christian men to get into their cars.”  The men were later found shot multiple times, and Elena’s husband was burned in an abandoned car.  Elena powerfully said, “I don’t hate my husband’s killers.  It is easy to start asking questions.  Why did this happen?  But if I keep thinking about this it will only wear me out.”  That same day, pro-Russian separatists burned down a furniture factory that belonged to other evangelical Christians in that town.  It was clear that the pro-Russian separatists were targeting the city’s evangelical community.  Sergey Demidovich, an evangelical leader in Eastern Ukraine, said Ukrainian Christians face constant threat.  Demidovich said, “I never thought in the 21st century, in [a] free country as Ukraine, it was possible to experience this level of persecution.  The separatists saw Protestant Christians as enemies.  They viewed us as cults.  All the Protestant churches in the city were either taken over by rebels or forced to close.  We were forbidden to meet for services, and the leadership forced to leave or be under risk of arrest.”

Many evangelicals in Ukraine believe that the persecution is linked to pressure from the Russian Orthodox Church.  Anatoly, an evangelical pastor from Luhansk in eastern Ukraine, said, “When I was in prison, a rebel soldier told me they have an order to kill all the Christian pastors who are not part of the Russian Orthodox Church.”  Perhaps that is so or not, but it is not an uncommon perception in light of the fact that great persecution against evangelical Christians took place during the Soviet era, when such persecution was often aided by Orthodox clergy and prelates.  And yet today, media reports indicate that only four percent of Russia’s self-identified Orthodox Christians attend church regularly, and Russia has among the highest rates of abortion, divorce, prostitution and corruption in the world.

Importantly, Elena only asks from us prayers for her and for her eight young children.  Today, there are thousands of refugees and other affected families in Ukraine.  With winter approaching, it is vital that we pray for our brothers and sisters as we seek to do all that we can to help, even as the eyes of the world have now turned elsewhere.  I encourage you and your churches to pray for the Ukrainian Christians, both Orthodox and evangelical, that they will seize every opportunity for presenting the Holy Gospel.  The crisis in Ukraine is not over, but the opportunity to reach those without Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior is greater than ever.  May God comfort the families of all of the victims of repression and persecution in Ukraine, and may God give peace to the memory of Vladimir Velichko and his fellow-martyrs.



Air Force Surrenders at First Whiff of Grapeshot
Thursday, September 18, 2014, 1:42 PM

It was on this date, September 18, 1947, that the United States Air Force became an independent branch of the military.  Although the beginnings of the Air Force go back to 1907, it was only in 1909 that the Army bought its first airplane.  By the start of World War I, the Army owned five airplanes.  From the humble beginnings, at its height in World War II, the Army Air Corps, as it was known then, had as many as 80,000 airplanes.  Today, the Air Force has approximately 5,600 active airplanes.

On these pages, I wrote earlier this week about the unnamed atheist airman from Creech Air Force Base in Nevada, who the Air Force was not allowing to re-enlist because he refused to conclude his oath with “so help me God.”  Although the “so help me God” language has long been included in the enlistment oath by federal statute, until October 2013, an airman could opt for an alternate phrase and omit the “so help me God” language.  Because he was not being allowed to re-enlist, the airman threatened to sue the government with assistance from American Humanist Association attorneys.

However, at the first whiff of grapeshot over this matter, the Air Force has surrendered.  Effective September 17, 2014, both enlisted members and officers may omit the words, “so help me God” from their oaths if they so choose.  The Air Force made this change based upon a legal opinion from the Department of Defense General Counsel (an Obama appointee).  According to the legal opinion, an individual may strike or omit these words if preferred.  So again, under the Obama Regime, a long-established federal law only means what he wants it to mean.  Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James (also an Obama appointee) stated, “We take any instance in which Airmen report concerns regarding religious freedom seriously.  We are making the appropriate adjustments to ensure our Airmen’s rights are protected.”  I suppose that the rights of Christian Air Force Academy cadets aren’t included.  A copy of the Air Force press release is available here.  Please continue to pray for our soldiers and airmen, particularly for those who serve in harm’s way.  Or should we no longer care?



Atheist Airman Denied Re-Enlistment For Refusing to Say “So Help Me God”
Monday, September 15, 2014, 9:57 AM

In October 2013, the United States Air Force adopted policy AFI 36-2606 (available here) that required enlistees and re-enlistees to conclude their enlistment oath with “so help me God.”  Prior to that time, an airman could opt for an alternative phrase and omit the “so help me God” language.  The “so help me God” language has long been included in the enlistment oath by a 1962 federal statute, 10 USC Section 502.

In recent days, an atheist airman was told by the Air Force that either he will have to take the oath concluding with “so help me God,” or he will be denied his request to re-enlist.  As one can expect, the unnamed airman from Creech Air Force Base in Nevada is now poised to take the military to court over this requirement.  He is represented by Monica Miller, an attorney with the American Humanist Association, an organization about which I have written on these pages over the years.  Ms. Miller has stated, “The government cannot compel a nonbeliever to take an oath that affirms the existence of a supreme being.”  Then, in his usual bombastic rhetorical style, Mikey Weinstein, Esq., founder and president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, wrote the following in a letter to Secretary of Defense Hagel regarding this matter:

In a time of increasingly polarized fundamentalist theocratic hostility, what good will be accomplished by deliberately leaning the singular most lethal organization ever to exist on this planet towards a reflection of ISIS? . . . . Any efforts to do so are a disingenuous and disgraceful interpretation of the law, serving and pandering to what is nothing more than a pathetically partisan, conservative theocratic agenda. . . . With a single command directive, Mr. Secretary, you can immediately remediate this bigoted issue and prevent any valuable airmen from being wrongfully discharged from the military for failing a BLATANTLY unlawful religious test.

Emphasis in the original.  Other branches of the United States military do not require the reference to God in the oaths, and make the phrase optional.  Of course, if I had some healthy cynicism, I could think that the Obama Pentagon mandated the “so help me God” requirement in late 2013 to get it challenged in federal court where a friendly judge would find the requirement unconstitutional, thereby creating a precedent for other courts to follow.  An argument could be made that the Article 6, Section 3, of the Constitution bars religious tests to hold office.  Specifically, that provision provides:

The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the members of the several state legislatures, and all executive and judicial officers, both of the United States and of the several states, shall be bound by oath or affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.

Emphasis added.  So could this provision apply to the military?  And should it apply?  After all, the military is subject to its own Code of Military Justice, and has special courts to hear military cases.  While this provision would apply to the Secretary of Defense as a federal executive officer, nothing is stated here regarding its application to members of our nation’s military.  Our understanding of the meaning of this provision is quite different from the view of our nation’s Founders.  Most Americans do not know that many of the original 13 states had “state” churches.  The South was traditionally Anglican, but had a growing Methodist and Baptist population.  New England was traditionally Congregationalist.  Rhode Island was founded by Roger Williams, a Baptist, as a refuge from the Massachusetts Congregationalists.  The middle colonies mixed Catholics in Maryland, Presbyterians and Quakers.  Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut, and South Carolina paid churches out of the public treasury well into the 19th century.  The First Amendment so-called “Establishment Clause,” which has now mutated into meanings unimaginable to our Founders, simply precluded Congress from establishing the Church of the United States as England had done with the Church of England.  Further, the purpose of the First Amendment was to prohibit the power of the federal government to advance, for example, Roman Catholic or Anglican doctrines over Baptist ones.  Fundamentally, the religious oath provision prohibited a person elected to Congress or to a state legislature from being denied his seat merely for his religious views.

We will see whether Secretary Hagel will issue his directive.  But with Mr. Obama’s recent declaration to use American airpower against the Sunni terrorists in the Islamic State to bail out Iranian-backed Shiite terrorist groups, our airmen will truly need to ask “so help me God” in their daily responsibilities.  Please continue to pray for our soldiers and airmen, particularly for those who serve in harm’s way.



Mikey Weinstein Does Well At His “Foundation”
Monday, September 8, 2014, 3:22 PM

On these pages, I have written a number of blogs regarding the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (“MRFF”) over the past several years.  The MRFF’s stated objective is to ensure “that all members of the United States Armed Forces fully receive the Constitutional guarantee of religious freedom to which they . . . are entitled.”  In actual fact, the MRFF’s goals have been precisely the opposite, and it seeks to take away the constitutional guarantees of freedom of speech and freedom of religion for Christian believers in our nation’s military.  The MRFF has reportedly been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize numerous times, but has not won yet.  The MRFF founder, president, and sole employee is Michael L. (Mikey) Weinstein, Esq.  A graduate of the United States Air Force Academy, Mr. Weinstein served as one of the White House West Wing attorneys for President Reagan, and later served as the general counsel for H. Ross Perot and his company.  He is the author of several books which describe his fight against “coercive” Christian practices in the military.  In 2012, Defense News named Mr. Weinstein as one of the most influential members of today’s military-industrial complex (ahead of former CIA Director, General David Petraeus), and Mr. Weinstein has important contacts at the highest levels in the Obama Administration.  As one example of his immense power and influence, Mikey Weinstein will testify on September 19, 2014, before the House of Representatives Armed Services Committee, regarding the current state of religious freedom in the military.  Mr. Weinstein also recently spoke at the Military College of Georgia, and at Duke University Medical School’s Center for Spirituality, Theology and Health.  He is scheduled to address the students and faculty at the evangelical Patrick Henry College in late September.  (I hope that the College is not paying much in a speaker’s fee.)  My most recent blog regarding MRFF, Mikey Weinstein Strikes Again, available here. is prominently featured on the front page of the MRFF website.  (Thanks, Mikey!  But I am not so sure that you are going to link to this one.)

The past few years have been tough on the MRFF, but they have been very good for Mikey.  MRFF revenues decreased from $698,698 in 2011 to $584,347 in 2012.  Importantly, as MRFF’s annual revenues are well below $1 million, most charity-rating agencies, such as Charity Navigator, do not evaluate the efficacy of expenditures for smaller non-profit entities.  However, the MRFF is quite a sinecure for its sole employee.  Mikey Weinstein’s salary from the MRFF in 2011 and 2012, as reported in its Form 990 tax filings, were $263,098 and $284,009, respectively.  (Did you get a $21,000 raise in 2012?)  Although his salary might seem high to a few of my readers, Mikey affirmed in his tax filings under penalties of perjury that he worked an average work week of 80 hours at the MRFF.  Given that the MRFF asserts that more than 38,000 active duty, veteran, and civilian personnel of our nation’s armed forces have sought out MRFF assistance, with “hundreds more contacting MRFF each day,” it is little wonder that Mikey has had to work so hard.  So in light of his important and powerful influence, and all of his hard work and dedication to his cause, one should not be surprised that he earned in salary almost one-half of MRFF’s total revenues for 2012.  It will be interesting to see how well he continues to do for 2013 when those numbers are published in the coming weeks.  I am certain that his donors see his valuable contributions to the MRFF, but to put things into some perspective, in its 2013 CEO Compensation Report, Charity Navigator determined that the typical CEO at a non-profit entity receiving between $1 million to $3.5 million in annual revenues earned $95,661 in 2011.  The median CEO salary for a larger non-profit entity receiving up to $100 million in annual revenues was $285,753, an amount similar to Mikey’s salary.  Of course, the other CEOs are not among the most influential members of the defense establishment, and few will claim, under penalties of perjury, to work an average of 80 hours each week.  Some jokesters have quipped that the MRFF actually stands for “Mikey’s Religious Fund Foundation.”  It seems to me that our Internal Revenue Service might wish to investigate the MRFF’s 501(c)(3) status.  After all, should donors to the MRFF be entitled to a tax deduction when the primary “charitable” purpose is to pay Mikey’s high salary?  So for having earned over $547,000 over two years, it is too bad that Lois Lerner, Esq., is no longer in the saddle at the tax-exempt division at the IRS.  She would certainly know what to do to investigate the MRFF fully.  Christians do not and should never fear religious freedom, for where there is freedom, God’s Holy Word and his Son, the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, will be known, for He only is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  But those opposed to the Gospel of Jesus Christ have throughout history sought to silence the voices of His children.


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