Wednesday, April 8, 2015
April 7, 2015|2:22 pm| The Christian Post|
As over $842,000 have been raised to support the Christian owners of the Indiana Pizza shop that closed down after receiving threats for saying they wouldn't cater a gay wedding, one lesbian woman that donated $20 to the cause has revealed why she felt compelled to help the family and apologize for the threatening actions of the LGBT community.
Upon reading about the violent threats that were directed toward the O'Connor family, the owners of Memories Pizza in Walkerton, Indiana, after they told a local news reporter that they would have to decline catering same-sex weddings if they were asked to do so, Courtney Hoffman, a lesbian small business owner, was inclined to donate to their GoFundMe online fundraising page and also post a heart-warming apology along with the donation.
"As a member of the gay community, I would like to apologize for the mean spirited attacks on you and your business. I know many gay individuals who fully support your right to stand up for your beliefs and run your business to those beliefs," Hoffman's online donation message stated. "We are outraged at the level of hate and intolerance that has been directed at you and I sincerely hope that you are able to rebuild."
Hoffman further explained why she offered her donation and apology to a Christian family that doesn't agree with her lesbian lifestyle in a Monday interview on the "The Jeff Adams Show."
She explained that even though the O'Connors hold a different worldview than she does, she knows that as a small business owner, there are certain events that she does not want her business to take part in and should have the right to refuse offering service in those situations.
"My girlfriend and I are small business owners and we think that there is a difference between operating in a public marketspace and then attaching the name of your business to a private event," Hoffman, who runs a kettle corn stand for various festivals and carnivals, explained. "If we were asked to set up an event at an anti-gay marriage rally, we would have to decline."
She added that forcing businesses to provide services for private events that they don't believe to be morally right, is wrong.
"We just feel like that is our right to decide what events our business associated with and we feel that the right to chose what private events you associate your business with is a right that should be extended to everyone, even people we don't agree with," Hoffman asserted. "That is just kind of how freedom works. That's really what got us talking about the pizzeria was thinking about this from business owner to business owner."
After the O'Connors' interview with the local ABC affiliate was aired last week and showed Crystal O'Connor stating that the restaurant would not serve gay weddings if asked to do so, Memories Pizza was flooded with death threats and even received an arson threat on Twitter from a high school golf coach. Hoffman said she was appalled by how the gay community expressed its outrage.
"Then we started hearing all of these threats of violence … toward this pizzeria. It just seemed so vastly different from the gay community that we know. The gay community that we know, knows full well what it is like to be condemned by living your life according to your beliefs," Hoffman said. "The gay community that we know has fought for decades for us to be able to live our lives out and proud without fear of violence or oppression. We know so many gay individuals that fully support the freedom to live according to your beliefs and feel that extends to everyone."
In the interview, Hoffman also opined that the outrage exhibited by gay advocates was because of the tendency for people to react with their emotions to other people's differences in opinion. She said the world needs to understand that just because people have differences in their beliefs, it doesn't mean that they hold "malicious" intent toward those they disagree with.
"Just because someone has a different belief or a different opinion, that doesn't mean that they are necessarily malicious. They just hold a different worldview, and I think there is a tendency to group people together. They are either one thing or another thing. You are either a Christian or you are a gay, but you can be both," Hoffman argued.
"I just think that there is a lot of room for differences and similarities between all of these businesses and all of these communities. If we can remember that differences don't mean malicious [intent] and try to find what we have in common and try to find the 'ands' instead of the 'ors' maybe we can move beyond the threats of violence and have open discussion on the things that we agree on."
As of Tuesday morning, over $842,442 were raised from over 29,000 individual donations to the the Memories Pizza GoFundMe page in just over six days. After closing down last week, Memories Pizza reopened for business on Tuesday, the Daily Mail reported.
Tuesday, April 7, 2015
April 6, 2015|3:04 pm| The Christian Post|
A bakery in Colorado will not be punished for refusing to bake a cake requested by a Christian activist that included quotes from the Bible denouncing homosexuality.
Azucar Bakery in Denver was found not guilty of discrimination by the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Regulatory Agencies when it refused to make a cake requested by Christian activist Bill Jack.
In comments sent to The Christian Post on Sunday, Jack denounced the decision by the Civil Rights Division and its use of the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act.
"Colorado prosecuted Jack Phillips of Masterpiece Cakeshop for bringing his Christian faith to bear in his decision not to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple, yet business owners who decide to refuse service to a Christian wanting Bible verses on cakes are exonerated by the state," stated Jack.
"CADA is being used to censor Christian business owners' free speech and is being used to coerce them to participate in events that violate their consciences."
Jack added that he's "in the process of filing an appeal with the CCRD" over what he calls "hypocrisy and unequal treatment before the law."
Last March, Jack went to Azucar Bakery and made a request for two cakes that had biblical messages, including a statement and image denouncing homosexuality.
In an interview with CP in January, Jack described what he wanted, noting that contrary to initial reports he did not request a cake with the statement "God hates gays."
"I requested two cakes each in the shape of an open Bible. On the first cake I requested on one page, 'God hates sin — Psalm 45:7,' and on the facing page, 'Homosexuality is a detestable sin — Leviticus 18:22'," Jack explained.
"On the second cake I requested on one page, 'God loves sinners,' and on the facing page, 'While we were yet sinners Christ died for us — Romans 5:8.' I also requested a decoration of two groomsmen holding hands with a cross in the background with a ghostbusters symbol over it to illustrate that such a union is unacceptable biblically."
Azucar is not the first business to face legal issues over expression regarding homosexuality, but it might be the first to face legal action for refusing to cater to a message that opposes homosexuality.
In 2012 Jack Phillips of Masterpiece Cake, also in Colorado, was sued for refusing to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding.
Phillips agreed to make the couple other baked items, but he said his Christian beliefs prohibited him from fulfilling the request to make a cake for the gay wedding.
In response the gay couple filed a complaint against Phillips, leading to the Colorado Civil Rights Division ruling that Masterpiece was guilty of discrimination.
"The undisputed facts show that (Phillips) discriminated against complainants because of their sexual orientation by refusing to sell them a wedding cake for their same-sex marriage," wrote Judge Robert N. Spencer in his December 2013 decision.
On their Facebook page, Azucar Bakery posted a couple links to news stories covering the CCRD decision in their favor. Each link put on the page garnered hundreds of likes and scores of shares, as well as mostly positive comments from LGBT advocates and those who support gay marriage.
Friday, April 3, 2015
April 2, 2015|4:31 pm| The Christian Post|
A high school golf coach in Indiana has been suspended after she threatened to burn down a local pizzeria when she heard its Christian owners say earlier this week that they'd refuse to cater gay weddings if asked to do so. The pizza shop has temporarily closed amid safety concerns after its owners received death threats this week.
After Gov. Mike Pence signed into law Indiana's Religious Freedom Restoration Act last Thursday, the O'Connor family, which has owned Memories Pizza in Walkerton, Indiana, for over nine years, told a local ABC television news reporter on Tuesday that they agree with the new law and believe that it doesn't discriminate against homosexauls, as some claim.
Crystal O'Connor added that should a gay couple come in and want the pizzeria to cater their wedding, the restaurant would refuse to provide services for the event.
"If the gay couple was to come in and say that they wanted us to provide pizza for their wedding, we would have to say no," Crystal O'Connor told ABC 57 News reporter Alyssa Marino. "We are a Christian establishment."
"We're not discriminating against anyone — that's just our belief and anyone has the right to believe in anything," O'Connor added. "I do not think it is targeting gays. I don't think it's discrimination. [The law is] supposed to help people that have religious belief."
Kevin O'Connor, Crystal's father, told Marino that he feels that homosexuals "choose" to be gay.
"That lifestyle is something they choose. I choose to be heterosexual. They choose to be homosexual," O'Connor asserted. "Why should I be beat over the head to go along with something they choose?"
The O'Connor's comments drew the ire of many LGBT advocates and even caught the attention of Jess Dooley, a girls' golf coach at Concord High School in Elkhart, Indiana, who took to Twitter to voice her outrage and potentially incite violence upon the pizza shop.
"Who's going to Walkerton, IN to burn down #memoriespizza w me? Agree with #FreedomofReligionBill? 'That's a lifestyle they CHOOSE' Ignorant," Dooley tweeted from her since-deleted Twitter account.
On Wednesday, the school announced that Dooley was suspended indefinitely pending the results of a police investigation. The Walkerton Police Department issued a statement on the investigation and confirmed that Dooley could face charges.
"Questions have arisen based on Jessica Dooley's Twitter comment," the statement reads. "The Walkerton Police Department has finished an investigation into this statement and submitted a case to the St. Joseph County Prosecutors office for possible charging of harassment, intimidation and threats."
After receiving Dooley's threat and death threats, the O'Connors were forced to shut down their restaurant on Wednesday for safety reasons and are uncertain as to whether it will reopen.
"I don't know if we will reopen, or if we can, if it's safe to reopen," Crystal O'Connor told TheBlaze. "We're in hiding basically, staying in the house."
A GoFundMe online fundraising page has been set up for the pizzeria and has already raised over $165,000 in support for the O'Connor family as of Thursday afternoon. The fundraising page was set up by Dana Loesch and Lawrence B. Jones III of The Blaze, The Huffington Post reports.
"Nobody should ever have to suffer or suffer alone for their faith, for standing up for Christian principles," Loesch said.
Although O'Connor explicitly said the pizzeria would not provide services for gay weddings, some liberal media sources have reported on O'Connor's comments with the spin that O'Connor implied that gays were not welcome or would not be served in their restaurant.
But in an interview with the Daily Beast, Kevin O'Connor clarified the statement and the pizzeria's stance on serving gay weddings.
"I don't have a problem with gay people. I do not condone gay marriage and that's what I said," O'Connor explained. "I don't turn anybody away from the store. I don't have a problem with gay people. I just don't condone the marriage."
O'Connor also emphasized that the pizzeria has never been asked to cater any wedding and that the response was not based on an actual denial of service to a gay couple.
"It's hard to speak when things get taken so out of context and this thing goes sky high and just blows everything up," he said. "I've got a family to think about too."
In the wake of Indiana's RFRA law, a number of companies and organizations have voiced their opposition to the law. The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) has vowed to move its 2017 convention, which is scheduled to be in Indianaplois, as a result of RFRA.
Among the companies in opposition to RFRA is Angie's List, an online listing service. After voicing its opposition to the law, the Family Research Council and the American Familiy Association called on their members to boycott Angie's List.
Thursday, April 2, 2015
March 27, 2015|3:54 pm| The Christian Post|
A religious freedom bill signed into law by Indiana Republican Gov. Mike Pence Thursday is being characterized by major media outlets as a codification of anti-gay discrimination. They are wrong. Here is why.
Indiana's Religious Freedom Restoration Act is a state-level version of the federal RFRA. To understand what RFRA does, it helps to first understand how the law came about.
History of RFRA
In 1989, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling, Employment Division v. Smith, that was a radical departure from previous interpretations of the religious freedom clauses of the First Amendment. A member of the Native American Church was fired and denied unemployment benefits after he failed a drug test because he had consumed peyote, a hallucinogenic drug, as part of a religious ritual. The Court, in an opinion written by Justice Antonin Scalia, decided that the state did not infringe upon Smith's religious freedom because the law that Smith broke applied to all faiths, the Native American Church was not singled out.
Religious freedom advocates were outraged. They understood that if the state can infringe upon someone's religious freedom simply by passing laws that are generally applicable, religious freedom protections would be severely weakened.
What happened next is rarely seen in American politics. A broad coalition, including liberals, conservatives, civil libertarians, Jewish groups, the Christian Right, and the Christian Left, all came together to pass the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Though there was much debate on the road to passage, by the time the bill made it to the floors of the House and Senate, it passed easily with a unanimous vote in the House and a 97-3 vote in the Senate. The bill was signed with much fanfare by President Bill Clinton, a Democrat, who would often cite it as one of the major accomplishments of his administration.
The Indiana law is a state-level version of that law. RFRA does not allow anyone to do whatever they want as long as they claim religious freedom. The law says the government can take away your religious freedom, but only if there is a compelling government interest to do so, and the government uses the least restrictive means to advance that interest.
In layman's terms, RFRA is saying that people should be left alone to live out their religious beliefs, no matter how wacky those beliefs may sound to most of us, as long as they do not interfere with legitimate government interests.
If you were to, for instance, start a "Church of the Running Red Lights," you would not be allowed to ignore traffic signals as part of your religious practice because there is a legitimate government interest in enforcing traffic laws. In sum, the state can still take away your religious freedom under RFRA, it just has to have a good reason for doing so, and saying that the government action does not target a particular religious group is not a good reason.
Yet, major news outlets are suggesting that the bill is not really about religious freedom. They do this, in part, by putting "religious freedom" in quotes, and then describe the bill as anti-gay. RFRA is not a "religious freedom" bill, it is a religious freedom bill.
Gay Rights > Religious Freedom?
Since RFRA had broad support, from Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives, and an array of religious groups, how did it become controversial?
At its core, this debate is about whether gay rights trump religious freedom.
Some media outlets are misreporting that the bill would allow businesses to deny services to gays. First, the bill would not allow businesses to deny public accommodations to gays. Courts have long recognized a compelling government interest in making sure that public accommodations are open to the public.
Second, some opponents of the bill are reacting to the fact that some wedding vendors, such as florists, photographers, wedding dress designers and wedding cake bakers, have declined to serve gay weddings due to their belief that doing so would violate their deeply held religious beliefs. But in those cases, they are not declining to serve gays, they are declining to serve gay weddings.
The Case of Barronelle Stutzman
Washington state florist Barronelle Stutzman illustrates this point well. Robert Ingersoll was one of Stutzman's customers for nine years. She knew he was gay but never declined to make his floral arrangements. There was never a "no gays allowed" sign on the door to Stutzman's store. Ingersoll was a valued customer and a friend. Only after Ingersoll asked Stutzman to make the floral arrangements for his same-sex wedding did Stutzman feel conflicted.
"It was a real struggle to decide what to do with that. My husband and I talked it over, and as much as I loved Rob, I just couldn't be a part of that," she recalled.
If Washington state had a RFRA, would Stutzman's religious freedom be protected? Ultimately, that would be for a court to decide. RFRA helps ensure that religious freedom claims have their day in court, but RFRA does not guarantee any particular outcome for those claims.
To win, Stutzman would first have to convince the court that serving the gay wedding would violate her deeply held religious beliefs. To win its side of the case, Washington state would have to convince the court that it has a compelling interest in taking away Stutzman's religious freedom and it used the least restrictive means to advance that interest.
What Gay Rights Groups Really Want
In opposing RFRA, gay activist groups have demonstrated what they really want. While they used to claim a "live and let live" position, arguing that gay marriage would not affect anyone else, that is clearly not the case. Gay activist groups are trying to force those who oppose gay marriage to either go along with their agenda or be forced out of business and out of the public square.
Those who are prosecuting Stutzman are not simply putting her out of business. They are imposing fines on her that could wipe out her life savings and force her to sell her home. Similarly, Aaron and Melissa Klein in Oregon have been fined $150,000 for refusing to make a wedding cake for a same-sex wedding, a sum that will not only put them out of business, but will force them to sell their home.
The message these gay rights advocates are sending is clear: "Do as we say or we will not only force you out of business, we will destroy you." And that is why they will not support the religious freedom of gay marriage opponents.
Wednesday, April 1, 2015
The Arkansas legislature on Tuesday approved a religious freedom bill that is similar to the Indiana law that's facing a backlash from business leaders and civil rights groups.
The state House passed the bill by a 67-21 margin, sending it to the governor’s office.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) is expected to sign the bill, which says that “a state action shall not substantially burden a person’s right to exercise of religion,” unless it is “essential to further a compelling government interest” and is the least restrictive action possible.
The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), an LGBT-rights organization, has criticized the bill as “Indiana-style,” a reference to the Hoosier State’s controversial religious freedom bill that reignited the debate over these laws.
The HRC, civil rights organizations and business leaders have denounced those laws as sanctioning discrimination of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people as long as there is a religious justification.
Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) has defended his state's law as a necessary way to protect individuals from government overreach but on Tuesday called for an immediate legislative fix to clarify that the bill doesn’t permit discrimination.
“This law dos not give anyone a license to deny services to gay and lesbian couples,” Pence said at a press conference.
Tuesday, March 31, 2015
March 30, 2015|1:10 pm| The Christian Post|
A Christian florist and grandmother who declined to provide flowers for a same-sex wedding because of her Christian belief in traditional marriage has been fined $1,001 by a Washington court and will be held liable to pay the legal fees incurred by the gay couple, which could "devastate" her financially.
As previously reported by The Christian Post, 70-year-old Barronelle Stutzman, the owner of Arlene's Flowers in Richland, Washington, was found guilty of violating the state's non-discrimination law in February, after referring Rob Ingersoll and Curt Feed to another florist when they asked her to provide the floral arrangements for their wedding.
Although Stutzman sold flowers to Ingersoll for nearly a decade and maintained a positive relationship with him, when he asked her to provide flowers for his same-sex wedding, she felt she could not act against her Christian conviction to serve her friend.
Afterwards, Ingersoll took to social media to voice his displeasure with Stutzman, which drew the attention of Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson, who eventually filed charges against Stutzman, after she refused to comply with his demands that her shop serve gay weddings.
While Benton County Superior Court Judge Alex Ekstrom's Fridaysummary judgement orders Stutzman to pay a fine of $1,001, for now, and forces her to provide services for same-sex weddings, her lawyer, Alliance Defending Freedom senior counsel Kristen Waggoner, said that Stutzman is still at risk of losing her retirement savings and business as she will be responsible for paying the legal fees and damages incurred by Ingersoll and Freed, who were represented by the ACLU.
The court will hold off on making a decision on how much Stutzman will have to pay in legal costs and fees until after a ruling has been made on an appeal. ADF has indicated that an appeal will be filed. Additionally, the ruling will force Arlene's Flowers to uphold the state's non-discrimination law and serve gay weddings.
"Today's judgement affirms the court's earlier decision that Barronelle must pay a penalty for her faith and surrender her freedom and conscience," Waggoner said in a statement. "The penalty and fees imposed today are only the first punch. The ACLU, on behalf of the same-sex couple also suing Barronelle, has asked the court to award them penalties, fees, and costs, which will financially devastate this 70-year-old grandmother's retirement and personal savings. The message sent by the attorney general and the ACLU to the people of Washington is quite clear: surrender your religious liberty and free speech rights, or face personal and professional ruin."
Even though Stutzman faces the possibility of personal and professional ruin, she had the "option" to escape from her legal crisis if she had agreed to accept Ferguson's settlement offer, the day after she was found guilty in court, which was to pay a fine of $2,001 and agree to provide her services for gay weddings. Stutzman, however, felt she could not turn her back on Jesus in order to save herself or her business.
"Washington's constitution guarantees us 'freedom of conscience in all matters of religious sentiment.' I cannot sell that precious freedom," Stutzman wrote in a responding letter to the attorney general's settlement offer. "You are asking me to walk in 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."
"Your offer reveals that you don't really understand me or what this conflict is about. It's about freedom, not money," Stutzman continued. "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."
Attached to Eckstrom's judgement was a handwritten note further asserting that businesses that offer wedding-based services cannot refuse to provide goods to same-sex weddings, no matter what their religious beliefs are.
"All goods, merchandise, and services offered or sold to opposite sex couples shall be offered or sold to same-sex couples, including but not limited to goods, merchandise and services for weddings and commitment ceremonies," Ekstrom's note stated.
Monday, March 30, 2015
March 27, 2015|1:39 pm| The Christian Post|
Oregon's legislature advanced a bill that if enacted would ban sexual orientation change efforts therapy for gay minors.
Earlier this month, the Oregon House passed House Bill 2307, which aims to legally ban medical professionals from engaging in SOCE therapy if a patient is under 18.
"A mental health care or social health professional may not engage in efforts to change a person's sexual orientation or gender identity if the recipient of those efforts is under 18 years of age," reads HB 2307 in part.
"Any state board that regulates licensees described in subsection … may impose any form of discipline that the board may impose on a licensee under the laws of this state for violating a law of this state or a rule adopted by the board."
Sometimes called "conversion therapy" or "reparative therapy," SOCE therapy seeks to change the sexual preferences of a patient from homosexual to heterosexual.
The therapy is controversial, with major organizations like the American Psychiatric Association opposed to the practice.
HB 2307 has drawn the concern of Equality And Justice For All, an ex-gay organization that supports the legalization of voluntary SOCE therapy for minors and adults.
In an email sent out Thursday, Chris Doyle of EAJFA described the support for HB 2307 "particularly unconscionable" since "minors often struggle with same-sex attractions as a result of rape or molestation by pedophiles."
"To propagate their lies, gay activists have made outrageous claims that this therapy involves electroshock and other forms of aversive methods, but they have yet to offer any proof of this. Contrary to their claims, this counseling is simply talk therapy," said Doyle.
"Homosexual activists would rather keep these young people locked in a lifetime of hopelessness — and silence — than allow them to find healing from rape or molestation."
Introduced in January and also called "The Youth Mental Health Protection Act," HB 2307 garnered strong support politicians and LGBT groups.
Last month, Casey Parks of the Oregonian reported that medical professionals, clergy, and LGBT activists testified in support of the bill.
"Twenty people sent in testimony supporting Oregon's bill … including a Western Oregon University student, [who] wrote that their parents forced them to attend conversion therapy in Oregon," reported Parks.
"Only one person sent in testimony opposing the bill. Teresa Harke of the Christian advocacy nonprofit Oregon Family Council testified that the bill is 'too broad and may have unintended consequences for religious liberties.'"
On Mar. 17, the Oregon House passed HB 2307 with a vote of 41 to 18. All but seven of the yes votes were Democrats and all the no votes were Republicans.
A couple days later, HB 2307 was sent to the Oregon Senate, which referred it to the Committee On Human Services and Early Childhood.
If enacted, Oregon will join California, New Jersey, and the District of Columbia as regions that ban SOCE therapy for minors.
Several other states including Arizona, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maryland, New York, and Virginia have considered similar legislation, only to vote it down or let it die in committee.
In January, the Virginia House of Delegates subcommittee voted down a bill to criminalize conversion therapy for minors introduced by State Delegate Patrick Hope.
Friday, March 27, 2015
March 26, 2015|10:42 am| The Christian Post|
A small congregation in New York has voted unanimously to leave Presbyterian Church (USA) following the mainline denomination's recent vote to approve gay marriage.
Brighton Presbyterian Church, a 200-year-old congregation in Rochester, voted Sunday to seek dismissal from its PCUSA regional body, the Presbytery of Genesee Valley.
The vote to disaffiliate came not long after a majority of presbyteries in PCUSA approved an amendment to their Book of Order defining marriage to include same-sex couples.
Kerry E. Luddy, spokeswoman for Brighton Presbyterian and wife of the head pastor, told The Christian Post that the decision to leave "is not a sudden decision."
"We have been prayerfully considering this for about two years, and officially began the discernment process in mid-2014," said Luddy.
"Our reason for leaving is centered on the status of biblical interpretation within the PC(USA). We believe that Scripture's meaning and intent should not be altered to fit a current culture."
Earlier this month, a majority of PCUSA presbyteries voted in favor of Amendment 14-F, which changed the definition of marriage for the denomination.
While PCUSA's Book of Order originally defined marriage as being between "a man and a woman," Amendment 14-F changed it to "two people, traditionally a man and a woman."
Support for Amendment 14-F was notable from the start, with "yes" votes from the regional bodies, or presbyteries, outnumbering "no" votes early on.
Two weeks into March, PCUSA was a mere seven votes away from Amendment 14-F succeeding, with 79 presbyteries voting "yes" and 37 voting "no."
One of the 79 "yes" votes was the Presbytery of East Tennessee, which narrowly approved the amendment with a vote of 61-56 following a meeting in Chattanoga.
"We have a lot of students who come into our campus ministry with their story being one of hurt and shame given to them by the church," said University of Tennessee campus minister Kally Elliott at the meeting.
"Our goal is to share with them the love of Jesus Christ and to let them know that they are fully loved, fully welcomed as they are, who they are."
Genesee Valley, a presbytery that includes over 60 congregations, was one of the regional bodies to vote in favor of Amendment 14-F.
The Rev. Amy Fowler, chief administrative officer for the presbytery, told CP that Brighton Presbyterian has "just completed the first phase" seeking dismissal.
"No other congregations have indicated since last Tuesday that they will request to enter the process," added Fowler.
Regarding next steps in the process, Luddy explained to CP that Brighton Presbyterian had not yet chosen another Presbyterian church to seek affiliation with, but that it would be one "that fits both our reformed theology and one that values women in leadership."
This is not the first time PCUSA has had controversy over its move toward greater acceptance of homosexuality within the church.
In 2010, the PCUSA General Assembly approved Amendment 10a, a measure allowing for presbyteries to approve ordination of noncelibate homosexuals. In response to Amendment 10a over 150 congregations voted to disaffiliate from the mainline denomination, with many forming the theologically conservative Evangelical Covenant Order of Presbyterians.
Some have speculated that a similar exodus may befall the largest Presbyterian church in the United States in response to the passage of Amendment 14-F.
Thursday, March 26, 2015
March 25, 2015|4:05 pm| The Christian Post|
Declaring to his congregation that homosexuality is a distortion of God's creation, Southwest Missouri megachurch pastor, Rev. John Lindell of James River Church, urged his followers in a recent sermon to vote to repeal Springfield's contentious sexual orientation and gender identity law in that city's local elections on April 7.
Question 1 on the city of Springfield ballot will ask voters whether they would like to repeal the amended version of the city'sNondiscrimination Ordinance, which was expanded in October 2014 to include sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes for housing, jobs and public accommodations.
"I do think it's important for you to have at least heard from me my concerns relative to the repeal of the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity bill. And if you live in the city of Springfield, we are asking you on April 7 to vote 'yes,' 'yes' to the repeal of the ordinance," said Lindell, whose church attracts about 9,000 people weekly, in the March 15 sermon highlighted by News-Leader.
"It is possible for someone who has practiced a life of adultery to stop," he noted in the sermon. "It is possible for someone who has been a life-long alcoholic to stop. It is possible for somebody who has a cutting tongue and a big mouth to stop. It is possible for someone who is engaged in homosexual behavior to stop."
Despite the issue being a political conversation that could land Rev. Lindell in trouble with the IRS for speaking out, he charged that what he's doing is perfectly legal but warned that if Christians don't stand up against the ordinance, speaking out like he's doing could soon be against the law.
"Addressing this topic or the subject of the upcoming vote from the pulpit is not against the law in this country, although it may be in the future. Nor is it outside the parameters of a Gospel ministry," he explained.
"Let me put it to you this way: To those who struggle with same-sex attraction and say God made me this way, Paul's point in Romans 1 is that our human nature has turned against what God intended and that is at the heart of all sin," charged Lindell.
"Lest we think of God's judgment primarily being lightning bolts falling from heaven on people, God's judgment as it is expressed in Roman's chapter 1 is that He gives every human being who rejects His Word and His way over to their own desires, which is a catastrophic judgment. We all have desires that are warped as a result of our fallen nature: pride, selfishness, greed, anger, bitterness, unforgiveness, lust, envy, covetousness, chemical addiction. Our desires for things God has forbidden is a reflection of how sin has distorted us rather than a reflection of how Christ has made us," he noted.
"If you're a Christian living in the city limits of Springfield, I urge you to vote yes for the repeal of the ordinance. As you leave today, we'll have ['yes' signs available for you to take with you to display.] And part of the reason the signs are going up is just simply the ballot language is confusing. You'd think if you were against the ordinance you'd vote 'no,' but no, you need to vote 'yes,' because you are for repealing the ordinance; so it's a bit confusing," he continued.
"All of us need to pray, we need to pray for the well-being of our city. For some who are sitting there and you are saying 'well, you know, at least we don't live in Springfield.' "Let me just encourage you to consider that what happens in Springfield will happen in the rest of the area," he said.
Wednesday, March 25, 2015
Kelsey Harkness /March 20, 2015| The Daily Signal|
Religiously affiliated schools in the nation’s capital could soon be forced to formally fund and recognize student groups like LGBT organizations, whose mission conflicts with the schools’ religious beliefs.
The measure in question, called The Human Rights Amendment Act of 2014, is one of two pieces of legislation passed by the D.C. Council that supporters say will prevent LGBT students from being discriminated against, and opponents argue is an intrusion on the freedoms to religion and speech.
Catholic University of America, located in Washington D.C., is one institution that feels threatened by the proposal.
“It’s the government telling us how to run our school and the government telling us how seriously we can carry out our religious mission,” said Larry Morris, general counsel for Catholic University. “We should be able to operate our school with regard to benefits we provide to employees, with regard to recognition, operation and funding of student organizations, in a way that’s consistent with our faith.”
Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., sees it differently. She says the measure will protect students from being discriminated against by their schools or universities for their sexual orientation.
“[W]e are not going to have our LGBT students stigmatized and denied by their own universities and schools,” she said last week in a press release defending the legislation.
Morris maintains, “It’s not a matter of discrimination at all.” He says students are already free to meet and discuss issues of their choice. The difference, he says, is that under the Human Rights Amendment Act, Catholic schools would be forced to formally recognize and possibly devote funding to those groups.
“Any group of students can meet and do or talk about most anything,” Morris said. “All we are talking about here is the government requiring us to recognize and give a platform to an organization that would advocate positions that are contrary to the church’s teaching.”
The Human Rights Amendment Act would eliminate the long-standing “Armstrong Amendment,” which was created to exempt religious schools in D.C. from being forced into violating their beliefs about human sexuality by “promoting, encouraging, or condoning any homosexual act, lifestyle, orientation, or belief.”
>>> Commentary: Protecting Freedom in the District of Columbia
The Human Rights Amendment Act won the approval of the D.C. Council and was signed by Mayor Muriel Bowser earlier this year. But because all D.C. legislation must be transmitted to Congress for a 30-day review period before it can take effect, Congress—with the president’s signature—has the power to stop it.
On Wednesday, Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and James Lankford, R-Okla., attempted to do just that, introducing resolutions of disapproval that, if passed and signed by the president, would effectively overturn both the Human Rights Amendment Act and the Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Act, which critics say could force pro-life organizations into hiring pro-choice employees.
Cruz and Lankford will face strong pushback from a coalition of about 50 national and local groups, which on Monday sent a letter urging Congress to “oppose any effort in Congress, including through resolutions of disapproval, that would prevent two bills recently passed by the District of Columbia Council from taking effect.”
In it, they wrote:
Because of the central role that access to education plays in personal and professional development, eliminating discrimination in education has long been recognized as a government interest of the utmost importance. D.C. has a substantial and compelling interest in ensuring that educational institutions in the District afford all students equal access to school facilities and services.
Tom Burnford, the secretary for education for the Archdiocese of Washington—which oversees 20 K-12 schools in D.C.—argues that Catholic schools are being discriminated against.
“I think the irony is…it’s the government getting involved in a religious school in the name of antidiscrimination, but what it’s really doing is discriminating against the school by penalizing those schools that don’t share the government’s view on so-called marriage and human sexuality,” Burnford told The Daily Signal.
Burnford believes the legislation would undermine the purpose of parents choosing to send their children to religiously affiliated schools.
“[Parents] choose to send their child to a Catholic school because they know their child or high school student will be taught a specific set of values—a specific faith,” he said. “What’s problematic is when the government starts interfering to determine what those values are.”