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 (www.freedomxlaw.com), 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.



Bridegroom Matins – Behold the Bridegroom
Sunday, April 13, 2014, 12:00 PM

And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him. ~ Matthew 25:6

Behold, the Bridegroom cometh in the middle of the night,
And blessed is that servant whom He shall find watching,
Unworthy is the servant whom He shall find heedless.
Beware, therefore, O my soul, be not be overcome with sleep,
Lest thou be given up to death, and lest you be shut out from the Kingdom.
But rouse yourself crying: Holy, Holy, Holy, art Thou, O our God,
Through the Theotokos have mercy on us.

Performed by the St. Petersburg Chamber Choir



Rejoice Oh Bethany!
Saturday, April 12, 2014, 12:00 PM

Rejoice, O Bethany!

Rejoice, rejoice, O Bethany!
On this day God came to thee,
And in Him the dead are made alive,
As it is right for He is the Life.

When Martha went to receive Him,
Grieving loudly with bitter tears,
She poured out the sorrow of her heart to Him
With great sadness, wailing her lament.

She at once cried out unto Him:
“My most compassionate Lord, my Lord,
At the great loss of my brother Lazarus
My heart is broken, help me.”

Jesus said to her, “Cease your weeping,
Cease your grieving and sad lament;
For your brother, My most beloved friend, Lazarus,
Very soon will live again.”

Then He, the faithful Redeemer,
Made His way unto the tomb,
Where he cried unto him who was buried four days,
Calling him forth, saying “Lazarus, arise.”

Come with haste, ye two sisters,
And behold a wondrous thing,
For your brother from the tomb has returned to life.
To the beloved Redeemer now give thanks.

To Thee, O Lord of creation,
We kneel down in reverence profound,
For all we who are dead in sin,
In Thee, O Jesus, are made alive.



Mere Links 04.11.14
Friday, April 11, 2014, 10:00 AM

Love Is Our King: De-Institutionalizing Enmity
Greg Forster, Canon & Culture

Nothing else we do in the public square will work if we don’t do everything from a position of love that challenges the deeply embedded assumption that we hate our culture.

Christ in an Age of Technique
James Kalb, Catholic World Report

To say that the Catholic, Universal Church is multicultural is to say something not merely obvious, but redundant. And cultural differences necessarily create distance and the potential for misunderstanding.

Christian Magnanimity
Bryan Wandel, Humane Pursuits

Christian magnanimity is an overflow of grace to bear with the immaturities and shortcomings of people around us – for their benefit.

9 Things You Should Know About The Rwandan Genocide
Joe Carter, The Gospel Coalition

This week marks the twentieth anniversary of the beginning of the campaign of genocide in Rwanda. Here are nine things you should know about one of the most horrific seasons of slaughter in modern times.



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.



Mere Links 04.10.14
Thursday, April 10, 2014, 10:00 AM

10 Key Events: Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism in 20th Century America
Justin Taylor, The Gospel Coalition

In 19th century North America, evangelicalism basically referred to a loosely associated, intradenominational coalition of Protestants who held to the basic reformational doctrines of sola fide [faith alone] and sola scriptura [Scripture alone], mediated through the revival experiences of the Great Awakenings.

Everybody to Pope Paul: Drop Dead
Anthony Esolen, The Catholic Thing

The pope knew that he was delivering a message that would dash some false hopes. He also knew that, in the newly seething sensualism of his times, it would be hard to move people even to understand what he was saying.

Making the Case for Makeup: In Which Calvin Defends Lip-Gloss
Derek Rishmawy, Christ & Pop Culture

Calvin and the Reformed tradition that followed after him clearly rejected the Platonic error that totally divorced body from soul. Indeed, he says that the glory of the Image also suffuses the body (Institutes, 1.15.3).

The Book of Common Prayer Is Still a Big Deal
Interview by Jordan Hylden, Christianity Today

Alan Jacobs explains why the nearly 500-year-old Anglican prayer book retains its influence, and why it should appeal even to (non-Anglican) evangelicals.



Mere Links 04.09.14
Wednesday, April 9, 2014, 9:02 AM

Where Is the Virtue?
Anthony Esolen, Public Discourse

Our culture has become soft. We suppose that sex is too trivial to require virtue, yet we also believe it is so significant that to suggest any restraint upon its consensual exercise is an affront to the most important fount of human dignity.

In Defense of the Innocent
Christopher O. Tollefsen, Public Discourse

Although Nigel Biggar’s new book on just war has many strengths, the author gets himself into a moral muddle over the question whether the deaths of innocent non-combatants can be deliberately chosen in war.

Marriage, Reason, and Religious Liberty: Much Ado About Sex, Nothing to Do with Race
Ryan T. Anderson, Heritage Foundation

Believing that marriage is the union of man and woman is a reasonable position held by many. Bans on interracial marriage, by contrast, were grossly unreasonable. Protecting religious liberty and the rights of conscience does not restrict anyone’s freedom to enter into whatever romantic partnerships he or she wishes.

Things You Should Know About The Chronicles of Narnia
Joe Carter, The Gospel Coalition

The end of March marked the sixty-fifth anniversary of C.S. Lewis completing The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the first book in the Chronicles of Narnia series. Here are nine things you should know about the Lewis’ beloved novels.



Mere Links 04.08.14
Tuesday, April 8, 2014, 10:00 AM

The Most Influential Essay You’ve Never Heard Of
Joe Carter, Canon & Culture

The people who are demonizing Christians for not supporting homosexual behavior—many of whom are Christians themselves—are doing so largely because of the plan that Kirk and Madsen put in place.

St. John Fisher, Marriage, and Moral Absolutes
Samuel Gregg, Crisis Magazine

In his October 2013 article on the question of communion for divorced and civilly remarried Catholics, Cardinal Gerhard Müller underscored that the Catholic Church had risked much to uphold Christ’s teaching regarding true marriage’s indissolubility.

Abortifacients, Emergency Contraception, and Terminating Pregnancy
Mathew Lu, Public Discourse

If there is any plausible reason to believe that emergency contraceptives cause—even occasionally—the death of embryo, then they are morally equivalent to abortifacients.

Mysticism, Monasticism, and the New Evangelization
Benjamin Mann and Abbot Nicholas Zachariadis, Catholic World Report

The New Evangelization requires a rediscovery of Christian mysticism, and a revival of the monastic setting which is its natural home.



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 mozilla.org, 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
Email: chinaembpress_us@mfa.gov.cn


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