National Day of Prayer
Monday, April 28, 2014, 10:11 AM

Thursday, May 1st, 2014, will be the National Day of Prayer.  The annual observance is held on the first Thursday of May, and has been designated by the United States Congress as a day when people are asked to “turn to God in prayer and meditation.”  This year’s theme is taken from Romans 15:6, “so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  Traditionally, the president signs a proclamation in which he encourages all Americans to pray on behalf of our nation.  As one example, President Reagan declared in his 1983 proclamation:

From General Washington’s struggle at Valley Forge to the present, this Nation has fervently     sought and received divine guidance as it pursued the course of history.  This occasion provides     our Nation with an opportunity to further recognize the source of our blessings, and to seek His     help for the challenges we face today and in the future.

Although this specific national day of prayer goes back to 1952, days of prayer, repentance, and public humiliation have been called since at least 1775.  In David McCullough’s masterful book, 1776, he narrates how God’s Providence was invited and welcomed, and clearly present, in the first year of the founding of the United States.  In recent decades, however, regular readers to my blog, as well as readers of Touchstone and Salvo are acutely aware of how God’s presence has been removed day by day, and today, many tens of millions in our nation walk in great spiritual and moral darkness.  And yet, we know that God’s righteous judgments are true and righteous altogether, as President Lincoln reminded us in the immortal words of his second inaugural address of March 1865, as he quoted from Psalm 19, verse 9.

On that day, many will gather to pray throughout our nation for local and national leaders, and for those in our civic institutions of influence, such as educators, police, firemen, and other emergency responders, the military, our business leaders, and our nation’s clergy, and others.  Some churches will be open throughout the day for people to gather and pray.  Although the constitutionality of a congressionally-authorized national day of prayer has been challenged in the courts, so far at least, it has been found to be constitutional.  An interesting aspect of this year’s National Day of Prayer is its international expansion; Australian prayer leaders have called for 100 nations to join together in 48 hours of prayer and fasting on behalf of the United States during April 30th and May 1st.  Here is a short video in which Dr. Erwin W. Lutzer, senior pastor of the historic Moody Church in Chicago, prays for our nation.  To find a gathering place for prayer in your community, please see this link here.  If you are unable to attend a particular event, you can also join in this year’s national observance, available here that will be broadcast live on Thursday morning, from 9 A.M. until noon, EST.

This year, let us again join together in prayer for the United States.  Let us pray, in the words of 2 Chronicles 7:14, that our nation and its people repent of our pride, wickedness, and self-idolatry, and beg God to enter our government, legal system, churches, families, education, military, business, media, and the arts.  Even more importantly, let us pray that the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ would reject her often lukewarm, superficial, uncaring, and trivial attitude, and arise to her God-given responsibilities to the Lord Jesus Christ, and return to her first love for God, as we read in Revelation 3.  May God bless the United States of America, but far more importantly, may the people of the United States bless God and His Holy Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Some Thoughts On Martial Law
Friday, April 25, 2014, 9:29 AM

The mostly conservative columnist George Will observed in a recent interview, “I’m quite certain that we’re going to rebel against this abusive government.”  Was that statement merely an explosive comment from a reasonable and thoughtful observer of the modern American scene who sees something unusual in our nation?   In the past few weeks, many Americans have been watching with great interest the events unfolding in Nevada involving approximately 200 heavily-armed Bureau of Land Management agents and rancher Cliven Bundy and his 400 head of cattle grazing on land that his Mormon pioneer ancestors first ranched in the 1870s.  Fortunately, in the end, the federal land managers backed down, and Mr. Bundy got most of his cattle back.  But it would have taken little for the entire scene to explode into violence and death.  And it was certainly unhelpful when the Majority Leader of the United States Senate labeled supporters of Mr. Bundy as “domestic terrorists,” rather than the militarized government bureaucracies that increasingly wreak havoc on non-violent citizens.  (Incidentally, John Fund recently observed that today dozens of federal agencies have Special Weapons and Tactics (“SWAT”) teams, including the Department of Education, the Department of Agriculture, the Railroad Retirement Board (really?), the Tennessee Valley Authority, the Office of Personnel Management, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  (I guess that the FBI and Secret Service weren’t quite enough.)  Last week Dr. Benjamin Carson opined:

For our nation to once again be a thriving metropolis of freedom and innovation, the people and the government must peacefully coexist in an atmosphere of trust and mutual respect.  This can only occur when laws are equally enforced and political favors are a thing of the past.  When obvious governmental corruption is discovered, it must be swiftly and openly dealt with, and the perpetrators must face easily verifiable punishment. . . . We the people of the United States are the only ones capable of preventing uncontrolled government expansion and abuse. Like the ranchers in Nevada, Americans must find the courage and determination to maintain a free and vibrant nation. Government should be our friend and ally. When it is, we should support it wholeheartedly.

Yet increasing numbers of Americans have grown leery of the accumulation of power by the federal government under this president, and his willingness to limit individual liberty.   In a recent Rasmussen poll, 37% of likely voters now fear the federal government, while another 17% are not sure.  (Count me among the fearful.)  Late last month, a Homeland Security document was leaked that revealed details of a joint Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) and Federal Emergency Management Agency national exercise.  In the exercise, martial law is imposed on the United States following a major earthquake in Alaska.  One of the components involved in the exercise, beginning at page 125, is an effort to counter online dissent by a disgruntled group called “Free Americans Against Socialist Tyranny.”  A copy of that leaked document is available here.

Further, DHS is buying 704,390,250 rounds of ammunition over the next four years.  Based upon its 70,000 DHS agents and officers, this would be roughly 2,500 rounds per agent per year.  Quite a bit of target shooting, no?  This led me to think of some events from 100 years ago, which are mostly unknown today.  The majority of Americans are unaware that martial law has been imposed in many parts of the United States on a number of occasions.  In the fall of 1913, Colorado Governor Elias Ammons ordered the National Guard into the coalfields to preserve peace by striking miners.  Exactly 100 years ago, on this past Easter Sunday, April 20, 1914, troops fired on a striking miners’ colony in Ludlow, Colorado, killing 20, including seven miners, two women, and eleven children.  President Woodrow Wilson then ordered federal troops into the Colorado coalfields to restore order.

Several months later, on June 23, 1914, the Miners Union Hall in Butte, Montana, was dynamited.  This led to seven years of martial law in that area.  In 1920, mine guards fired upon striking miners, killing two and wounding another dozen, and again, federal troops were called in to restore order.  Both governors acted in accordance with a 1909 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Moyer v. Peabody, 212 U.S. 78 (1909), which gave the government broad authority to imprison without probable cause citizens of the United States, and to deny citizens the right of habeas corpus.  That broad authority was later cut back in another Supreme Court decision called Sterling v. Constantin. 287 U.S. 378 (1932).  Then, in 1934, a national strike by more than 400,000 textile workers took place.  The National Guard was called out in Connecticut, Georgia, Maine, North Carolina, Rhode Island, and South Carolina.  In Georgia, 100 picketers were held in a former World War I prisoner-of-war camp for trial by a military court.  Ultimately, President Franklin Roosevelt intervened, and the workers returned to work following the recommendations of the newly-formed National Labor Relations Board.

More recently, in 1955, the Indiana National Guard was called to a dispute between the Perfect Circle foundry in New Castle, Indiana, and the United Auto Workers.  The Indiana governor declared Henry County a military district under military rule.  National Guardsmen set up roadblocks around the city, searched automobiles, and seized firearms and liquor.  Individual rights were curtailed.  Rights to bear arms, to peacefully assemble, to be secure against unreasonable search and seizures were restricted by the military.  Merchants authorized and licensed to sell liquor or firearms were forbidden to do business.  Even the right of licensed persons to carry concealed weapons was denied.  In effect, civil process was supplanted by an authoritarian military government.

There is, at best, a tenuous relationship between the American, and his federal and state government, and it is the tendency of all governments to encroach upon the liberties of the people.  Thomas Jefferson’s immortal words in The Declaration of Independence noted that “Governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”  Even Barbie from Toy Story 3 knew that “authority should derive from the consent of the governed, not from the threat of force!”  So be forewarned: such has happened before.  Even George Will and Barbie are seeing something unusual in our country today, but it has all happened before.  So, please remember, as our Lord Jesus taught us, to watch and pray.

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.

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