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Do the Ten Commandments Have a Place in the New Testament Church?
Majority declines to revisit rules for religious accommodation, over protests from justices Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch.Update (June 17): The United States Supreme Court ruled decisively in favor of a Catholic foster care agency on Thursday, with all nine justices agreeing that the city of Philadelphia violated the First Amendment’s protection of religious liberty when it ended a contract with Catholic Social Services (CSS) over service to LGBT people.“It is plain that the City’s actions have burdened CSS’s religious exercise by putting it to the choice of curtailing its mission or approving relationships inconsistent with its beliefs,” wrote Chief Justice John Roberts.Philadelphia claimed the city could not contract foster care services with a Catholic agency that only served married heterosexual couples because of an antidiscrimination laws ensuring that everyone, regardless of sexual orientation, has equal access to public accommodations. The court found, however, that foster parenting is not a “public accommodation,” since certification is not available to the public and “bears little resemblance to staying in a hotel, eating at a restaurant, or riding a bus.”According to the court, there was also no evidence presented in the record that the Catholic agency’s policies ever prevented a same-sex couple from fostering a child, or that it would have that effect.The majority opinion was joined by justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett.The other three justices—Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, and Clarence Thomas—agreed with the judgement but signed on to two concurring opinions arguing the court should go further in defense of religious exercise. They wanted the court to overturn a 1990 precedent written by conservative ...Continue reading...
Sam Collier, Hillsong's first African American senior pastor, calls for revival in the birthplace of civil rights.Hillsong Church, known for its popular worship music, sounds different in Atlanta. At the new location’s first day of Sunday services, rapper Da’ T.R.U.T.H. kicked off worship in the dimly lit Atlanta Event Center, formerly Club Opera in the heart of downtown.Donning a sweatshirt, jeans, and a man bun, Da’ T.R.U.T.H., who was also featured in Hillsong Atlanta’s “Welcome Home” launch video, rapped the lyrics to his song “The Faith” in front of the congregation at three opening-day gatherings.Attendees—few were masked, despite the church advertising mask wearing and social distancing requirements—stood from black folding chairs and gold-seated booths to cheer for Sam Collier, who’s the first African American to serve as lead pastor of a Hillsong church.The crowd was diverse, and the service felt like a pep rally. “I guess I need to know if anyone who loves Jesus is in the building?” Collier asked. “Lift him up! Welcome to our grand opening!”Collier, who came to Hillsong from Andy Stanley’s North Point Ministries, has deep connections in the city. He previously ministered at Ebenezer Baptist Church, the home church of Martin Luther King Jr., and New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, another well-known Black church in the metro Atlanta area.Hillsong, which formed its own denomination in 2018, has locations in about a dozen US cities and 28 countries, averaging a total global attendance of 150,000 a week, according to its website. The services drew prominent Atlanta figures and celebrities and featured Hillsong Church global senior pastors Brian and Bobbie Houston.“It’s been a difficult year, but you’re the greatest ...Continue reading...
This week at the Southern Baptist Convention's annual meeting, attendees will ask for change from the top. But regular members also bear responsibility.I come from a long line of freedom-loving religious nonconformists. I can trace my lineage back to Swiss Anabaptists who fled Europe for Pennsylvania in the late 1600s, and I grew up in an unaffiliated congregation in the same commonwealth 300 years later—working and worshiping under the certain belief that God had endowed me with “certain inalienable rights.” I’ve also spent my adult life ministering in churches descended from English Baptists (whose exact relationship to continental Anabaptist groups is best left to historians).Today, I live in Virginia, where Thomas Jefferson drafted the 1777 Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom that eventually gave us the religious liberty clause of the First Amendment—a proposal spurred in part by Virginia’s state-sanctioned persecution of Baptists.Despite this pedigree, I find myself perplexed by my fellow Baptists, who seem to think that our soul liberty—the belief that the individual is directly responsible to God in all matters of faith and conscience—stands opposed to our communal responsibilities. During the pandemic, for example, tension between individual rights and the common good emerged as religious liberty issues. When civil authorities placed limits on large gatherings, including church worship services, Baptistic pastors like John MacArthur cited soul liberty and local church autonomy as their reasons for opposing such measures.But another, more pressing question about independence confronts the messengers of the Southern Baptist Convention this week as they gather for the annual meeting in Nashville. In early 2019, Houston Chronicle special investigation detailed detailed how sexual predators ...Continue reading...
China’s flagrant disregard for human rights is exemplified by the story of Gao Zhisheng, a Christian lawyer who is recognized as one of the finest human rights defenders in the country.BackgroundZhisheng, a coal miner-turned-lawyer, was known as one of the 10 best lawyers in China in a 2001 report by the Chinese Ministry of Justice. Though he had much to gain from aligning himself closely with the regime for his material and familial benefit, Zhisheng chose instead to support the downtrodden in society. After defending a Christian pastor who was arrested for possessing Bibles, Zhisheng read the Bible. Though uncertain at first, he became a Christian himself and leaned on the Bible for strength as the government began to punish him for his human rights work.Zhisheng first faced persecution in the form of threatening phone calls from the Communist government in 2005, in part because of his work in litigating on behalf of members of oppressed Falun Gong practitioners. Falun Gong is spiritual discipline that is officially banned in China, and its adherents are severely repressed. The Chinese Embassy provides the spurious claim that the group was targeted in order “[t]o maintain social stability and protect people’s life and property.” The Embassy further adds that practitioners of Falun Gong would be subject to labor camps for “transformation,” on the charge of participating in illegal demonstrations by meditating in accordance with their faith.To repress individual religious expression, China denounces groups whose teachings fail to align with state communism as “cults,” as they did with the Falun Gong. In the case of more mainstream faiths like Christianity, the heavy hand of the regime is used to monitor the community of believers and suppress elements of the faith that might weaken the position of the state. In extreme cases, believers are imprisoned or tortured if they hold underground services or refuse to bend their faith to suit the state’s purposes. Most disturbingly, there is strong evidence that China has committed crimes against humanity by forcibly harvesting the organs of Falun Gong adherents, as well Uyghurs and other religious minorities.Oppression as a DissenterAs a result of several statements that Zhisheng made against the Chinese regime’s treatment of the Falun Gong practitioners, and due to his work litigating on their behalf, he was kidnapped in 2006. While in custody, Zhisheng underwent torture, and was beaten in the face with an electric baton. He suffered through three years in solitary confinement, and shortly after his first release in 2009, he was promptly reimprisoned.In 2014, after being imprisoned for the better part of a decade, Zhisheng was reported as being emaciated and having lost several teeth. He was released from prison, and placed under house arrest. After this period of house arrest, he was reported as having gone missing. There have been no updates concerning his whereabouts or even if he is alive since 2018.A Family’s StrugglesZhisheng’s family hopes that their husband and father is alive and well, but they know the reality of China’s silence on his wellbeing. They repeatedly petitioned the Chinese government for his whereabouts and protest outside the Chinese Consulate in San Francisco, to no avail.His wife, Geng He, and his daughter, Grace Gao (Geng), supported him in his mission, though they are gravely concerned about his treatment and his fate as a result of his faith and care for human rights. Geng He has stated that she intends to use the Chinese Consulate as her husband’s cenotaph, should the Chinese Government fail to prove he is alive or hand over his remains to the family.Grace Gao has followed in her father’s footsteps and has spoken extensively of the pride she has in her father and the hopes she maintains that her family will one day be reunited.What We Can DoFortunately, Zhisheng’s case is on the radar of many human rights organizations. The American Bar Association awarded him the Human Rights Lawyer Award in 2010 and co-published a memoir recounting the trauma he faced while incarcerated in 2017. He was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize on two separate occasions in 2008 and 2010. This kind of international attention is particularly helpful, as it reminds the public of his plight and pressures the Chinese government to release him or exercise transparency with regards to his present status.As believers, we should fervently pray for Zhisheng’s health and safe release, and for his faith in Christ amidst intense trials. Those who care about human rights should educate themselves and others about the injustices that are perpetrated all around the globe against people of all faiths, including in China.
From KANERE refugee news service in Kenya, a much different picture than the U.S. is seeing.
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