More Stupid Teachers and Principals
Tuesday, April 22, 2014, 10:41 AM

Last week, I wrote on these pages about two boys in Apple Valley, California, whose teachers, Mrs. Stormy DeHaro and Mrs. Julie Manker, confiscated the Bible coins placed in the children’s St. Valentine’s Day cards for their classmates.  Following an investigation, the school district properly found that the teachers violated the boys’ First Amendment constitutional rights to freedom of speech and expression, and freedom of religion.  In the boys’ case, the school district did the right thing and acknowledged that the boys’ constitutional rights were violated, and that they will be able to distribute their Bible coins in the future.

In a similar case, J.A., a first grade student, was prohibited from distributing St. Valentine’s Day cards to his classmates because the cards contained a note that mentioned God, and included the Bible verse from the Gospel of St. John, 3:16, after a sentence about the history of St. Valentine.  I think that many of my readers will recognize that verse from the Bible.  J.A.’s parents helped him assemble the cards that included a note that stated the disconcerting and radical observation, “Happy Valentine’s Day!  St. Valentine was imprisoned and martyred for presiding over marriages and for spreading the news of God’s love.  In honor of St. Valentine’s Day, I want you to know that God loves you!!!  ‘God so loved the world that He gave His only son, so that everyone who believes in Him might not perish but have eternal life.’ John 3:16.”

Of course, when the dangerous first grade student arrived with his cards at Floyd R. Shafer Elementary School in Nazareth, Pennsylvania (Really? Nazareth?  Truly, a Prophet is not honored in his hometown!), he was stopped. His teacher noticed the faith-based notes and brought them to the attention of the school’s principal, William Mudlock.  Dr. Mudlock ordered them removed immediately because of their religious nature and because they contained a Bible verse.  At a meeting with J.A.’s parents, Dr. Mudlock told them that the Bible verse could be “offensive” to others.  Moreover, Dr. Mudlock explained that the child’s note sought to “establish the supremacy” of his Christian faith over others, as prohibited by school district policy.  Mudlock appealed to authority citing NASD Policy 220 on “Unprotected Student Expression,” which states that the school officials can prohibit student expression that seeks “to establish the supremacy of a particular religious denomination, sect or point of view.”  So, stupid principal Mudlock believes that NASD Policy 220 trumps the U.S. Constitution.

Unlike the much smarter administrators in Apple Valley, these bullies wanted to go to war over the St. Valentine’s Day cards.  As a result, the school district refused to change their policy, and a lawsuit was filed.  The complaint filed in J.A. v. Nazareth Area School District, is available here.  Interestingly, the same U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania struck down an identically worded policy at another Pennsylvania school district in 2008, saying that such policies “restrict what effectively amounts to all religious speech, which is clearly not permissible under the First Amendment.”  I am only sorry that the learned Dr. Mudlock and the boy’s teacher were not personally sued. Anyway, perhaps the school district will reduce their salary to pay for the defense of this lawsuit.

Alliance Defending Freedom Legal Counsel Matt Sharp, noted:

Public schools ought to encourage, not suppress, the free exchange of ideas, including those communicated through Valentine’s Day cards.  A Bible verse and a reference to God does not make such a card unconstitutional.  Religious expression is just as protected by the First Amendment as other messages that students communicate.

It is abundantly clear that the school district’s censorship of a Christian message is exactly the type of hostility to religion forbidden by the First Amendment.  Please pray for little J.A. and for his family during these difficult days. And in this post-Mozilla world, my readers in Nazareth, Pennsylvania, might want to fire William Mudlock.  It is the only way to teach the real bullies at J.A.’s elementary school.

An Invocation for Resurrection Sunday
Thursday, April 17, 2014, 9:45 AM

Our Loving Heavenly Father, today we gather to worship You as we celebrate the most important event in human history and Your greatest miracle: the resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ.  We remember the horrible sufferings that Your Son endured on the cross for each of us.  We remember the torture of Your Son by the Roman soldiers, by the mob, and by the wicked leaders of Rome and Jerusalem, preceding and during Our Lord’s crucifixion.  For us, Your Holy Son experienced hellish torment with all of the venom, enmity, and hatred of Satan.  And yet, we remember Our Savior’s prayer as He was dying on the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”  We now see that the people in that day did not know fully what they were doing as they drove those ghastly, hideous, and ugly nails through His hands and feet.  Just as today, we do not realize what we do when we reject You and Your ways in our hearts and lives.  We do thank You, Lord Jesus, that on that first Resurrection morning, You paid the debt of Adam’s sin for each one of us, that the shedding of Your precious blood on the cross cleared away the darkness of sin by Your magnificent and radiant resurrection.  We thank You that on the first Easter morning, You broke the bonds of death and rose from the grave as Conqueror, reconciling Heaven and earth, and reuniting a sinful mankind with a holy God.  None of us had any hope of eternal happiness before You redeemed us through the blood of Your Son Jesus.  The miracle of Your resurrection has washed away our sins, gives us the opportunity and privilege to be restored to a right relationship with You, and brings us great joy and peace.  We pray, Our Lord and Savior, that You will preserve, bless, and protect Your servants gathered in churches throughout the world, who today gather together in the enjoyment of this Easter happiness.  We think in particular of our brothers and sisters in Christ in other lands, many of whom worship You under terrible persecution, poverty, and suffering.  We ask that Your presence will be particularly close to them on this holy day through Your Holy Spirit.  For we ask this through the precious name of Jesus Christ Our Lord, Who lives and reigns with God The Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, forever and ever.  Amen.

As we read in I Peter 1:3, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!  In his great mercy, He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”  I wish my readers and your families a blessed and holy Easter with the promise of good conquering evil.  Maranatha!

Constitutional Violations Against Children at Apple Valley, California
Monday, April 14, 2014, 9:23 AM

Apple Valley, California, a small community of about 70,000 residents, lies on the southern edge of the Mojave Desert.  This desert community is best known for being the home of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans (my younger readers should just wiki them), and their museum was originally established in Apple Valley.  Among the town’s elementary schools is the Desert Knolls Elementary School, where third grader Steven Peterson, age 8, and his brother, fourth grader Patrick Peterson, age 10, attend.  They are two sweet and lovely young boys who love the Lord Jesus Christ, and want their classmates to know Him as well.  As a result, the boys have sometimes handed out coins that quote two Bible verses: John 3:16 (“For God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.) and John 3:36 (“He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.”)  The reverse side of the coin asks the important question, “Where will you spend eternity?”

On a number of occasions during 2013 and 2014, teachers reprimanded the boys for bringing their Bible coins to school.  Patrick’s teacher, Mrs. Stormy DeHaro, said she “hated” the coins, and told Patrick not to bring the coins to school again.  Steven’s third grade teacher, Mrs. Julie Manker, noticed the coins in his St. Valentine’s Day cards for all of his classmates.  Ms. Manker then removed the coins from each child’s St. Valentine’s Day card, placing the coins in a zip-locked bag with a note for his parents saying that the coins were “in violation of the Ed Code,” and returned them to Steven.  Steven said that he felt sad after this St. Valentine’s Day incident.  Ms. Manker said that she believed that bringing the coins with Bible verses violated state law.  Of course, that view is wrong, even in California.  In fact, Ms. Manker’s conduct violated the California Constitution’s free speech clause, and free exercise and enjoyment of religion clause, and even violated the California Education Code section 220, which provides that no person shall be subjected to discrimination on the basis of their religion.

Then adding insult to injury, the school principal, Mrs. Crystal Schinhofen, failed to address the discriminatory behavior by the teachers, and unlawfully insisted “that she must be informed in advance of any religious items being distributed on campus.”  (How stupid do you have to be to be an elementary school principal in California?  But I digress.)  As a result of their conduct, the Peterson family sought legal advice, and the boys were represented by William Becker of Freedom X (, a Los Angeles-based public interest law firm.  Following the allegations, the school district investigated, and on April 4, 2014, issued its long, confidential report, available here.  The investigators determined that the school teachers did in fact violate the boys’ First Amendment constitutional rights to freedom of speech and expression, and freedom of religion.  (It looks to me that the investigation and preparation of this confidential report cost the taxpayers of California lots of money based upon the numerous interviews.  Oh, and if you read the report, you can see just how sweet and loving the boys are.)  Although the investigation did suggest a number of remedial and corrective steps for the teachers, none of the recommended corrective actions call for discipline against Mrs. DeHaro, Mrs. Manker, or Mrs. Schinhofen.  District Superintendent Thomas E. Hoegerman wrote in a letter to Attorney Becker that the results of the investigation:

make it clear that although no violation of the children’s rights was intended, a teacher was mistaken as to obligations under the law.  I can assure the Petersons that corrective actions are underway.  The District will use the finding as a learning opportunity to teach staff about the rights and obligations of the students at school and provide guidance as to how to support student rights to freedom of expression at school, including religious expression.

It is good that the school district admitted that it was wrong.  However, in this post-Mozilla world, it seems to me that it is completely appropriate that the two teachers and the principal should be immediately terminated from their positions for their thuggish behavior in violating the constitutional rights of Steven and Patrick Peterson, and for wasting California taxpayer money.  Only in this way can the district teachers truly be forewarned, in the words of Superintendant Hoegerman, to “support student rights to freedom of expression at school, including religious expression.”  In this Holy Week, may God continue to richly bless the Peterson family.  Great job, Mr. Becker, in defending and protecting the fundamental constitutional rights of these boys.  For eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.  And shame on you, Mrs. Stormy DeHaro, Mrs. Julie Manker, and Mrs. Crystal Schinhofen for what you have tried to do to these young boys.

Just Another Day in Gojra, Pakistan
Thursday, April 10, 2014, 2:33 PM

Last week, on these pages, I wrote that a court in Lahore, Pakistan, found a Christian sanitation worker, Sawan Masih, 35, guilty of blasphemy and sentenced him to death.  Mr. Masih was convicted of insulting Mohammed, which, under Pakistan’s infamous blasphemy law 295(c), is a capital crime.  Mr. Masih’s attorneys have appealed his sentence.  Several days later, the Honorable Judge Mian Amir Habib in a court in Gojra, Pakistan, handed a death sentence to a Pakistani Christian couple, Shafqat Emmanuel and Shafgufta Kausar, for blasphemy after they were convicted of sending a text message insulting Mohammed to the imam of their local mosque.  The couple, who are in their 40s and have three children, are poor.  The learned imam, Maulvi Mohammad Hussain, brought a complaint against the couple last July, in which he accused the husband of having sent the message from his wife’s cell phone.  However, the couple’s lawyer said the message was actually sent from a phone that the couple lost before July.

Human rights groups have long observed how Pakistan’s blasphemy laws are used to settle personal scores and to persecute religious minorities.  Sadly, many accused never go to trial, but are killed by vigilantes instead.  The vigilantes are almost never arrested, and if arrested, are never prosecuted.  In this case, Nadeem Hassan, the defense lawyer for the couple, said that the couple had suspected rivals of implicating them into the blasphemy case to settle personal scores, and that the rivals had close ties with Imam Hussain.

The town of Gojra, in the province of Punjab, has previously been the scene of great violence against Christians.  In 2009, a Moslem mob burned nearly 40 houses and a church in Gojra, based upon a rumored desecration of a Koran.  During that violence, at least eight Christians were killed by the violent Moslem mob.  As I wrote in my blog about Mr. Masih, The New York Times has observed, “it has often taken little more than the rumors of insults to Islam to incite lynchings and other violence.”  The couple’s lawyer told the BBC that he would appeal the death sentence as the trial had not been conducted fairly.  Of course, in this case, the result should not be surprising.  Under Islamic Sharia law, the testimony of any Moslem, but particularly of an imam, is given much greater weight than the testimony by a Christian, or other non-Moslem.  Why would this be true?  In an Islamic court, a Christian who takes a Moslem oath over the Koran (“God is Allah and there is no other God”) commits perjury.  Thus, a Christian’s testimony in an Islamic court is inherently suspect, as compared to the word of a learned and honorable imam.  Moreover, the testimony of a Moslem woman is giving one-half of the weight given to that of a Moslem man (See, e.g., Koran 2:282).  And court testimony by a non-Moslem woman is given no credence under Sharia law.  I remind the learned Imam Hussain and the Honorable Judge Habib that the Koran 5:8 calls upon Moslems not to bear false witness: “O you who have believed, be persistently standing firm for Allah, witnesses in justice, and do not let the hatred of a people prevent you from being just.  Be just; that is nearer to righteousness.  And fear Allah; indeed, Allah is acquainted with what you do.”  That seems pretty clear.  Please pray for justice for Shafqat Emmanuel and Shafgufta Kausar, and their three children.

Homosexualist Mafia Whacks a CEO
Tuesday, April 8, 2014, 9:15 AM

Much has been said in the past week about the homosexual activists who targeted Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich (the so-called Fire(d)Fox).  He was the creator of Javascript and co-founder of, but made a 2008 donation of $1,000 to support a ballot initiative that would ban same-sex “marriage” in California.  On April 3, Mozilla announced that Mr. Eich had decided to step down as CEO, and would also leave the board of the Mozilla Foundation.  Some have supported his ouster after a short tenure on the job; others have not.  George Will observed, “Progressives are for diversity in everything, but thought.”  Bill Maher, a television personality, stated, “I think there is a gay mafia.  I think if you cross them, you do get whacked.”  William Saletan, writing in Slate, affirmed, “Some of my colleagues are celebrating.  They call Eich a bigot who got what he deserved.  I agree.  But let’s not stop here.  If we’re serious about enforcing the new standard, thousands of other employees who donated to the same anti-gay ballot measure must be punished.”  More than 35,000 people gave money to the campaign for Proposition 8; thousands were employees at other high-tech firms, including Adobe, Apple, Google, Microsoft, Oracle, Sun Microsystems, and Yahoo, as well as Disney, DreamWorks, Gap, and Warner Bros.

I suppose that I also should get “whacked” by the homosexualist mafia.  Of course, I am not an important CEO, but I believe in traditional marriage (that is, marriage between one man and one woman), and I object on both religious and practical grounds that no one should demand that government compel others into celebrating homosexual relationships because of fear of governmental coercion and punishment.  I think that some of my readers might also feel that way about traditional marriage.  But if Mr. Eich can be ousted for his financial contribution from six years ago, then perhaps thousands of others who supported Proposition 8, including some senior-level corporate executives, can expect to be purged from their jobs.  At least, that is Mr. Saletan’s position.

I don’t know what motivated Mr. Eich in his views on traditional marriage at that time.  In fact, Mr. Eich held the same position on homosexual “marriage” as did then Senators Clinton and Obama.  But at the end of the day, Mr. Eich reminds me that there is a cost to being a Christian believer.  Our brothers and sisters in many parts of the world know this truth intimately for they face tragic repercussions for their decision to be Christ-followers, and for asserting important truths that others do not want to hear.  In the United States, few Christians pay a penalty for their faith in Jesus Christ, or have suffered  for their views on traditional morality and biblical principles.  Sure, what we mostly face is mild ostracism in some circles, but for the most part, until now at least, American Christians have been free to live as we choose.  While this is clearly changing for American Christians who are photographers, bakers, florists, and now CEOs, perhaps soon it is expected to affect others in corporate settings.  But I can easily envision that homosexualist bullies may actually come to rue this day.  I am reminded of Haman the Agagite, the main antagonist in the Book of Esther.  You will recall that Haman instigated a plan to kill all the Jews in the empire of King Ahasuerus.  But his plot is foiled by Queen Esther and others, and the gallows originally built by Haman for Mordechai, Esther’s guardian, are used to hang Haman instead.  The attacks on Mr. Eich could easily backfire on the hubris of the homosexualists.  (Should I start firing those who work for me who read The New York Times? Or who have Obama stickers on their cars?)  But the important and practical lesson for us arising from the ouster of Brendan Eich, as was powerfully observed by Professor Robert George in his essay, “What the Defenestration of Brendan Eich Portends,” available here: “When tactics of intimidation succeed, their success ensures that they will be used more and more often in more and more contexts to serve more and more causes.  And standing up to intimidation will become more and more difficult.  And more and more costly.  And more and more dangerous.”  Let us remember the teaching of St. Paul, “all who will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.”  With that knowledge, let us be bold as we stand together and proclaim the teachings of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and resist all forms of intimidation and pressure intended to force us to recant our Christian faith and our beliefs.

Chinese Christians Defend Their Church
Monday, April 7, 2014, 12:26 PM

church Chinese Christians Defend Their ChurchLast week, Tim Phillips, writing for The Telegraph, reported that thousands of Chinese Christians are mounting an extraordinary, round-the-clock defense of Sanjiang Christian Church in Wenzhou, China.  The Christians, including the elderly and, in some cases, disabled women, have now occupied the church to prevent demolition teams moving in and bull-dozing the church.  The 24-hour guard began when a demolition notice was posted last week on the newly-constructed church that took six years to build and cost up to 30 million yuan (approximately $4.8 million).  Construction costs for the church were donated by local families, many of whom have children living abroad.  Reportedly, the children also donated substantially for the church’s construction.  Chinese Communist officials declared that the church had been built illegally and posed “serious safety risks,” and further used red paint against the towering white façade to write “Demolish” and “Illegal construction.”  However, church officials said that the construction plan and design was approved by the Wenzhou municipal government, and in fact, was cited as a “model project” by the local government when the church was completed late last year.  The presence of an estimated 1,000 police, along with SWAT teams, and the arrival of bulldozers at the church triggered an angry, but non-violent, response among Christians in Wenzhou, a port city known for its large and vital Christian community.  (A link to a short video showing the church defenders congregating on the church steps is available here.)

Wenzhou, a wealthy city of seven million residents, is a major port south of Shanghai.  Some have estimated that 15 percent of the city’s population are regular church-goers, the majority of whom are Protestant.  Church members believe that their church was targeted after Xia Baolong, the provincial Communist Party chief, visited the region in January, and was upset by the prominence of a church built to accommodate thousands of Christian worshippers.  (Apparently, he was also offended that the church building and the cross atop it are too tall and visible for his socialist paradise.)  According to a Chinese government website, provincial officials then began a campaign in February to demolish any church buildings that violated local regulations.  Government officials are deeply concerned that Christianity is growing too fast and in an “unsustainable” manner.  (I am reminded of Pliny the Younger’s letter to the Roman Emperor Trajan in the early part of the second century A.D., asking for advice on how to deal with the Christian “superstition” that had infected the Roman provinces of Pontus and Bithynia.  Pliny writes, “For many persons of every age, every rank, and also of both sexes are and will be endangered.  For the contagion of this [Christian] superstition has spread not only to the cities, but also to the villages and farms.”  For the exchange of letters, please see the following link.)  Regular readers of Touchstone and Mere Comments know that most Christians in China worship in underground house churches.  China’s house church movement, which comprises approximately 90 percent of China’s Christians, endures unimaginable persecution, and the Christians are subject to regular crackdowns because house churches refuse to comply with Communist Party rules.  During one crackdown in 2000 in Zhejiang province, where the city of Wenzhou is located, hundreds of churches and temples were demolished.  However, what is unusual about this dispute is that the Sanjiang Christian Church is obviously not a house church, but is registered with the local government.

Despite threats, church officials have refused to take the cross down.  In an interview with The New York Times, Li Xile, said, “We are not taking the cross down.  It is a symbol of our love.  A church without a cross is just a warehouse.”  Wang Jianfeng, one of the people gathered on the church steps, said in a recent interview, “[Mr. Xia Balong’s] behavior is illegal.  He has abused his power.  The construction of the church is not against the law.”  A representative of the local government, Zhang Biyao, denied that the Communist Party was persecuting Christians.  Ms. Zhang said, “[The Christians] can believe.  This is free.  We can’t control them.”  But she said that the church was illegally built and was structurally unsound.  The local government merely wants to protect the “people’s safety.”  (Yes, it is always for the people’s good, isn’t it?)

Today, China’s human rights record is among the worst in the world, and China’s government is among the most vicious opponents of the Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ.  In 1949, Mao Zedong declared the establishment of the People’s Republic of China, and quickly sought to purge society of anything that would point to religion, causing China’s people to endure great hardship.  Mao’s Great Leap Forward in the 1950s and the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s and 1970s, left tens of millions of Chinese dead or victimized.  China’s system of “re-education” through labor camps detains hundreds of thousands each year without any hearing.  China’s “strike-hard” policy is presented by the government as a crackdown on criminals, but it has been hardest on Christians.  Today, through “strike-hard,” more Christians are in prison or under some form of detention than in any other country in the world.  Yet, the Church in China grows, with thousands of Chinese coming to Jesus Christ every day.  While Chinese Christians endure great persecution, it stands strong in its commitment to preach the Gospel of Christ no matter the cost.  Please pray for the Christians of China, and in particular, for the worshippers at the Sanjiang Christian Church, and for a peaceful resolution to this dispute.  If you wish to write to the Chinese Ambassador to the United States, you can write to him at the following address:

The Honorable Cui Tiankai
Embassy of the People’s Republic of China
3505 International Place, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20008

A Bad Week for Planned Parenthood
Wednesday, April 2, 2014, 9:16 AM

On these pages over the past several years, I have written about the on-going misfortune of Planned Parenthood (“PP”).  Notwithstanding the fact that Mr. Obama was the first sitting president to address PP’s gala celebration (what could they possibly be celebrating?), it still had a rough week.  It started last week in Kansas when a federal appeals court ruled that the state does not have to keep funding two abortion mills.  Kansas enacted legislation that required its portion of federal family planning funds go to public health departments and hospitals, and not pay for abortions.  As a result, in 2011, PP of Kansas and Mid-Missouri filed a lawsuit challenging the requirement preventing PP from receiving federal family planning funds.  In its lawsuit, PP said that the budget provision would result in a $330,000 funding loss, and the likely closure of PP’s abortion mill in Hays, Kansas.  Incidentally, PP received $542,000,000 in taxpayer dollars during 2012, which is equal to $61,836 per hour, 24 hours a day for 365 days.  (For more information on PP, please see Joe Carter’s “9 Things You Should Know About Planned Parenthood,” available here.)

Then this past Monday, a federal court refused to place a hold on Arizona’s new law that requires abortion-inducing drugs to be dispensed according to federal Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) protocols and the instructions on the label.  (Does that law seem so onerous?  Imagine that physicians should follow FDA guidelines for medications!)  Again, PP sought to block this law that would limit the use of abortion-inducing drugs.  As a result of the court’s ruling, the regulations went into effect yesterday.  Practically, this means that the FDA- approved RU-486, the abortion pill, can only be used within seven weeks of gestation.  Doctors who have prescribed it later than seven weeks have made an “off-label use,” which is not allowed under Arizona’s new law.  David Brown, an attorney for the Center for Reproductive Rights, said that he was disappointed with the court’s ruling.  With no apparent irony, Mr. Brown noted, “This law serves no purpose other than to prevent Arizona women from using a safe alternative to surgical abortion and force their doctors to follow an outdated, riskier, and less effective method [of surgical abortion].”  And to think we were told repeatedly that abortions were safer than childbirth.

Third, also this past Monday, a federal judge in Montgomery, Alabama, denied PP’s request to rule immediately in its favor in a legal challenge to the state’s law against the so-called “cut-and-run” abortionists.  Alabama enacted a new law requiring abortionists to have admitting privileges at local hospitals.  PP objected to the new law, noting that enactment of the law would end abortions at three-fifths of Alabama’s “reproductive health centers.”  Attorneys for Alabama argued that the law was necessary to guarantee patient continuity of care, and that there have been numerous documented serious complications and deaths to the mothers from botched abortions.  Instead, the judge ordered the case to trial to examine the constitutionality of an abortion restriction passed by the Alabama legislature in 2013.

Steven H. Aden, senior counsel at Alliance Defending Freedom, said the following in response to the multiple legal setbacks for PP:

Planned Parenthood’s efforts to put their profits ahead of the safety of women and children continue to fail.  From Arizona to Alabama to Kansas, America’s largest abortion seller has not succeeded so far in its opposition to common-sense laws that put women’s health and well-being ahead of Planned Parenthood’s bottom line.

I agree; every defeat for Planned Parenthood is a victory for women and for their unborn children. Lord, have mercy!

Just Another Day in Lahore, Pakistan
Monday, March 31, 2014, 9:20 AM

The New York Times reported late last week that a court in Lahore, Pakistan, found a Christian sanitation worker, Sawan Masih, 35, guilty of blasphemy and sentenced him to death.  This case began in March 2013, when during an argument with a Moslem “friend,” Mr. Masih was alleged to have insulted Mohammed, which, under Pakistan’s infamous blasphemy law 295(c), is a capital crime.  The New York Times, the newspaper of record, intoned that “it has often taken little more than the rumors of insults to Islam to incite lynchings and other violence.”  As if on cue, following the mere accusation against Mr. Masih, enraged mobs swept through the Joseph Colony, a Christian neighborhood in the city of Lahore, setting more than 170 houses and two churches on fire.  The riots caused great panic and fear among the city’s Christians, most of whom are desperately poor and do menial labor.  Hundreds of Christians fled the area.

A lawyer for Mr. Masih said that he would appeal the case to the Lahore High Court.  In a statement following the verdict, Mr. Masih insisted that he had been falsely charged as part of a plot by businessmen to use blasphemy allegations to drive Christians from the land in Joseph Colony so that it could be seized for industrial use.  “They hatched a conspiracy to push out the residents of the colony,” the statement said. “They contrived a case and got it filed by a person who was close to me.  I am innocent.”  Such things have happened all too often.  Human rights groups have long observed how Pakistan’s blasphemy laws are used to settle personal scores and to persecute religious minorities.  Sadly, many accused never go to trial, but are killed by vigilantes instead.  The vigilantes are almost never arrested, and if arrested, are never prosecuted.  As I have written on these pages, in 2011, Salmaan Taseer, the provincial governor of Punjab, was killed by one of his body guards after campaigning to have the blasphemy laws repealed.  Two months later, Shahbaz Bhatti, the only Christian cabinet member, who also criticized the blasphemy laws, was assassinated in Islamabad.

I don’t know about you, but I have a gnawing sense that many politicians are lying to me when they say that Islam is a “Religion of Peace.”  We are told that we cannot blame an entire religion for the actions of a few.  (Have you ever wondered why that same rule doesn’t apply to gun owners?)  As I am getting ready to send in another regular annual contribution to our Internal Revenue Service, I am disgusted about how billions of dollars of U.S.-taxpayer “aid” are sent annually to Pakistan and other Islamic countries that persecute Christians.  Regular readers of Touchstone and Mere Comments know that almost every day we read stories of Moslem men killing their sisters, wives, and daughters for the sake of their family’s “honor.”  We hear of Moslems rioting, as in this case, over some unproven offense; of Moslems murdering Christian and Jews (and frankly, plenty of other Moslems) because they aren’t “believers,” or are not “believers enough.”  We hear of Moslems burning schools for girls, and stoning teenage rape victims to death for “adultery.”  We hear of Moslems regularly performing female genital mutilation.  And all of this is done because the Koran and Sharia laws say that it must be done this way.  Let’s see whether Messrs. Obama and Kerry will say anything about the injustice against Mr. Masih.  But somehow I doubt it.  I was even surprised that it was reported in the New York Times.  At least, that is one man’s view.  Please pray for Mr. Masih and his lawyers as he now sits on death row.

World Vision US Causes a Mild Ruckus
Thursday, March 27, 2014, 9:37 AM

Several days ago, the US-arm of World Vision, the international Christian relief agency, announced that it would hire employees in homosexual “marriages.”  Prior to this change in policy, World Vision had an employee policy requiring sexual abstinence for all single employees, and faithfulness within the biblical covenant of marriage between one man and one woman.  Following the announcement by World Vision, as you can readily imagine, many Christian leaders and lay persons, and churches, responded with shock and great dismay over its decision to embrace an unbiblical practice.  Reasonably, I am thinking that at least some Christians wondered whether they could continue supporting World Vision’s popular child sponsorship program.  (My wife and I have sponsored children through World Vision for decades, and had this policy been left in place, I am certain that we would have terminated our child sponsorship support.  I suspect that other child sponsors would have as well.)  Although World Vision has annual revenues approaching $3 billion dollars, a policy change of this nature could have a potentially devastating impact on its operations.

However, late yesterday afternoon, World Vision US released a statement confirming that it had reversed its decision to hire employees in homosexual “marriages.”  In its statement, the board of World Vision acknowledged that “it made a mistake . . . We are brokenhearted over the pain and confusion we have caused many of our friends, who saw this decision as a reversal of our strong commitment to Biblical authority.”  As we know from Holy Scripture, marriage is exclusively the legal union of one man and one woman.  (Titus 1:6.)  Further, as unfashionable as it might be among some in Western Europe and the United States, biblically legitimate sexual relations are exercised solely within a heterosexual marriage, as we see in I Corinthians 6:9-10, Leviticus 18:22, Leviticus 20:13 and Romans 1:26-27.  As shocking as it may sound to some modern, secularized ears, even the notion of homosexual “marriage” is sinful and incompatible with biblical, Christian behavior.  I commend the Board of World Vision for promptly recognizing their error, and for reversing their policy.  Robert Pierce, World Vision’s founder, would have been mortified at this policy, but gratified that World Vision’s board reversed it so quickly.  As has been noted by many, eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.

Please Pray for Today’s Oral Arguments at the Supreme Court
Tuesday, March 25, 2014, 9:18 AM

Do people who own businesses have a right to shape their businesses according to their consciences and religious beliefs?  This is the question that will be heard in oral arguments today at the Supreme Court in two cases: Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties v. Sebelius.  In both cases, the Supreme Court will decide whether the federal government violated the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (“RFRA”) when it threatened religious owners of for-profit corporations with multimillion dollar fines if they did not pay for insurance coverage of abortion-inducing drugs that the business owners believe terminate human life.  (Incidentally, RFRA is the original, federal version of the Arizona law, amendments to which Governor Brewer recently vetoed.)  With ironic timing, Mr. Obama will travel to Rome with his 900-strong posse, three airplanes, and 45 cars to meet with His Holiness Pope Francis on Thursday.  (I hope they eat some boiled whitefish and carrots together at the Casa Santa Marta.)  In a prelude to a potentially frosty meeting, the Vatican’s chief justice, Raymond Cardinal Burke, said in a recent magazine interview that Mr. Obama’s policies have been hostile toward Christians.  Cardinal Burke said that:

The policies of the president of the United States have become progressively more hostile toward Christian civilization. He appears to be a totally secularized man who aggressively promotes anti-life and anti-family policies. Now he wants to restrict the exercise of the freedom of religion to freedom of worship; that is, he holds that one is  free to act according to his conscience within the confines of his place of worship, but that, once the person leaves the place of worship, the government can constrain him to act against his rightly-formed conscience, even in the most serious of moral questions.

Well said, and quite on point, Cardinal Burke.  It seems that way to many of us here as well.  Please pray for today’s oral argument in the Health and Human Services (“HHS”) Mandate cases.  The stakes are very high as these cases test whether the United States will remain a pluralistic society that supports a strong religious liberty for Americans of all faiths.  I have linked to an important 11 minute video from The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty (available here) that shows why the HHS Mandate cases protect all people with sincerely held religious beliefs.  Please pray for each of the nine Supreme Court Justices as they deliberate on these cases, and for Paul Clement, the former solicitor general of the United States, who is arguing the cases for the owners and their companies.  Please also pray for the Green family, who owns Hobby Lobby and Mardel Christian Bookstores, and the Hahn family, who owns Conestoga Wood Specialties, who are challenging the HHS Mandate.  For as we have learned in Ephesians 6:12, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”  And oh, how dark and wicked these high places are.

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