Editor’s note: An article was to have been included on the murder this past week of Egyptian Coptic Christians in Libya. However, due to a technical administrative problem, for which we apologise, this could not be done. Please pray for the Egyptian Coptic church people as they grieve that God will surround them with His love and give them comfort and strength at this time.
U.S. ENTERING DANGEROUS NEW ERA IN RELIGIOUS HOSTILITY
A school tells a student that he can’t attend because God’s the most important thing in his life. A public health official gets fired for sermons he gave in his off-hours as a lay pastor. A congregation is told they may not be able to locate downtown because – and only because – they’re a church. These are all real examples of cases in the past few months showing how religion can get you in real trouble in today’s America. For the last 3 years the Liberty Institute and the Family Research Council say they’re seeing cases of discrimination against those of faith rising rapidly.
“The first time we did it, we collected about 600 cases,” Jeff Mateer, general counsel of the Texas-based Liberty Institute, told CBN News. “We have gone from 600 to 1,600 cases. So, the threats are continuing to increase at a dramatic pace.” Often these threats take place in school settings. The American Centre for Law and Justice is another legal organization fighting for religious rights. “We’ve got a student right now at a school in Baltimore for radiological nursing who was denied access to the school – and the school put this in writing – because he said God was the most important thing in his life,” ACLJ Executive Director Jordan Sekulow said.
Mateer then turned to a case where the government backed a teacher with some ministerial duties at a church school who was fired by the church. “We had the solicitor-general argue in the U.S. Supreme Court that the federal government should be involved in the hiring and firing of ministers,” Mateer stated. In May, the state of Georgia fired public health official Dr. Eric Walsh shortly after hiring him because of sermons Walsh had given during his free time. Walsh admitted his sermons sometimes dealt with controversial Issues around creation, sexual purity, doctrinal issues.
A number of articles in the Georgia press point to gay activists angry over comments Walsh made on homosexuality, sometimes in sermons delivered years ago. For instance, in his 2006 sermon called “Sex Lies and the Fight for Purity,” he quoted scriptures concerning the sexual sinners of Sodom and Gomorrah. After hearing from Walsh’s detractors, Georgia officials asked him for copies of his sermons. “So he politely sent them copies of the sermons,” said Jeremy Dys, the Liberty Institute senior counsel who’s representing Walsh. “They reviewed them and the very next day they fired him.”
Walsh told CBN News he’s still in shock and blown away that in the United States you can deliver a message to a congregation on the weekend which can be used against you when you apply for, or you’re offered, a job,” Walsh said. “That’s not religious liberty,” Dys commented. Sometimes fighting back against such large opponents can take years, like an ACLJ case that began in 2007. “A college professor at UNC Wilmington – fought until this year because he was denied promotion,” Sekulow said. “He started out as an atheist and a liberal professor – became a Christian during his years at the college and was denied promotion. He ultimately won in court.”
Pastor Telsa DeBerry and his congregation in Holly Springs, Mississippi, encountered a city ordinance which was used to stop them from forming a downtown church. “One of our young lawyers brought it to me and said, ‘You’re not going to believe this,'” Liberty Institute’s Mateer recalled. “Small town in Mississippi has an ordinance that says that churches, in order to be in an area of the town, have to gain 60% approval of the landowners in the area and they have to get the mayor’s approval.’ “I thought it was ludicrous,” DeBerry said when recalling first hearing about the ordinance.
“On face value it violates federal law that says you can’t discriminate against churches for being a church,” Mateer explained. DeBerry added, “I felt that not only I as a pastor, but all Christians and for that matter all religious institutions would be segregated and alienated from society by this ordinance and would be relegated to second- or third-rung citizens.” But they point out if people will fight back, they will almost always win. For instance, DeBerry and Liberty lost in their original rounds with Holly Springs before a district court judge.
They scored a huge victory on appeal when the 5th Circuit Court in New Orleans blasted the anti-church ordinance. “God had a purpose because when we went to the 5th Circuit, we ended up getting a great precedent,” Mateer said. “It’s literally going to impact thousands of churches across this country when they’re faced with discrimination,” he added. Sekulow said these cases are often solved with just a call or a letter from a group like the ACLJ. “But there are times when you’ve got to be willing to fight in court,” he explained. “We are there for people so they don’t have to worry about paying attorneys, but you do have to go through the process.”
Sekulow explained that those going after people of faith and the society’s religious moorings are more radical than those of the past. “The goal of the radical groups is to eradicate our Judeo-Christian heritage,” he said. “They want Washington, D.C., to be sandblasted: the Bible verses, the religious figures that are represented throughout our nation’s capital.” “Usually they pick on smaller places that have budget issues,” Sekulow added. They get ‘wins’ when no one shows up to fight them.” Mateer agreed: 菟eople of faith must sometimes stand and fight. The truth is if we lose our religious freedom, we’re going to lose all our freedoms.”
All agreed that time is short, and the peoples of this land, both Arab and Jew, must hear the Word of God now. A new generation of Arab and Jewish followers of Jesus met together recently to strategize on how to “turn Israel upside down.” Two hundred and sixty Messianic Jewish and Arab pastors, youth leaders, evangelists, Bible-school teachers and ministry leaders gathered for a three-day council to discuss, study, pray and work together to effectively bring the Word of God in power to Arabs and Jews throughout the whole Land of Israel.
These men and women of faith embody decades of proclaiming the Gospel to local Arabs and Jews. Most have given up everything to preach Messiah to unbelieving Muslim and Jewish families and friends. Despised because of their faith, they have lost jobs, suffered rejection and endured multiple other hardships, yet their passion to bring the Good News to their people remains unquenched. 展e will keep preaching the Word of God until it changes the people of Israel,” declared one pastor. “We must be willing to suffer for the sake of the Gospel and keep going no matter what. God will accomplish His will through the power of His Word.”
With tensions now raging in Jerusalem and across Israel, it was astonishing to witness firsthand the deep friendships between these Arabs and Jews. Even the cold-blooded murders in a Jerusalem synagogue that took place on the final day of the gathering could not separate these godly men and women from their warm fellowship in Messiah. In fact, the cowardly acts of terror and violence still raging in Jerusalem only served to move them to stand even stronger together and compelled them to more boldly declare the life-giving Word of God to both Muslim and Jew.
A regular theme throughout the gathering was the need to understand God’s prophetic word concerning the Last Days. Scriptures related to the Second Coming of Messiah were studied. There are many signs that we are living in the latter days, particularly the return of the Jewish people to their Biblical land, and the leadership of the local congregations in Israel discussed the need to prepare God’s people for the Messiah’s soon return. All agreed that time is short, and the peoples of this land, both Arab and Jew, must hear the Word of God now.
It was mentioned that some local leaders are not teaching or preaching about the Second Coming. They do not want to stir up controversy or division over what can be a difficult subject. While there remains much debate in Christianity and among Messianic Jews as to what exactly will happen around the Second Coming of the Lord, all were in agreement that He is coming, and that the Gospel must be preached in boldness, especially in Israel, before it is too late, for He comes this time in glory and in judgment.
According to many New Testament Scriptures, the return of Messiah should unify Believers, inspiring them to ready themselves in purity and holiness. It is seen as a cunning ploy of the enemy to cause so much confusion and division concerning the Last Days and Messiah’s return. The leadership of the local Arab and Jewish congregations in Israel prayed for unity of faith in the Messiah’s return and boldness to tell others of His coming Messianic Kingdom, the only real solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict and the peace of Jerusalem.
BRITAIN EXPERIENCING WORST INCREASE IN MARITAL BREAKDOWN IN A SINGLE GENERATION
A study of family life in Britain has discovered a massive increase in marital breakdown in a single generation. Seeking to replicate a study conducted from 1969, the Centre for Longitudinal Studies and the Institute of Education launched the Millennium Cohort Study based on around 13,000 children born in Britain between September 2000 and January 2002, tracking their lives and family settings for 11 years. According to the results, while 61% of children overall were still living with both parents at the age of 11, some 33% had experienced an upheaval in their family, such as a marital break-up.
When compared to the 1969 study, the results show that family life for millennial children is demonstrably less stable. In 1969 90% of 11-year-olds were living in a home with married parents, just 6% were in a lone-parent home and 3% lived in a ‘blended’ family. The report authors point out that while children involved in the study reported a high degree of happiness in their lives, the figures reveal negative impacts of family instability. The study reveals that some 25% of 11-year-olds in lone parent and step-parent settings and 35% living apart from both parents had behavioural problems, compared to just over 10% in homes headed by both natural parents.
Conversely, while 14% of children living with both parents existed in poverty, the figure surged to 32% for ‘blended’ families and 53% in a lone parent setting. Reacting to the Millennium Cohort Study, Harry Benson of the Marriage Foundation said Britain’s politicians should pay close attention to its findings. “Politicians can no longer safely ignore what these big national studies are telling us which is that children whose parents don’t stay together face much higher risks to their well-being. What the study also shows is that if we are not encouraging parents to get married we are increasing those risks.”
In the most recent national abortion report issued by the Centre for Disease Control (CDC), figures show that the abortion rate in America has declined to an historic low. “Large decreases in the total number, rate, and ratio of reported abortions from 2010 to 2011, in combination with decreases that occurred during 2008-2010, resulted in historic lows for all three measures of abortion,” the report noted.
The report indicates that at its high decades ago, “approximately 33% of pregnancies ended in abortion羊esulting in brochures, banners and billboards proclaiming that fact and greying out every third baby displayed in pictures of newborn children. Thanks to pro-life laws, educational efforts, pregnancy centres and the actions of pro-life groups that have resulted in closing down abortion clinics, now just 18% of pregnancies in the United States end in abortion.” The report also revealed that the CDC report showed 10 women died in 2011 as a result of legal abortions “which are not safer for women simply because they are legal.”
PASTORS SIGN PLEDGE TO SEPARATE CHRISTIAN AND CIVIL MARRIAGE
A new LifeWay Research survey on marriage and an online pledge drive shows support for a movement to further separate church and state roles in marriage. Six in 10 responding to the survey said the government should not define or regulate marriage. More than a third also said that clergy should get out of the civil marriage business. LifeWay researchers interviewed 2,000 Americans and 1,000 Protestant senior pastors. Only a quarter of the pastors surveyed agreed, however, that clergy should give up on performing civil weddings. Right now, most U.S. clergy are able to sign legally binding marriage licenses.
Meanwhile, hundreds of pastors have joined an online pledge saying they will no longer sign the licenses. The conservative Christian magazine First Things is sponsoring the drive. The pledge states, “We will ask couples to seek civil marriage separately from their church-related vows and blessings. We will preside only at those weddings that seek to establish a Christian marriage in accord with the principles articulated and lived out from the beginning of the Church’s life.”
U.N. WARNING: YEMEN IS IN “FREEFALL” AS AL-QAIDA SEIZES THE ARMY BASE
Shortly after the United Nations warned that the country of Yemen could enter a civil war and break apart, fighters linked to al-Qaida managed to seize a large army base in the southern part of the country. According to Mohammad Mukhashaf of Reuters, the fighters managed to seize the base, which housed up to 2,000 Yemeni government soldiers, after several hours of heavy clashes. Ansar al-Sharia, a group affiliated with al-Qaida, claimed that it detonated a suicide bomb and captured some of the troops. “We believe the situation is very dangerous,” U.N. Special Envoy to Yemen Jamal Benomar said in a TV interview. “Yemen is on the brink of civil war.”
Benomar added that both sides have contributed to the turmoil and he urged more talks. During a U.N. Security Council meeting, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon placed Yemen’s deterioration in stark terms. “Let me be clear,” Ban said to the Council. “Yemen is collapsing before our eyes. We cannot stand by and watch.” According to the New York Times, Mark Lyall-Grant, the British ambassador to the U.N., told reporters that “we are looking for a resolution in the next few days.” Back in Yemen, an official who refused to be identified told Reuters that residents feared that a clash would take place near the captured army base…