Tuesday, February 24, 2015
February 23, 2015|1:35 pm| The Christian Post|
After a judge ruled last week that Washington florist and Christian grandmother Barronelle Stutzman violated the law when she refused to provide arrangements for a same-sex wedding, Stutzman rejected a tempting settlement offer that would have spared her from losing her home and business, because it would have forced her to turn her back on God.
As Stutzman was found guilty of violating Washington's non-discrimination law last Wednesday for declining to service the wedding of Robert Ingersoll and Curt Freed in 2013 due to her Christian belief of marriage, Stutzman runs the risk of losing not only her business but her house and life savings once a summary judgement is reached.
Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson offered the 70-year-old Stutzman, the owner of Arlene's flowers, a settlement on Thursday that would have spared Stutzman the high, bankrupting legal costs that she could incur as a result of the summary judgement.
The settlement offer would have required Stutzman to pay just $2,001 in fines and legal costs. However, the settlement also would have required Stutzman go against her religious beliefs and agree service gay wedding requests.
"I am prepared to settle this matter for a penalty of $2,000 under the Consumer Protection Act, a $1 payment for costs and fees, an agreement not to discriminate in the future, and an end to further litigation," Ferguson said in a statement.
The next day, Stutzman sent a letter to Ferguson rejecting his settlement and stating that the settlement would have required her to betray Jesus Christ, much like Judas did.
"Washington's constitution guarantees us 'freedom of conscience in all matters of religious sentiment.' I cannot sell that precious freedom," Stutzman's letter asserts. "You are asking me to walk in the way of a well-known betrayer, one who sold something of infinite worth for 30 pieces of silver. That is something I will not do."
Stutzman's letter added that Ferguson continues to prove that he does not understand the true meaning of "freedom."
"Your offer reveals that you don't really understand me or what this conflict is all about. It's about freedom, not money," Stutzman wrote. "I certainly don't relish the idea of losing my business, my home, and everything else that your lawsuit threatens to take from my family, but my freedom to honor God in doing what I do best is more important."
Although Stutzman has been portrayed by some media outlets as being an intolerable bigot for refusing to serve a gay wedding, Stutzman served Robert Ingersoll for over 9 years before he asked her to provide floral arrangements for his gay wedding. Even though Stutzman had built a great relationship with Ingersoll, she could not in good faith put her full heart into making floral arrangements for Ingersoll's wedding and thought it would be best to decline to Ingersoll's request.
After much social media uproar, Ferguson's office filed a lawsuit against Stutzman, although no official complaint was filed against her. After the state filed a lawsuit, the couple filed a lawsuit with backing from the American Civil Liberties Union.
"I pray that you reconsider your position. I kindly served Rob for nearly a decade and would gladly continue to do so. I truly want the best for my friend," Stutzman's letter stated. "I've also employed and served many members of the LGBT community, and will continue to do so regardless of what happens with this case. You chose to attack my faith and pursue this not simply as a matter of law, but to threaten my very means of working, eating and having a home.
"If you are serious about clarifying the law, then I urge you to drop your claims against my home, business, and other assets and pursue the legal claims through the appeal process," Stutzman added.
Stutzman further added that the state's laws present a double standard when it comes to protecting citizens' differing beliefs on marriage.
"Our state would be a better place if we respected each other's differences, and our leaders protected the freedom to have those differences," Stutzman wrote. "Since 2012, same-sex couples all over the state have been free to act on their beliefs about marriage, but because I follow the Bible's teaching that marriage is the union of one man and one woman, I am no longer free to act on my beliefs."
Monday, February 23, 2015
February 20, 2015|7:55 am| The Christian Post|
Whenever same-sex marriage is talked about in the news, we are treated to countless pictures and testimonials of "gay" couples celebrating their new right. However, it's rare that we hear from another party directly affected by this raging controversy—the children.
Understandably, the children who do speak publicly about their same-sex parents often express their love and support. But the rarest of the rare, and the ones often bullied and questioned when they do speak out, are those who are not so positive about their upbringing in a same-sex household.
Consider Katy Faust, a child raised by a lesbian couple, who suggested recently that redefining marriage necessarily includes redefining parenthood.
Now 38 years old, Faust loves both her mom, who got divorced, and the lesbian partner of her mother, who helped raise her. But that doesn't mean that Katy is neutral on whether homosexuals should be able to marry.
In Public Discourse recently, Faust wrote a powerful open letter to Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, who is widely considered to be the swing vote in the coming high court ruling on the issue. In it, she tells us that the rights of children must trump the feelings of adults. She notes that in California's Proposition 8 legal battle, Justice Kennedy agreed that the children living in households with gay partners must have a voice.
She just thinks that all of them, not just those that are affirming, should have a voice. "Children," wrote Faust, "have a natural, fundamental right to the dual-gender influence of their biological parents. The adults in this scenario," she writes, "satisfy their heart's desires, while the child bears the most significant cost: missing out on one or more of her biological parents. Making policy that intentionally deprives children of their fundamental rights is something that we should not endorse, incentivize, or promote."
In other words, natural marriage matters for everyone.
Indeed, as the Manhattan Declaration notes, "Vast human experience confirms that...where marriage is honored, and where there is a flourishing marriage culture, everyone benefits—the spouses themselves, their children, the communities and societies in which they live. Where the marriage culture begins to erode, social pathologies of every sort quickly manifest themselves."
This is true even when society says otherwise.
Indeed, Faust recounts how she felt the pressure to go along. "I remember how many times," she wrote, "I repeated my speech: 'I'm so happy that my parents got divorced so that I could know all of you wonderful women'," Then she continues, "I cringe when I think of it now, because it was a lie. My parents' divorce has been the most traumatic event in my thirty-eight years of life. While I did love my mother's partner and friends, I would have traded every one of them to have my mom and my dad loving me under the same roof."
As Faust notes, this isn't just about being against anything, not even same-sex marriage. It's about being for something. We support marriage between one man and one woman because it is the gift God gave humans for blessing and flourishing. My new book with Sean McDowell called "Same-Sex Marriage: A Thoughtful Approach to God's Design for Marriage," walks through the overwhelming evidence of the vital role both a mom and a dad have in the life of their children.
It's a reality that Katy sees more fully now that she is a mother. "Now that I am a parent," she says, "I see clearly the beautiful differences my husband and I bring to our family. I see the wholeness and health that my children receive because they have both of their parents living with and loving them. I see how important the role of their father is and how irreplaceable I am as their mother. … Neither of us is disposable."
Sadly, same-sex marriage asserts, without evidence, that mothers or fathers are disposable in the life of a child. Funny, but we never say that when there's a divorce, an adoption, or a death.
Friday, February 20, 2015
February 19, 2015|1:50 pm | The Christian post|
A traditional marriage group has called upon Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg to recuse herself from a case regarding the constitutionality of state-level gay marriage bans.
The National Organization for Marriage demanded that Ginsburg recuse herself from Obergefell vs. Hodges due to recent comments that appeared to indicate she had already decided how she would rule even though the Court has not heard the arguments from either side.
"It is the law that a judge should disqualify him- or herself from hearing a case whenever his or her impartiality and lack of bias 'might reasonably be questioned,'" stated NOM on Wednesday.
"Given Ginsburg's recent public remarks, I think that it is very reasonable to question whether she'll be impartial — don't you?"
The comments NOM took issue with came from an interview Ginsburg gave to Bloomberg, where she spoke positively of same-sex marriage.
"In recent years, people have said, 'This is the way I am.' And others looked around, and we discovered it's our next-door neighbor — we're very fond of them," said Ginsburg.
"Or it's our child's best friend, or even our child. I think that as more and more people came out and said that 'this is who I am,' the rest of us recognized that they are one of us."
NOM has launched an online petition as part of their call, which as of Thursday morning has garnered over 3,500 signatures.
"Justice Ginsburg apparently feels that presiding over same-sex 'weddings' and speaking openly about how she believes the American people are ready for the Court to recognize a constitutional right allowing same-sex couples to marry," reads the petition, posted at ActRight.com.
"…sign the petition demanding that Justice Ginsburg fulfill the legal and ethical obligations of her office by disqualifying herself from the pending case pertaining to marriage."
From 2004 to 2012, over thirty states enacted constitutional bans on gay marriage via popular referendum.
Since late 2013, many of these bans have been declared unconstitutional by federal judges and occasionally on appeal via circuit courts.
In April, the US Supreme Court will hear arguments on an appeal regarding a circuit court decision that upheld four state-level constitutional bans on gay marriage.
NOM is not the first social conservative organization to demand that one or more Supreme Court justices recuse themselves from the pending oral arguments on the marriage bans.
Last month the American Family Association demanded that both Ginsburg and Justice Elena Kagan recuse themselves.
In a statement, AFA President Tim Wildmon argued that since Ginsburg and Kagan have both conducted gay marriage ceremonies, their impartiality is disputable.
"Both of these justices' personal and private actions that actively endorse gay marriage clearly indicate how they would vote on same-sex marriage cases before the Supreme Court," stated Wildmon.
"Both Kagan and Ginsburg have not only been partial to same-sex marriage but they have also proven themselves to be activists in favor of it."
Thursday, February 19, 2015
February 18, 2015|1:37 pm| The Christian Post|
David and Jason Benham, the twin brothers who were fired from an HGTV reality show because of their vocal opposition to gay marriage, have said that Satan is behind the attacks against traditional marriage.
Speaking to the socially conservative group American Family Association last week, the Benham brothers talked about the attacks Satan is inflicting on American institutions.
"America has systemically removed God from society, starting in the public schools. He's been removed from business; he's been removed from every vestige of society," said David Benham.
"Do we have any inclination that he's not going to be removed from one of the three institutions that was in working order before sin entered the world — work, Sabbath and marriage? Those three things God set in place before sin entered the world; Satan is coming after all of them."
Later in the program, Jason Benham explained that God made man and woman "a perfect physical picture of what happens in the spirit."
"It's the same thing that happens in physical intimacy between a man and a woman, and Satan is a big phony, he's a big counterfeit," Jason continued.
"He's always going to attack sex because the goal of sex is life — it's life in your marriage, it's physical life with children, it's offspring. And the devil is making war against the offspring of the woman, which means that the devil hates life."
Last year, the Benham brothers garnered national attention when their planned HGTV reality television series was canceled before the first episode ever aired after LGBT activists protested against the network for allowing anyone who opposes same-sex marriage to be featured on TV.
Not long after the HGTV cancellation, SunTrust Bank also attempted to sever business ties with the Benham family; however, the bank backtracked in response to conservative outcry.
In a statement, SunTrust spokeswoman Beth McKenna said: "We clarified our policies with our vendor and they have reinstated the listings with Benham Real Estate."
"While we do not publicly comment on specific vendor relationships, we don't make choices on suppliers nor base business decisions on political factors, nor do we direct our third party vendors to do so."
Since the controversy, the Benham brothers have made the rounds in conservative circles and released a book earlier this month titledWhatever the Cost.
"This book follows the story of highly motivated and entrepreneurial twin brothers, David and Jason Benham, from their formative years and ventures into professional baseball to their rise as owners of a multi-million dollar business empire and securing an HGTV reality series," reads the book's description on Amazon.
"It's a journey where the brothers learned how they must die to their dreams not just once, but twice as they walked away from baseball before being called up to the Big Show and later as their TV series was stripped away from them just before airing when the network succumbed to media pressures surrounding their faith."
Wednesday, February 18, 2015
February 17, 2015|6:16 pm| The Christian Post|
An amendment to the rules of the United States' largest Presbyterian denomination to recognize gay marriage has gained considerable support in its regional bodies, with 51 of 172 presbyteries already voting in favor of redefining marriage to include same-sex couples. The denomination's remaining presbyteries having until June to cast their votes to make the final decision.
Over the weekend several presbyteries belonging to Presbyterian Church (USA) voted to approve Amendment 14-F, which would change the denomination's definition of marriage to include same-sex couples.
By the end of St. Valentine's Day weekend, the count of presbyteries in favor of the Amendment stands at 51, the number opposed, 23.
"This overt departure from the clear teaching of the Scriptures is tragic, but not surprising," said Carmen Fowler LaBerge, president of the Presbyterian Lay Committee, a theologically conservative group, who expects the amendment to pass.
"The Presbyterian Church (USA) has been actively undermining her own theological foundations for generations. This vote is simply the result of a hundred years of progressive deviation from the Truth," LaBerge told The Christian Post.
Last June, at the PCUSA General Assembly held in Detroit, Michigan, a majority of delegates voted in favor of a recommendation to amend the denomination's Book of Order regarding marriage definition.
Currently, the Book of Order defines marriage as being between "a man and a woman;" the new language would remove the gender specific terminology, replacing it with "two people, traditionally a man and a woman."
"A proposed amendment to change the constitution to include same-gender marriages in the church's constitution passed the General Assembly but must be ratified by a majority of the church's 172 regional presbyteries," explained PCUSA in a FAQ document.
"Presbyteries have one year to vote on the proposed amendment. If a majority ratifies the amendment, it would take effect June 21, 2015."
This is not the first time that PCUSA has garnered headlines on its internal debate over homosexuality and the Church.
In 2010, the PCUSA General Assembly approved Amendment 10a, a measure that allowed for presbyteries to ordain noncelibate homosexuals.
In response to the passage of the amendment, scores of congregations have voted to disaffiliate from the mainline denomination.
Many of these departing churches came together in 2012 and formed the Evangelical Covenant Order of Presbyterians, which presently boasts over 180 member congregations.
When asked by CP about whether or not she believes more will leave should Amendment 14-F pass, LaBerge replied that it was likely but will become more challenging due to increased efforts by regional bodies to keep churches in PCUSA.
"As more and more Presbyterians in the pews wake up to the reality that their denomination has abandoned the Bible in exchange for the accommodation of sexual immorality, many of them will leave," said LaBerge.
"They will either leave individually or they will seek to leave corporately as a congregation. But we are seeing presbyteries constrict the ability of congregations to leave, so many will wake up too late to escape."
Tuesday, February 17, 2015
February 13, 2015|4:38 pm| The Christian Post|
Lawmakers in the city of Charlotte, N.C., the hometown of world-renowned evangelist Rev. Billy Graham, are weighing whether to expand the city's non-discrimination ordinance to include legal rights for transgenders to use public restrooms designated for the opposite sex.
The proposed changes to the town's non-discrimination ordinance will be voted on by the City Council on Feb. 23 and the changes could also add non-discrimination protections for sexual orientation, marital status, familial status, gender identity and gender expression.
Although most of the proposed changes to the ordinance were not critically discussed by the city council, the largest contention in the ordinance came in regards to expanding bathroom rights to transgenders, which essentially allows a biological male to use a female restroom and vice versa. Four council members, including two Democrats, voted against putting the ordinance proposal on the Feb. 23 agenda.
By adding transgender bathroom protections to the ordinance, all places of public accommodation, including privately run businesses like restaurants, stores, hotels, theatres, and doctors offices will be required to allow members of the opposite sex to use the other gender's designated restrooms in their facility.
The city council is seeking public input before it makes a decision on the proposed changes. Opponents of the proposal say that such a measure would put women and children in danger.
"We are adamantly opposed to this because it would subject women and children to be in the same public restroom as men," Tami Fitzgerald, executive director of the social conservative advocacy group North Carolina Values Coalition, told The Christian Post. "We think that this puts women and children in danger and it exceeds the expectation of privacy that they have upon entering a restroom that is in the public sphere."
Republican council member Ed Driggs, who opposes the new ordinance proposal, also feels that it could put children in danger because it could give a "cover" for sexual predators to go in the other gender's restroom and stalk little girls.
"A lot of people worry that you might provide a cover for bad actors," Drigg said at the council meeting on Monday. "This is not directed toward people with legitimate gender identity issues."
Although the other proposed expansions to the ordinance, which include protections based on sexual orientation, were not highly contested by the city council members, Fitzgerald believes expanding nondiscrimination rights to include sexual orientation would force business owner to violate their religious convictions or leave themselves vulnerable to lawsuits.
"This type of ordinance would potentially place someone who believes that sexuality and marriage are defined by biblical principles, it would put those people at risk of having to violate their deeply held religious beliefs in certain cases to abide by this city ordinance," Fitzgerald said. "We all have the right to freely exercise our religious beliefs under the first amendment and also under article 1, section 13 of the North Carolina Constitution."
The North Carolina Values Coalition sent out an email to its members this week asking them to contact their city council members and voice their disapproval over the proposed ordinance expansion.
Fitzgerald also said that the coalition is organizing a protest for Monday (Feb. 23) at 4:30 p.m. outside of the city council's chambers. Fitzgerald stressed that although the proposal only applies to the laws of Charlotte, it can have statewide implications as other cities could consider ordinance changes as well. Fitzgerald added that it is important to "draw a line in the sand at Charlotte."
"The Human Rights Campaign and Equality North Carolina have pledged to take this to every major city in the state of North Carolina," Fitzgerald asserted. "If we can stop them in Charlotte, we will be able to stop them in other cities. People need to realize that this is something that will impact everyone living in their cities."
As over 17 states and 200 cities have implemented gender identity protections, the city of Houston is in the midst of a lawsuit that seeks to put the city's new transgender bathroom ordinance up for voter referendum. In Houston, pastors were instrumental in driving opposition to the ordinance. Much like the pastors in Houston, Fitzgerald says that pastors in Charlotte are actively involved in driving opposition against the city's proposal.
"Pastors are very upset about this, as they were in Houston and San Antonio. They are arming their people to rise up against their city leaders," Fitzgerald said. "If the people who we elect to represent us at the city level are out of step with the majority of people living in their cities, they shouldn't expect to go back to the city council next time they are up for reelection."
Thursday, February 12, 2015
February 11, 2015|4:03 pm| The Christian Post|
The largest study so far on gay parenting, published this month, shows that children do best when raised by their mom and dad. While the U.S. Supreme Court has already signaled a willingness to redefine marriage to include same-sex unions for every state, it has also demonstrated a concern for how their decision will affect children.
The study, "Emotional Problems among Children with Same-Sex Parents: Difference by Definition," was conducted by sociologist Donald Sullins and published in the February issue of the British Journal of Education, Society & Behavioural Science.
Using several different data sets, including some from the U.S. government, Sullins compiled a representative sample of 207,007 children, including 512 with same-sex parents.
Eight of 12 psychometric measures used in the study showed that children with same-sex parents experienced more distress than children of opposite-sex parents. The results were "clear, statistically significant," and "of substantial magnitude," after controlling for age, sex, race, education and income. For four of the measures of emotional and behavioral problems, children raised by same-sex parents were at least twice as likely to experience difficulties compared to children raised by opposite-sex parents.
Supporters of same-sex parenting might argue that the results are due to discrimination against gays, or that the children of the same-sex parents were likely adopted and were experiencing the same difficulties as all adopted children. The data, however, does not support these hypotheses.
The children of same-sex parents were not more likely to get picked on and bullied. In fact, contrary to conventional wisdom, they were slightly less likely to be picked on and bullied than the children of opposite-sex parents, though the difference was within the margin of error.
Additionally, most of the children of same-sex parents in the sample had a biological connection to at least one of the parents, and overall the children of same-sex parents fared worse than the children of other family arrangements that were not opposite-sex biological, such as single parents, step-parents and unmarried co-habiting parents.
Adopted children were at higher risk of emotional problems overall, but the risk was twice as high for same-sex adoptive parents as opposite-sex adoptive parents. However, the author cautioned against drawing conclusions from this result because there were few adopted children in the sample.
Sullins did find, though, that a biological parent-child connection helped explain the differences between same-sex and opposite-sex parents. Since two women or two men are incapable of having a child together, at least one parent will not be a biological parent. Opposite-sex households, on the other hand, can have both biological parents, one biological parent or no biological parent.
When controlling for a biological connection (along with the other control variables), there was no difference between children of same-sex parents and children in other family arrangements where both biological parents were present. This means that the connection with both biological parents is, in a sense, an explanatory variable for the health and well-being of children, even though it technically cannot be called an explanatory variable because it is assumed in the definition of same-sex parenting (all same-sex parents exclude at least one biological parent by design).
"The reduced risk of child emotional problems with opposite-sex married parents compared to same-sex parents," Sullins concluded, "is explained almost entirely by the fact that married opposite-sex parents tend to raise their own joint biological offspring, while same-sex parents never do this. The primary benefit of marriage for children, therefore, may not be that it tends to present them with improved parents (more stable, financially affluent, etc., although it does do this), but that it presents them with their own parents."
Same-sex parenting is central to the current public policy debate over gay marriage. While gay marriage supporters argue the debate is over equality, traditional marriage supporters argue it is about the rights of children. While many relationships of various number and gender composition can have positive personal and social goods, the only relationship that government has an interest in recognizing is marriage because of its connection to the raising of children, the argument goes. Understanding which parenting arrangement is best for children is, therefore, important for this argument.
Justice Anthony Kennedy, the likely swing vote in this Summer's Supreme Court decision on gay marriage, has already signaled that the well-being of children is an important consideration.
"There are some 40,000 children in California ... that live with same-sex parents, and they want their parents to have full recognition and full status. The voice of those children is important in this case, don't you think?" he said during oral arguments for a previous gay marriage case.
There have been previous studies showing either there is no difference between same-sex and opposite-sex parents, or that gay parents actually make better parents. Those studies, however, had numerous methodological issues, such as using small, non-probability samples, or measuring the well-being of the children by asking the parents.
In discussing the public policy implications of his study, Sullins wrote, "Whether or not same-sex families attain the legal right, as opposite-sex couples now have, to solemnize their relationship in civil marriage, the two family forms will continue to have fundamentally different, even contrasting, effects on the biological component of child well-being, to the relative detriment of children in same-sex families. Functionally, opposite-sex marriage is a social practice that, as much as possible, ensures to children the joint care of both biological parents, with the attendant benefits that brings; same-sex marriage ensures the opposite."
Tuesday, February 10, 2015
February 9, 2015|9:35 am| The Christian Post|
The University of Vermont now officially recognizes "neutral" as a "third gender" option for its students who'll also be allowed to be referred to with "gender neutral" pronouns, The New York Times reports.
The university, a public institution of some 12,700 students, allows students to select their own identity, which includes a new first name even if they have not legally changed it, as well as a chosen pronoun, the Timesreports.
The school records such details concerning students' preferences in its information system to enable professors to use the "right" terminology.
Just as the transgender community has increasingly been using the pronoun "They" instead of "he" or "she," the school wants to use the same.
School officials say the university is the first school in the United States to allow students to choose their own pronouns.
"Some people try to reduce this whole topic to kids trying to be cool or they're just acting out or whatever, just trying to be different or new," Robyn Ochs, an LGBTQ activist is quoted as saying. "But there have always been people who have felt profoundly uncomfortable in their assigned gender roles," she says. "Anything we can do to make them safer, or make them feel recognized, heard, seen, understood, we should do. To validate their identity and experience could, in fact, save their life."
The change in the university's information system came after a decade of lobbying and volunteering, which included six months and $80,000 in staff time, to create a software patch, the Times notes.
University Registrar Keith Williams calls it a "public safety issue."
"Transgender students — trans folks in general — have the highest level of violence within the LGBTQ community," he tells WCAX. "So, a situation which might just seem awkward to somebody who isn't trans, where the faculty member just gets the name wrong, or even worse, knows the legal name but uses the name that the student is going by, if that implies the student is trans, it could actually endanger the student."
"Establishing a diverse and inclusive culture is a priority at the University of Vermont," the school says on its website.
The university has five presidential commissions focused on diversity issues, including one of "Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Equity."
Monday, February 9, 2015
February 7, 2015|4:07 pm | The Christian Post|
As Americans ready to observe Saint Valentine's Day, nationwide multiple organizations will be celebrating National Marriage Week, which will be held Feb. 7-14.
The annual observance, which is in its fifth year, is overseen by a variety of groups and churches involved in the movement to strengthen marriages, including National Marriage Week USA and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
"While marriages are challenged by numerous trials, both old and modern (divorce, abuse, pornography, economic difficulties, etc.), the witness of married couples to the beauty of lifelong married love remains a sign of hope and joy in our culture," Bethany Meola, assistant director of the USCCB Secretariat of Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth, told The Christian Post.
Bishop Richard Malone of Buffalo, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth, sent a letter to his fellow bishops calling for parishes to be involved in the week-long observance.
"The U.S. bishops are committed to strengthening marriages and families in the United States. This is one of the key priorities of the USCCB, and also of the worldwide Church, as evidenced by Pope Francis' calling of two meetings of the Synod of Bishops to discuss pastoral care of the family," added Meola, who noted that the For Your Marriage website and Facebook page provide a virtual marriage retreat that's centered around the "advice of Pope Francis for marriages and families."
Other initiatives the USCCB has put forth as part of the annual observance include preaching resources for priests for World Marriage Day (Sunday, Feb. 8), which includes a bulletin insert that focuses on the various benefits of marriage, and online resources.
In 2009, organization of National Marriage Week USA came under the leadership of Chuck Stetson and Sheila Weber of the Let's Strengthen Marriage Campaign. A major focus of the organization is its "online marriage calendar" where marriage counselors post classes and workshops that they're holding throughout the year.
"We want to be known as a clearinghouse where people can find ways to get help for their own marriage or to reach out and help others," added Weber, executive director of National Marriage Week USA, who noted that "last year we had a thousand events posted."
"Our goal, eventually, would be to have identifiable marriage education in every town in America," she said.
National Marriage Week was first observed in the United Kingdom back in 1996. It crossed the pond in 2002, courtesy of Brent Barlow and Diane Sollee of Smart Marriages. The annual event involves a coalition of groups participating and holding events relevant to the theme of strengthening the institution.
Thursday, February 5, 2015
February 4, 2015|1:55 pm| The Christian Post|
Christian owners of a bakery in Gresham, Oregon, who were forced to close their business in 2013 due to backlash over their refusal to bake a cake for a lesbian wedding based on religious objections, were found guilty of discrimination Monday and now have to pay the couple up to $150,000 in fines.
The Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries announced that the owners of Sweet Cakes by Melissa bakery, Aaron and Melissa Klein, will have to pay the sapphic couple. Whether or not they pay the maximum $150,000 fine will be determined at a hearing on March 10 BOLI spokesman, Charlie Burr, told USA Today.
Laurel Bowman alleged in January 2013 that Sweet Cakes refused to sell her and her fiancée a cake for their upcoming wedding and that Aaron Klein called their relationship an "abomination unto the Lord."
Later that year, Bowman filed an anti-discrimination complaint with BOLI charging that the Christian couple had violated the Oregon Equality Act of 2007. Burr noted that although the owners of Sweet Cakes by Melissa are religious, the bakery is not recognized as a religious institution under law.
"Oregonians may not be denied service based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The law provides an exemption for religious organizations and schools, but does not allow private businesses to discriminate based on sexual orientation," said Burr.
During a panel discussion at the Values Voter Summit in Washington, D.C. last October, Aaron talked about the couple's Christian faith and what Melissa's bakery meant to her before they were forced to shut down after gay activists aggressively badgered and harassed their clients until they no longer wanted to do business with them.
"The boycotting, the harassment. I mean, quite frankly, they didn't just harass us they harassed the other wedding vendors that we did business with," Aaron told the audience. "It cut off our referral system; we had to shut the shop down. … We're facing in excess of $150,000 in damages for this, just for simply standing by my First Amendment rights. ... My attorney likens this — he calls it economic terrorism."
One harassing email the couple received in June 2014 reads: "You stupid Bible thumping, hypocritical [expletive]. I hope your kids get really, really, sick and you go out of business."
"I can't say it more forcefully," Aaron continued, "what it came down to was that [my wife] has a God-given talent to create a work of art to celebrate a union between two people. And to use that in a manner that would be in the face of what the Bible says it should be, I just couldn't in good conscience agree to do it."
Shortly before the couple was forced out of business in 2013, Aaron said he had apologized for wasting the lesbian couple's time and explained that they don't participate in same-sex marriages based on religious grounds. "(I) honestly did not mean to hurt anybody, didn't mean to make anybody upset, (it's) just something I believe in very strongly."