EVANGELICAL LEADERS ECSTATIC ON TRUMP’S CHOICE OF SUPREME COURT NOMINEE
President Trump has named Judge Neil Gorsuch as his nominee for the Supreme Court of the United States to replace Justice Antonin Scalia who died last February leaving eight justices on the court. Gorsuch currently serves on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. He has the backing of pro-life and conservative groups. “He is the man our country needs to make sure the rule of law and the rule of justice are followed,” Trump stated. “I pledge if I am confirmed to uphold the laws of the Constitution of the United States,” Gorsuch said. Trump recognized the importance of the decision he made saying, “After defence of the nation, appointing a justice is the most important decision a president makes.”
“We’re very encouraged by President Trump’s nominee to fill the vacant seat on the Supreme Court,” said Jay Sekulow, of the American Centre for Law and Justice, who has appeared before the Supreme Court in numerous cases. “Judge Gorsuch is a remarkably qualified nominee with a conservative judicial philosophy and a commitment to uphold the rule of law and the Constitution. He is decidedly pro-life and understands what it means to protect the constitutional freedoms afforded to all Americans.” “I applaud President Trump for nominating a fair-minded Constitutionalist like Judge Gorsuch to serve on our highest court.” Congressman Diane Black said, “I am encouraged by Judge Gorsuch’s opinions which display a clear respect for religious freedom that has been missing over the last 8 years.”
Too often, our efforts to protect unborn children have been overridden by judges who believe they have a right to impose their own moral preferences,” said Carol Tobias, president of National Right to Life. “President Trump has fulfilled his most important promise to the evangelical community in this selection” Tobias said. His endorsement of, and the administration’s participation in, the March for Life was a precursor to this very good news. Should this nominee be confirmed, Scalia’s legacy will live on for at least another generation. Evangelicals are ecstatic,” said Johnnie Moore, Evangelical Author and Humanitarian. “I want to congratulate Judge Neil Gorsuch on his nomination. Serving in the Supreme Court is one of the highest honours in our country, and also one of its most important responsibilities.
“My prayers are wholeheartedly for Judge Gorsuch. May he, if confirmed, lead a long and successful career, upholding our Constitution with firmness and righteousness,” said Dr. Ronnie Floyd, Past President of the Southern Baptist Convention. “For many Evangelicals, Trump’s campaign promise to appoint a Supreme Court Justice in the mould of Antonin Scalia, was the single most important issue facing the American people this past election” said Dr. David Jeremiah, Pastor and host of the well-known Turning Point radio program. “Judge Gorsuch will have big shoes to fill in replacing Justice Scalia, so I pray Judge Gorsuch never forgets to value every American as our Maker does,” Greg Laurie, Evangelist and author, said.
Laurie continued “Should he be confirmed, I urge Judge Gorsuch to speak up for the rights of all those who are oppressed and marginalized, including the unborn. May he be a faithful voice for the right to freedom of religion, which has been under threat by judicial over-reach.” With the immense power bestowed upon the Supreme Court, may our judges ensure that America will remain a beacon of hope in a world where so many are robbed of the freedom and dignity they deserve,” Laurie also said. “As our nation’s political divide has seemed more like a chasm in recent weeks, I urge our politicians on both sides of the aisle to give an honest confirmation hearing to Judge Neil Gorsuch. The recent trend of blocking such nominees by both Republicans and Democrats must stop” Laurie concluded
Their political games are not in the best interest of the security and prosperity of the United States, said Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference. “I pray for our political leaders that they would have wisdom and political courage to act fairly and to do right by the American people. I pray also for Judge Gorsuch, that, should he ultimately be confirmed, he would be a blessing to this country, upholding the Constitution of the United States with virtue and justice for all. “I commend President Donald J. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence for selecting a judge with such a commendable track record on issues important to the Evangelical community,” Rodriguez concluded.
“I was thrilled to hear that Judge Gorsuch has been nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court. He has already led an impressive career as a champion of the originalist interpretation of the Constitution. In an era of justices legislating from the bench and attempting to re-shape our basic laws and rights, I hope and pray that Judge Gorsuch will rule in a fashion that applies our Constitution and the Bill of Rights as our founders intended,” Dr. Michael D. Evans, award-winning journalist, commentator, minister, and head of several prominent international non-profit organizations in the U.S., Netherlands, and Israel said. “In the coming months, many pressing issues will be left in the hands of our country’s Supreme Court Justices, and this nomination gives me great peace of mind.”
TRUMP’S ORDERS – WELCOME NEWS OR HARMFUL TO CHRISTIANS IT SEEKS TO PROTECT
As Donald Trump’s order on immigration continues to divide, World Watch Monitor summarises the views of Christian opinion leaders in America and elsewhere. Christianity Today published the views of 4 prominent American Christians, split on the issue. David Curry, president and CEO of Open Doors USA, said his charity, could not support “a process that prioritizes one religion over another” and said it could have “negative effects around the world” by causing a “backlash” against Christians in the countries in which they are most vulnerable. Nina Shea, director of the Hudson Institute’s Centre for Religious Freedom, said Trump’s intention to prioritise the claims of religious minorities was “critically needed” and should be “welcome news” to every champion of human rights and religious freedom.
Shea said Christians had been at the “back of the line” for too long and that the President’s intention was not to “ban” Muslims but to give priority to persecuted minorities. She added that the 7 countries currently denied entry by the US were chosen not because they are Muslim-majority, but because they were part of a list drawn up by the Obama administration of “countries of concern for terrorist travel prevention”. However, she added that the “Christian versus Muslim mischaracterization could feed terrorist propaganda”. Matthew Soerens, US director of church mobilization for World Relief, said he “appreciated” the President’s goal to assist the persecuted but was “concerned” that the language of his order could “be harmful to the persecuted Christians the President is seeking to help”.
He also said that in reducing the total number of refugees admitted, this would necessarily mean that fewer Christian refugees are allowed entry. “Even if every slot left were filled by a Christian, which I believe would be a serious error, at least 5,000 fewer Christian refugees would be allowed this year,” he said. Finally, Jeremy Courtney, co-founder and executive director of the Pre-emptive Love Coalition in Iraq, said the “well-being of my Christian neighbours in Iraq and Syria is tied up in the well-being of my Muslim neighbours”. Rather than creating a “safe haven” for Christians in the US, he said it would be better to pursue “the policies and diplomacy that give Christians the greatest chance of surviving and flourishing where they are, so that they don’t have to flee their homeland”.
Earlier Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I Sako called the fast-tracking of Christian refugees a “trap”, while the Coptic Church’s Bishop Angaelos said it could “risk violating the same rights America seeks to protect”. Meanwhile, journalist Jayson Casper in Cairo has spoken to a Syrian Christian who has been told he is “no longer welcome” to apply for a green card. “It is very humiliating to be put in the category of potential terrorist, just because I carry a certain passport” the man, named Hallisso, told Casper. World Vision’s director for interfaith relations, Chawkat Moucarry, told Casper: “This executive order has created a new atmosphere very hostile to people in their region”.
But Adeeb Awad, representing the Presbyterian Synod of Syria, said he had “read the executive order” and that it was “reasonable” and “did not contain discriminatory religious language”. “It was the policies before Trump which hurt Middle Eastern Christians and other minorities more than anything else,” he added. “Especially in Iraq and Syria.” Moucarry warned that the policy would “encourage Christians to migrate, which is exactly what Christian leaders in Syria are fighting against”. “It is important for Christians to live in Muslim countries,” he added. “Through them, Muslims will learn to accept them. We must learn this principle in order to have a democratic society. “Keeping Christians in the area is an indirect way to counter extremism and learn that diversity is good.”
IRANIAN AND AFGHAN CHRISTIAN CONVERTS FACE DEPORTATION FROM GERMANY
Germany’s Ministry for Immigration and Refugees (BAMF) is rejecting applications for asylum from Iranian and Afghan converts from Islam, following “kangaroo court” style hearings, according to a Berlin pastor. Rev. Gottfried Martens, who has baptised more than 1,000 former Muslims, has accused the “Muslim translators” in the hearings of deliberately falsely translating the converts’ responses to jeopardise their applications. Martens, pastor of the Lutheran Trinity Community, criticised the ways in which officials investigated whether a conversion was genuine. “Questions are put such as the names of the two sons in the parable of the Prodigal Son, or what Martin Luther died of, or the occasion of Queen Margarethe of Denmark’s recent visit to Wittenberg,” he said.
In some hearings, Martens said asylum applicants “are repeatedly mocked when they relate how important it is to them that Jesus Christ died for their sins on the Cross”. Many German officials “are clueless about the situation of Christians in Iran and Afghanistan, and, worse still, utterly clueless concerning questions relating to the Christian faith,” Martens continued. Converts from Islam to Christianity in countries such as Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan face rejection by their communities and in some cases death threats, since they have, in the eyes of Islam, committed the ultimate treachery of apostasy. Martens criticised the Catholic Church and the Protestant EKD Church, which had opposed housing Christian and Muslim refugees separately, because doing so might suggest religions could not coexist peacefully.
Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, Chairman of the Council of Protestant Churches (of which EKD is a member), said he would meet with politicians to express concern about the way that Iranian and Afghan converts are being treated. Martens is reported as saying: “I have the impression, that the BAMF has given out orders to judge converts severely.” A lawyer from the city of Nuremberg said he would hold workshops in cities across Germany for volunteers who help converts seeking asylum, to enable them to navigate through the questioning by the authorities. A German spokesman for Open Doors said: “These Christians have either fled from their home countries because of their newfound faith and the persecution they had to face because of it, or have come to believe in Jesus Christ after fleeing to Germany.
“Sending them back to their countries of origin is irresponsible in view of the situation for Christian converts in Iran or Afghanistan, because it is a matter of life and death. Open Doors wants an immediate revision of the policy of the BAMF in view of their dealing with converts.” Open Doors Germany recommended last October that converts be given Christian translators and, if they had suffered attacks, separate accommodation. These criticisms echo those made in 2016 of the questioning faced by Christian asylum seekers in the UK. However since mid-2016, UK Home Office interviews have changed the focus from general knowledge questions (which an asylum seeker may not even understand) to questions such as the living conditions in their own country and how and why they came to convert to Christianity.
Women are playing a central role in the underground churches of Iran despite the risk of rejection by their families and imprisonment by police, research by Open Doors has found. Its 17-page report, Women Rebuilding the Future of the Church, found that women work as evangelists, Sunday School teachers and, increasingly, house-church leaders, and argues that, proportionally, more women in Iran are involved in ministry than in many Western countries, despite women not having equal standing in Iranian law. Although Christianity is suppressed in Iran and conversion away from Islam is illegal, there are an estimated 800,000 covert believers, many of them converts from Islamic backgrounds. According to Open Doors, at least 193 Christians were arrested or imprisoned for their faith there last year.
Azada, a woman who runs a church, is in contact with Iranian women converts on a daily basis. She said that, in Jesus, Iranian women gain confidence that they did not gain from the honour-based culture in which they had grown up. Women who become Christians, she said, find that they “are loved, they are wanted, and they can come to God just as they are, without any shame”. “Many women risk imprisonment and torture by being active evangelists,” she continued. “And because God gives them the strength to take this risk, each day new people, men and women, get to know the love of Christ and get to know their true identity as beloved children of God.”
One woman, Shifa, has launched an online church group where Iranians who have become Christians can connect and receive pastoral care and be discipled. Shifa, who no longer lives in Iran, was motivated to do this after the cousin who told her about Jesus was imprisoned for her faith, leaving her with no-one to help her understand the Bible or answer her questions. “What I didn’t have then, pastoral care and someone to disciple me,I can give to them now,” she said. “The Bible alone is not enough. To grow as a Christian you also need your fellow Christians to grow and to pray with.” One Iranian Christian woman, Maryam Naghash Zargaran, has spent more than three years in prison.
Zargaran has undertaken two hunger strikes to protest against being denied access to the medical treatment she requires for long-standing health issues. She has been allowed to leave prison temporarily to receive treatment, but each time has been forced to return before it could be completed. She then had her sentence extended by six weeks to make up for the time she has spent outside prison. Amnesty International referenced her case when it accused Iran of “cruel” denial of medical care in its prisons. Zargaran, a convert from Islam, was originally arrested in January 2013, in connection with her work at an orphanage alongside Saeed Abedini, who was also imprisoned but eventually released in January 2016.
US CONGRESS VOTES TO PERMANENTLY BAN TAXPAYER FUNDING OF ABORTION
The U.S. House of Representatives has voted 238 to 183 to permanently ban taxpayer funding of abortion. The No Taxpayer Funding of Abortion Act (HR 7), introduced by Rep. Chris Smith, R-NJ, makes permanent the so-called Hyde Amendment permanent. Thus far the amendment, which prohibits federal money from being used to fund abortions through Medicaid, has been subject to annual renewal. The Charlotte Lozier Institute estimates the Hyde Amendment has saved over two million lives since it was enacted in 1976. A January 2017 Marist poll revealed 61% of Americans don’t support using tax dollars to pay for abortions. The No Taxpayer Funding of Abortion Act also removes abortion funding from Obamacare while legislators consider replacements for Obama’s signature healthcare law.
According to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), 1,036 of Obamacare plans sold in 2014 included abortion on demand. Other Obamacare plans lack transparency on their abortion funding. Some Democrats took to the House floor to say that Obamacare doesn’t fund abortions, which Smith rebutted with GAO statistics. Rep. Dan Kildee, D-MI, complained that HR 7 is “about going well beyond” the Hyde Amendment. Others defended Planned Parenthood and touted that they had participated in the Women’s March on Washington in their speeches against the bill. Pro-life members of Congress pointed out that the legislation simply makes permanent what is already renewed annually by Congress, and that it allows for transparency on abortion coverage in healthcare plans.
Rep. Liz Cheney, R-WY, blasted those using the “women’s march” as a way to imply they speak for all women, noting that pro-life feminists were excluded from it. She plugged the 44th annual March for Life. Rep. Diane Black, R-TN, also noted the hypocrisy of the women’s march excluding pro-life women. Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-NC, called HR7 a “common-sense measure.” Rep. Vicky Hartzler, R-MO, said she was “heartsick” to hear her colleagues celebrating the recent anniversary of Roe v. Wade and called them out for labelling abortion “care” instead of “taking life.” The White House released a statement saying, “the Administration strongly supports H.R. 7, if the President were presented with H.R. 7 in its present form, he would sign the bill.”
SRI LANKA REJECTS ATTEMPTS TO LEGALISE HOMOSEXUALITY
Sri Lanka has rejected decriminalising homosexuality. The country adheres to the 1883 Penal Code that states that same sex acts are punishable by up to ten years in prison. The code was reviewed in 1995 following a gay rights campaign, but instead of being repealed, it was expanded to include women. The Cabinet chose to reject the move for legalisation because of opposition from the “Buddhist clergy” and not wanting to cause “social problems”. The Minister of Health said the Cabinet stands opposed to the request for decriminalising homosexuality but that the government will “not prosecute anyone for practising it.” Instead of legalisation, a provision will now be placed in the country’s Human Rights Action Plan seeking to end discrimination based on sexual orientation.