An Exchange of Letters Regarding the Wunderlichs
Friday, January 24, 2014, 9:51 AM

On these pages, I have written about the plight of Dirk and Petra Wunderlich, whose children, aged 7 to 14, were taken forcibly from their home in Darmstadt, Germany, last August by a SWAT team of twenty police, special agents, and social workers as the children began their morning home school classes.  The children were taken into custody because their parents insisted on the children being homeschooled.  Following a court hearing, the Wunderlich children were returned to their parents after the parents promised that they would send their children back to a government school.  At that time, I urged my readers to express their opposition to the heavy-handed tactics of German authorities.  On November 21, 2013, I wrote to the German Ambassador to Washington, D.C., Peter Ammon.  In my letter, I wrote the following in pertinent part:

I am deeply concerned about the plight of Dirk and Petra Wunderlich of Darmstadt.  Mr. and Mrs. Wunderlich are Christian believers who sought to home school their four children, aged 7 to 14.  Last August, the children were taken forcibly from their home early one morning by a battalion of twenty police, special agents, and social workers as the children began their home school classes.  Judge Koenig of the Darmstadt family court authorized the seizure of the children finding that seizure was proper because the children had “adopted the parents’ opinions’ regarding homeschooling and that no cooperation could be expected” from either the parents or the children.  After three weeks, the children were returned to the parents, but only on the condition that they enroll in a government school.  The family has now sought to emigrate from Germany to another country where homeschooling is legal.  However, their right of free movement has been curtailed until, at least, a December court hearing.  For many Christian Americans, homeschooling is an important religious liberty issue, and reflects a fundamental human right of parents to teach their children what they believe.  As your government is aware, the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Article 26(3) states that parents have a “prior right” over the government to choose their children’s education.  I remind you that although Germany is a party to numerous human rights treaties that recognize the right of parents to provide an education distinct from the government schools, this fundamental human right has been infringed with regard to the Wunderlich family and others who are similarly situated.  We urge your government remedy the violation of Germany’s human rights commitments to the Wunderlich family.  I look forward to hearing from you.

I recently received a response to my letter from Karlfried Bergner, Minister of Communications and Culture at the German Embassy in Washington, D.C., in which he wrote the following:

Dear Mr. Avramovich,

Thank you very much for your letter to Ambassador Ammon, dated November 21, expressing your concerns about the Wunderlich family’s case.  Please allow me to elaborate on the German views and positions regarding homeschooling.  Mandatory school attendance ensures a high standard of learning for all children.  It protects children against social discrimination and isolation, contributes to integration, and fosters dialogue within society.  In 2006, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled that the German requirement to attend school is not a violation of human rights and that EU member states have the right to regulate their individual educational systems.  The Court noted that the German authorities and courts had carefully reasoned their decisions and mainly stressed the fact that not only the acquisition of knowledge but also social integration and interaction with other children are important goals in primary school education.  The German courts found that those objectives cannot likewise be met through home-schooling even if children are thus able to acquire the same knowledge level as provided for by primary school education.  The ECHR accepted this assumption as correct and consistent with the prerogative which the Contracting States’ (sic) enjoy in setting up and interpreting rules for their educational system.  That notwithstanding, German parents still have a wide range of educational options for their children.  They may choose between public, private, and religious schools, including those with alternative curricula such as the Waldorf or Montessori schools.  Beyond school attendance on weekdays, they are furthermore at liberty to provide their children with any additional private or family education on weekends.  Sincerely yours,

In my next blog, I will share my response to Mr. Bergner.  Please continue to pray for the Wunderlich family that they will be “allowed” to leave Germany, where their fundamental right to teach their children as they see fit is curtailed.

Update on the Wunderlich Family of Germany
Wednesday, January 22, 2014, 10:30 AM

I suspect that my readers thought that the Berlin Wall come down in 1989.  Well, apparently not if you are a Christian homeschooling family.  On these pages, I have written a number of blogs regarding the plight of the Wunderlich family of Darmstadt, Germany.  Dirk and Petra Wunderlich are the parents of four children, aged 7 to 14, who were taken forcibly from their home in Darmstadt, Germany, last August by a SWAT team of twenty police, special agents, and social workers as the children began their morning home school classes.  The children were taken into custody because their parents insisted on the children being homeschooled, which is illegal under German law.  (It continues as a law held over from the Nazi times.)  Following an international outcry, a Darmstadt court returned the Wunderlich children to their parents, but only on the condition that the parents promise to send the children to a government school.  The parents complied with the court’s order.  Thus, the parents were granted guardianship of their children, but not legal custody.  But rather than disappearing into the night by crossing German borders, the Wunderlichs petitioned the court for permission to emigrate from Germany to another country where homeschooling is permitted.  (I am unsure I would petition the court to do that.  Would you?)  This hearing was set for December 18, 2013, at which time lawyers for the Wunderlichs asked the judge to return full legal custody to the parents because they have complied with all of the court’s orders that the children go to government school, and because they wished to move to France where homeschooling is legal.  However, at that hearing, Family Court Judge Marcus Malkmus slammed the door on the Wunderlich emigration hopes.  The order by the Honorable Judge Malkmus compared homeschooling to a straitjacket for the children.  While the Honorable Judge Malkmus acknowledged that the Wunderlich children were well cared for, and did not have any educational deficiencies, he refused to return full legal custody to the parents, or to allow the family to leave Germany.  He stated that it was necessary to keep the Wunderlich children in German government schools to ensure that they were integrated into society.  If they were allowed to be homeschooled in Germany or anywhere else, the consequences might be that “the children would grow up in a parallel society without having learned to be integrated or to have a dialogue who those who think differently and facing them in the sense of practicing tolerance.”  (I would bet that almost all of today’s German neo-Nazi skinheads attended government schools for at least a portion of their “education.”  How is that working out, Herr Marcus?  But I digress.)  Finally, Judge Malkmus concluded that homeschooling creates “concrete endangerment to the well-being of the child.”  (Homeschooling parents, did you realize that?  After all, it must be true since a judge said it!)  However, the judge failed to cite any evidence before the court in support of his proposition.  (Just in case you think I am making this up, Judge Malkmus’s written orders are available here in an unofficial English translation, and in the official German-language version here).

Dirk Wunderlich told Home School Legal Defense Association that he was shocked by the harshness of the judge’s decision.  Mr. Wunderlich said:

I had really hoped the judge would just let us leave Germany peacefully.  We don’t isolate our children.  They are well adjusted and doing well academically.  We are happy for them to be connected to society.  We just prefer to homeschool them because we believe it is better for them.  It is so sad that my countrymen are not able to see that homeschooling should be allowed.  It is legal in many other countries, and I believe is a human right.  Judge Malkmus has erected another Berlin Wall apparently designed to prevent all parents who might leave to homeschool from leaving Germany.  This is no different than what happened in the former East Germany under communism and before that under the Third Reich.  We need help from others around the world to help our country see this terrible violation of human rights.

Please continue to pray for the freedom of the Wunderlich family, and for wisdom for the attorneys representing the family.  In the coming days, I will be sharing my exchange of correspondence with the German Embassy in Washington, D.C., regarding the Wunderlichs.  Yes, Judge Malkmus, the Berlin Wall fell in 1989.  Let The Wunderlichs Go!

Praying for Suffering Christians in the Middle East
Monday, January 20, 2014, 9:50 AM

Very early this past Saturday, I was startled awake with a compelling need to pray for our Christian brothers and sisters throughout the Middle East.  I began to pray for a dear friend of mine who preaches the holy Gospel in areas controlled by radical Islamists.  He continues to preach notwithstanding the dangers to him and his family (and to the Christians he visits).  He preaches in areas where there are no church buildings, as he meets with Christians in their homes.  I prayed for other evangelists who go into some of the most dangerous areas of the Middle East to proclaim the Lordship and salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ.  I further prayed for another friend of mine who is the headmaster of a Christian school in the Middle East.  Many of the school’s students come from Moslem families, but are drawn to the high standards of education at the school.  I prayed also for the teachers and other workers at the school who labor with him.  I prayed for the pastors and Christian believers in Iran who suffer daily persecution.  I also prayed for Pastors Saeed Abedini and Farshid Fathi, and the other Christian believers, who suffer in the hell of Iranian prisons.  I prayed for the 13 Syrian and Lebanese Orthodox nuns and the three other orphanage workers kidnapped in Syria.  I prayed for their health and safety (the eldest nun is nearly 90 years old, and the youngest kidnapped orphanage worker is in her mid-teens).  I prayed that they would be released soon from their brutal captivity at the hands of the Syrian rebels.  I prayed for the more than eighty Christians kidnapped for ransom in Minya, Egypt, since the 2011 revolution (Minya is an Upper Egypt province with a high percentage of Coptic Christians).  I also prayed for the clergy and priests who care for their terrified flocks throughout the Middle East, including the priest and two bishops kidnapped by the Syrian rebels.  I prayed for Greek Orthodox Bishop Boulos Yazigi and the Syriac Orthodox Bishop Yohanna Ibrahim who were kidnapped last year.  Then, I also prayed for 27-year-old Father Michael Kayyal of the Armenian Catholic Church in Aleppo, who was abducted last February while riding a bus after Islamists saw his clerical garb.  I prayed for Greek Orthodox priest, Father Maher Mahfouz, who was kidnapped around the same time.  On these pages, I have written about the martyrdom of Syrian Orthodox parish priest Father Fadi Haddad who was kidnapped in December 2013 after he left his church to negotiate the release of one of his kidnapped parishioners.  One week later, Fr. Haddad’s mutilated corpse was found by the roadside, with his eyes gouged out.  A young man named Yohannes (his last name has not been released to protect his family) was summarily executed.  An Islamist gunman stopped a bus to Aleppo, Syria, on which Yohannes was riding.  The Islamist checked the background of each passenger.  When the Islamists saw the Armenian surname of Yohannes, he was searched more thoroughly.  After finding that Yohannes was wearing a cross around his neck, one of the Islamists shot point blank at his cross.  He died instantly.  And so I prayed for the family of Yohannes.  I also prayed for 18-year-old Gabriel, who fled with his family last year from his town after his father was murdered for the “crime” of having a crucifix hanging from his car’s rear-view mirror.  The son said: “After the funeral, the threats against our family and other Christians increased.  The terrorists called us and said that it was time to disappear; we had that choice, or we would be killed.”  I also prayed for Christians who have been brutally targeted by the “courts” of the “Caliphate of Iraq and the Levant,” the name the American-allied al-Nusra Brigade and other Islamist rebels use in reference to the Syrian territory under their control.

As you see, there are many to pray for.  The above describes only a fraction of those who suffer as each Christian family in the Middle East can tell its own horrors.  I hope you will join me in praying for these dear saints much loved by our Lord.  After all, we are admonished in Hebrews 13:3 to “remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.”  If you wish to comment below on others we can pray for, please do so.

Why Are Christians Hated by Islamicists
Wednesday, January 15, 2014, 8:58 AM

Earlier this week, I posted a blog about the arrest of fifty Christians on Christmas Day in Teheran, Iran.  Over the years, people have asked me what possible threat is posed to any society, and in particular to dictatorial regimes like Iran’s, from a group of Christians singing hymns in a private home on Christmas.  The answer is that the Christian faith poses a grave threat and challenge to the monopoly of unchecked political power innate to all dictatorial and authoritarian regimes.  The teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ assert moral principles that despotic governments do not want to hear.  The Christian Church affirms the overwhelming truth that a righteous and holy God created human beings in His magnificent beauty and image so that we each have great inherent worth to God.  Further, the Church teaches that God loves each of us so much that He sent His only begotten Son to die on the cross for our sins so that we can be re-established in a right relationship with a loving and forgiving God as His children.  In the powerful words of the Westminster Catechism, the chief end of man is to “glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever.”  These fundamental teachings of the Church are deeply powerful, and are a grave threat to the political order in any despotic regime.  In the American Declaration of Independence, these Judeo-Christian principles manifest themselves in the proclamation that all persons are endowed by their Creator with rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

In Iran, and all other Islamic nations, such notions deeply offend Islamic sensibilities.    The U.S. Constitution was based upon Judeo-Christian principles.  Indeed, even the notion of separation of powers, where different branches of government serve as a check upon the other branches, recognizes the sinful nature of man.  As Lord Acton astutely and famously observed, power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely, and thus, our political structure requires that there must be restraints on political power for citizens to flourish.  The recent events in Governor Christie’s New Jersey, and the scandals and cover-ups in Washington, D.C., where we even saw the closure last October of an open-air World War II memorial during the so-called government shutdown, show clearly that governments readily tend to be petty, corrupt and abusive to their citizens.

Radical Islamists cannot countenance such an ideology of limited and restrained government, or even the structure of shared-power governance intrinsic to the U.S. Constitution, since it is based upon Biblical principles.  Islam is an absolutist religion affecting the densest strata of life, and teaches that the Bible has been corrupted, and that is why Mohammed provided a new revelation.  However, for Christians, we recall St. Paul’s teaching in Galatians 1:8, “But though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach unto you any gospel other than that which we preached unto you, let him be anathema.”  As a result, Islamic teaching from the Koran and the hadith cannot allow freedom of religion or any other right of self-expression (particularly conversion from Islam to Christianity) when Islamists predominate a society.  Non-Moslems in Islam, particularly Jews and Christians, deemed to be “people of the Scripture,” are tolerated, but are granted second-class status of dhimmitude.  Thus, Western notions of representative democracy with strong civil right protections for citizens, and Islam, as has been noted by many scholars, cannot co-exist in Islamic states.  In fact, every Islamic government in the world today (as well as throughout its long history) has been either dictatorial or autocratic.  Nor should we expect that Islamic governments become forms of Jeffersonian representative democracy.  And as we have seen in recent history, when elections do take place in Islamic countries, such as Iran and Egypt, they are typically fraught with great corruption, and the will of the nation’s people is thwarted and denied.  Further, in an effort to bolster their own political power, the people must submit to the leadership and teachings of the mullahs and other Islamic teachers as taught in the Koran.  It is the Iranian mullahs, among other radical Islamic teachers, who advocate for the annihilation of the United States as the Great Satan, and of Israel as the Little Satan, along with other deeply dangerous foolishness.

Finally, when Americans assert that we are “one nation under God,” the God of the Christian is loving, good, and kind.  But among the 99 Koranic names of Allah, he is never referred to as the Heavenly Father, or even as loving.  As a result, Christians today in Islamic nations, as was the case in the ancient Roman world, are understood to deserve what the Roman historian Tacitus called the odio humani generis, that is, hatred of the human race.  Therefore, everything must be done in Islamist authoritarian and despotic states to destroy independent thought and the fundamental freedoms of Christian (and other non-Islamic) believers.  And that is why you could enjoy a quiet, peaceful Christmas with your family, and attend church freely to worship our Savior’s birth, but Christians in Iran are arrested for doing the same.  However, the redeeming work of salvation and sanctification by the Holy Spirit of God in the lives of people cannot be stopped by any oppressive governmental force, no matter how brutal.  Every day in Iran, many people continue to become followers of the Lord Jesus Christ.  For this, we give great praise and worship to our loving Heavenly Father.

Iranian Authorities Arrest Christians on Christmas Day
Monday, January 13, 2014, 8:57 AM

As many of us were enjoying Christmas 2013 with our families, and attending worship services to celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, some Christian believers in Iran had another nightmarish experience at the hands of the Iranian mullahs.  On these pages, I have written about the troubles of Iranian pastor, Youcef Nadarkhani.  You may recall that Pastor Nadarkhani, a man in his early 30s, became a Christian as a teen, and spent three years in the notorious Iranian Evin prison awaiting execution for “apostasy.”  In 2012, following an international outcry, Pastor Nadarkhani was freed from death row when charges of apostasy against him were dropped.  However, he was again arrested on Christmas Day.  However, he has now been released after fourteen days.

Mohabat News reported that Iranian police and security officials raided a private home in Tehran where “approximately 50 newly converted Christians had gathered to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ and the occasion of Christmas.”  The group included Pastor Nadarkhani and a pastor of Armenian descent, Vruir Avanessian, who suffers from kidney disease, about whom I have written on these pages.  The British Foreign Office, in a statement issued January 3, 2014, condemned the re-arrest of Pastor Nadarkhani and other Christians, calling religious freedom in Iran “a matter of ongoing and deep concern.”  The statement went on to say, “Reports that more than 50 people were arrested for celebrating Christmas in a private home show the depths of intolerance with which the Iranian Government treats its own citizens.”  A copy of the British Foreign Office statement is available here:  Neither Secretary of State John F. Kerry, nor his State Department, have issued any official statement regarding Pastor Nadarkhani’s arrest and those of the other Iranian Christians.

The American Center for Law and Justice (“ACLJ”) issued a statement that read:

The ACLJ welcomes [Pastor Nadarkhani’s] release from this unjust and illegal imprisonment.  Iran must not be allowed to persecute individuals because of their faith.  His re-arrest on Christmas Day shows Iran’s intent to make an example of Pastor Youcef to intimidate people of minority faiths.  Pastor Youcef’s release is a direct result of people across the world standing up and demanding his freedom.

Please continue to pray for Pastors Nadarkhani and Avanessian as they boldly share the Holy Gospel of our Lord, and for the new Iranian Christians.  Further, in this new year, please do not forget to pray for American pastor Saeed Abedini, who is serving an eight-year sentence on trumped-up charges of endangering Iranian national security.  Pastor Abedini was in Iran working to build an orphanage (with the permission of the Iranian government).  Of course, he is being punished for converting from Islam to Christianity.  Many Christians (including me) have been critical of the Obama Administration for its failure to do more to secure Pastor Abedini’s release from prison.

Supreme Court Stops Utah’s Homosexual “Marriage” Imbroglio – For Now
Wednesday, January 8, 2014, 10:30 AM

In Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, Alice exclaims how some events made her “curiouser and curiouser.”  So was I when, on this past Monday, the Feast of the Epiphany, the Supreme Court might have had its own epiphany.  But then, perhaps not.  The Supreme Court issued a permanent injunction on a ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Robert J. Shelby’s decision of December 20, 2013, overturning Utah’s Amendment 3, which stated that marriage in Utah is the union of one man and one woman.  Many Americans were stunned to learn that Judge Shelby found Amendment 3 violated the 14th Amendment constitutional guarantee of due process and equal protection.  (Really?  In Utah?)  Amendment 3 was enacted in 2004 with approval of 66 percent of the voters.  Following Judge Shelby’s decision, Utah state officials had sought a stay in the case until the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, based in Denver, decided the lawsuit on its merits.  However, Judge Shelby, recently appointed to the Utah federal court by Mr. Obama in late September 2012, would have none of this, and denied a stay on his ruling.  Following Judge Shelby’s decision, the 10th Circuit Appellate Court also denied Utah officials’ request to delay the decision from taking effect.  As a result, Utah state officials turned to the Supreme Court for help.

So, why did I find the Supreme Court’s decision to be curious?  It was the liberal Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who handles appeals from the 10th Circuit, who, after receiving Utah’s application in the case, referred it to the full Supreme Court.  Apparently without dissent, the Supreme Court issued its stay.  The stay is simply stated, and is available here .  Practically this means that Utah’s Amendment 3 is back in force, and homosexual marriages can no longer be legally performed in Utah.  This case is significant because Utah, and 28 other states, have constitutional amendments stating that marriage is the union of one man and one woman in Utah.  (Four other states have the same legal result through statute.)  If the Utah Amendment is ultimately struck down, it would mean the same fate for the rest of state constitutional amendments defining traditional marriage.  The status of approximately 1,000 homosexual “marriages” performed in Utah since Judge Shelby’s careless December 20 ruling is not immediately clear, but at the very least, those unions are now in legal limbo.

Although Mr. Obama nominated Judge Shelby, both Utah Senators Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee gave their approval.  Senator Lee even called him “pre-eminently qualified.”  Not that I would ever want to judge a book by its cover, but Judge Shelby apparently served in U.S. Special Forces and, according to the New York Times, is a registered Republican.  So this also contributes to my curious state of mind as he does not seem to fit my perspective of a progressive judicial activist.  However, were I even mildly cynical, I could think that Judge Shelby’s refusal to stay his own order might be to create a fait accompli.  After all, if after 1,000 or more couples are “married,” then it is hard to put that genie back into the bottle.

For those of us who oppose homosexual “marriage,” I think that we should not be too excited about the Supreme Court’s decision.  It could be good news in that the Supreme Court could be upholding a state’s right to establish marriage as the union of one man and one woman.  However, it may also indicate that the Supreme Court has recognized what the rule of law normally requires.  Typically, stays of decisions that invalidate state laws are granted to give the state an opportunity to appeal the decision.  The lower courts in this case refused to do so.  Consequently, the Supreme Court’s issuance of a stay is the typical result, regardless of one’s belief about homosexual “marriage.”  In last June’s two decisions regarding homosexual “marriage,” the Supreme Court found the federal Defense of Marriage Act to be unconstitutional.  Continuing the curiouser theme, the Supreme Court also declined to rule on the merits of California’s constitutional ban on homosexual “marriage,” yet decided that case on procedural grounds.  As a result, the Supreme Court left in place a lower-court ruling that invalidated California’s constitutional ban on homosexual “marriage.”

Nevertheless, please pray for great wisdom and prudence for the 10th Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court, and most importantly, for a great revival in our nation.  The arriviste Judge Shelby single-handedly altered Utah’s family law, a core function of state government, without the benefit of trial and without a direct precedent on this issue, and ignored the public policy decision of an overwhelming number of Utah voters.  Just imagine what an overbearing and oppressive federal government, bolstered by activist judges, can do to you and your family, and to your sincerely-held Christian beliefs.

New Abortion Restrictions Take Effect in 2014
Monday, January 6, 2014, 8:35 AM

At midnight on New Year’s Day 2014, the United States became a far more just and righteous nation as more than 40,000 new laws and regulations went into force.  According to Jake Tapper of CNN, some of the important new laws prohibit Illinois teens from using tanning beds without a doctor’s note.  In Delaware, shark fin buffets will disappear as it is now illegal to own, sell, or distribute that delicacy.  And in California, new laws let students take part in school sports or use bathrooms based on their subjective gender identity, notwithstanding the gender shown on their birth certificates.  And we can never forget the travesty of legalized marijuana in Colorado, or the beginning of the national social disaster of Obamacare.  This is quite a contrast to the teachings of Isaiah 33:22.

However, for those of us who are pro-life, we can rejoice that 22 states enacted 70 new laws to restrict abortions during 2013, with a number of provisions taking effect on January 1st.  According to the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute, this is the second-highest number of new laws restricting abortion since the Supreme Court’s 1973 decision of Roe v. Wade allowing unrestricted abortion.  (During 2011, 92 abortion restrictions were enacted by the states.)  Many of the new restrictions involve banning abortions after a certain time in pregnancy (typically 20 weeks following fertilization), prohibiting abortions when the baby’s heartbeat is detected (as early as six weeks post-fertilization), setting new medical facility safety regulations for abortion mills, and limiting abortion coverage in health insurance.  Several of these state laws are currently enjoined by court order pending litigation.

In the Guttmacher study on 2013 state policies, it reported that 56 percent of women now live in 27 states that are “hostile” to abortion.  Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood, our nation’s largest abortion provider, recently stated:

The historic rise of these attacks on women’s health can be traced back to 2010, when out-of-touch Tea Party politicians picked up key seats in legislatures across the country, promising to create jobs and boost our economy — but immediately focused on ending access to safe and legal abortion and limiting women’s health care options.  The majority of Americans, regardless of political party, believe that a woman should be able to make personal medical decisions without political interference — that is why politicians had to employ every underhanded trick in the book to get these laws passed, sometimes quite literally in the dark of night.

(Emphasis added.)  California went against the national tide as its lawmakers passed AB 154, which allows nurses, midwives, and physician assistants to perform abortions during the first trimester either by drugs or aspiration.  (Aspiration abortions refer to procedures in which the unborn baby is torn apart, and then sucked out of the uterus by a vacuum-cleaner type device.)  Planned Parenthood supported enactment of AB 154 (as it cuts personnel costs, thereby increasing its profitability), whereas pro-life groups opposed enactment fearing that it puts women’s lives at greater risk.

As a result of these new rules, one pro-life group, Operation Rescue, estimated that 87 facilities performing abortions “halted operations” during 2013.  Texas closed eleven abortion facilities after its legislature enacted legislation that simply required abortionists to maintain local hospital privileges in case of a medical emergency.  Further, new abortion clinic safety rules led to additional closures in Pennsylvania and Maryland.  According to Guttmacher, 13 states are supportive of pro-abortion “rights“: California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Vermont, Washington and West Virginia.  Another 10 are “middle-ground,” having enacted a number of abortion restrictions: Alaska, Colorado, Delaware, Iowa, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, Wyoming, and Illinois (President Obama’s home state, though it is still much easier for a teen to get an abortion there than a deep tan).  The other 27 states are deemed to be “hostile” to abortions.

So, I thought that I would share that at the beginning of 2014, there is some good news for women and babies in some parts of our United States.  Let us remember David’s teaching in Psalm 139: 13-16 that each of us is fearfully and wonderfully made by God, and knit together in our mother’s womb.  Let us also continue to pray that the evil scourge of abortion be removed from our land, and to remember in prayer those mothers who choose to abort their babies that they will repent and turn to our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ.

My New Year’s Resolution for 2014
Friday, January 3, 2014, 9:59 AM

I wish all my readers a healthy and happy 2014 full of God’s richest blessings.  It is common at the start of a new year to have some resolutions.  After all, we read in the Holy Scripture at Philippians 3:13, “Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead.”  So this is a time of new beginnings for each of us.  Instead of resolutions involving exercising more, reading one book each month, or eating less wheat gluten and sugar, I decided that for 2014, my resolution will be based upon a statement made by Dr. David Livingstone, the Scottish missionary and African explorer, who said, “Why is it that, when we are given a commission by a worldly king, we regard it as an honor, but when we are given a commission by the Heavenly King, we regard it as a sacrifice?”  Dr. Livingstone was, of course, referring to the Great Commission found in Matthew 28:18-20.   So, my resolution for 2014 is to teach and proclaim our Lord’s Holy Gospel with greater passion, and to stand more fervently with those around the world who do the same.

On these pages, I have written about the plight of Asia Bibi.  Many of us are familiar with her case; she was the Pakistani Roman Catholic rural farm worker and mother of five.  In June 2009, while working in the fields, she was sent to bring water for the other farm workers.  Some Moslem workers refused to drink her water as they considered Christians to be “unclean.”  In response, some of her coworkers complained that she made derogatory comments about Islam.  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?”  Although she is illiterate, and considered a simple and uneducated woman, she actually asked a deeply profound question as Islam teaches one cannot know and experience assurance of eternal salvation.  After ruminating on her question without an adequate answer, six days after the incident, a violent mob came to her home, damaged her home, and beat her and members of her family.  Police arrested her, and she spent more than one year in jail before trial.  In November 2010, Judge Muhammed Naveed Iqbal sentenced her to death by hanging, and she was also fined the equivalent of $1,100, a huge sum in rural Pakistan.  Her verdict was upheld by the Lahore High Court.  Another appeal is not expected to be heard in her case until at least 2015.  Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari declined to grant a pardon to Asia Bibi after large demonstrations were held against her.

Pakistan is our erstwhile ally in the war against terrorism, and has received tens of billions of our tax dollars in foreign and military aid over just the past decade, and continues to do so.  Militant Islamist forces in Pakistan create much violence against Christian believers.  In addition to Asia Bibi, numerous other Pakistani Christians have been falsely accused of breaking infamous law 295(c) of the Pakistani criminal code, which provides that blasphemy against Mohammed is a crime punishable by death.  As we begin 2014, there are approximately 40 individuals on death row or serving life sentences for allegedly blasphemous conduct, a statistic unmatched anywhere else in the world.  But there might be others as well who are unknown in the West.  Typically, the charges against Christians are fabricated for the personal gain of the accusers.

Asia Bibi has now spent her fifth Christmas in prison.  Presently, media reports indicate that she is confined to a small solitary confinement cell without windows at a Lahore prison.  If she is released, one survey reported that ten million Pakistanis said that they would be willing to personally kill her.  The imam in her village, Qari Mohammed Salim, stated that he wept for joy on learning that she had been sentenced to death.  The Honorable Imam Salim also threatened that some people would “take the law into their own hands” should she be pardoned or released.  My readers may recall that two officials who championed her case, the governor of Punjab province, Salmaan Taseer, and Shahbaz Bhatti, a federal cabinet minister, were both assassinated three years ago.  Her family has received threats and is in hiding.  Her husband, Ashiq, stated that her family has been offered asylum in numerous Western European countries should she be released.  (However, she has not been offered asylum by our “Surfer Dude” President, who has, in comparison to Asia Bibi, spent the last five Christmases on vacation with his family in Hawaii.)  However, her husband and family announced that they are unwilling to leave Pakistan without her.

As we begin 2014, please pray for Asia Bibi and her family.  And please tell your friends because standing with our persecuted brothers and sisters around the world is an important part of proclaiming the Holy Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.  After all, we are instructed in Hebrews 13:3, “Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.”  Just imagine how God would pour out His blessings upon our hearts if we followed that command.

Wishing My Readers a Merry Christmas
Monday, December 23, 2013, 10:18 AM

Since Christmas 2012, I have written a number of blogs dealing with serious subjects.  They have been prayerfully written to remind us about the persecution of Christians in other countries, including the suffering of Pastor Saeed Abedini, the American pastor imprisoned in Iran, and many others, the onslaught against Christians in Syria, Egypt, and other parts of the Middle East, including the kidnapped nuns of Syria, the eroding freedom to practice our Christian faith in the United States, the assaults on home-schooling parents, both in the United States and abroad, the unfathomable scourge of abortion around the world, the pernicious mockery of traditional marriage by the institutions of influence in our society, and a four-part series on the educationally damaging Common Core academic standards.  These are merely several of the topics I have written about since last Christmas.  On occasion, I hear from readers who say that many of my topics are discouraging to read about, but the Bible does instruct us to watch and pray.  This Christmas, I am comforted with the astounding reality that God entered human history to redeem mankind; God’s unmerited Gift of the Lord Jesus through His love and grace.  Many babies have been born who have become kings, but this Christmas, we remember that only one holy and eternal King became a baby.  This alone should encourage and bless those among us who claim the privilege to be adopted children of God through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  Thus, we can comfort one another through Christ as we face continued uncertainty and great darkness in our world.

One of my astute international readers recently shared a powerful, simple story.  A great fire broke out at Yellowstone National Park.  After the forest fire subsided, forest rangers trekked up one of the mountains to assess the inferno’s damage.  One ranger found a bird petrified in ashes, perched statuesquely on the ground at the base of a tree.  Sickened by the eerie sight, the ranger knocked over the bird with a stick.  When he gently struck it, three tiny chicks scurried from under the dead mother’s wings.  The loving mother, keenly aware of impending disaster, had carried her chicks to the base of the tree, and gathered them under her wings.  Through the instinct given to her by God, she knew that the smoke would rise.  She, of course, could have flown to safety, but she refused to abandon her chicks.  When the blaze arrived, the heat scorched her small body, but the mother remained steadfast.  Because she was willing to die, those under her wings would live.  So as we may face discouragement this Christmas at many events in our world, let us remember this example for we are taught by the Psalmist in Psalm 91:4 that “He will cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you will find refuge; His faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.”  May God continue to bless you all, and keep you under His loving feathers.  I wish you and your families a blessed Merry Christmas.

Humanist Grinches Deny Poor Children Christmas Presents
Friday, December 20, 2013, 9:41 AM

East Point Academy (the “Academy”) in West Columbia, South Carolina, is a highly-rated (100% Federal Accountability Rating, and an “Excellent” rating from the South Carolina state government), government charter school of 400 students.  It is unique in that it is South Carolina’s first Chinese immersion elementary school with bilingual language instruction in English and Chinese.  In addition, as part of its curriculum, the Academy offers a variety of humanitarian community service programs.  One of the voluntary community service programs has included Operation Christmas Child (“OCC”).  As some of my readers may be aware, OCC is sponsored by Samaritan’s Purse, a Christian organization that works with local churches and ministry partners to deliver gifts to needy children around the world.  In fact, over the years, OCC has provided gifts to more than 100 million impoverished boys and girls in more than 130 countries.  My family and I have had the pleasure to participate in OCC through our local church over the years.  I am sure that some of my readers have as well.

But the grinches at the American Humanist Association (“AHA”) have threatened to file a lawsuit against the Academy for including OCC as one of the community service projects.  According to Ms. Renee Matthews, principal of the Academy, she received a letter from Monica Miller, Esq., of the Appignani Humanist Legal Center of the AHA, in which Ms. Miller wrote the following:

This letter serves as notice to policymaking school officials of the East Point Academy’s unconstitutional conduct and as a demand that the school terminate all promotion, sponsorship, endorsement or affiliation with Operation Christmas Child immediately.  Because the law prohibiting school endorsement of religion is well-settled, not only is the school district itself liable for this constitutional infringement pursuant to 42 U.S.C.A. Section 1983, including in the form of punitive damages and the payment of plaintiff’s attorney’s fees, but each and every school official and employee involved are personally liable, in their individual capacities as well.  In order to avoid the necessity of litigation to end your unconstitutional practices, contact us immediately (preferably by email) indicating that you will take the appropriate steps to remedy this clear constitutional violation, including by expressly renouncing any affiliation with or support of Operation Christmas Child and stating that the school will not collect of [sic] boxes on their behalf or encourage staff or students to do so.

In response to the threatened lawsuit against the Academy, Alliance Defending Freedom (“ADF”) sent a letter to the Academy offering free legal assistance in defending any AHA lawsuit if one was filed.  The ADF letter explained that “there is nothing illegal about a public school providing students an opportunity to put together a box of gifts for impoverished children throughout the world just because the toy drive is sponsored by a religious organization.”  Also, the ADF letter states that the academy “has taken no actions that promote any religious aspect of OCC.  It simply offers OCC as an optional opportunity for students to engage in humanitarian aid to needy children.”  The ADF letter importantly encouraged the Academy to use the threatened lawsuit as an important learning experience to “demonstrate to its students and to its wider audience that the correct response to being wrongfully accused of violating the law is to take a stand, rather than acquiesce to the accuser’s unreasonable demands.”  (That alone might have served as a useful lesson for the native Chinese teachers at the Academy, but I digress!)  Senior ADF legal counsel Kevin Theriot said, “It’s shameful for groups like the American Humanist Association to attack charity events that provide impoverished children with Christmas gifts they wouldn’t otherwise receive.”  Senior ADF senior counsel Jeremy Tedesco correctly and wisely observed:

Public schools should provide students with as many community service opportunities as possible and not engage in unconstitutional discrimination.  The American Humanist Association is incorrect that neutrality toward religion requires schools to discriminate against beneficial programs simply because they are run by Christians. That is not neutrality but targeted religious discrimination forbidden by the First Amendment.

In an interview with Mere Comments, Ms. Matthews said that notwithstanding the offer of free legal advice or representation, “we also had to realize that there are many other costs in getting involved in a battle like that.”  So, in light of the AHA’s threat, OCC collections will no longer be made at the Academy.  So, now I wonder how many of the so-called humanists at the AHA will be sending gifts to impoverished children around the world.  My guess is not very many.  And when the local school board election time comes around, I hope that the parents remember the lack of leadership by both the school board and Ms. Matthews.

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