Archives For Healthcare

THE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

Baptists will hear from two presidential hopefuls at next week’s SEND North America Conference in Nashville, Tenn. Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, will interview former Florida Governor Jeb Bush Aug. 4. The conference also will include a pre-recorded interview with Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.

The_Briefing“Evangelicals are looking for leaders who not only understand their convictions about human dignity and family stability but have plans to address them,” Moore said in a press release, “and this event will provide the opportunity for precisely this kind of discussion with some of the leading presidential candidates, and I am greatly looking forward to it.”

The SEND Conference, which is hosted by the North American and International Mission Boards, is expected to see 13,000 attenders.

In its press release, the ERLC said the leading candidates from each major party were invited to participate, including Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton, Moore said in a July 22 blog post. The Aug. 4 conversations will be the first in a series of discussions with candidates, Moore added.

Pakistani woman’s execution temporarily stayed pending court review
The Pakistani Supreme Court said July 22 they will review the case of Aasiya Noreen, known in media reports as Asia Bibi. The mother of two (and stepmother of three other children) was sentenced to death in 2010 for allegedly making derogatory comments about Muhammad. Read the full story from Morning Star News via Baptist Press.

San Diego’s landmark cross will stay
A veterans memorial in San Diego has been sold to a private group, effectively ending years of legal battles over its constitutionality. The Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial, which includes a 43-foot cross, was purchased from the U.S. Defense Department by the Mt. Soledad Memorial Association for slightly less than $1.4 million, The Christian Post reports. The group hopes to turn it into a tourist destination on par with the San Diego Zoo.

GuideStone appeals to Supreme Court
GuideStone Financial Resources has filed an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court against a health care mandate that would require some companies it works with to provide abortion-inducing drugs. GuideStone, a Southern Baptist entity, and the churches it represents are exempt from the mandate, Baptist Press reports. But some other religious employers are at risk, they contend, even as the federal government argues it offers an accommodation for them.

Kenyan mall reopens almost two years after terrorist attack
Westgate Shopping Mall in Nairobi reopened July 18, 22 months after extremist group al-Shabab staged a multi-day attack that killed 67 people and wounded 175. Katherine Walton, an International Mission Board “missionary kid” now living in Kenya with her own family, was in the mall with her children during the attack, Baptist Press reports.

“It has been and still is a difficult journey in recovery. The children have all dealt with their own issues, but on the whole have done remarkably well,” she told BP. “God has been really good to us, and we keep moving forward, learning more about ourselves and about God during recovery.”

The 2012 nativity scene at the Illinois Capitol.

The 2012 nativity scene at the Illinois Capitol.

THE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

The nativity scene in the Illinois Capitol’s rotunda will be unveiled today, likely near a “winter solstice” sign placed there over the weekend by the Freedom from Religion Foundation.

The sign reads: “At this season of THE WINTER SOLSTICE may reason prevail. There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell. There is only our natural world. Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds.”

Atheist blogger Hemant Mehta said “viewpoint equality” is the key issue in the dueling displays. “If Christian groups are allowed to put displays up in the Capitol building, then atheist groups can as well…” he wrote about the sign.

The nativity scene, now in its sixth year, is privately funded and organized by the Springfield Nativity Scene Committee. Thomas More Society, a law firm that specializes in religious liberty matters, calls the scene “classic free speech” in a release on its website.

“The SNSC’s primary goal is to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.  But its secondary mission is to proclaim and demonstrate to the public and to the media alike (statewide and nationwide) that such private expressions of religious belief in the public squares of our nation are not merely tolerated but fully deserving of robust legal protection.”

Read more at and

Other news:

Tornado relief efforts continue
Disaster Relief chainsaw teams currently are serving in Washington, Ill., and surrounding areas, but are expected to complete their work by the end of this week, said Illinois Disaster Relief coordinator Rex Alexander. Since the outbreak of tornadoes Nov. 17, volunteers have helped with clean-up, provided childcare, and met emotional and spiritual needs as chaplains. A feeding team served for nearly two weeks in Peoria, preparing meals for storm responders and victims. Click here to donate to Illinois Disaster Relief.

Supreme Court to consider Hobby Lobby case
Baptist Press reports the U.S. Supreme Court will consider next year whether business owners can exercise religious freedom by objecting to the abortion/contraceptive mandate in President Obama’s healthcare reform package. The mandate requires employers to cover abortion-inducing drugs in their employee health care plans.

Craft retailer Hobby Lobby and its sister corporation Mardel found favor in an appeals court, but Mennonite-owned Pennsylvania business Conestoga Wood Specialties was ruled against in a similar case. The Supreme Court consolidated the cases and will hear oral arguments next year, with a decision expected by he court’s summer adjournment, according to Baptist Press.

“This legal challenge has always remained about one thing and one thing only: the right of our family businesses to live out our sincere and deeply held religious convictions as guaranteed by the law and the Constitution,” Hobby Lobby founder David Green said in a written release. “Business owners should not have to choose between violating their faith and violating the law.”

Read the full story at

Americans weigh in on end-of-life issues
A new poll by Pew Research found 66% of Americans say there are circumstances where a patient should be allowed to die, but a growing number of people believe medical staff should do everything possible to save the life of a patient in all circumstances.

Religious beliefs play a role in what people think about the issues, Pew found. 42% of white evangelical Protestants and black Protestants say a person has a moral right to suicide if he or she is in a great deal of pain with no hope of improvement, compared to 62% of all adults surveyed.

Read more about the survey at, and check out Religion News Service’s analysis by Cathy Lynn Grossman here.

Week of Prayer for International Missions is Dec. 1-8Go to for daily prayer guides, missionary stories, and creative ways to mark the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering in your church.

THE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

GuideStone Financial Resources has joined a long list of organizations suing the federal government over the abortion/contraceptive mandate within President Obama’s healthcare reform package.

GuideStone, the Southern Baptist Convention’s health and benefits entity, filed suit Oct. 11 along with two other organizations – Oklahoma-based Reaching Souls International, and Truett-McConnell College in Cleveland, Ga. Baptist Press reports:

The suit contends the religious liberty of the entities and other non-church-related organizations covered by GuideStone’s health plan, is violated by a rule issued by the Department of Health and Human Services to implement the 2010 health-care law. The HHS regulation requires employers to pay for coverage of workers’ contraceptives, including drugs that can cause abortions, but does not provide an exemption for entities like those that filed suit.

“GuideStone plans do not cover drugs or devices that can or do cause abortions,” GuideStone President O.S. Hawkins said in a written release from the entity Monday (Oct. 14).

“We reluctantly take this step because we are committed to protecting the unborn and preserving the religious freedom that is guaranteed under the laws of this nation,” he said. “This mandate runs rough-shod over these foundational principles.”

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty is representing in GuideStone in the suit, which is the 74th such complaint filed against the mandate. Read more at

Opposing voices in Illinois marriage debate head to the Capitol
People for and against same-sex marriage will rally in Springfield this week in hopes of swaying the votes of lawmakers back in town for the fall veto session. It’s not clear whether sponsors of the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act have the votes needed to pass the measure (it stalled in the House last May), but same-sex marriage supporters are planning a rally and march around the Capitol today, October 22. On Wednesday the 23rd, the Illinois Family Institute will host a prayer rally and “Lobby Day” at the Capitol.

Southern Baptist task force addresses baptism decline
A group of leaders assembled by the North American Mission Board will meet over the next few months to discuss the decline in baptisms across the Southern Baptist Convention. “Our baptismal trends are all headed in the wrong direction,” NAMB’s vice president for evangelism, Al Gilbert, told Baptist Press. “With a burden to penetrate lostness in North America, we must pray and think through what we can and should do to turn around this decline.”

According to the 2012 Annual Church Profile, Southern Baptist churches baptized fewer than 315,000 people last year, the first time baptisms dropped below that number since 1948. The 2012 total was 5.5% less than the previous year.

Gilbert and Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research, will facilitate meetings for the group, which consists of 15 pastors and leaders from Southern Baptist entities. Baptist Press reports the task force hopes to conclude their work in May 2014. Read more at

Graham’s ‘My Hope’ event set for Nov. 7-10
Billy Graham’s next evangelistic event could be his largest crusade ever. More than 25,000 churches have signed up to take part in My Hope America, which asks Christians to invite non-believers into their homes and churches to watch Graham preach on the power of the cross. His message will be broadcast Nov. 7-10 on various outlets; go to for a full list and schedule.

Spokesperson Brent Rinehart told The Christian Post, “Woven within Graham’s message are the faith stories of two popular musicians: rapper LeCrae who overcame addiction and the pull of the gang lifestyle to see his life changed by an encounter with Jesus; and former Flyleaf lead singer Lacey Sturm who fought depression, hopelessness and suicidal thoughts only to be rescued by the love of a Heavenly Father and the hope that comes through a relationship with His Son.”

The event’s website also includes additional evangelistic videos and online training materials for those who sign up for the outreach.

From alien to understood
Brant Hansen writes about growing up in church with Apserger’s syndrome on CNN’s Belief blog. The Christian radio host’s experience is specific to his circumstances, but probably will encourage anyone who’s ever felt like an outsider. Hansen writes of his earlier church experiences: “I wondered if I was so broken, such a misfit that God simply took a look at me and decided to move on.” But “…Jesus himself finally reached me.” Read more at CNN”s Belief blog.

THE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

The news out of Newtown, Connecticut, is heartbreaking. Families suffering and broken over the senseless shooting that took the lives of 27 people at an elementary school, including 20 children between the ages of six and seven.

It’s impossible to answer the “why” questions that arise out of such a violent, evil act. But Christians can and should respond, said missiologist and author Ed Stetzer.

“First, pray,” Stetzer wrote on his blog, “Pray for hurting families and broken communities that have had their children ripped from them. Pray for churches to minister to the hurting. Pray for people not to lose heart. And, yes, pray for Jesus to come back and set this broken world right.”

The second response: “Don’t be afraid to say that the world is horribly broken. Speak about its broken condition. This brokenness is all around us. Evil is real – bad people are doing horrible things. The world really is broken…

“The brokenness of the world is on full display this day. Don’t be afraid to talk about it. All the silly “positive thinking religion” collapses on days like this. This world is broken and only God has the ultimate fix.”

And finally, “Do something,” Stetzer urged Christians. “Yes, hug your kids, but find a way to serve the others and be an agent of the Kingdom of God– an ambassador of Jesus in a world that does not follow him and His ways. Respond to this evil by doing good. Join Jesus on his mission.”

Read his full post here.

No to pro-life tags
“Choose Life” license plates may never hit the streets in North Carolina. Federal Judge James Fox ruled the plates are unconstitutional because there is no alternative pro-choice option. Lawmakers last year voted down an additional plate that would read “Trust Women. Respect Choice.” State Rep. Mitch Gillespie, who sponsored the bill that created the plates, told WRAL-TV he’ll try again when the General Assembly reconvenes, but won’t budge on a pro-choice plate. “I’d be willing to sacrifice this [the pro-choice plate] before I’d be willing to vote for that. Read more

Most approve birth control mandate
Two-thirds of American adults agree with the healthcare mandate requiring employers to cover contraception in their benefits package, even if it runs counter to the business owners’ religious principles, according to a LifeWay Research survey. Fewer respondents, 53%, favor applying the mandate to Catholic and other religious schools, hospitals and charities. LifeWay’s Ed Stetzer said the study shows the public “appears unaware or unconcerned” that some business owners are fearful of losing their religious liberty under the new regulations. Read more

Hindu text used at swearing-in
Representative Tulsi Gabbard will make a very public expression of her faith at her swearing-in ceremony this month. Gabbard, a Hawaiian and the first-ever Hindu member of the U.S. House of Representatives, will use the Bhagavad Gita during the ceremony, instead of a Bible. “For Hindu Americans, it is a historic moment,” said Anju Bhargava, founder of Hindu American Seva Charities, in a Huffington Post report. Read more

Faith keeps gymnast balanced
Olympic gold medalist Gabby Douglas is only 16, but life has given her a book-full of lessons so far. She shares some in “Grace, Gold & Glory: My Leap of Faith,” co-written with Michelle Burford and published by Zondervan. Douglas told Christianity Today, “I always pray at every competition, when the judge’s hand goes up I am praying, and there are little Scriptures I like to quote. That keeps me motivated when I am about to go out on the competition floor.” Read more

-With info from WRAL-TV,, Huffington Post, Christianity Today

THE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

Twenty-eight college students from 11 countries came to a rather unlikely place – Springfield, Ill. – the weekend before Thanksgiving, for a few rather unlikely reasons: a visit to the Abraham Lincoln museum and a home-cooked Thanksgiving meal. And, of course, the chance to get away from campus for a few days. But the biggest draw?

“Year after year, it’s the experience of being in an American home,” said Chase Abner, collegiate evangelism strategist for the Illinois Baptist State Association, which organizes the Midwest International Student Conference with the help of local churches and Baptist campus ministries. “That fascinates them and draws them to the conference.”

The vast majority – up to 80% – of international students will never set foot in an American home, giving Christians a great opportunity to showcase the Gospel by just sharing their lives, Abner said.

“We’re able to show within our homes how the Christian faith affects everything about us,” he said. “How we eat, how we manage our household, how we treat our family members…”

What do you think? Have you and your family been able to use the ministry of hospitality to share the Gospel?

Other news:

Tweets from the Vatican
CNN reports Pope Benedict XVI will open a personal Twitter account next week under the account @Pontifex. His first Tweet, slated for Wednesday, Dec. 12, will answer a question about religion submitted via the hashtag #askpontifex. “The Pope’s presence on Twitter is a concrete expression of his conviction that the Church must be present in the digital arena,” the church said in a written statement to reporters, according to CNN’s religion news blog. Read the full story here.

Anonymous author embraces obscurity, humility
The author of the new book “Embracing Obscurity: Becoming Nothing in Light of God’s Everything,” released by B&H Publishing Group, chose to publish under the name “Anonymous” and to maintain nearly complete anonymity. Only one B&H editor and a couple of executives at LifeWay Christian Resources know the identity of Anonymous – reportedly a well-established author – who communicates via a specially created email address. “This book is a call to stop imitating the world’s formula for success and instead follow the model of our humble King,” Anonymous said in quotes provided by B&H. Read more at

Abortion rate drops 5%
The Centers for Disease Control reported in late November that the abortion rate in the United States is down 5%, according to a story in the Los Angeles Times. The decrease is reflected in data for the year 2009, the most recent information available. It represents the largest single-year decline in abortions in the last decade, The Times reported, adding that 18% of pregnancies in the U.S. end in abortion. Read more.

Survey: Most Americans back contraception mandate
Nearly two-thirds of adults in America believe businesses and organizations, even those with conflicting religious principles, should be required to provide coverage of contraception and birth control for their employees, according to a new survey by LifeWay Research. In considering whether nonprofits should be required to provide the coverage, 56 percent of adults agree and 32 percent disagree they should be required to follow the Obama Administration’s contraception mandate, even if it goes against their religious beliefs. For more findings, go to

THE BRIEFING | Posted by Meredith Flynn

From Peoria to Murphysboro, from Hoffman Estates to Mt. Vernon, video gambling will arrive in communities across Illinois in the next few weeks. The Illinois General Assembly approved a bill to allow video gambling in 2009, but the Illinois Gaming Board (IGB) hasn’t been prepared to enact the legislation – until now. The law allows video gaming terminals to be placed in bars, fraternal and veteran’s organizations, and truck stops.

Quincy is just one Illinois town considering allowing video gambling now that the IGA has moved forward with the bill. Quincy First Southern Pastor Tom Rains is working with fellow pastors to prevent it from being approved. “This type of gaming revenue does more harm than good,” he said. “There are too many innocent victims. Studies have shown it takes just one year to become addicted to video gambling, while it takes three and half years for all other forms of gambling.”

An estimated 250 cities and counties in Illinois have bans on video gambling, but that doesn’t mean those communities will remain free of video gambling. Recently in Springfield, city council members voted to overturn the city’s ban and approved video gambling within the city limits.

The state projects it will earn 30 percent of the money video gamblers spend at the machines from taxes on the terminals. That could amount to anywhere between $184 million and $342 million in funds, which are slated to be spent on road, bridge and school construction. Five percent of the tax will go to the city or county where the terminals are located. The IGB reports it has received 1,000 applications from businesses wanting to have terminals and has approved 70.

But at what cost to cities and taxpayers? According to research by Baylor Professor Earl L. Grinols and University of Georgia Professor David B. Mustard, communities where gambling is legal pay $13,067 each year in criminal justice, social services, regulatory and other costs per pathological gambler. They also found for every $1 in tax revenue a community receives from gambling, it cost taxpayers $3.

Reported by Lisa Sergent, contributing editor for the Illinois Baptist.

Other news:

Warren hopes for audience with presidential candidates
No formal plans are yet in place, but Baptist Press reports Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church, hopes to interview President Barack Obama and presumptive Republican candidate Mitt Romney in the church’s second presidential forum. The first, between Obama and John McCain, was held in August 2008 at the church’s Lake Forest, Ca., campus. Read more at

Restaurant pres. is no chicken, stands firm on traditional values
Some news outlets and event organizers initially reported National Eat at Chick-Fil-A Day was July 25. It’s actually scheduled for Wednesday, August 1.
Tomorrow, July 25, has been deemed National Eat at Chick-Fil-A Day by some conservative leaders, including former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, who have rallied around the restaurant chain’s president, Dan Cathy. He is currently under fire for affirming Chick-Fil-A’s position on same-sex marriage in an interview earlier this month. Cathy told The Biblical Recorder, a Baptist newspaper in North Carolina, his company is “guilty as charged” of supporting traditional family values. His comments drew fire from proponents of same-sex marriage, some of whom called for a boycott of the restaurant chain. Read more about National Eat at Chick-Fil-A Day at

Wheaton College files suit against contraceptive mandate
Wheaton College has joined several fellow universities in opposing the Obama administration’s Health and Human Services Preventative Services mandate, which requires organizations to provide contraceptives and abortion-causing drugs through their insurance policies. According to the school’s website, Wheaton is partnering with The Catholic University of America in the suit, bringing the number of lawsuits filed against the mandate to 24. Read more about Wheaton’s suit at

Colorado church reaches out in aftermath of theater shooting
The members of Mississippi Avenue Baptist Church woke up last Friday morning with a new, probably deeper, burden to reach out to their community with the hope of Christ. The church is located less than a mile away from the Century Aurora 16 movie theater, where a gunman took 12 lives early last Friday morning and critically injured many others. Along with offering public prayer services and counseling, “We are equipping our members to share with our community that God is real, that He loves them desperately and that He will walk this road with them if they will only turn to Him,” Pastor Mitch Hamilton told Baptist Press. “He is with each one walking this road and He offers His presence to any who will call upon Him.” Read more at

THE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

In his own words: David Platt on the ‘sinner’s prayer’
David Platt has released two blog posts to explain his views on recent debate surrounding the “sinner’s prayer.”

Platt, pastor of The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Ala., sparked controversy in a YouTube video earlier this year in which he called the prayer “superstitious,” and also delivered an intense message on the topic at the Southern Baptist Pastors’ Conference.

In the posts, Platt combats media accounts that he is “against” the sinner’s prayer, or that the issue stems from Reformed theological views that some people don’t have a chance for redemption in Christ.

“…Words really can’t describe how much a comment like this pierces my heart, for nothing (I hope and pray) could be further from the truth,” Platt wrote in the first post. “Any cautions I have expressed with a ‘sinner’s prayer’ have absolutely nothing directly to do with the doctrine of election, and I definitively don’t believe that certain people ‘actually have no chance for life in Christ.’”

So, does the sinner’s prayer ever fit into an evangelism strategy? Platt’s second blog post outlines the plan he teaches in his church’s evangelism and missions class, including how to lead someone to call out to God in repentance and belief. Read both posts at

Religious groups pledge to stand firm despite healthcare decision
After last week’s healthcare ruling, opponents responded to the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the 2010 law, which requires insurance plans to cover contraceptives and sterilizations without cost to employees. O.S. Hawkins, president of GuideStone Financial Resources, said GuideStone “will never allow this Administration, or any other, to tell us that we have to provide abortive drugs like morning-after pills. … We will maintain our advocacy on behalf of ministers we are privileged to serve.” To read more about the Supreme Court’s decision and the fallout, go to

What does the average American think about the Bible?
A new Barna study says younger adults are less likely to perceive the Bible as relevant and useful when compared with older adults. The 2012 State of the Bible survey, conducted by Barna for the American Bible Society, also found nearly half of Americans believe the Bible contains the same truths as the Koran and the Book of Mormon. Read more findings here.

Disaster Relief volunteers mobilize for action in Colorado, Florida
As monster wildfires rage in Colorado and other Western states while Hurricane Debby leaves massive flooding behind in north Florida, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief leaders are busy mapping responses in both parts of the country. Read more at

Teen carries carries cross from Texas to Washington – on foot
Junior Garcia, a 19-year-old from Saginaw, Texas, has received permission to set up a 12-foot cross in Lafayette Park, across the street from the White House. And’s he’s taking it there by foot. Garcia and a team from Oasis International Church set out on “The Journey” June 7, and will hold a prayer service in the park to celebrate the end of their trip. Read the full story at