Archives For pro-life

The Briefing

Florist: My state turned my life upside down because of my religious beliefs
Barronelle Stutzman, the Washington State florist sued for declining to provide flowers for a same-sex marriage ceremony, writes about what taking a stand for her religion did to her life, and what the U.S. Supreme Court’s Masterpiece Cakeshop ruling and that Court’s decision to vacate the Washington State high court’s ruling might mean for her.

Supreme Court rules pro-life centers don’t have to advertise abortion options
In a much-anticipated decision, NIFLA v. Becerra, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 against a California law that forced pro-life centers to advertise abortion services. The court remanded the case, sending it back to the lower court “for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.” Other cases are still pending over similar laws in Hawaii and Illinois, but this message from the highest court in the land places those laws on shaky ground.

ERLC: Church’s internal discourse needs protection
An effort by Texas abortion providers to obtain a church’s internal communications would violate the First Amendment and a federal law protecting religious freedom if successful, according to the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. The ERLC filed a friend-of-the-court brief urging the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans to overturn a federal judge’s order requiring the Roman Catholic bishops and archbishops of Texas to turn over their private deliberations on what they describe as doctrinal and moral issues.

New church parking tax triggers fresh debate
At least one religious watchdog group says the newly instituted Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that applies the federal income tax to parking benefits provided by churches is a step in the right direction towards transparency in church finances. Others decry the new provision that many historically tax‐exempt employers, including churches, hospitals, charities, and schools will be required to file federal Form 990‐T, which accounts for unrelated business activity.

UN-related religious liberty committee led by ADF rep
Days after the U.S. withdrew from the United Nations Human Rights Council of 47 nations, a U.S. attorney has been named head of a multi-faith nongovernmental group advising the U.N. on religious freedoms globally. Alliance Defending Freedom International’s Kelsey Zorzi began serving June 28 as president of the NGO Committee on Freedom of Religion or Belief.

Sources: Gospel Coalition, WORLD Magazine, Baptist Press, Christian Post, Baptist Press

The Briefing

Supreme Court hears pro-life and free speech case
On March 20, the Supreme Court will hear National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) v. Becerra. The Freedom, Accountability, Comprehensive Care and Transparency (FACT) Act requires pregnancy facilities to post a disclosure to inform clients that “California has public programs that provide immediate free or low-cost access to comprehensive family planning services, prenatal care and abortion for eligible women,” according to the law.

WA to ‘monetize wombs,’ legalize ‘baby selling’
Washington state is set to legalize commercial surrogacy, a move children’s rights advocates say amounts to the selling of babies, bases the definition of a parent on “intent,” and opens avenues for child abuse and other horrors. On March 14, the Washington state House of Representatives passed the “Uniform Parentage Act.” As the bill stands, no limits are placed on how many children can be procured through surrogacy arrangements.

Turkey wants life imprisonment for US pastor
Turkish prosecutors demanded life imprisonment for jailed US pastor Andrew Brunson in an official indictment presented to Izmir’s 2nd Criminal Court on Tuesday. Arrested without bail since October 2016, the government of Turkey has detained Pastor Brunson largely based on a purported ‘secret witness’ and secret evidence, which they refuse to make public.

IMB missionaries retire to heaven
International Mission Board missionaries Randy and Kathy Arnett, 62 and 61, died March 14 from injuries sustained in an automobile accident in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The missionaries served as theological education strategists for Africa.

‘I Can Only Imagine’ ranks 3rd with $17M
The faith-based film “I Can Only Imagine” brought in $17.1 million at the domestic box office during its opening weekend, going far beyond early expectations and ranking third, behind “Tomb Raider” and “Black Panther.” The Christian-themed movie beat out Disney’s “A Wrinkle in Time,” and a new film about a gay teenage romance, “Love, Simon.”

Sources: Fox News, Illinois Baptist, Christianity Today, The Christian Post (2), CBN

The Briefing

Wheaton College wins battle against birth control mandate
Wheaton College has won a five-year battle in not having to provide services like the week-after pill and abortion-inducing drugs in its healthcare plans. A district court judge has ruled that the government would violate federal civil rights laws if it forced the Illinois-based Christian liberal arts college to provide some services against its religious beliefs. The decision permanently protects Wheaton from any current or future version of the mandate, according to the nonprofit Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which represented the college.

DE schools push for kids to choose own race, gender
Children as young as five would be permitted to choose their own race and gender-identity —without approval from their parents — under a controversial new policy proposed in Delaware. Drafted by the state Department of Education, “Regulation 225 Prohibition of Discrimination” would require schools to provide access to facilities and activities consistent with a student’s gender identity — regardless of the child’s sex at birth or age, even if their parents object.

US Embassy in Jerusalem to open in May
The United States plans to open its new embassy in Jerusalem in May 2018, coinciding with the 70th anniversary of Israel’s declared independence following the Arab-Israeli War, U.S. officials said. Most U.S. diplomatic staff will continue to operate from Tel Aviv.

Christians in India: ‘Most traumatic’ persecution in years
As Christian persecution continues to rise in India under the governance of a Hindu nationalist party, a report by an evangelical group describes the year 2017 as “one of the most traumatic for the Christian community” in 10 years. About 100 Christians were killed and thousands of Christian homes were burned down or destroyed, says the Annual Report on Hate Crimes against Christians in India in 2017.

US puts Iranian Christians at risk of persecution
The Trump administration has denied asylum to more than 100 Iranian Christians and other refugees who face possible persecution in their home country. The group of refugees, mostly Christians along with other non-Muslims, have been stranded in Vienna for more than a year, waiting for final approval to resettle in the United States. Now they face possible deportation back to Iran, where rights advocates say they face potential retaliation or imprisonment by the regime in Tehran for seeking asylum in the United States.

Sources: The Christian Post (3), The Times of Israel, Foreign Policy, Christianity Today

The Briefing

David Platt is ready to leave the IMB
When David Platt became a teaching pastor at a DC-area megachurch last year, onlookers wondered whether the president of the International Mission Board (IMB) could really do both jobs. Platt answered them announcing that he will end his three-and-a-half-year tenure at the IMB to work at McLean Bible Church as soon as the Southern Baptist missions agency can find his replacement.

Christian baker wins Calif. court battle
A California trial court has upheld a Christian baker’s right to refuse to create a wedding cake for a lesbian couple, but the decision comes as a similar case is already pending in the nation’s highest court. Tastries Bakery owner Cathy Miller’s freedom of speech “outweighs” the state of California’s interest in ensuring a freely accessible marketplace, Judge David R. Lampe said in his decision in the Superior Court of California in Kern County, one of the state’s 58 trial courts.

CBF nixes ‘absolute’ LGBT hiring ban, maintains it for leaders
The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship’s Governing Board has voted to lift the Fellowship’s “absolute prohibition” of hiring homosexual and transgender employees. But CBF “leadership positions in ministry” and missionary roles still will be limited to individuals “who practice a traditional Christian sexual ethic of celibacy in singleness or faithfulness in marriage between a woman and man,” according to a hiring “implementation procedure” also adopted by the Governing Board. Other positions will be open to “Christians who identify as LGBT.”

Beth Moore, other evangelical leaders publish a letter urging action on immigration
A diverse group of evangelical leaders have put their names on a full-page ad in the Washington Post urging the President and Congress to act on immigration and refugee policy. It has some of the same signatures who have long focused on the welcoming part of immigration. However, it also adds some interesting names, including Bible teacher Beth Moore and popular author Jen Hatmaker, two women who have become increasingly vocal in the Trump era.

Changes in abortion legislation sweeping the country
2017 saw more wins for pro-life legislation than pro-abortion legislation. Including those adopted in 2017, states have enacted 401 abortion restrictions since January 2011, according to the Guttmacher Institute. Legislators in 30 states have introduced abortion bans, with six states enacting new laws in 2017.

Sources: Christianity Today, Baptist Press (2), Washington Post, Stream

Some events from last year offer insight on issues facing evangelicals and church leaders

If evangelicalism is having an identity crisis, as some religious and cultural observers posit, the issue is whether “evangelical” means a person’s theological beliefs and practice, or is it adherence to a conservative political movement. It has at times meant both, and at points in 2017 we saw the movement struggling with itself over which is “the main thing.”

In this short collection of news stories from last year, we see how evangelicals balanced belief and practice. We witnessed the thumb-wrestling of “Big-E Evangelicalism,” inheritors of the socially conservative political force Moral Majority and keepers of its dwindling flame, and “little-e evangelicalism,” the smaller group who are not merely self-identified evangelicals, but whose core-group of beliefs about Scripture, Jesus, and their relationship to him directly affect their behaviors and drive their moral decision-making.

Donald Trump would not be president without evangelicals, more specifically Big-E Evangelicals, and the presence of some in his administration serves as a reminder of that. There is a group of cabinet leaders and others who meet weekly for Bible study. Spokeswoman (and preacher’s daughter) Sarah Huckabee Sanders is possibly the most visible Evangelical in the White House through her daily televised press briefings.

Trump’s appointment of Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court as a hoped-for advocate for religious freedoms was hailed by church leaders. And Southern Baptists were present on several occasions in 2017 when President Trump signed legislation affecting religious liberty.

But the December loss of a U.S. Senate seat by Republican Judge Roy Moore, Alabama’s Ten Commandments champion, to a pro-abortion Democrat has caused some pundits to wonder if the Big-E political/Republican alliance has weakened, and what that might mean for President Trump in the future. Given the special circumstances in that Senate race, moral accusations against Moore, another conclusion is that the biblical beliefs of little-e evangelicals trumped the Big-E political machine in the privacy of the voting booth.

Similarly, a Democrat easily won the governor’s race in Virginia, whose considerable Evangelical population had previously supported a string of GOP governors. Conservative analyst Stephen Mansfield wrote in a new book that the loss can be attributed partly to the disaffection of evangelicals.

“The young, probably in reaction to Trump and to some of the machinations on the Right, went strongly for the Democrat. I think that is an indication of future trends,” Mansfield said in an interview. “It will probably settle down, but I think that the social consciences of the young are raising some important questions.”

But can those assumptions be applied to the President himself, who a year ago got 81% of the white, evangelical vote? “He’s had about a 10-15% drop-off in support from the evangelical community since taking office,” Mansfield summarized. “So while there may be a sort of exaggerated self-reporting around the time when an evangelical casts a vote, there is some indication that there was never really that depth of devotion. I don’t think their support was ever very deep, and it seems to be weakening quickly.”

One conclusion is that little-e evangelicalism—personal, biblical belief and practice—is being separated from its Big-E political counterpart in this generation.

“Many have analyzed the weaknesses of the current iteration of this movement,” writes conservative Presbyterian pastor Tim Keller. “The desire by mid-twentieth-century leaders to foster more widespread cooperation between evangelicals and downplay denominational differences cut believers off from the past, some religion scholars have found…. This has made present-day evangelicals more vulnerable to political movements that appeal to their self-interest, even in contradiction to biblical teachings, for example, about welcoming the immigrant and lifting up the poor. However, evangelicalism is much more resilient than any one form of itself. The newer forms that are emerging are more concerned with theological and historic roots, and are more resistant to modern individualism than older, white Evangelicalism.”

Issues in Illinois
Governor’s race: Evangelicals disappointed by Gov. Rauner’s support for HB 40, which allows state-funding of abortions involving state employees and aid recipients, will be looking for a gubernatorial candidate to support in 2018.

Pro-life advocate Jeanne Ives of Wheaton said she would run against Rauner in part because of his signature allowing the abortion legislation. Ives handily won a January straw poll against Rauner among Chicago-area Republican leaders, but she faces an uphill climb against the well-funded incumbent. Seven Democrats are on the March 20 ballot with J.B. Pritzker the apparent leader.

The general election is in November.

Social issues: After successfully moving legalization of same-sex marriage through the Illinois General Assembly, State Senator Heather Steans and some other representatives are preparing to introduce legislation to legalize marijuana use in Illinois. Steans is using economic growth as an argument for legalization, citing a prediction that 250,000 jobs will be created in the “cannabis industry” by 2020. “As many of you may have heard, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced last week that he was rescinding an Obama-era policy that discouraged U.S. attorneys from prosecuting operations in states that legalized marijuana,” Steans wrote to supporters. “This change will not diminish our efforts to legalize adult-use cannabis in Illinois.”

A public hearing is scheduled for late January.

Breen 4

Peter Breen, Special Counsel for the Thomas More Society, talks to reporters after the Dec. 6 court hearing.

A law firm representing religious liberty concerns has filed a lawsuit to stop the implementation of taxpayer-funded abortions through House Bill 40 (HB40) in Illinois on Jan. 1.

The Chicago-based Thomas More Society suit argue that the General Assembly has not set aside funds in the state’s budget to pay for the abortions and remain within the Balanced Budget requirements of the Illinois Constitution. It also contends, according to the Thomas More Society, that the law cannot become effective until June 1 because it missed a May 31 cut-off date for General Assembly action.

“We’ve got $1.7 billion more appropriations than we’ve got revenue coming in,” said Peter Breen, Special Counsel for the Thomas More Society. “I don’t see how we’re going to find the money to pay for these elective abortions.”

Initial arguments were heard in the Seventh Judicial Circuit Court December 6 at the Sangamon County Courthouse in Springfield. Breen asked when the state planned to implement HB40. Attorney’s representing the state replied they were not prepared to answer the question.

Associate Judge Jennifer Ascher set the next hearing for Dec. 28. If the state does not intend to implement HB40 on January 1, the Dec. 28 hearing will most likely be rescheduled due to the upcoming holidays.

The suit is being brought by numerous state legislators, pro-life organizations and the Diocese of Springfield.

Board 2

A screen at the Sangamon County County Court Complex in Springfield lists assigned courtroom and the defendants and plantiffs in Springfield Right to Life, et al v Felicia Norwood, et al.

Following the hearing, Breen, who is also a state representative (R-Lombard), was asked about the projected cost of implementing HB40. “Based on numbers from the Health and Family Services Department, it costs $750-$1,000 per abortion you’re looking at between 20-30,000 abortions [being performed].” He stated that would bring the total cost to $15-$30 million, funds not reimbursed by federal Medicaid.

Breen later said, “We’re always talking about how our children are our future. So how can you argue that somehow aborting more children is going to bring more value to the State of Illinois?”

When asked about the religious liberty aspects of HB40, Breen said, “This lawsuit is very specifically about public funds…We don’t have moral argument in court. We’re just looking at the misuse of public funds.”

The suit was filed on behalf of several legislators and pro-life groups who are opposing HB40, which would provide coverage for abortions through Medicaid and state employees’ health insurance plans.

In November, messengers to the IBSA Annual Meeting passed a resolution calling for the repeal of HB40, pledging support for “the rights of the unborn,” and claiming, “all human life is God-given and sacred, and should be protected by moral and righteous government.”

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner originally pledged to veto the HB40 if it came to his desk, but signed it into law Sept. 28—to the dismay of Christians and pro-life advocates. State Rep. Jeanne Ives (R-Wheaton) is working to get on the Republican primary ballot against Rauner in March.

“He lied to us,” Ives said in an Associated Press article last month. “None of us trust him anymore.”

– Lisa Misner Sergent

800px-Sangamon_County_Courthouse_2017

A hearing is set for the lawsuit on December 7 at the Sangamon County Courthouse (pictured) in Springfield. Photo licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license. Larry D. Moore

A law firm representing religious liberty concerns has filed a lawsuit to stop the January 1 implementation of taxpayer-funded abortions in Illinois.

The Chicago-based Thomas More Society filed suit in the Sangamon County Circuit Court on behalf of several legislators and pro-life groups who are opposing House Bill 40, which would provide coverage for abortions through Medicaid and state employees’ health insurance plans. Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner originally pledged to veto the bill if it came to his desk, but signed it into law Sept. 28—to the dismay of Christians and pro-life advocates.

The lawsuit argues the General Assembly has not set aside funds in the state’s budget to pay for the abortions and remain within the Balanced Budget requirements of the Illinois Constitution. It also contends, according to the Thomas More Society, that the law cannot become effective until June 1 because it missed a May 31 cut-off date for General Assembly action.

“Regardless of your feelings about abortion, it is incredibly fiscally irresponsible to enact a law designed to spend millions of dollars that Illinois does not have,” said Thomas More Society Special Counsel Peter Breen in a press release. “The state legislative process has steps that must be correctly followed in order to prevent budget-busting laws like this from being ramrodded through. It is part of our civic process of checks and balances.”

The suit, filed in the Sangamon County Circuit Court, is “brought on behalf of hundreds of thousands of Illinois taxpayers, represented by county and statewide pro-life organizations, the Springfield Catholic Diocese, and a group of Illinois legislators from across the state,” according to the press release. A hearing is set for December 7 at the Sangamon County Courthouse.

In November, messengers to the IBSA Annual Meeting passed a resolution calling for the repeal of HB 40, pledging support for “the rights of the unborn,” and claiming “all human life is God-given and sacred, and should be protected by moral and righteous government.”

After Rauner signed the measure into law, IBSA Executive Director Nate Adams said in a statement, “I join with Illinois Baptists and many others in Illinois who stand for the unborn in expressing great disappointment with the action of Governor Bruce Rauner on Illinois House Bill 40. Taxpayers’ money should not be used to fund abortions in any circumstance.”

Conservative legislators also have criticized Rauner’s actions on HB 40, including State Rep. Jeanne Ives (R-Wheaton), who is working to get on the primary ballot against Rauner in March.

“He lied to us,” Ives said in an Associated Press article last month. “None of us trust him anymore.”

If implemented, HB 40 also amends the Illinois Abortion Law of 1975 to remove language declaring that an unborn child is a human being from the time of conception, and would allow Illinois to continue to perform abortions should the U.S. Supreme Court overturn Roe vs. Wade.

-Lisa Misner Sergent