The matter of chaplains’ prayers at military events is settled, for now, but several members of Congress wanted to be on record as supporting the practice, which is older than America. In a letter to Col. James P. Ryan, commanding officer of the 157th Air Refuelling Wing based at Pease Air National Guard Base in New Hampshire, the bicameral group of congressmen and senators wrote of their support for his decision to maintain the chaplains’ prayers at all military ceremonies. It states: We write with reference to a complaint you received from the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) regarding prayers led by chaplains during ceremonies at Pease ANGB. Established by George Washington in 1775, the office of military chaplaincy was designed to serve those in the armed services in a variety of ways, including offering a uniquely faith-based perspective on life and death issues.

During consideration of the Fiscal Year 2015 National Defence Authorization Act (NDAA), Congress affirmed the spiritual leadership that chaplains provide to service members and military commanders alike as well as the role that chaplains play in facilitating the free exercise of religion. As you know, these conscience protections have been implemented by the Department of Defence through two instructions. These instructions make clear that expressions of belief are protected within the bounds of good order and discipline. Under these instructions, no service member may discriminate or take adverse personnel action on the basis of these actions by a chaplain. We are deeply invested in protecting the mission-critical role of chaplains in the United States military. As such, we were pleased to see the following statement from the Air Force in response to the FFRF complaint.

The Air Force places a high value on the rights of its members to observe the tenets of their respective religions or to observe no religion at all. The Air Force is dedicated to maintaining an environment in which people can realize their highest potential regardless of personal religious or other beliefs. Chaplains provide, or provide for, the free exercise of religion, and we advocate its free exercise for every member of the Air Force and the joint environments. There are no service restrictions preventing chaplains from praying according to their faith tradition. In certain circumstances, we encourage chaplains to offer inclusive prayers. Chaplains have consistently found the means to strike a balance between the tenants of their faith and the needs of the airmen they serve.

The religious service of military chaplains fills a fundamental spiritual need for our troops, promoting their operational readiness, success and overall wellbeing. For that reason, chaplains have played a central role in the lives of our men and women in the Armed Services for the last 240 years. Among the most basic rights that Americans enjoy are the free exercise of religion, free speech and the freedom of association. The Establishment Clause exists to ensure that the government cannot affirmatively impose or elevate one religion over another. However, it does not prohibit the government from referencing religion altogether, nor does it require that government officials proactively scrub all religious references from the public square. Rather, it ensures that the government does not show preference to a certain religion nor take away an individual’s ability to exercise religion.

The Supreme Court recently stated, “It is an elemental First Amendment principle that government may not coerce its citizens to support or participate in any religion or its exercise.” The court went on to state that “an Establishment Clause violation is not made out any time a person experiences a sense of affront from the expression of contrary views.” The strong statement from the Air Force reinforces the policies and protections in place for service members and chaplains to freely exercise their religious beliefs, including the freedom of chaplains to adhere to the tenets of their faith as they perform and serve in all aspects of their ministry. In today’s culture in which religious freedom is under attack, we want you to know that your positive decision has not gone unnoticed. We look forward to working with you to protect the right to religious freedom for our service members and chaplains.

The letter was the product of a joint effort by Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA) and Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) and was signed by 15 of their colleagues in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. Collins, a member of the Air Force Reserve, is the only military chaplain currently serving in Congress. “The Air Force has again acted with courage and wisdom in affirming that our service men and women have the right to observe their respective religions or no religion at all,” he said. “Chaplains contribute to the holistic well-being of American troops, and to attack their role is to undermine the free exercise rights of all service members. I will continue to stand by Pease Air National Guard Base as it protects the freedom of the individuals who sacrifice to preserve the liberties of all Americans.”

Source: Charisma News

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A federal appeals court has ruled that Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which bans discrimination on the basis of race, colour, religion, sex, and national origin, also covers homosexuality. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, which handles cases in Indiana, Illinois, and Wisconsin, decided 8-3 that discrimination on the basis of “sex” also means discrimination on the basis of “sexual orientation.” The ruling is significant because it recognizes special protections for LGBTQ status in existing law, making gay activists’ attempts to create LGBTQ anti-discrimination laws unnecessary. Progressives hailed the ruling. Vox called it “the biggest pro-gay rights legal decision since the Supreme Court ruled in favour of marriage equality.” Lambda Legal, which handled the case, said, “This decision is game-changer.”

“It’s the first federal appeals court decision to rule that anti-gay discrimination is banned under existing federal law,” Vox’s David McNew reported. “What activists want to do is expand the existing civil rights protections to also protect LGBTQ people.” Scott Shackford of Reason.com said, “Suddenly, without passing any new laws, we have a new protected class under federal law.” Indeed, if the decision is allowed to stand, it would essentially add LGBTQ protections to existing laws. Discrimination on the basis of “sexual orientation” an undefined phrase that could potentially be expanded to mean any number of sexual preferences, counts as discrimination on the basis of being male or female. “This is something that will roll out coast to coast, we think,” predicted attorney Greg Nevins of Lambda Legal, the nation’s largest pro-gay bank of attorneys.

In its ruling, the court explained, “It would require considerable calisthenics to remove the ‘sex’ from ‘sexual orientation.’ ” Opponents say the Civil Rights Act of 1964 meant “gender,” as in male and female, when it outlawed discrimination based on “sex,” and did not speak to any variant sexual practice. They argue that the court-referenced “confusing and contradictory results” have come with more recent court decisions infusing transgender issues into the law. The implications are indeed far reaching for this interpretation of the word “sex” in American law. The fact that historically the word was used by legislators and legally understood by justices to refer to male and female is not disputed. But with more than 50 separate gender identities now being infused into American business and education, gay activists say that “what the original laws’ authors believed or intended is irrelevant.”

The court admitted that its decision was based not on the intent of the 1964 Civil Rights Act but on recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions. “In this case, we have been asked to take a fresh look at our position in light of developments at the Supreme Court extending over two decades,” decision author Judge Diane Wood explained. “We have done so, and we conclude today that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is a form of sex discrimination.” The case focused on Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which deals with workplace discrimination. But many courts have ruled that Title IX, which deals with schools, should be interpreted the same way. In other words, if upheld by the Supreme Court, the decision would create explicit protections for homosexuals in employment, housing, and education, regardless of a business owners personal beliefs.

Source: Life Site News

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It’s no secret that China’s strict two-child policy has ended countless unborn babies’ lives through forced abortions. Now, President Trump is taking a stand against China’s forced abortions by cutting funds to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). “This determination was made based on the fact that China’s family planning policies still involve the use of coercive abortion and involuntary sterilization, and UNFPA partners on family planning activities with the Chinese government agency responsible for these coercive policies,” the State Department said. The cuts amount to at least $32.5 million. Instead, funds will be directed to the U.S. Agency for International Development, which provides medical care to families across the world.

Fr. Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, praised the move, calling the United States’ past funding of forced abortions a “disgrace.” “The outrage of the Obama administration’s ‘see no evil’ policy that financed forced abortions and coerced sterilizations in China and other dictatorships is finally over,” said Fr. Pavone. “The United Nations Population Fund is a broker of oppression. That our country funded this organization in violation of federal law is a disgrace.” The State Department determined that the UNFPA was illegal and in violation of the Kemp-Kasten Amendment, which was originally created by the Reagan Administration. The amendment prohibits giving U.S. “population assistance” funds to “any organization or program which supports or participates in the management of a program of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization.”

Even though the Kemp-Kasten Amendment has been renewed each year by Congress, neither President Clinton nor President Obama enforced the law and handed over $67.88 million to UNFPA in the 2016 fiscal year. Mat Staver, founder and president of Liberty Counsel, also applauds the decision to stop funding forced abortions. “We commend President  Trump for making it very clear the United States will not support a United Nations agency that promotes the killing of innocent babies,” Staver said. “Obama tragically advanced a pro-abortion agenda and poured millions of dollars into UNFPA to support the death of many unborn children. This latest action by the Trump Administration is a positive step as we strive to eliminate the funding of human genocide in America and internationally.”

Source: CBN News

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 Within 20 years, more babies will be born to Muslim women than to Christian women worldwide, the latest sign of the rapid growth that could make Islam the world’s largest religion by the end of the century. Islam is already the world’s fastest-growing religion, according to a new study released by the nonpartisan Pew Research Centre, with the Muslim population increasing by more than 150 million people between 2010 and 2015, to 1.8 billion. Meanwhile, Christianity remains the world’s largest religion. It is growing more slowly however, largely due to its declining numbers in Europe, which was long the seat of Christendom. As of 2015, there were 2.3 billion Christians. While Christians accounted for 33% of births worldwide in recent years, slightly outpacing the number of Muslim births, they also made up 37% of worldwide deaths, nearly twice the number than from any other religion.

“Christianity is literally dying in Europe,” said Conrad Hackett, the lead researcher on the study. In most European countries, including England, Germany, Italy and Russia, Christian deaths outnumbered Christian births from 2010 to 2015. The religion has been buoyed by continued growth in Africa and Latin America. “The heart of Christianity is moving from Europe to Africa,” Mr Hackett said. The new report is an expansion on a major Pew Research study from 2015, which first projected that by 2050 the worldwide Muslim population would nearly equal the Christian population, perhaps for the first time in history. This latest study offers new details about birth-rates in recent years. It also projects forward to 2060, when the Christian and Muslim populations will be nearly equal.

The worldwide population of Muslims is projected to grow by 70% between 2015 and 2060. Christianity will grow by 34%. For both religions, the growing numbers come largely from fertility. Muslims have gained slightly in recent years from people converting to Islam. Meanwhile, Christians have lost more members than any other religion in recent years due to religious switching. Currently, 16% of the world’s population is religiously unaffiliated, with most of them living in China. That group has gained the most from religious switching, with more than 12 million people expected to leave behind any religious affiliation between 2015 and 2020. The percentage of the world population that is unaffiliated with any religion is expected to fall in the coming decades because of lower birthrates, compared to other belief groups.

Source: Wall Street Journal

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The California Senate has passed a bill which prohibits local law enforcement from enforcing federal immigration rules, essentially designating California as a “sanctuary state.” CNN.com reports that Senate Bill 54 passed in a 27-12 vote along party lines. Democrats supported the bill, while Republicans did not. It bans law enforcement from using resources, funds, facilities, property, equipment, and personnel to assist in immigration law enforcement. The bill comes in direct contradiction to President Trump’s hard-line stance toward immigration. California Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon who authored the bill condemned President Trump’s immigration policies and said the bill would allow law enforcement to focus on more important tasks.

“Our precious local law enforcement resources will be squandered if police are pulled from their duties to arrest otherwise law-abiding maids, busboys, labourers, mothers and fathers,” Leon said, adding that the bill is “a rejection of President Trump’s false and cynical portrayal of undocumented residents as a lawless community.” Republican lawmakers, however, argue that the bill would harm lines of communication between state and local authorities. “We’re prohibiting local and state unfettered communications with federal authorities in getting many dangerous and violent felons out of our communities,” said Republican Sen. Jeff Stone. The bill now heads to the California State Assembly, where Democrats hold a super majority. If it passes in the Assembly, it will go to the desk of California’s Democratic Governor Jerry Brown.

Source: Christian Headlines

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Florida State Senators voted to approve legislation that abolishes previous rules that prevented religious services and events from being conducted on school property. Florida’s public schools must let students wear religious-themed jewellery and lead religious prayers during the school day and at school-sanctioned events, under a controversial proposal that the state Senate recently approved. “Part of what we’re protecting is those basic rights for religious expression, which are protected free speech, and we’re letting people know it doesn’t stop at the property line of the school site,” Republican Sen. Dennis Baxley said. “We owe our educators some clarity on this so it can be applied uniformly across the state and in a way that respects all faiths and people of no faith.”

The vote on the bill was 23-13. The bill’s proponents said the state’s lawmakers should take a stand and allow students and teachers to practice their constitutionally protected right to freedom of religion. Under the legislation Florida’s public schools are obliged to grant access to school facilities for student religious groups and allow students to pray at school-run events, activities previously strictly prohibited in the state. Proponents of the bill indicated they thought the bill would serve an important role in reversing what they view as an overbearing crack down on free speech, such as preventing the wearing of religious-themed jewellery like a crucifix, or including references to religious figures in their school work. The bill in its current form not only allows religious expression, but also shields students and teachers from persecution or discrimination in any form for their religious views.

Source: Gospel Herald

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