Atheists continue to attack the religious rights of U.S. military members, namely those wanting to freely exercise their observance of Christmas. Naval Support Activity (NSA) Bahrain has held an annual Christmas Tree lighting for years. This event has included the singing of carols, the presence of St. Nicholas, and the consumption of cookies and cocoa. It has also featured a live nativity, composed of base children and local animals. The Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers views “a Christmas tree, presents, some songs, and even Santa Claus as trappings of secular Christmas.” However, “Angels, nativity scenes, crosses, prayers, and carols focused explicitly on Christianity (e.g., Silent Night) cross the line into a religious devotion rather than a neutral, secular celebration.” The MAAF objected to the nativity program and filed an IG complaint. The complaint stated:
This [nativity] violates the Constitution and the mandates of the command to support all belief while privileging none. The event is billed as a ‘holiday’ event but it is nothing but a Christian activity…it is…clearly and exclusively biased toward Christianity. Also of concern is the likelihood that the predominantly Muslim local population will see the US military as a Christian force…This event threatens US security and violates the Constitution as well as command policy.
The Command Religious Program (CRP) – the Navy Chaplains – removed the living nativity program from the holiday festivities. Whether this was done under advisement from base leadership or if the Chaplains did so of their own volition is unclear. It does not appear an official order was given to remove the program.
If the U.S. Government – including a branch of the U.S. Military – took action against a group or event because of religious content, it would be a violation of policies guarding against discrimination based upon religion. The U.S. Constitution declares clearly, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” When Americans of faith are intimidated by atheists threatening lawsuits, they need to remember the rights they have as citizens and stand for the freedoms they are granted in this nation. If they don’t, then brave troops who are right now in harm’s way for those very freedoms will have their own liberties taken away. The aggressive political maneuvering by groups like the MAAF has a direct, measurable and negative impact on troops.
Blake Page claims religion is the reason he resigned this past week from being a cadet at the U.S. Military Academy. Five months prior to graduation, Page asserted he felt discriminated against for being “non-religious.” The president of the West Point Secular Student Alliance (an affiliate of the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers) and the Director of Military Religious Freedom Foundation Affairs at West Point declared in a vitriolic blog post:
While there are certainly numerous problems with the developmental program at West Point and all service academies, the tipping point of my decision to resign was the realization that countless officers here and throughout the military are guilty of blatantly violating the oaths they swore to defend the Constitution. These men and women are criminals, complicit in light of day defiance of the Uniform Code of Military Justice through unconstitutional proselytism, discrimination against the non-religious and establishing formal policies to reward, encourage and even at times require sectarian religious participation. These transgressions are nearly always committed in the name of fundamentalist evangelical Christianity.
Page asserts the U.S. Military Academy makes prayers mandatory, that cadets participating in religious activities receive preferential treatment and that officers in general display open disrespect for non-religious cadets. He wrote in his resignation letter, “I do not wish to be in any way associated with an institution which willfully disregards the Constitution of the United States of America by enforcing policies which run counter to the same.” School officials confirmed Page’s resignation was accepted and that he is being discharged honorably. Spokesman Francis DeMaro, Jr., however, stated the former cadet’s claim that prayer is mandatory is untrue. He said, “The Academy holds both official and public ceremonies where an invocation and benediction may be conducted, but prayer is voluntary. As officers, cadets will be responsible for soldiers who represent America’s great diversity in faith and ethnic background. The Academy provides cadets the opportunity to foster an understanding regarding the fundamental dignity and worth of all.”
The founder and president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, Mikey Weinstein, called Page’s resignation an act of great courage. He claimed, “We have the Christian Taliban running amok unchecked in the technologically most lethal organization ever recorded in human kind. There’s no problem except that we have a small document called the Constitution that separates state and religion.” Weinstein, however, commended West Point for providing Page with an honorable discharge and not punishing him for his actions. Not everyone views Page’s resignation as an act of courage. Charles Clymer, a former 2013 classmate who was forced to separate from the Academy due to medical reasons, wrote an open letter on the Secular Student Alliance’s Facebook page. Describing himself both as a Christian and an “aggressive, outspoken liberal,” Clymer noted his outspokenness regarding the “injustice of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’, the limited career options of women who serve our country in uniform, and…a very broken system of addressing sexual assault at the Academy and in the Armed Forces in general (among other things).” In his address to Page, he relayed:
I’m angry and disappointed with you over this article, and I say that as someone who very much supports the separation of Church and State. I believe religion belongs in one’s private life, and apart from certain, limited allowances for those who have a faith they practice, government employees should never be given preferential treatment and upon such instances, leaders who allow that to happen should be counseled and/or punished. . . . I never, not even once, witnessed, heard about, or even thought it implied that non-religious cadets face discrimination of any kind at the Academy. I saw widespread homophobia and sexism but never any negative sentiment towards those cadets who identified as Atheist or Agnostic. In fact, the closest thing I ever observed that looked like a pro-Christian bias were the few cadets who believed Islam is evil, and that was a very small fraction of our class. The vast majority of Christian cadets treated non-Christian cadets with respect insofar as their beliefs are concerned. And I should again point out that I spent the better part of two years calling out homophobia and sexism when I saw it, and it wasn’t as though I was “known” for being a Christian in our class. I didn’t exactly spend my free time in Christian-based organizations or attend church services, regularly. I did sing in Gospel Choir for a few semesters but never heard any sort of anti-Atheist remarks during my participation with them. They treated everyone with respect, regardless of faith, gender, or sexuality. My point is that, try as I might, with all my stereotypical, sensitive liberal feelers in tune, I can’t remember ever seeing or hearing about negative experiences of Atheists, Agnostics, or other Non-Christians at the Academy. . . . As a person who prides myself on maintaining honesty in regards to how minorities (of any kind, including spiritual) are treated, I can say with confidence that are you are either blatantly lying or, at the very least, being incredibly misleading with how you represent the Academy’s religious environment.
Clymer noted Page’s poor performance as a cadet, having failed in multiple leadership positions. Page was facing separation from the Academy for medical reasons related to mental health, which likely contributed to his poor performance. He struggled at West Point following his father’s suicide. Diagnosed with clinical depression and anxiety, he was disqualified from being commissioned as an officer. He asked to resign rather than face separation, a proposition accepted by Academy officials. According to Clymer, Page “went behind their backs and claimed the resignation was done to protest Christian Fundamentalists at the Academy, which is a whole lot of bull$h!#.” Page responded by saying he was unconcerned about the perception of others. “That’s really fine. I am not trying to talk about myself. I am trying to talk about church and state.”
It appears, nonetheless, that Page’s actions are actually more about himself than about the separation of church and state. Press reports regarding his resignation have generally failed to note he was facing separation from West Point due to mental health related issues. Weinstein and others will cite this as one of the “countless” instances of “discrimination” against non-theists. The truth of the matter is that this vocal and aggressive minority seeks to overthrow the rights of theists by removing the free exercise of religion in public. They believe essentially that any public demonstration of faith should be deemed illegal – viewing people of faith (particularly evangelical Christians) as “criminals” and extremists (i.e., “Christian Taliban running amok unchecked”). It is time for theists to actively and prolifically defend their rights, rights guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States.
* * * * *
Blake Page, “Why I Don’t Want to be a West Point Graduate”
Charles Clymer, “The Truth about Cadet Blake Page and Why West Point is Not Anti-Atheist”
Michael Hill, The Huffington Post, “Blake Page, West Point Cadet, Quits Military Academy Over Religion”
Billy Hallowell, The Blaze, “Atheist West Point Cadet Quits the Academy, Citing ‘Christian Proselytizing’ & ‘Criminal’ Constitutional Violations”
Moni Basu, CNN, “West Point Cadet Quits Over Religion”
Christian students from Louisiana State University, who are ardent football fans, paint their upper bodies during games. Known as “The Painted Posse,” the group was formed in 2003 and has become a fixture at LSU home games, appearing on national television broadcasts, ESPN and in Sports Illustrated. Members of The Posse had their picture taken at the LSU – South Carolina game. Officials sent out the photo of the students in a Geaux-Mail newsletter to the student body, but removed the crosses painted on The Posse’s bodies with digital technology. The students were dismayed when they viewed the photo, which appeared to be otherwise unedited. Cameron Cooke, one of the students, told CampusReform.org, “I was a bit surprised, because our pictures get used so frequently, and the cross had never been edited before. The cross painting is important to me because it represents who I am as a Christ follower.” Herb Vincent, an LSU spokesman noted that the school altered the image to prevent other students from being offended. “We don’t want to imply we are making any religious or political statements, so we air-brushed it out, Only one of the students, who didn’t appreciate it, actually contacted us about it. So next time, we’ll just choose a different photo.” LSU plans to steer clear of any photos with religious overtones when it sends out athletic promotional materials.
In a land where freedom of religious expression and freedom of speech are touted as rights, political correctness has found a way around the Constitution. Whenever people of faith express their views, they are simply ignored by those who “wish to remain neutral.” Such neutrality negates expression, implicitly conveying the idea that there is absolutely no room to discuss “private matters” (e.g., religion, politics, ethics) in a “public forum.” The more society at large embraces such an outlook, the greater individual liberties erode. It is important for people to politely, intelligently and firmly exercise their freedoms, or else those liberties will soon be gone.
A recent article by James Dao in the New York Times reported that groups of atheists and secular humanists are “pushing for the appointment of one of their own to the [military] chaplaincy.” Dao notes, “Joining the chaplain corps is part of a broader campaign by atheists to win official acceptance in the military. Such recognition would make it easier for them to raise money and meet on military bases. It would help ensure that chaplains, religious or atheist, would distribute their literature, advertise their events and advocate for them with commanders.”
Jason Torpy, a former Army captain and president of the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers, believes atheistic chaplains would be able to perform all the functions religious chaplains do, including counseling troops and helping them follow their faith traditions. He stated, “Humanism fills the same role for atheists that Christianity does for Christians and Judaism does for Jews. It answers questions of ultimate concern; it directs our values.” Torpy has requested to meet with every military branch’s chiefs of chaplains to discuss his proposal.
At Fort Bragg, NC, a group called Military Atheists and Secular Humanists (MASH), has asked the military to appoint an atheist lay leader at the post. MASH chapters at Fort Campbell, KY, and MacDill Air Force Base, FL, are planning on doing the same. They desire to have access to chapel sanctuaries and meeting rooms, and for lay leaders to lead “services” in lieu of chaplains. Atheist leaders acknowledge the contradiction of seeking the chaplaincy or receiving recognition from the chaplain corps, but they believe the imprimatur of the chaplaincy will alleviate the fears atheists have of being ostracized for their worldviews. They claim Christian beliefs pervade military culture, and create subtle pressures on non-Christians to convert. As an example, they point to the Army’s Comprehensive Soldier Fitness program, which was created to help soldiers deal with stress and prevent suicide. The program assesses emotional, social, family, and spiritual well-being. Atheists erroneously claim the program is “rife with religious code words that suggest a deity or afterlife.” The Army rightly contends the program helps determine whether a soldier has “a strong set of beliefs, principles or values” that can sustain one through adversity, and that it does not gauge one’s religion.
Atheists also objected to an event held at Fort Bragg last autumn – “Rock the Fort.” Sponsored in part by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, the event was overseen by the post chaplains with the approval of the post commander, Colonel Stephen Sicinski. Money and manpower were provided for the event, and was held on the parade grounds. Attendance at the event was voluntary, and the commander noted that the event was intended to boost morale and “bolster the faith.” In response, Sergeant Justin Griffith has recruited a star lineup of atheistic musicians and speakers, including Richard Dawkins, to headline “Rock Beyond Belief,” and requested the commander to provide similar resources for it. Colonel Sicinski has refused, saying the event will not draw enough people to justify the use of the parade grounds. He added that it would not be right to use money from religious tithes which came from chapel attendees, which helped finance Rock the Fort. Griffith has appealed.
Griffith is also considering becoming an atheist chaplain. He would first have to earn a college degree, then a graduate degree in theology, be ordained, spend two years in pastoral ministry, and be commissioned. He would also need to receive an ecclesiastical endorsement from a “qualified religious organization,” a role the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers hopes to fulfill.
Paul Vicalvi, executive director of the National Association of Evangelicals Chaplain Commission – the largest representative body of chaplains in the U.S. Armed Forces and Veterans Administration – is “puzzled” by the atheists’ request. Interviewed by Katherine T. Phan of The Christian Post, the retired Army chaplain with over 30 years of service, failed to see the logic behind it. He remarked, “Traditionally chaplains are seen as a person [sic] of a higher power faith. It would redefine the chaplaincy if a non-faith person becomes a chaplain.” Vicalvi noted troops with atheistic beliefs or values who seek care already have psychologists and counselors in the military, most with a secular humanist background. He also emphasized that chaplains are also required to provide emotional and spiritual care to all military personnel, including non-believers, pointing out, “Evangelical chaplains are taught to respect the faith or the lack of faith of anyone in the military. It’s not that we’re against people who don’t have faith or think they are lesser persons. We are there and we respect everyone. That is our fundamental teaching.” During his service as an Army chaplain, Vicalvi counseled fellow soldiers from a variety of backgrounds, including Wiccans. He rejected the characterization made by atheists that chaplains “push Christianity down people’s throats,” adding that if Christian-themed events are organized, they are not funded with appropriated monies, and attendance is always voluntary.
In Vicalvi’s opinion, “Humanism is a religion. It’s a basis of motivation, ethics, day-to-day decision making,” however, “It’s not a power beyond themselves, or higher power, but they do have a god and it’s man. Humanists would claim that they have the power within themselves to be whatever they want to be.” Ultimately, he views the atheists’ demands for chaplains as less about the needs of the troops, and more about a vocal minority of new atheists desiring to spread its anti-Christian movement from the public square into the military.
On February 2, 2011, an assistant pastor, Brett Coronado, and two elders from Calvary Chapel (Hemet, California), Mark Mackey and Ed Flores, were at the Department of Motor Vehicles prior to its opening. One of the men, Mr. Mackey, began reading his Bible out loud while there. A security office approached him and demanded that he stop, which he refused to do. Shortly thereafter, a California Highway Patrol officer arrested Mr. Mackey. At the time of the arrest, no reason was given validating the detention even though the officer was asked which law had been broken. Mr. Mackey was brought up on charges of “impending an open business” under California Penal Code Section 602.1(b). Though it is not shown on the video, Coronado and Flores were arrested by another CHP officer on the same charge — “impending an open business,” though neither read the Bible out loud or preached on the premises.
The charge of “impeding an open business” was enacted to protect businesses against protesters blocking entrances of an open businesses. Not one of these men at any time blocked individuals from entering the DMV. Their First Amendment rights to freedom of speech, exercise of religion, and assembly were violated.
Jennifer Monk, Associate General Counsel for Advocates for Faith & Freedom, stated, “This is an abuse of power on the part of the CHP. The arresting officer could find no appropriate penal code to use when arresting these men. The purpose of the arrests appears to have been to censor them.” The men were released, and the District Attorney has not pursued any criminal charges up to this point. Advocates for Faith & Freedom has filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of these three men for violation of their right to free speech and for unlawful arrest. A copy of the complaint can be found here.
Do you remember what you wanted for your 10th birthday? Brennan Daigle has been battling embryonal rhabdomyosarcoma – a rare form of cancer which causes muscular tumors to attach themselves to bones – since October 2009. Last month, physicians informed the Daigle family nothing else could be done for Brennan, and said he had just a few weeks to live.
Brennan has always been fascinated with the US Army. Becky Prejean, director of Dreams Come True of Louisiana, heard about Brennan’s illness and contacted his parents. She discovered that Brennan’s greatest wish was to meet soldiers in person before his condition worsened. Brennan’s mother, Kristy, and Ms. Prejean contacted the Ft. Polk Community Relations Office. Officials put out a call for a few soldiers to attend Brennan’s 10th birthday on February 26.
Forty soldiers from the 1st MEB greeted Brennan in formation, then gave him and his best friend, Kaleb, a ride in a camouflaged National Guard Humvee. The boy was speechless. “All he could do was giggle,” his mother said. After the ride, Brennan was led to the front of the formation and he shook the hand of each soldier. Then he was inducted into the Army as an honorary member and given a challenge coin, symbolizing merit and excellence, an Army jacket with his name on it, and other Army-themed gifts.
PFC Kamesha Starkey told the lad, “Brennan, you exemplify what personal courage means.” The mayor of Sulphur, LA, gave Brennan a key to the city, and the title of Honorary May of the Day. Kristy Daigle stated, “Words can never express what I felt seeing all those soldiers there, knowing some of them had just come back from Iraq and still took time out for just one little boy. Just to know that they care enough to give their all, to give their love and support to a little boy is phenomenal. It says so much about our men and women who serve our country in the armed forces.” The following day, Brennan asked his mother, “Am I really in the Army?” She answered, “You most certainly are. They don’t swear in just anyone.” He replied, “That’s awesome.”
I salute the men and women of the 1st MEB, and I especially salute Brennan Daigle.
A Twitter campaign has been launched by Christian leaders in order to preserve the life of Said Musa, 45, an Afghan and former Red Cross worker, who has been sentenced to execution for simply converting to Christianity from Islam. The Daily Mail reported on February 7 th that a judge handed down the sentence and informed Musa he would be hanged within days unless he returned to Islam. The campaign on Twitter began with Denny Burk, the Dean of Boyce College, appealing to Mr. Obama to “persuade the Afghan govt. not to execute our brother Said Musa.” Shortly after that, John Piper tweeted a similar message, “Mr. President, speak wisely and boldly, in private if necessary, for Said Musa, imprisoned in Kabul.” Matt Chandler was among over one hundred who re-tweeted a message from Christian Hip Hop artist Shai Linn requesting prayer for Musa. David Platt tweeted, “Let us not be quiet. Pray/Plead for Said Musa…& unknown others who face death for confessing Christ.” Ed Stetzer, in a re-tweeted message, stated, “No man should die b/c he wants to change religion.” Stetzer put in a hash tag for “barackobama” and asked others to re-tweet.
Rick Warren, named one of the Top 20 Twitter celebrities by Forbes, put the spotlight on Musa’s plight and how the secular media has underreported this story. He wrote, “Media CLAIM to champion free speech but if they really did, they’d report these stories everyday.” Saddleback’s pastor also linked a National Review Online article, “America Quiet on the Execution of Afghan Christian Said Musa.” The article questions why Mr. Obama was so vocal regarding Terry Jones’ threat to burn the Qu’ran, but has been absolutely silent regarding Said Musa’s impending execution. Paul Marshall stated, “If the actions of a Florida pastor who threatened to destroy a book holy to Muslims deserved public and presidential attention, then the actions of the Afghan government, ostensibly a ‘democratic’ ally, to destroy something holy to Christians, a human being made in the image of God, also deserve public and presidential attention.”
Musa reported that during his incarceration he has been sexually assaulted, beaten, and spit upon for being a Christian. Despite the threat of death, he refused to renounce Christ Jesus. He told a Sunday Times reporter, “My body is theirs to do what they want with. Only God can decide if my spirit goes to hell.” His wife and six children have fled Afghanistan in fear for their lives.
HT: Christian Post
Dr. Kermit Gosnell, 69, operated an abortion clinic from 1979-2010 which has been described as a “filthy, foul-smelling ‘house of horrors’” which regulators overlooked for years. He was charged today (Jan. 19, 2011) with eight counts of murder, infanticide, conspiracy, and abortion at 24 or more weeks (which is prohibited by Pennsylvania law, except to save the life of the mother or to avoid serious risk to her). Dr. Gosnell has been accused of delivering seven babies alive and then killing them with scissors, and with responsibility for a woman who died from an overdose of painkillers. Nine of Gosnell’s employees, including his wife, have also been charged.
Prosecutors called the gruesome case a “complete regulatory collapse.” State regulators ignored complaints about Gosnell, including 46 lawsuits against him, and made just five annual inspections since the clinic first opened. The inspections generally characterized the clinic as “satisfactory.” Inspections ceased altogether in 1993 because, according to prosecutors, a “pro-abortion rights attitude” set in after Democratic Governor Robert Casey left office. Casey was an advocate for the pro-life position. Seth Williams, Philadelphia District Attorney, accused state Health Department officials of “utter disregard” for the safety of women undergoing abortions, and declared the testimony of officials “enraged” the grand jury. Nonetheless, he noted he could find criminal offenses with which they could be charged. According to the report, “These officials were far more protective of themselves when they testified before the grand jury. Even (Health Department) lawyers, including the chief counsel, brought private attorneys with them — presumably at government expense.” The state was reluctant to investigate Gosnell, according to Williams, because of the “sensitivity of the abortion debate.”
The clinic reeked of cat urine because the animals were permitted to roam the facility freely. Instruments used by Gosnell were not sterilized properly, and disposable medical supplies were reused constantly. Late-term abortions, in which babies are dismembered in the uterus and then removed in pieces, is more common than partial-birth abortions, in which babies are extracted partially before being put to death. Prosecutors insist Gosnell “induced labor, forced the live birth of viable babies in the sixth, seventh, eighth month of pregnancy and then killed those babies by cutting into the back of the neck with scissors and severing their spinal cord.” Hundreds of babies were murdered in the squalid clinic in this fashion according to Williams. These murders will not be prosecuted because Gosnell destroyed many of his files. Prosecutors also noted that Gosnell falsified ultrasound examinations, which determine how far along pregnancies are, by teaching staff members to hold the probe in such a manner that the unborn babies would look smaller. Four clinic employees were also charged with murder, and five more, including Pearl Gosnell, Pearl, with conspiracy, drug and other crimes. All are in custody.
Gosnell earned his medical degree from Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia and is board certified in family practice. He started, but did not finish, a residency in obstetrics-gynecology, according to authorities. “He does not know how to do an abortion. Once he got them there, he saw dollar signs and did abortions that other people wouldn’t do,” stated Assistant District Attorney Joanne Pescatore. Gosnell insisted previously he is innocent of any crimes, and predicted he would be acquitted if charged.
The greatest St. Louis Cardinal of all-time, Stan Musial, is going to be recognized as one of the greatest Americans of all-time. Musial, who turned 90 on November 21, is going to receive one of the nation’s highest civilian honors, the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The Medal of Freedom is awarded for “especially meritorious service to the security or national interests of the United States or to world peace or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.” Musial is beloved in St. Louis, not merely because of his past accomplishments as a life-long Cardinals’ baseball player, but because of the contributions he has made to the community since retiring. A civic icon, Musial is the eighth baseball player to win the Medal. Winners from other sports include Jesse Owens, Bear Bryant, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, and John Wooden.
Cardinals’ manager Tony La Russa stated, “It’s so well-deserved. He’s such an amazing, remarkable man, professional and everything that it’s very exciting and it’s well deserved.” Bud Selign, the Commissioner of Major League Baseball, commented, “I am truly thrilled that the White House has honored Stan Musial with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, joining other legends of our game like the great Jackie Robinson, Roberto Clemente, Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams, Buck O’Neil, Henry Aaron and Frank Robinson. Stan Musial is an extraordinary human being, a great American and one of the best players in the history of the game. He has long been a treasure of St. Louis, but he represents all the best of our national pastime. Today, our game salutes Stan Musial on this highest honor from our country.” Cardinals’ principal owner, Bill DeWitt, Jr., added, “It’s terrific. It’s a great honor for him. I called him today and congratulated him. It’s the highest civilian honor. He was obviously pleased. He deserved it. He’s been an exemplary ambassador for the game and he’s been a great public servant since he’s formally gotten out of baseball. Of course, he never leaves it. But he’s one of those unique individuals who has contributed so much.”
During a 22-season Major League career, Musial garnered a .331 lifetime batting average, amassed 3,630 hits (475 of them home runs), 1,951 RBIs, and scored 1,949 runs. He was selected as an All-Star 24 times (during a portion of his career, two All-Star games were played each year), won seven batting titles, and named the National League Most Valuable Player three times. Musial would have played for 23 seasons had he not missed joined the U.S. Navy in 1945 to fight during World War II. He was inducted into the MLB Hall of Fame during his first season of eligibility (1969), receiving over 93 percent of the vote.
The principal of Foothill School, Craig Richter, appeared in a brief video promoting the Santa Barbara Community Prayer Breakfast (Santa Barbara, California). The event was organized in order to support educators. A member of the Goleta Union School District viewed the video on YouTube, and the school district later ruled that Richter violated “the separation of church and state.” He was placed on a disciplinary performance plan and was threatened with having his contract terminated. Alliance Defense Fund senior counsel, Joseph Infranco, stated, “The district’s contention that he was somehow violating the Constitution is not only unfounded, but absurd, as the video itself suggests.” Richter spoke mostly about the profession of educators in the 30-second video, and thanked breakfast attendees by stating, “For educators to be acknowledged and prayed for is both an encouragement and a great honor. Your support of the community prayer breakfast is appreciated.” ADF filed a lawsuit on behalf of Richter against the school district this past Tuesday. William Rehwald, who is representing Richter, noted that the principal’s advertisement was conducted as a private citizen speaking on an issue of public concern, and that the school district violated his Constitutional right to freedom of speech.
Neither the principal nor school staff members attended the prayer breakfast because the school district chose not to participate due to traffic safety concerns. Foothill staff were not informed that the district didn’t want to participate due to the alleged promotion of religion or supposedly crossing the line of separation between church and state. John Whitehead, president of the Rutherford Institute, stated several Christians like Richter are filing lawsuits because Christianity is being barred from the public arena. He noted cases such as the South Orange-Maplewood school district in New Jersey banning Christmas trees, Christmas music, and even the use of the name “Christmas” for the holiday in public spaces.
Pastor Terry Jones and the members of the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Florida, plan on burning 200 copies of the Quran this Saturday in order to protest the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Jones, author of Islam is of the Devil, informed CNN’s ‘American Morning’ show that the burning is designed to send a message to radical Islamists. The local fire department has denied a required burn permit, but the minister has vowed to press forward with the event nonetheless.
Gen. David Petraeus, the U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, has warned that the event would be exploited by the Taliban, cause American forces to face greater danger, and endanger American efforts. Several hundred Muslims, mostly students, gathered outside Kabul’s Milad ul-Nabi mosque on Monday to protest the congregation’s planned event. Wahidullah Nori declared, “We call on America to stop desecrating our Holy Quran!” while the crowd chanted, “Death to America!” Jones, who has received over 100 death threats himself, stated, “We are weighing the thing that we are about to do. What it possibly could cause, what is our actual message, what are we trying to get across?”
The message that Jones and Dove World Outreach will send to Muslims worldwide is one of disrespect. For those who say they are concerned with Islam, particularly radical Islam, burning Qurans will simply fan the flames of fanaticism and violence. I’m sure that Pastor Jones felt a sense of grief when Islamists showed contempt for Christians by burning Bibles and destroying crosses. Rather than acting in similar fashion, the members of Dove World Outreach would do well to heed the words of the Lord Jesus Christ:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
- Gospel of St. Matthew 5:43-48
I, for one, pray the event will be canceled, and hope a more constructive event will take its place.
UPDATE: On Sept. 9, 2010, Pastor Jones and the folks at Dove World Outreach decided to cancel the event. I’m thankful.
Due to mandates set by Congress, the U. S. Air Force is reducing its number of chaplains. The cuts are fiscally motivated, seeking to balance competing mission requirements with limited resources. A total of 544 chaplains were serving in active duty slots this spring, but only 465 positions will be retained by September 30, 2011.
Some military experts question the Air Force’s decision to cut chaplains, who often can offer troops immediate confidential counseling. Marriage and family issues are the most-cited reason airmen and family members seek counseling from a chaplain’s counsel, although combat-stress counseling cases increased 350 percent between 2007 and 2009. Overall, chaplain counseling sessions have increased 37 percent over the past two years. The cuts also come at a time when the Air Force’s suicide rate is increasing. This year alone, just through May 7, it is suspected 22 active-duty airmen took their own lives. That is over half the total number of active-duty suicides for all of 2009.
For a full story regarding this issue, please see:
“Troops: Loss will be felt when Air Force cuts Chaplain Corps by 15 percent.”
The 11th annual report by the bipartisan U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom declared Barack Obama is softening his administration’s stance on religious freedom despite the fact that religious persecution is on the rise. His recent call for nations to respect “freedom of worship” rather than “religious freedom” permits regimes to claim they are not oppressing particular religions if those religions exist in a form acceptable to the state. According to Leonard Leo, chairman of the commission, the signal being sent to the international community is that as long as a regime will “prop up a few churches or houses of worship (of minority faiths), there isn’t going to be a problem.” Steven Groves, an analyst at the Heritage Foundation, stated the change in phrase raises a question regarding the administration’s commitment to confront regimes in the Middle East and elsewhere, particularly in Iraq and Iran where minority Christian and Muslim sects have been oppressed and attacked. “The term religious freedom carries with it a certain understanding in the international community that is a much broader right than the freedom of worship,” said Groves. The report also criticized the Obama administration for failing to nominate an ambassador at-large for religious freedom. The ambassador-at-large post, which falls under the State Department, is a requirement of a 1998 law that mandates religious freedom as an aim of U.S. diplomacy.
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom was established to monitor religious freedom and to issue an annual report on U.S. efforts in that area. Commission members are appointed by Congress and the White House. They recommend which nations should be named “countries of particular concern” (CPCs) for severe violations of religious freedom, and suggest appropriate penalties for such violations. Saudi Arabia, Iran, China, and North Korea are among the nations already named as CPCs by the State Department. The CPC label requires the administration to consider sanctions against the designated nations. The annual report also heavily criticizes U.S.-supported nations, such as Iraq and Pakistan, for failing to protect members of minority faith groups from discrimination and violence.
Last Tuesday, during political primaries, Chris Howe, 29, of Watauga, Texas, was incarcerated for holding a campaign sign supporting Debra Medina on public property. Watauga police officers jailed Howe for violating a city ordinance, established in 2000, aimed at preventing public property from being littered with posted signs. Police and city attorneys stretched the ordinance to include the holding such a sign. Howe could still be fined $150 for the act, and faces a Class-C misdemeanor charge for violating Watauga’s ordinance Sec. 4.110: “Political signs shall not be permitted on any public property.”
Watauga City Councilman Jerry Adams, who was on the council in October 2000 when the ordinance was passed, declared in a phone interview, “We don’t want any political messages on public property, period. It’s all just clutter. If we let him carry a sign, soon we’d have two dozen people out there walking around with signs.” It seems Mr. Adams and other government leaders in Watauga have forgotten the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. The First Amendment guarantees American citizens, among other things, the freedom of speech and the freedom of assembly. Sidewalks and streets are a public forum, and cities can’t easily restrict speech in such venues. City officials from Watauga should be censured for this violation of Constitutional freedom.
Yesterday (Feb. 26, 2010), 60 members of the atheist advocacy group Secular Coalition for America met with Barack Obama aides at the White House, the first time an administration has ever met with a non-theist community. The coalition represents atheist non-profit groups such as American Atheists, the American Humanist Association, and the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers. The atheists discussed issues they deemed problematic and caused by religion. The main issues were:
- “military proselytizing” – the group asserted that increasing numbers of evangelical Christians in the military is causing religious discrimination, and that Christians believe they must promote Christianity as part of their military duty
- “child medical neglect” – the group asserted many religious child care centers are supposedly exempt from the health and safety regulations under which secular health centers operate
- “faith-based initiatives” – the group asserted the Bush administration created programs such as the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives in order to unconstitutionally funnel financial support to religious institutions
The executive director of Secular Coalition for America, Sean Faircloth, declared:
“Despite what we hear from Glenn Beck or Sarah Palin, we’re in a stage in history where millions upon millions of Americans share a secular perspective on American public policy. We think the real ‘silent majority,’ if you will, is the Americans who say, ‘Enough of this religious and even theocratic nature to American policy.’”
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has declared Punxsutawney Phil is being treated poorly due to the crowd conditions at the annual Groundhog Day festival held annually in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. Gemma Vaughan, the Animals in Entertainment specialist for PETA, wrote a letter to event organizers suggesting that “animatronic animals” be utilized instead of a live groundhog. According to folk tradition, if Phil sees his shadow when he comes out of his burrow on February 2, there will be six more weeks of harsh winter. Vaughan didn’t inform organizers how one would be able to tell how an inanimate object could predict the weather, however.
The President of the Inner Circle of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club, Bill Deeley, replied that Phil is “being treated better than the average child in Pennsylvania.” He noted the groundhog is sheltered in a climate-controlled environment and is inspected annually by the Department of Agriculture.
Today is the eighth anniversary of 9/11, when the United States was attacked by cowardly Islamists in terrorist attacks. I was assigned the task of leading a 9/11 Memorial Ceremony. This morning, at 8:45, I will lead the ceremony and present this message to military members:
11 September has been proclaimed Patriots’ Day by the U.S. Congress. Congress has also made this a new federal holiday – today is the inaugural 9/11 National Day of Service. The stated purpose of the National Day of Service is to “transform a day of sorrow into a day of service.” I readily confess that such a transformation is altogether impossible for me – this day will always be one of tremendous sorrow. It’s impossible to forget the images of airliners crashing into the World Trade Center towers, watching the towers collapse, seeing smoke billow from the misshapen Pentagon, viewing the wreckage in the Pennsylvania field. Those aircraft and those buildings were filled with people, people from over 90 different nations, but mostly Americans. I can’t forget that. I can’t get over that. I can’t help but remember what transpired as al-Qaeda attacked that day, yet sometimes it seems as if many have already forgotten.
On this eighth anniversary of 9/11, grief still fills a multitude of hearts. It is a profound grief mingled with understandable indignation. For many of us, the angst and ire springing from 9/11 are partial catalysts for present military service. For us, national service means wearing this uniform and realizing those who declared war against us have not yet laid down their weapons. We must not forget that the Global War on Terror, launched in defense of our nation, still rages. Our enemies, both foreign and domestic, are determined at this very moment to destroy our democratic ideals and enslave us to their tyrannical principles. That is why many of this nation’s patriots – including you – are wearing the uniform, deployed or preparing for deployment in order to defend our democratic ideals and to ensure our liberties.
As you toil long hours, as you face separation from loved ones, as you deal with the difficulties and frustrations unique to life in the military, remember why you wear the uniform. Remember 9/11. Remember the nearly 3,000 who perished. Remember those who have since sacrificed their lives while fighting against militant terrorists. Remember that we are here to defend our nation, to protect its freedom and ensure its peace. Peace has never come through appeasing aggressors. Peace comes only when, in the course of divine providence, aggressors are subdued by strength. We must remember this, and ask God to give us strength and courage as we press forward. We must now go forward, living with hope for tomorrow, yet never forgetting the past. We must always remember what happened on September 11, 2001.
Islam declares Muslims who begin following another faith must be put to death. Rifqa Bary, the former Muslim turned Christian who says her life is threatened by her parents, has been given a temporary reprieve from returning to Ohio. Judge Daniel Dawson ruled today (Aug. 21) that the teenager could remain in Florida for now, though another hearing has been set for September 3. Dawson informed the court the girl’s safety would be compromised in Ohio, referring to “terrorist activity” in the Columbus area. He did not elaborate on that activity.
Rifqa’s parents attend an extremist mosque, the Noor Islamic Cultural Center. Salah Sultan, the internationally known Hamas cleric, was the resident scholar there prior to his banishment from the United States. Sultan is known as a global terrorist who has advocated the killing of Americans and Jews. In the United States, the largest cell of Al-Qaeda operatives has been based out of the Noor Islamic Cultural Center, the largest mosque in the area.
When initial reports regarding Sultan’s views were made aware to the American public in 2006, The Columbus Dispatch defended both the cleric and the Islamic school where he had been the religious director. Just days after this defense, Sultan appeared on Al-Risala TV and claimed the U.S. government was behind the 9/11 attacks. He also praised Abdul Majid al-Zindani, a fellow designated terrorist and Al-Qaeda cleric from Yemen.
CBN reporter Erick Stakelbeck examined the mosque’s ties to terrorism several years ago:
The threat is real, not just for Rifqa, but for all Americans.
This past Wednesday (Aug. 19) a tornado struck downtown Minneapolis, where delegates to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America are meeting for the ELCA’s 2009 Churchwide Assembly. The National Weather Service, who predicted thunderstorms for that afternoon, were caught completely by surprise. No severe thunderstorm warnings or tornado warnings were in effect when the whirlwind whipped through the area. The tornado hit at around 2:00 p.m., just as delegates began debating a denominational report on homosexuality. Part of the debate centers on whether or not the ELCA will permit practicing, non-celibate homosexuals to serve as ministers. The roof of the Minneapolis Convention Center, the site of the assembly, was damaged severely, the 90-year-old steeple of the Central Lutheran Church building was broken off and split, and large tents which were set up to serve a meal to the delegates were shredded.
The Rev. Dr. John Piper, who resides in the city and serves as the teaching pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, stated on his blog the day after the storm that the tornado was a “gentle but firm warning to the ELCA and all of us: Turn from the approval of sin.” Citing the words of Christ Jesus as He warned about those killed by the tower of Siloam (Luke 13:4-5), Piper declared all calamities, whether “in Minneapolis, Taiwan or Baghdad”, should be viewed as warnings from God to repent. He called upon the ELCA: “Reaffirm the great Lutheran heritage of allegiance to the truth and authority of Scripture. Turn back from distorting the grace of God into sensuality. Rejoice in the pardon of the cross of Christ and its power to transform left and right wing sinners.”
Many will sneer at Piper’s words. Some will claim God has no wrath, that His benevolence alone is shed abroad to the whole of humanity. Others will claim notions of God’s existence and activity in any manner whatsoever is out of touch with reality. Personally, I encourage people to heed the very real warning in the whirlwind experienced on Wednesday afternoon.
Hammad Riaz Samana, a member of a prison-founded Islamic group, Jami’yyat Ul-Islam Is-Shaheeh (JIS), was just sentenced yesterday to 70 months for his role in a domestic terrorism plot. Samana was charged in the case in July 2005.
Samana, along with the group’s mastermind, Kevin James, and two other individuals, Levar Haley Washington and Gregory Patterson, planned attacks upon synagogues and military installations. The group also made plans to attack the Israeli consulate in Los Angeles and El Al Israel Airlines at the Los Angeles International Airport.
The home-grown Islamists committed the armed robberies of 11 gas stations, including two in Fullerton, to buy weapons and gear for the attacks. Samana played a smaller role in the plot, conducting computer research on the targets and serving as the getaway driver for one of the armed robberies.
Washington is serving 22 years in prison, while James was sentenced to 16 years and Patterson was sentenced to 12-and-a-half years. The judge believed Samana warranted a lighter sentence because he supposedly suffered from schizophrenia at the time of the crime.
Last Thursday (August 13, 2008), Mohamed Bary declared he loves his daughter, Fathima Rifqa Bary, and desires her return home. “Whether she is Christian or whatever religion she adopts, that’s okay,” the father of the teen runaway said. Rifqa, an A-B student at a prestigious high school in Columbus, turned 17 this past week. She fled to Florida, she says, because she fears being put to death by her family for her Christian faith. She has been placed into foster care by the Florida Department of Children and Families on the orders of an Orlando judge until social workers determine whether or not she will be safe at her parents home in Ohio. Another hearing is set for August 21.
The Barys’ court-appointed Orlando attorney, Craig McCarthy, maintained Mohamed Bary and his wife “didn’t do or say anything that would give her a reasonable fear that her dad was going to kill her.” Sgt. Jerry Cupp, head of the missing persons unit of the Columbus Police Department, remarked, “All I’m picking up is love for his daughter and he wants her to be safe.” Eric Fenner, executive director of the Franklin County (Ohio) Child Services, declared his employees have interviewed the Barys and his agency is ready to reunite the family. He commented, “The family has been very cooperative, appropriately concerned, as you can imagine. Their daughter has run away from home. She had changed from their religion to Christianity, but the family has expressed an interest in trying to work these things through.”
Many have wondered whether Rifqa is just an American teenager with unsettled angst, or if she is truly fearful of losing her life through an “honor killing.” Last month, police in Canada identified four victims found in a vehicle submerged in the Rideau Canal near Kingston, Ontario (a borough in Montreal). The victims were three sisters, 19-year-old Zainab Shafia, 17-year-old Sahar Shafia, and 13-year-old Geeti Shafia, and their 50-year-old aunt, Rona Amir Mohammed. The girls’ father and step-mother, Mohammad Shafia and Ms. Yahya, along with their 18-year-old son, Hamed, have been charged with the June 30 murders. The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) told news agencies this story was unrelated to Islam. Such societies claim the idea of “honor killings” is a Western-propagated myth by the media.
In Toronto, Aqsa Parvez, a 16-year-old Mississauga girl was strangled by her father, Muhammad Parvez, over her refusal to wear the hijab. The high school student, described by school officials as energetic and well-liked, eventually died from her injuries. The father was charged with murder and her brorther, Waqas Parvez, was charged with obstructing police in the case. A friend of Aqsa’s reported, “She wanted to live her life the way she wanted to, not the way her parents wanted her to.” Parvez claimed he did nothing wrong. According to Sharia Law, he is correct.
Dallas-Ft. Worth metroplex, Yaser Abdel Said, who immigrated to the U. S. from Egypt, is a fugitive who remains at large. He is accused of fatally shooting his daughters, 17-year-old Sarah Yaser Said, and 18-year-old Amina Yaser Said. He left the two for dead in his taxi, but prior to expiring, one of the girls made a 9-1-1 cellphone call. Authorities did not find them until a individual walked by the vehicle and noticed their bodies inside the vehicle. Police provided no motives for the murders, although Irving police officer David Tull mentioned there had been some “domestic issues” with the family. He did not elaborate, however. Tull did inform WFAA-TV (Ch. 8 ) they were examining the possibility Said was upset with his daughters’ dating activities. Friends of the girls told reporters Said was critical of their American lifestyles, including their behavior and clothing. Said, who often espoused traditional Middle Eastern values, told the girls their American ways brought him shame. His son, Islam, declared, “Why is it every time an Arab father kills a daughter, it’s an honor killing? It didn’t have anything to do with that.” Islam refused to answer any other questions. By most accounts, cultural differences led to family tension. When Amina was a sophomore at Euless Trinity High School, she arrived one day with welts across her back and arms. She confided in a friend another time Mr. Said had kicked her in the face. Her lips were smashed into her braces, but the family refused to take her to see a doctor because they feared her father would be taken to jail. One of Amina’s friends told reporters, “I remember her telling me that her dad told her he would take her back to Egypt and have her killed. He said it’s OK to do that over there if you dishonor your family.”In the
In Georgia, Chaudhry Rashid is facing charges of murdering his daughter. The motive – disgracing his family. Rashid declared, “I have done nothing wrong.” Under Sharia Law, he would be innocent, but under Western law he is a murderer. Rashid was angered because his daughter, Sandeela Kanwal, planned to divorce her husband. A police report stated there were “ligature marks,” indicating strangulation. The report noted that an iron and cord had been found near the victim’s body. Rashid confessed to strangling Sandeela when taken to the county jail.
It is not without foundation Rifqa Bary has reason to fear being the victim of an “honor killing” in these United States.
Gerald Marszalek, a high school hall-of-fame wrestling coach for 35 years prior to his termination last year by Fordson High School principal Imad Fadlallah, filed a federal lawsuit recently against a the Dearborn, Michigan, school and the principal. Marszalek claims his contract with the school was terminated simply because of his association with a volunteer coach, Trey Hancock, who is a Christan. The principal accused the volunteer coach of converting a Muslim student to Christianity.
Richard Thompson, president and chief counsel of the Thomas More Law Center, filed the lawsuit on Maszalek’s behalf. The legal firm is suing for violation of constitutional rights to free speech and free exercise of religion, as well as violation of state laws against discrimination. According to the firm, principal Fadlallah punched a student who converted to Christianity during a summer wrestling camp sponsored by Hancock three years ago. The principal reportedly told the student he had disgraced his family, then ordered Marszalek to ban Hancock from the school and all wrestling events.
Hancock, a pastor of the local Dearborn Assembly of God, complied with the school and ceased working as an assistant. His son, however, was a member of the wrestling team and so he attended the meets in order to support his son. A Muslim parent complained to the principal about his presence, maintaining Marszalek did not prevent Hancock from interaction with the students. At the conclusion of the season, the school prevented the coach, also a Christian, from reapplying for the position he held for 35 years. Fadlallah instructed the school’s athletic director to refuse the coach’s yearly renewal application, declaring, “Gone. I want him gone. No appeal.”
According to the lawsuit, Marszalek’s treatment by Fadllah is not an isolated event. The Islamic principal has been behind the intentional eradication of Christians from the high school. Since assuming duties as principal in 2005, he has systematically terminated, demoted, and reassigned Christian teachers, coaches, and employees. The principal has declared publicly he views Dearborn Fordson High School as a Muslim school, both in sutdent and faculty, and is working toward that end.
Thompson noted, “We are getting a glimpse of what happens when Muslims who refuse to accept American values and principles gain political power in an American community.” Dearborn has a large Islamic population. Of its approximately 98,000 residents, an estimated 30,000 are Muslim. This is yet another example demonstrating the incompatibility of Islam with democracy. In nations where Sharia Law is enforced, the Pact of Umar dictates Christians cannot build new church buildings or repair established buildings; Christians may not proclaim their faith publicly; and Christians must permit their daughters to date and marry Muslim men (Christian fathers cannot prevent the marriages of their daughters to Muslim men).
Islamists care nothing for religious liberty. They may assert their rights for religious liberty, yet they care nothing about the religious liberty of non-Muslim religions. On the basis of religious liberty, they seek the enforcement of Sharia Law in their communities. Once they become the majority population, they seek Sharia Law over all citizens. Bound by their religious convictions, they recognize the authority of Sharia Law and will not honor local, state, and federal laws which are contrary to their views.
HT: The Christian Post
Fathima Rifqa Bary, 17, ran away from her home in New Albany, Ohio, because her Muslim family threatened to murder her for converting from Islam to Christianity. Her parents are attempting to regain custody of her, so a custody hearing was held this past Monday in Orlando, Florida. At that time, the teenager testified she is concerned for her safety. She told WFTV in Orlando, “They have to kill me because I’m a Christian. It’s an honor (issue).” Her attorney, Rosa Gonzalez, informed Central Florida News 13 such threats are common in the United States. The lawyer stated, “She says her life is in danger and she could be killed in an honor killing.”
Rifqa Bary is a non-citizen whose parents are from Sri Lanka. She has been staying with an Orlando couple who are pastors of a Christian church. She met them on Facebook. Rifqa’s father denied his daughter’s allegations to NBC 4 in Orlando, declaring he never threatened to kill his daughter. The Florida Department of Children and Families has current custody of Rifqa, but Ohio authorities will determine where she should live.
HT: Fox News