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Another Random Act of Justice
Monday, August 22, 2016, 10:06 AM
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The R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Home, Garden City, Michigan

For people of normal conscience, the death of a loved one is a deeply painful time. For those of us who have had to make funeral arrangements for loved ones, it is a stressful time. But imagine the discomfort as you make funeral arrangements to realize that the funeral director is a male wearing female clothing. While it could make for an awkward and amusing episode of the Jamie Kennedy Experiment, but for many people such a real-life scenario could be deeply upsetting. But this was the case at a Livonia, Michigan, funeral home that required its employees to dress in a sex-specific dress code in order to be sensitive to grieving family members and friends. However, the Obama Administration’s Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) filed suit on behalf of an employee who refused to comply with the dress code of R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes. In its dress code, the funeral home required that biologically male employees wear male clothing, rather than be allowed to wear a female clothing while interacting with the public. The R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Home was founded in 1910, and is now operated in its fourth generation.

In 2007, the funeral home hired a biologically male employee as a funeral director and embalmer at its Garden City, Michigan, facility. Funeral directors and embalmers at the company interact regularly with the public, and especially with grieving family members and friends. But after informing the funeral home of his intention to dress as a female at work, the employee was dismissed for refusing to comply with the sex-specific dress code. Of course, the employee was free to dress as he/she desired outside of work, but was required to abide by the same dress policy that all employees were required to follow while on the job. But on its never-ending quest towards utopia, the Obama Administration took up the fired employee’s cause.

The majority owner of the funeral homes, Thomas Rost, is a Christian whose faith informs the way he operates his business and how he presents his funeral homes to the general public. Mr. Rost believes that he would violate his Christian faith if he were to permit his employees to dress as members of the opposite sex while at work, but the employee dress policy was also designed to be sensitive to interaction with customers at these particularly difficult times of their lives. (Have you ever wondered why these incidents never seem to occur at a Moslem-owned Mustafa’s Stairway To Paradise Funeral Home in Dearborn, Michigan? But I digress.)

Normally, of course, in these type of situations, Christians always lose. But Mr. Rost was represented by Doug Wardlow, an attorney with Alliance Defending Freedom (“ADF”). Mr. Wardlow argued that the funeral home did not violate Title VII, the federal law that prohibits sex discrimination in employment. Rather, he argued that Mr. Rost was protected by a different federal law, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (“RFRA”), which says that the government cannot force someone like Mr. Rost to violate his faith unless it demonstrates that doing so is the “least restrictive means” of furthering a “compelling government interest.” The infamous American Civil Liberties Union and its local partner, the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan, also filed briefs in this case against the funeral home owner.

In a seemingly random act of justice, last Thursday, a federal court in eastern Michigan agreed with Mr. Rost that the EEOC’s actions violated RFRA. In his 56-page Opinion and Order (should it really take 56 pages for this type of case?), available here, Judge Sean F. Cox, a President George W. Bush appointee, wrote the following:

The Court finds that the Funeral Home has met its initial burden of showing that enforcement of Title VII, and the body of sex-stereotyping case law that has developed under it, would impose a substantial burden on its ability to conduct business in accordance with its sincerely-held religious beliefs . . . Rost sincerely believes that it would be violating God’s commands if he were to permit an employee who was born a biological male to dress in a traditionally female skirt-suit at the funeral home because doing so would support the idea that sex is a changeable social construct rather than an immutable God-given gift. The Supreme Court has directed that it is not this Court’s role to decide whether those ‘religious beliefs are mistaken or insubstantial….’ Instead, this Court’s ‘narrow function’ is to determine if this is ‘an honest conviction’ and, as in Hobby Lobby, there is no dispute that it is….

Wow, truly a random act of justice! Kudos to Mr. Wardlow and the ADF! And for my readers in Michigan, in a shameless, unpaid commercial plug, Preferred Funeral Directors International awarded R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes the Parker Award in 2011 for demonstrating exemplary service, and the Livonia, Michigan, location was voted the “Best Hometown Funeral Home” in March 2016. This is a big win for religious liberty, but please remember that this is another clear example that elections have consequences, even decades later.

Planned Parenthood and Hillary Clinton
Wednesday, August 17, 2016, 11:26 AM

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We are now in the throes of a presidential campaign in the United States which is presently scheduled to be held in 83 days. We don’t know, of course, what the final outcome will be, but many expect Ms. Clinton will be our nation’s next president. There will be some surprises between now and November 8th, of course, and the twists and turns should make the historic election an interesting and exciting one. Ms. Clinton appeals to a range of constituencies, and each of those are investing heavily in her campaign. One of those constituencies is Planned Parenthood (“PP”) and supporters of abortion on demand. Ms. Clinton has made numerous promises regarding unrestricted abortion, including repealing the Hyde Amendment and proposing a plan to force taxpayers to directly fund abortions. If successful, Ms. Clinton would put even more tax dollars into the hand of PP, our nation’s largest abortionist. Ms. Clinton further promised to nominate Supreme Court justices who would ensure that Roe v. Wade and unrestricted abortion on demand until birth would remain the land of the land for decades to come.

One can naturally expect that PP would fear the election of Mr. Trump. After all, PP has been the target of congressional investigations into the sale of fetal tissue and its misuse of taxpayer funds. Many Republicans in Congress are trying to eliminate federal funding for PP. And another 24 states have attempted to block funding for PP and to restrict access to its abortion mills. Mr. Trump has promised to defund PP if elected president, and his running mate, Mike Pence, has led the charge to cut off federal funds when he was in Congress and has significantly cut support for PP as Indiana governor.

Last month, at the Democrat convention in Philadelphia, Cecile Richards, president of PP, was given a prominent speaking role. In her speech, she said,

When Donald Trump and Mike Pence said they’ll defund Planned Parenthood, they’re talking about cutting women … off from lifesaving care. Make no mistake: Women’s health and rights are on the line and on the ballot in this election.

Ms. Richards has faced some strong political opposition over the ten years she has been president of PP, but in this election, Ms. Richards will serve as a key Clinton surrogate. Ms. Richard’s ties to the Clintons date back to the days when her mother, Ann Richards, was the last Democrat governor of Texas, and Governor Richards campaigned for Bill Clinton in 1992. After the death of Governor Richards in 2006, Hillary Clinton spoke at her memorial service. Ms. Richards’ daughter also works for the Clinton campaign. But this year, Hillary’s campaign intends to send Ms. Richards to campaign in battleground states, with the hope that she can appeal to young women, minority groups, and low-income women. In a recent interview, the 59-year-old Ms. Richards said, “We’re now finding that men are voting on these issues. I think what we’re seeing is a generation of men who want their daughters to have all of the opportunity that they can, and that includes access to reproductive care and rights.”

For Ms. Richards and PP, “reproductive care and rights” always means abortion. So if you read her comment carefully, Ms. Richards is saying that pro-abortion voters are specifically voting for Hillary Clinton so that their daughters can have the opportunity of abortion. That is, of course, very financially beneficial for PP, which aborts more than 300,000 pre-born babies each year, and receives well over $500 million each year in taxpayer funds. But this is only the beginning. At the Democrat convention, Ms. Richards told her hearers that a Hillary Clinton administration would press the United Nations to promote abortion on a worldwide scale and to make abortion a fundamental “human right.”

In recent months, I have heard from some friends and acquaintances who have told me that they don’t like either Mr. Trump or Ms. Clinton. Both are flawed, as we all are. And a few of those friends have also been pro-life, conservative, and deeply devout Christian believers. I believe that at the judgment seat of Jesus Christ, we will all have to give account, as citizens of a representative republic, for each of our votes. But it seems to me that if one is truly pro-life and concerned about the lives of the unborn, staying home on November 8th is not a real option. May God have mercy on us and our nation.

Coach Joe Kennedy Fired For Praying
Thursday, August 11, 2016, 9:14 AM

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Schools all over the United States have started their new academic years, or will in coming weeks. In addition, fall is the beginning of the football season, and many of us enjoy watching football. Having played football in high school, I have seen how competitive team sports help to build comradery with teammates and develop other important life skills. A good coach is an important and positive role model for each of his players, and especially for younger ones. In fact, I still remember some of the advice given to me by my various coaches in high school decades ago, little of which had to do with football.

Coach Joe Kennedy was a varsity football coach for the Bremerton (Washington) High School. However, he was fired. What was his crime? Coach Kennedy was observed praying on the field before and after games; worse still, he brazenly prayed on the 50-yard line. Well, obviously, you can never have that today, and then, it was discovered that Coach Kennedy has prayed with students and athletes since 2008. What did Coach Kennedy pray for? He prayed for the safety of all of the players, and thanked God for their hard work and sportsmanship. Well, the Bremerton School District said that it did not want to be seen as endorsing “religious activity,” and asked Coach Kennedy to stop praying out loud. Well, the Coach followed the direction of the senior administrators, but alas, he persisted in “taking a knee” after the game, and, with his head bowed, prayed silently. But apparently, silent prayer is not allowed in Bremerton government schools either. But wait for this: last fall, the school district praised Coach Kennedy’s contributions to football program, but added that his prayer “posed a risk it would be held liable for violating the constitutional rights of students or others.” As a result, Coach Kennedy was “released to industry,” as they say in England.

Coach Kennedy’s firing drew national attention, and many lawmakers who are part of the Congressional Prayer Caucus sent a letter to the superintendent expressing their support for the Coach.  And then, in an orchestrated response, students and teachers at the school invited members of the Satanic Temple of Seattle to attend the game. The Satanists arrived at a game appropriately dressed in their robes, grotesque makeup, and ram’s horns. But on Tuesday, just as the school district presciently anticipated that it could be sued for violating the constitutional rights of others, Coach Kennedy sued the Bremerton School District. In his lawsuit, Coach Kennedy said that the district violated his free speech rights and civil liberties when his administrators instructed him that he could no longer pray on the football field. Further, in his lawsuit, Coach Kennedy asked a federal judge to give him back his job. In an interview with local media, Coach Kennedy said, “It’s just sad that we can’t talk it over and it has to end up in court over something as simple as this.” Yes, Coach, one would think so, but not in today’s post-constitutional Amerika where civility and true tolerance becomes an increasingly uncommon virtue and Christians must increasingly choose between their Christian faith and their job. Coach Kennedy is represented by the Liberty Institute, the Texas-based civil rights and religious liberty law firm. Yes, Coach Kennedy and some of his players took a knee, but one day, as the Holy Scriptures teach in Romans 14:11, “As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall confess to God.” And that will include school administrators, federal judges, and Satanists.

Putin’s New Law Restricts Non-Orthodox Christians In Russia
Friday, August 5, 2016, 9:06 AM
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Russian orthodox monastery at the Serpukhov town. Getty Images

It was on Christmas in 1991 that the Soviet flag flew over the Kremlin in Moscow for the last time. Only a few days earlier, representatives from eleven Soviet republics met in the Kazakh city of Alma-Ata and announced that they would no longer be part of the Soviet Union. But with the fall of communism in the Soviet Union and the blossoming of personal freedom, a new window of opportunity for Christian evangelism began. The collapse of Soviet communism was a great answer to prayer to Christians around the world. I remember vividly, however, that many Christian leaders and missiologists expected that this open window for evangelism in Russia would last no more than fifteen years before new restrictions would be imposed once again. We thank God that we are now ten years past that time.

Several weeks ago, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed into law controversial “counter-terrorism amendments” that have alarmed many civil and religious liberty proponents. The new law was first proposed by the nationalist United Russia party lawmaker Irina Yarovaya, and is considered the most restrictive religious liberty measure in post-Soviet history. With regard to provisions affecting all non-Orthodox churches, the new law places broad limitations on missionary work, including preaching, teaching, and engaging in any activity designed to invite people into a religious group. These new laws target all Christian groups outside of the Russian Orthodox Church, even though in an interview published in early August, Orthodox Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia stated that the Russian Orthodox Church is growing rapidly, and in fact, over the past six years, has added 5,000 churches and 10,000 new clerics. Under the new law, in order to share one’s Christian faith with others, Russians must now obtain a government permit through a registered religious organization. Christians can no longer evangelize anywhere, but can only do so in within churches and religious sites. Further, the new restrictions apply to activities in private homes, and online as well. Thus, under the new law, Christians in Russia will be unable to email friends an invitation to church or to a home Bible study. The penalties for violation of this new law are severe; those found guilty of violations of the new anti-evangelism law face fines of up to US $780 for an individual and up to $15,500 for a church or organization, a large sum of money for most Christians and churches. Moreover, any foreign nationals who violate this law face deportation.

These new laws will make life for non-Orthodox Christians in Russia far more complicated with many believers finding themselves in exile in their own nation, and subject to reprisals for their faith. Rev. Sergei Ryakhovsky, head of the Protestant Churches of Russia, and other evangelical leaders have called the new law a violation of religious freedom and personal conscience. In a letter to President Putin, the church leaders stated:

The obligation on every believer to have a special permit to spread his or her beliefs, as well as hand out religious literature and material outside of places of worship . . . . is not only absurd and offensive, but also creates the basis for mass persecution of believers for violating these provisions. Soviet history shows us how many people of different faiths have been persecuted for spreading the Word of God. This law brings us back to a shameful past.

Indeed it does. The great persecution of Christian believers, both Orthodox and non-Orthodox, during the communist era in Russia, makes this new law a major step towards Soviet-style authoritarianism. Please pray for all Christians in Russia as many will begin a new era of underground activities. Sadly, they have been through all this before, and I suspect that it will never stop these believers from worshipping God and sharing the love of Jesus Christ with others, government permit or not. After all, I am certain that many of them would say that the Great Commission of Matthew 28:18-20 is not only for times of freedom, but for all times and for all nations. As St. Paul wrote to Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:2, “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.” A useful reminder for all of us.

A Random Act Of Justice
Friday, July 29, 2016, 10:36 AM
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Thomas More Society attorneys Tom Brejcha, Peter Breen, Matt Heffron and David Daleiden (second from right). Photo courtesy of the Thomas More Society

Earlier this week, Houston, Texas, prosecutors dropped all charges against David Robert Daleiden and Sandra Merritt. You may recall that Mr. Daleiden and Ms. Merritt were behind a series of undercover videos that showed Planned Parenthood executives conspiring to traffic body parts harvested from aborted babies. Mr. Daleiden and Ms. Merritt were indicted by a Harris County, Texas, grand jury last January, and Mr. Daleiden was charged by the Harris County District Attorney’s office with attempting to solicit a sale of human organs. (But doesn’t buying fetal tissue also require a seller as well? But I digress.) Interestingly, organ trafficking in Texas is deemed a misdemeanor. And both Mr. Daleiden and Ms. Merritt were indicted for tampering with a government record, which is a felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison. (Just wait until college students in Texas hear about that!) The “tampering with a government record” charge involved using fake identification to gain access to the abortion facility. For those who may not be familiar with the grand jury process, prosecutors have so much influence over grand juries that Sol Wachtler, the former chief judge of New York, famously said in a 1985 interview that prosecutors could get grand juries to “indict a ham sandwich.” Ironically, Judge Wachtler was himself later indicted and sent to federal prison.

There was a great deal of prosecutorial mischief in this case. You may logically wonder why Planned Parenthood was not investigated and brought before a grand jury as well. After all, even if organ trafficking is simply a misdemeanor in Texas, Mr. Daleiden’s undercover videos show multiple Planned Parenthood executives conspiring to traffic human organs for profit. And yet, the prosecutors refused to seek any charges against Planned Parenthood for organ trafficking. The grand jury members were never even asked to vote to indict Planned Parenthood. Adding to the mischief, Lauren Reeder, Esq., a prosecutor in the Harris County District Attorney’s office, was a board member of one of the Texas Planned Parenthood affiliates targeted by Mr. Daleiden and Ms. Merritt.

In addition, Planned Parenthood’s attorney, Josh Schaffer, Esq., admitted to colluding with the prosecutors to bring charges against Mr. Daleiden. Mr. Schaffer admitted, under oath, that the Harris County District Attorney’s office broke the law by sharing evidence against Mr. Daleiden with him, despite the fact that the Texas Attorney General’s office had forbidden prosecutors from doing so. What made Mr. Schaffer come clean about the collusion? He was protecting himself. Mr. Schaffer revealed this illegal flow of information in a statement that was included in the prosecutors’ response to Mr. Daleiden’s motion alleging prosecutorial misconduct to quash the indictment against him. But the Honorable Devon Anderson, a Republican appointed by then Texas Governor Rick Perry in 2013, who runs the Harris County District Attorney’s office, is no stranger to high-profile abortion cases. As Ms. Clinton accepted her party’s nomination to the presidency last night, it is fitting to note that Ms. Anderson succeeded her late husband in this important public responsibility following his death from cancer. Despite what I wrote above about grand juries, Ms. Anderson did manage to botch a case so badly against abortionist Douglas Karpen that many, including me, believe that it was done intentionally. Douglas Karpen has been described as the “Kermit Gosnell of Texas.” Despite three eyewitness accounts that described how they saw Karpen murder newborn babies with his bare hands, Ms. Anderson failed to secure indictments against him.

So one can reasonably conclude that this was a political witch hunt by pro-abortion activists at Planned Parenthood working in collusion with the Harris County Prosecutor’s Office. It is important to remember that investigative journalists and muckrakers have long held an honored place in American journalism as they used undercover activities to inform their readers about social ills and corruption since at least Julius Chambers’ first article in 1872. At one time, our nation’s First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and of the press were held in high regard. But at least for now, Mr. Daleiden and Ms. Merritt are free to go. Kudos to the Thomas More Society lawyers, and in particular to Peter Breen, Esq., a highly accomplished and exceptional constitutional lawyer, who also serves as State Representative in the Illinois legislature, represented Mr. Daleiden and Ms. Merritt in this case. In a statement, Mr. Breen said:

Planned Parenthood’s illegitimate aim is clear: it hopes to turn attention away from the abortion industry’s baby parts trafficking, by instead attacking the man who exposed its illegal practices. The Harris County District Attorney’s office should reject that aim and prosecute Planned Parenthood, not David Daleiden and his investigators.

Even in post-constitutional America where the politically powerful escape the law, we can rejoice whenever a random act of justice helps to end the horror of abortion. Proverbs 29:2 declares, “When the righteous flourish, the people rejoice, but when the wicked rule, people groan.” Amen!

Happy Independence Day 2016
Monday, July 4, 2016, 8:00 AM
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“Dr. Franklin, what have we got – a Republic or a Monarchy?”
Mr. Franklin wisely responded, “A Republic, if you can keep it.”

It was 240 years ago, on July 4, 1776, that the Declaration of Independence was signed in Philadelphia.  It marked the birth of this nation which, under God, was destined for world leadership for a time.  Of course, the Declaration was only the first step. Great Britain was not going to give up its 13 colonies without a terrible and fierce fight that was to last for six years, and take the lives of more than 4,435 American patriots in battle at a then unimaginable cost of $104,000,000.  We are no longer taught that, in declaring independence from an earthly power, our founders made a forthright declaration of dependence upon Almighty God.  The Declaration, written principally by Thomas Jefferson, acknowledges that “all men are created equal and are endowed by the Creator with certain unalienable rights.”  The closing words of the Declaration solemnly declare, “With a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.”  What kind of men were our founders?  Twenty-two were lawyers and judges.  Eighteen were merchants and businessmen.  Fourteen were farmers and large plantation owners.  These were all men of means and education.  Seven were educated at Harvard, four at Yale, four at the College of William and Mary, and three at Princeton.  John Witherspoon, the only clergyman, was president of what is today Princeton University, and George Wythe was a professor at the College of William and Mary, whose former student was Thomas Jefferson.  Dr. Benjamin Rush, considered the father of American medicine, also started the Sunday School movement in the United States.  Dr. Rush graduated from Princeton at the age of 14, and then completed his medical studies at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.  Charles Carroll began his formal education at the age of 8, when he was sent to attend Jesuits’ College at St. Omer, France.  He graduated from the College of Louis the Grande in France at the age of 17.  Afterwards, he apprenticed as a lawyer in London.  Of the 56 signers, 21 were 40 years of age, or younger, with the youngest, Edward Rutledge of South Carolina, was only 26 years old. The British marked every signer for treason, and each became the object of vicious British manhunts.  Space does not permit me to tell the often tragic story of many of the Declaration’s signers, but a short biography of each of the signers is available here. I commend their biographies to your study, and especially for your children and grandchildren who are being homeschooled.

In addition to referring to the Creator and Divine Providence, the Declaration also appealed to “Nature’s God” and “the Supreme Judge of the World.”  A number of years later, when the Constitution was published and adopted, something new had been created: a system of self-government by the consent of the governed.  Our constitution has been our nation’s greatest export and given freedom and democracy to hundreds of millions around the globe. Our founders created a constitutional republic with individual liberty to pursue life, liberty, and happiness, elected representatives and limited government.  Our founders created a republic in which the power to govern was checked and balanced by procedures designed to stop tyranny in its tracks. Those checks and balances have now mostly disappeared, and we now live in a post-constitutional United States. In contrast to what many believe, our founders did not create a democracy, but rather a republic.  They knew Plato’s warning that unrestricted democracy must logically result in a dictatorship.  They knew from the study of Greek history that a fanatical majority can deprive the individual of his rights, his life, and his property.  The founders had all studied Roman history, where after many centuries, the Roman republic gave way to the free “bread and circuses” to appease the masses, and the rise of the corrupt despotism of the Roman emperors and their cronies that lasted until the collapse of the Roman Empire.  The founders firmly believed that the republican government they created could last only if it was rooted in biblical morality and religion.  John Adams said, “A republic can only be supported by pure religion or austere morals.”  George Washington said, “Reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principles.”  Indeed!  As early as 1811, the Supreme Court of New York, in a decision by Chief Justice Kent, for whom the Kent Law School in Chicago is named, stated, “The people of New York, in common with the people of this country, profess the general doctrines of Christianity, as the rule of their faith and practice” and then continues, “we are a Christian people, and the morality of the country is deeply engrafted upon Christianity.”  People v. Ruggles, 8 Johns. 290, 294-295.

Notwithstanding Mr. Obama’s assertions to the contrary, in 1892, our nation’s Supreme Court, after giving example after example of the foundational importance of Christianity in public life from the discovery of the New World by Columbus throughout the history of United States, declared:

This is a religious people.  This is historically true.  From the discovery of this continent to the present hour, there is a single voice making this affirmation . . . we are a Christian people, and the morality of the country is deeply engrafted upon Christianity . . . . we find everywhere a clear recognition of the same truth . . . These, and many other matters which might be noticed, add a volume of unofficial declarations to the mass or organic utterances that this is a Christian nation.

Church of the Holy Trinity v. United States, 143 U.S. 457, 465-71 (1892).  Emphasis added.

In 1931, the Supreme Court again reaffirmed its earlier view: “We are a Christian people . . . and acknowledge with reverence the duty of obedience to the will of God.”  U.S. v. Macintosh, 283 U.S. 605, 625 (1931).  In 1952, the liberal Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas, writing for the Supreme Court in the decision of Zorach v. Clauson, wrote, “We are a religious people whose institutions presuppose a Supreme Being.  We guarantee the freedom to worship as one chooses . . . We cannot read into the Bill of Rights such a philosophy of hostility of religion.” Emphasis added. Zorach, 343 U. S. 306, 313-15.  Of course, over the past six decades, this view has now vanished from the federal judiciary.  On this Independence Day, to almost any observer, we can recognize that the official policy of both the federal government and the federal courts is state-sponsored atheism that holds an anti-Christian animus.  Of course, the concept of a secular or atheistic state did not exist in 1776, when the Declaration was published, or in 1787, when the Constitution was adopted.  To read the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution as a charter for a secular or atheistic state is to misread our American history, and to misread it radically.  Our Constitution was designed to perpetuate an order based upon the Bible, biblical ethics, and a Judeo-Christian worldview.  The incomparable Dennis Prager, writing in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s decision on homosexual “marriage” last year wrote the following:

The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on the redefinition of marriage seals the end of America as the Founders envisioned it. From well before 1776 until the second half of the 20th century, the moral values of the United States were rooted in the Bible and its God.

At the close of the Constitutional Convention of 1787, Benjamin Franklin was famously asked, “Dr. Franklin, what have we got – a Republic or a Monarchy?”  Mr. Franklin wisely responded, “A Republic, if you can keep it.” So let us grieve that it was our generation that proved unable to keep it.

Independence Day 2016 should not solely be about fireworks, parades, and a cold drink on a hot summer day.  Rather, it should be a celebration of a system of self-government by the consent of the governed.  It is a celebration of what once was our constitutional republic with individual liberty, elected representatives, and limited government.  I think that for this Independence Day weekend celebration, I will read again the Declaration of Independence. If I read it slowly, it might take 15 minutes. If you haven’t read the Declaration in a while, for those who have eyes to see, you might be surprised at how many parallels exist with our day.  In America today, our religious liberty, which was so important to our founders that its protection was placed in the beginning clauses to the First Amendment to the Constitution, hangs on a frayed thread. But let us rejoice at what Americans once enjoyed; it was truly an astonishing experience in human history for which I am very thankful to the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ. I am only sorry that I witnessed its demise. Happy Independence Day 2016, Everyone!

Teacher, May I Have Permission To Tell My Classmate About Jesus?
Thursday, June 30, 2016, 9:30 AM
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An aerial view of the North Carolina State University campus, the Memorial Belltower (center) and surrounding area in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Over the decades, one of the most interesting things I have done was to go onto university campuses and into the broader community to speak with people individually to ask them to consider the claims of Jesus Christ on their lives. In doing so, both in the United States and overseas, I have never sought governmental permission or approval for sharing my Christian faith. Although street preaching, and passing out tracts and pamphlets, appears to have become less common in our country in recent decades, it is still one of the most common ways in which the Gospel of Jesus Christ is proclaimed and spread in many parts of the world. (If you want to see American Christians get stressed and nervous, simply invite them to join you for a few hours on a Saturday morning or Sunday afternoon to share the Gospel with people that they don’t know. You will hear that the most thoughtful responses range from “Oh, I don’t have a spiritual gift for evangelism,” or “I like to share the Gospel through my actions.” The most recent statement I heard, and made earnestly, was “How do I do that?”) But despite often general hesitation, such evangelization is fruitfully blessed by these divine appointments, including in America.

Grace Christian Life (“GCL”) is a Christian student group at North Carolina State University (the “University”), and GCL has long been recognized as a student organization by the 35,000-student University in Raleigh. GCL engages in religious discussions with students across the University, and this involves the distribution of written materials, such as event invitations and religious tracts. But apparently, last September, the University implemented a new policy in which school officials barred GCL members from evangelizing students and others on the University campus. In the new policy, groups and individuals who seek to engage in “non-commercial solicitation” on University grounds must first obtain the “written permission of Student Involvement in advance,” or risk facing school sanctions or even criminal prosecution. (I’d love to be on that jury!) The University’s policy provides no specific timeline for granting or denying permission. Thus, it is clear that an indefinite delay is tantamount to denial.

How did this dispute arise? Last year, a student member of GCL and a pastor were admonished by the Associate Director of University Student Centers, T. J. Willis, Ed.D., for asking people in the student union (where many such evangelistic encounters take place) if they “needed prayers.” At that time, Dr. Willis told the GCL member that they were prohibited from engaging in religious conversations with other students without a permit. As you can imagine, the students rightfully complained, and lawyers for the Alliance Defending Freedom (“ADF”), a nonprofit legal foundation that advocates for religious liberty, sent the infamous “lawyer letter” on behalf of GCL in which the ADF reminded University officials that the only permission slip required by the student is the First Amendment to the Constitution, which guarantees free speech. But the recalcitrant University officials refused to revise their ill-advised permit policy. “We believe that the only permit a student needs to speak on college campuses is the First Amendment,” ADF attorney Tyson Langhofer told FoxNews.com. When the University refused to revise the permit policy, the ADF sued the University in April on behalf of GCL students. In response, the University called the lawsuit “frivolous and without merit.” Nevertheless, and despite its frivolity, earlier this month, Chief U.S. District Judge James C. Dever III, a George W. Bush appointee, issued a preliminary injunction blocking the University from imposing its permit policy on GCL students. In his decision, Judge Dever wrote that it is likely that the University’s permit policy “facially violates the First Amendment.” However, University officials have until this Friday to respond to ADF’s request for a permanent injunction. Following the issuance of Judge Dever’s decision, Fred Hartman, University spokesman, said in a prepared statement that the University would follow the order. Mr. Hartman’s statement further declared, “The [University] has never required students to get permits to engage and talk to other students – regardless of the subject matter.” Perhaps that memo didn’t make it to the desk of Dr. Willis.

Just imagine what we have now come to in America, where Christian university students need to get a “permit” to pray with and talk to their classmates about the Lord Jesus. This new infringement of religious liberty is yet another very important reason why the election on November 8, 2016, require the prayerful consideration and vote of every Christian believer as the liberties guaranteed in the Constitution appear to hang by a frayed thread.

The Sad Tale Of Judge Ruth Neely
Wednesday, June 22, 2016, 11:27 AM

Screen Shot 2016 06 30 at 9.47.17 AM 150x150 The Sad Tale Of Judge Ruth NeelyIn 2013, the New Mexico Supreme Court rendered its decision in the case Elane Photography v. Vanessa Willock. At that time, I wrote about the Elane Photography case on these pages. Ms. Willock had asked Elaine Huguenin, who co-owned Elane Photography in Albuquerque with her husband, Jonathan, to photograph a “commitment ceremony” that Willock and Misty Pascottini wanted to hold in Taos. However, Ms. Huguenin declined because of her Christian beliefs. Ms. Willock and Ms. Pascottini found another photographer, but the ladies also filed a complaint with the New Mexico Human Rights Commission in which they accused Elane Photography of discrimination. The Huguenins were fined and ordered to pay $6,637.94 in attorneys’ fees to the two lesbians. Upon appeal to the New Mexico Supreme Court, the Huguenins lost.

In its ruling, New Mexico Supreme Court Justice Edward Chavez held that a photographer who declines to use her artistic expression to communicate the story of a same-sex ceremony is obligated to do so. (Would it have been a different result if the Huguenins were Moslem under the same set of facts? I suspect so.)

Now at that time, New Mexico did not allow homosexual “marriage,” and Justice Chavez acknowledged that providing services for the “ceremony” violated the sincerely-held, traditional beliefs of the Huguenins, who are devout Christian believers. What is particularly interesting is that, in a concurrence to the opinion, Justice Richard C. Bosson wrote the following:

At its heart, this case teaches that at some point in our lives all of us must compromise, if only a little, to accommodate the contrasting values of others. A multicultural, pluralistic society, one of our nation’s strengths, demands no less. The Huguenins are free to think, to say, to believe, as they wish; they may pray to the God of their choice and follow those commandments in their personal lives wherever they lead. The Constitution protects the Huguenins in that respect and much more. But there is a price, one that we all have to pay somewhere in our civic life. In the smaller, more focused world of the marketplace, of commerce, of public accommodation, the Huguenins have to channel their conduct, not their beliefs, so as to leave space for other Americans who believe something different. That compromise is part of the glue that holds us together as a nation, the tolerance that lubricates the varied moving parts of us as a people. That sense of respect we owe others, whether or not we believe as they do, illuminates this country, setting it apart from the discord that afflicts much of the rest of the world. In short, I would say to the Huguenins, with the utmost respect: it is the price of citizenship.

Emphasis added. Thus, we see that today’s common view in our nation’s judiciary is that the price of citizenship requires that Christian believers must be willing to “compromise” their values and ethics regarding any of the issues of importance in our day. Moreover, any legal protection of conscientious religious objection is tantamount to giving an imprimatur to a “demeaning” opinion of homosexuals and lesbians.

But do you remember the oft-asked question about “How will my neighbors’ gay “marriage” affect me?” Of course, this implied that it would not, and that any objection to homosexual “marriage” was simply bigoted and hateful nonsense.

But one current case in point that illustrates the “price of citizenship” involves Municipal Judge and Circuit Court Magistrate Ruth Neely of Pinedale, Wyoming. Pinedale is a small town of about 2,000 residents, and is the gateway to the Jackson Hole area. Judge Neely has served the people of Pinedale well for more than twenty years. Her days were spent in adjudicating traffic tickets, public drunkenness, and other relatively minor offenses.

But now Judge Neely has become a national cause celebre. In 2014, Judge Neely, who is a member of the conservative Lutheran Church (Missouri Synod), told a reporter that she would not perform same-sex “marriages” because of her religious beliefs. Notwithstanding the success of Brokeback Mountain, It does appear that no same-sex couples in Wyoming have ever asked her to officiate at a “wedding,” and there is apparently another judge in town who is willing to marry homosexuals. Nevertheless, the Wyoming Commission on Judicial Conduct and Ethics (the “Commission”) is recommending to the Wyoming Supreme Court that it remove Judge Neely from her duties, and order her to pay just a small fine of $40,000 for her intolerance and bias.

As you can well imagine, Judge Neely is fighting her removal, arguing that she has a constitutional right to voice her opinion. In fact, without apparent irony, the constitution of Wyoming even prohibits the state from finding a person incompetent to hold public office “because of his opinion on any matter of religious belief whatever.”

But as we learn daily, homosexual “rights” always trump a Christian’s rights of religion and conscience. Even though small-town magistrates like Judge Neely are not required or even paid by the state to perform weddings, the Commission has concluded that Judge Neely “manifested a bias,” and is therefore permanently unfit to serve as a judge. If the attempt to remove her from her position is successful, it would be the first time that a judge has been removed from office because of her religious beliefs about marriage.

Early in the proceedings, the Commission’s attorney told Judge Neely that the Commission would forego its prosecution if she would agree to resign both of her judicial positions, never again seek judicial office in Wyoming, admit wrongdoing, and allow the Commission to publicly state that she had decided to resign in response to a charge of judicial misconduct. I can readily see that when faced with such an unreasonable set of demands, Judge Neely had no choice but to defend herself. Judge Neely is being defended by attorneys for the Alliance Defending Freedom.

Over my career, I have seen the performance of a large number of judges at various levels. I have sat on bar association panels that evaluated judges for election and retention. Some judges have been exceptionally smart and hard-working, while some, on the other extreme, have been incompetent with a poor work ethic. But as the case in most professions, my observation is that the majority are average, and are mostly decent people who try to approach their judicial duties in a workmanlike manner. However, in our society, the law, and its fair and impartial adjudication, is part of the glue that holds our nation together.

As we see things continue to fall apart around us as a nation, it is my view that if Judge Neely is removed from office simply because she is a Christian who holds traditional Christian views, it will lead to an even more widespread loss of faith in the judiciary. Please pray for Judge Neely and for her attorneys as they wage this important battle for religious freedom, free speech and freedom of conscience.

The Dance Party At The World’s End
Friday, June 17, 2016, 11:22 AM

We woke up this past Sunday morning to learn about the murder of 49 Americans in Orlando by an Islamic terrorist. The gunman pledged his loyalty to ISIS in a 911 telephone call and a number of Facebook posts from inside the club during the slaughter. Then a message was posted in Arabic on a website associated with the ISIS “news” agency Amaq stating that “the armed attack that targeted a gay night club in the city of Orlando in the American state of Florida and that bore more than a 100 killed and wounded was carried out by an Islamic state fighter.” Nevertheless, in congressional hearings yesterday, John Brennan, the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, said that the CIA has not been “able to uncover any link” between the Orlando Islamic killer and ISIS. (Really?) And although the killer was interviewed by the FBI on a number of occasions in 2013 and 2014, but the FBI ultimately decided that there was nothing to see.

But who is truly to blame for the Orlando killings? Is it radical Islamic terrorism? Or perhaps it was the FBI and CIA that dropped the ball? Perhaps it was the National Rifle Association? Or are devout Christian believers to blame? And if not, why shouldn’t Christian conservatives be blamed? Well, according to several attorneys with the American Civil Liberties Union (“ACLU”), Christians should be blamed for the tragedy. On Twitter in the wake of the murders, ACLU attorney Chase Strangio spoke out against those who offered “thoughts and prayers” for the victims and their families. Mr. Strangio works with the ACLU’s LGBT & AIDS Project, which includes both litigation, legislative, and administrative advocacy on behalf of LGBTQ+ people and persons living with HIV. According to the ACLU’s website, Mr. Strangio “has particular expertise on the treatment of transgender and gender non-conforming people in police custody, jails, prisons and other forms of detention.” After the murders, Mr. Strangio tweeted as he referred to Christians, “You know what is gross – your thoughts and prayers and Islamophobia after you created this anti-queer climate.” He then went on to rebuke “the Christian right” for calling for laws that ensure the conscience rights of individuals and business owners.  Then, not to be undone, another attorney with the ACLU, Eunice Hyon Min Rho, a graduate of the highly prestigious Columbia University and the University of Michigan Law School, scolded Republican lawmakers who sought to show solidarity and offered prayers after the Orlando shooting. Ms. Rho tweeted that the legislators were behind the “extreme, anti-LGBT First Amendment Defense Act.” I am not sure what Act Ms. Rho was referring to specifically, but then again, perhaps she didn’t either, as her Twitter account was deleted shortly thereafter.

Although I do not support homosexual and lesbian “marriage” based upon my Christian faith and the teachings of the Holy Bible, I would not, nor would I support, any attempt to shoot up a nightclub in which homosexuals and lesbians are dancing to Latin music, or the murder of American soldiers on a military base in Texas, or blowing up runners in Boston at the end of a marathon. And I have heard of no Christians who have taken to throwing homosexuals and lesbians to their deaths from the top of buildings as ISIS repeatedly has. Rather, the Christians I know advocate for the dignity and protection of every human life, whether born or preborn, including those of any sexual orientation. Of course, it is absurd to state that policies that prevent a person from having to participate in a same-sex “wedding” are somehow connected to terrorist acts by Islamic jihadists. As the astute writer and commentator Mark Steyn observed in the wake of the Orlando terrorist attack, “A Moslem of Afghan heritage guns down 49 gays in a nightclub, and the ACLU tells us it’s the fault of the Christian right. We are being told up is down, the sky is the earth, black is white. If this shooting in Orlando can be the fault of the Christian right, then there is no reality.” Emphasis added. Although some may clamor for more gun control, the two ACLU lawyers, and yes, even Mr. Obama, forget that it is radical Islamic terrorism that is responsible for this and countless other heinous attacks. Again, Mark Steyn, in observing that radical Islam seeks to destroy the “internal contradictions of the rainbow coalition,” concludes, “The arithmetic isn’t complicated: the more Islam, the fewer gays.” In fact, mostly unreported in the media, since the Orlando attack last Sunday morning, Department of State data indicates that 441 Syrian refugees have been resettled in communities across the United States. Although five of the Syrians were identified as Christian, the rest are Sunni Moslems. Although the largest number of resettled Syrians went to Illinois, 49 went to Florida, including ten in the greater Orlando area with five resettled in Orlando proper. Although Florida Governor Rick Scott is opposed to resettling Syrian refugees in his state among ongoing vetting concerns, he also expressed frustration that the Obama Administration is refusing to share any information about the Syrians placed in his state, citing “privacy” concerns. As predicted by the CIA Director Brennan on Thursday in his congressional testimony, and by common sense, which appears to be an increasingly uncommon virtue, we can expect more ISIS attacks in the United States with many more Americans, gay and straight, being murdered by the policies and incompetence of the feckless Obama Administration. Lord, have mercy!

Dry Rotten Roots And The Boiling Frog
Friday, June 10, 2016, 11:18 AM

iStock 455647 SMALL 300x200 Dry Rotten Roots And The Boiling Frog

I have been contemplating recently about how much in the broader society has become unrecognizable to many of us, especially for those who are traditional Christian believers. Thinking that would have been sinful, considered wrong, absurd, and even a topic of great mirth, and unimaginable, have now become official policies of our national government. I am reminded of the boiling frog anecdote, which describes a frog slowly being boiled alive. I have never tried this and so I am unsure whether it is really true, but the premise of the anecdote is that if a frog is placed in boiling water, then it will jump out, but if it is placed in cold water that is heated slowly, then the frog will not perceive any danger and will be cooked to death. This anecdote is often used as a metaphor for the inability and/or unwillingness of people to react to or be aware of threats that occur gradually.

I was thinking of the boiling frog as there have been a great devolution in American society in recent years. As we come to the waning final, long months of his regime, and buoyed by most of the mainstream news media and the institutions of influence in society, Mr. Obama has pushed an agenda that is extremist and well outside the mainstream of traditional American society. We have all heard about his push to change the long-understood definition of “sex” to include transgendered students. In 1972, Congress overwhelmingly approved the Education Amendments of 1972 (with 88 percent approval in the Senate and 69 percent in the House), and signed by President Nixon. The heart of that law is Title IX: “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.” But now, the Obama Regime has unilaterally redefined “sex” to now include “gender identity.” The Obama Departments of Education and Justice claim that Title IX “encompasses discrimination based on a student’s gender identity, including discrimination based on a student’s transgender status.” In addition, the federal government warns that schools can lose federal funds if they don’t comply with Mr. Obama’s transgender directive. You can read the government’s letter here. So now we have Mr. Obama ignoring the law to protect Americans from dangers caused by illegal alien criminals, while he invents a new interpretation of law that threatens schools that hinder a man in a dress and wig using a girls’ bathroom. Then doubling down on his policy justification, in a not very hard-hitting town hall in Indiana hosted by Public Broadcasting “(PBS”), Mr. Obama recently claimed that the Bible supports “transgender rights.” Mr. Obama said, “My reading of scripture tells me that that [the] Golden Rule is pretty high up there in terms of my Christian belief.” The Golden Rule is found in the Lord Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 7:12, and our Lord said, “Therefore, all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them; for this is the Law and the Prophets.” I don’t want to digress, but would not the Golden Rule also apply to unborn children about whom Mr. Obama has absolutely no regard?

The Holy Bible in Genesis 1:27 and 2:20-25, and Matthew 19:4, declares that there are only two sexes: male and female. Yes, I do understand that there are some rare exceptions when a person is born with male and female genitalia, which is typically repaired surgically during infancy. Then there is also this jewel from Deuteronomy 22:5: “A woman shall not wear man’s clothing, nor shall a man put on a woman’s clothing; for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord your God.” (The PBS host and audience members did not ask Mr. Obama about this Bible verse.) But then again, Mr. Obama may not realize that someone who violates God’s law cannot appeal to the Golden Rule in an attempt to nullify God’s law.

Then, in addition, during his recent commencement address at the U.S. Air Force Academy, Mr. Obama said that allowing gay and lesbian soldiers to openly serve in the military has strengthened America. Mr. Obama observed, “We are stronger when our gay and lesbian cadets and troops can serve their country, a country they love, without hiding who they love.” Then he also went on to add, “The U.S. is stronger when Moslem-American cadets know that we celebrate their service as proud, patriotic, Moslem-Americans who are also serving our armed forces.” I am not convinced that this is correct, but that is what he said.

So now we have come to a complete moral inversion in society. I am reminded of the Holy Scripture from Isaiah 5:20-24, which states:

20 Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that count darkness as light, and light as darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!

21 Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight! . . .

23 who justify the wicked for a reward, and take away the righteousness of the righteous from him!

24 Therefore as the fire devoureth the stubble, and the flame consumeth the chaff, so their root shall be rottenness, and their blossom shall go up as dust; because they have cast away the law of the Lord of hosts, and despised the word of the Holy One of Israel.

Yes, our nation has now come to dry rot and decay, and I fear that we can only expect things will get much worse as we endure God’s holy and righteous judgment. The Jefferson Memorial contains a quotation from President Thomas Jefferson, who said powerfully, “God who gave us life gave us liberty. Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that His justice cannot sleep forever.” Lord have mercy!

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