Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

October 5th is Pulpit Freedom Sunday: is your church getting involved?

I listened to this podcast from the Alliance Defending Freedom  and this podcast from the Family Research Council on the weekend.  Both of them mentioned that something called Pulpit Freedom Sunday was happening this Sunday.

So I looked it up and found this online:

Pulpit Freedom Sunday is an event associated with the Pulpit Initiative, a legal effort designed to secure the free speech rights of pastors in the pulpit. Pulpit Freedom Sunday encourages pastors to exercise their constitutionally protected freedom to speak truth into every area of life from the pulpit. Alliance Defending Freedom also hopes to eventually go to court to have the Johnson Amendment struck down as unconstitutional for its regulation of sermons, which are protected by the First Amendment.

The web site is here. They are up to 3520 pastors now who are participating. My pastor did not participate last year. He is not very intelligent when it comes to apologetics and policy, so he probably doesn’t know what to say. Or maybe he just afraid, which I can understand more than not knowing what to say.

Not everyone is happy with this. The IRS is investigating churches (not Democrat-favoring churches, of course) for speaking about specific issues.

Here’s an article on that.

Excerpt:

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has agreed to investigate the political activity of churches after reaching a settlement with an atheist legal group. But a court has yet to decide whether or not to close the case.

The Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) and the IRS jointly asked a Wisconsin federal court last week to dismiss a 2012 lawsuit, FFRF v. Koskinen. The FFRF had alleged that the IRS failed to have a policy in place for investigating political activity at tax-exempt churches and religious organizations, nor did the agency enforce its 501(c)(3) codes against electioneering.

Meanwhile, more than 1,600 churches have deliberately broken the existing law since 2008, endorsing political candidates from their pulpits during Pulpit Freedom Sunday events organized by the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF). The next “showdown” will be October 5.

“This is a victory, and we’re pleased with this development in which the IRS has proved to our satisfaction that it now has in place a protocol to enforce its own anti-electioneering provisions,” said FFRF co-president Annie Laurie Gaylor in a press release.

However, the case has not yet been closed. Father Patrick Malone of Holy Cross Anglican Church in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, had been granted permission to interveneon the side of the IRS, and the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty (which represents Malone) has asked the court to dismiss the case but “with prejudice.” In other words, Becket argues the FFRF should not be able to sue the IRS again on this particular issue, while the FFRF argues that it should be able to do so.

Regardless of the court’s final decision, the IRS won’t be free to investigate churches until a moratorium related to the agency’s controversial scrutiny of tea party organizations is lifted after a congressional investigation closes.

CT has noted how the six-year run of Pulpit Freedom Sunday has tried to provoke the IRS into (ironically) punishing pastors as a means to reexamine the rights of pastors to promote politicians from the pulpit. The initiative even gained an unexpected allylast year in Sen. Charles Grassley and the Commission on Accountability and Policy for Religious Organizations (CAPRO).

Meanwhile, LifeWay Research has found that only 10 percent of Protestant pastors believe pastors should endorse political candidates (while noting that is a different question from should the IRS ban the practice.)

The IRS has not released the language of the settlement, and ADF is concerned about how secretive the church investigations will be—if they indeed happen. ADF has issued a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request in pursuit of the documents surrounding the settlement between the FFRF and the IRS.

“This is one of the major problems with the IRS,” said Erik Stanley, senior legal counsel with ADF. “They are secretive, which breeds mistrust and leads to problems in knowing just how they will enforce and interpret the law.”

Becket has also requested information on documents the FFRF and the IRS are not making available, including: “all documents relating to any investigation or determination by a high-ranking IRS official, in writing, of the acts and circumstances, including potential violations of the electioneering restrictions, that led to the high-ranking official to reasonably believe that a church or religious organization may have violated the requirements for tax exemption under 501(c)(3).”

Stanley says ADF’s strategy—helping churches realize how government is censoring what they say—will not change. If the IRS does monitor electioneering more closely, he hopes the issue will end in a lawsuit.

“The Johnson Amendment is unconstitutional,” said Stanley. “If the IRS begins enforcing it again against churches, Alliance Defending Freedom stands ready to defend a pastor’s right to speak freely from the pulpit.”

ADF has organized Pulpit Freedom Sunday for six years, with 1,621 church and religious leaders participating in 2012 (2013 dropped to nearly 1,100 participants). But until now, the IRS has all but ignored ADF’s attempts to bring the issue to a head. According to Stanley, the IRS does not want to challenge the Johnson Amendment—which bans tax-exempt organizations from endorsing or opposing political candidates—in court.

I think it’s interesting that the FFRF is not so much interested in debating whether atheism is true as they in shutting down theists who seek to live consistently with their beliefs by using the power of big government. I think that’s pretty par for the course though, if you look through 20th century history. That’s what atheist regimes have done, so we should expect individual atheists to do that as well.

I don’t recommend to the atheists at FFRF that they intimidate Christians, though, as Jesus seems to think that limiting the practice and free expression of Christian convictions is a bad idea.

Read Matthew 18:1-7:

1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus and said, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”

2 And He called a child to Himself and set him before them,

3 and said, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.

4 Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

5 And whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me;

6 but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.

7 “Woe to the world because of its stumbling blocks! For it is inevitable that stumbling blocks come; but woe to that man through whom the stumbling block comes!

I think that we Christians need to take positions that are in accord with what God’s Word says, and we need to be ready to defend our positions in public using public arguments and public evidence – especially scientific research – that will be persuasive to non-Christians who do not accept the Bible. That’s the only way to stop the cultural decline caused by the secular left.

The best introductory book on the interface between Christianity and politics is “Indivisible: Restoring Faith, Family, and Freedom Before It’s Too Late“, co-authored by Jay Wesley Richards. The Kindle edition is $9.99. Richards’ Ph.D is from Princeton University.

The best comprehensive book is “Politics – According to the Bible: A Comprehensive Resource for Understanding Modern Political Issues in Light of Scripture” by Wayne Grudem. The Kindle edition of that one is $4.99. Grudem’s is from Cambridge University. First-rate Christian scholarship on practical Christianity.

And you can listen to Grudem delivering Sunday school training at his church on every single chapter of that book right here. All free, and no ads. Be sure and scroll through all the previous years to get all the topics! Ethics, social policy, fiscal policy, foreign policy and more!

For more information on Pulpit Freedom Sunday, check out this web site.

If you want to hear about things like this, then subscribe to the FRC podcasts and the ADF podcast.

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Erika Harold: Harvard law graduate and former Miss America runs for Congress

Republican candidate Erika Harold

Republican candidate Erika Harold

The Weekly Standard reports.

Excerpt:

The most interesting House primary of the 2014 cycle began in June in the 13th District of Illinois. It pits freshman Republican congressman Rodney Davis against an insurgent candidate named Erika Harold. Davis is a political operative who won his seat last year nearly by accident. Erika Harold is a 33-year-old lawyer. Who happens to have been Miss America.

[...]In addition to the charisma and poise native to good politicians, Harold has exhibited the principled toughness of the best pols. And again, to appreciate this aspect of her character, you need only go back to Miss America.

Her platform as a Miss America candidate included abstinence:

Harold competed three times for the Miss Illinois crown, which she finally won in 2003. Each time, she ran on a platform of abstinence. But one of the arcane traditions of Miss America is that while contestants choose their own platforms when competing for the state crown, it’s the state organization that decides what platform the winner will take to Atlantic City. The year Harold was named Miss Illinois, her state committee settled on a bland platform opposing “youth violence.” (Think of it as “world peace,” for the children.) Harold agreed to oppose youth violence.

After she was named Miss America, however, Harold decided to add abstinence to her platform for the year of her reign. She didn’t abandon “youth violence” but rather included it, along with abstinence, in a broad appeal to kids to respect themselves by standing up to bullies and avoiding sex, drugs, and alcohol. This was, as a matter of both intellectual coherence and moral sense, a significant improvement on the pure “youth violence” platform she’d been handed. The Miss America organization did not like it one bit.

The organization pushed back hard and told Harold to keep quiet—especially about sex. The disagreement made national headlines and culminated in a news conference at the National Press Club in Washington, where the newly crowned Harold told reporters, “I will not be bullied. I’ve gone through enough adversity in my life to stand up for what I believe in.” Miss America stared down the pageant and won.

Promotes fiscal conservativism to African Americans:

Harold was already interested in politics. During a Miss America appearance at East St. Louis High School, students asked her what she wanted to be when she grew up. She told them, “My ultimate goal is that I want to be the first black female president of the United States.” While still an undergraduate at Illinois, she volunteered for conservative Patrick O’Malley’s doomed 2002 Illinois gubernatorial campaign. She also volunteered with the Republican National Committee in an effort to promote conservative economic principles in African-American communities. After graduating from law school, she joined a Chicago firm where her practice has specialized in health care law and religious freedom.

[...][W]hile Harold tries to resist easy classification, her ideological markers are highly suggestive of a conservative worldview. There’s the abstinence, of course. She’s fiercely pro-life. She favors concealed-carry gun laws. And she’s on the board of Prison Fellowship Ministries, the program founded by Chuck Colson.

Focused on religious liberty:

The most interesting part of Harold’s legal practice has been her work defending faith-based entities. In one case, for example, she represented a retirement community affiliated with a religious group. The organization featured a cross on its logo and used a Bible verse in its mission statement—which attracted a lawsuit from an advocacy group contending that this amounted to discrimination. Describing this work, Harold says, “It’s a passion of mine.”

Looking across the broader national landscape, Harold sees ample reason to be concerned about religious freedom. “We’re starting to see ways in which our constitutional protections are being encroached upon,” she says. “We all are less free when any group isn’t afforded their constitutional protections.”

And not just less free, but less well off. Harold says that her time with Prison Fellowship Ministries has deepened her appreciation for the good religious organizations can do. “I’ve seen firsthand the need for there to be a space in public life for religious groups to be able to offer service to their fellow man,” she says. When government seeks to quarantine religious organizations, moving from freedom of religion to “freedom of worship” (to use the formulation President Obama favors), “it’s far too limiting in terms of the good they can do for the public, and it’s far too restrictive in terms of the protections which are afforded religious groups by the Constitution. We give something up when we say that certain voices aren’t welcome in the public square.”

Harold says she intends to make religious freedom an issue in her campaign. This is fitting at a time when the HHS mandate, the Hobby Lobby case, and the torrent of litigation about to be unleashed by the Supreme Court’s gay marriage decisions appear likely to make religious freedom a central front in the culture war.

We have such a deep bench, so there’s reason for optimism – if you’re a Republican like me! Here’s another story I found about another young, female Republican candidate Elise Stefanik. I would not be annoyed at all if all of our candidates were women or minorities or minority women. I wouldn’t even be annoyed if our candidates were some sort of dolphin-alligator hybrid monstrosities, (although I prefer pretty lawyers ladies). The main thing I want is that our candidates are conservative. That’s what really matters to me.

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CNN debate: a liberal moderator and Democrat activists posing as undecided voters

Should you watch tonight’s debate, moderated by Candy Crowley of CNN?

Second presidential candidates’ debate between Obama, Romney

  • Topic: Foreign and domestic issues
  • Date: Tuesday, Oct. 16
  • Time: 9 – 10:30 p.m. EDT
  • Location: Hofstra University, Hempstead, N.Y.
  • Moderator: Candy Crowley, chief political correspondent, CNN, and anchor, CNN’s “State of the Union”
  • Format: “The second presidential debate will take the form of a town meeting, in which citizens will ask questions of the candidates on foreign and domestic issues. Candidates each will have two minutes to respond, and an additional minute for the moderator to facilitate a discussion. The town meeting participants will be undecided voters selected by the Gallup Organization.”

Here are three reasons why you should be cautious about it.

First, Candy Crowley is a leftist who has made comments critical of the Romney-Ryan ticket. Second, the format allows Candy Crowley to select all the questions for the two candidates. Third, the last time CNN did a townhall debate, they featured questions from well-known Democrat activists and lied to the audience saying that they were “undecided voters”. Let’s take a look at the evidence for each of these statements.

First, Candy Crowley. Is she a centrist?

Newsbusters explains:

As NewsBusters has been noting all Saturday morning, now that Paul Ryan has been chosen as Mitt Romney’s running mate, the goal of the Obama-loving media is to rip him to shreds.

Doing her part Saturday was CNN’s Candy Crowley who claimed some Republicans (unnamed, of course) think this “looks a little bit like some sort of ticket death wish.”

[...]Transcript of Crowley’s remarks is below:

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN: We’ve already had this debate. All they have to do at Obama Reelect is open up the files because this debate has already happened. They just bring it back, it goes, it is, you know, what they talk about. But I think the other thing that’s worth pointing out is not every Republican has signed on to this kind of, I mean, they will publicly. But there is some trepidation…

GLORIA BORGER, CNN: They’re afraid.

CROWLEY: …that this might be, looks a little bit like some sort of ticket death wish. That, oh, my gosh, do we really want to talk about these thing? Is this where we want to go when the economy is so bad? We could have stayed on that.

Second, what about the format of the debate. Who is choosing the questions?

Associated Press explains:

Town halls have lost some of their spontaneity. The 80 or so undecided voters chosen for Tuesday’s event must submit their questions in advance and moderator Candy Crowley of CNN will decide which people to call on. She can pose her own follow-up questions.

Third, there is the disturbing pattern of CNN stacking the town hall audience with well-known liberal activists and passing them off as “undecided voters”. That’s what CNN did in a previous debate they moderated, as Michelle Malkin explains.

Excerpt:

Flashback: CNN/YouTube/plant debacle.

Refresher:

  • Concerned Young Undecided Person “Journey” = John Edwards supporter “Journey”
  • Concerned Undecided Log Cabin Republican supporter David Cercone = Obama supporter David Cercone
  • Concerned Undecided Mom LeeAnn Anderson = Activist for the John Edwards-endorsing United Steelworkers union LeeAnn Anderson
  • Concerned Undecided Gay Military Retiree Brig. Gen. Keith H. Kerr = Hillary/Kerry supporter and anti-”Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” activist Keith H. Kerr

[...]If any more political plants turn up at CNN’s presidential debates, the cable-news network will have to merge with the Home and Garden channel.

At CNN’s Democratic debate in Las Vegas two weeks back, moderator Wolf Blitzer introduced several citizen questioners as “ordinary people, undecided voters.” But they later turned out to include a former Arkansas Democratic director of political affairs, the president of the Islamic Society of Nevada and a far left anti-war activist who’d been quoted in newspapers lambasting Harry Reid for his failure to pull out of Iraq.

Yet CNN failed to disclose those affiliations and activism during the broadcast.

Behold – the phony political foliage bloomed again at Wednesday night’s much hyped CNN/YouTube GOP debate.

Oh, CNN did make careful note that Grover Norquist (who asked about his anti-tax pledge) is a Republican activist with Americans for Tax Reform. But somehow the network’s layers and layers of fact-checkers missed several easily identified Democratic activists posing as ordinary, undecided citizens.

The tallest plant was a retired gay vet, one “Brig. Gen. Keith Kerr,” who questioned – or rather, lectured – the candidates on video and in person about the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy that bans open gays from the military.

Funny. “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was exactly the policy CNN adopted in not telling viewers that Kerr is a member of Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual- Transgender Americans for Hillary.

Sen. Clinton’s campaign Web site features a press release announcing Kerr and other members of the committee in June. And a basic Web search turns up Kerr’s past support as a member of a veterans’ steering committee for the John Kerry for President campaign – and his prior appearance on CNN in December ’03.

CNN’s moderator, Anderson Cooper, singled out Kerr (who’d been flown in for the event) in the vast audience, giving him a chance for his own filibustering moment. Marvel at it: Not one CNN journalist uncovered the connection or thought it pertinent to disclose that Kerr’s heart belonged to Hillary.

When righty commentator Bill Bennett pointed out the facts to Cooper after the debate, a red-faced Cooper feebly blubbered: “That was something certainly unknown to us, and had we known that, would have been disclosed by us. It turns out we have just looked at it.”

Cluelessness doesn’t absolve CNN of journalistic malpractice. Neither does editing out Kerr’s question (as the network did on rebroadcast, to camouflage the potted plant).

The article is quite old, and it predates the revelation that Anderson Cooper is gay. Might that explain why so many gay activists were selected to ask questions at a townhall debate?

So should you watch the debate? I think not. But if you do, be aware that CNN is a leftist organization and they are not likely to do a good job of being impartial. They want Obama to win. The best debate so far was the first debate moderated by Jim Lehrer of PBS.

By the way, in a recent Gallup/USA Today poll in swing (toss-up) states, Romney now leads Obama 51-46 among all voters, and is tied 48-48 among women voters. That’s what the madness of Joe Biden in his debate got Obama. Women hate a violent, disrespectful madman.

I’ll probably watch the debate, but I’ll watch it on Fox News Live, not CNN.

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Department of Homeland Security: lowest level of illegal immigrant arrests since 1972

From CNS News.

Excerpt:

The Department of Homeland Security’s 2011 Yearbook of Immigration Statistics was released last month, including figures that show that the number of illegal aliens apprehended in the United States was the lowest in 40 years.

The report shows (page 91, table 33) that in fiscal year 2011, the number of illegal aliens apprehended was 641,633 – at that time the lowest total apprehensions since 1972 when the number of illegal aliens apprehended was 505,949.

The report shows that the number of illegal aliens apprehended has steadily decreased over the course of the Obama administration, from 869,857 in fiscal year 2009 to 641,633 in fiscal year 2011.

The table includes the following totals for fiscal years 2008-2011:

  • 2008: 1,043.863
  • 2009: 869,857
  • 2010: 752,329
  • 2011: 641,633

The table also shows that from 1976 to 2008, the number of apprehensions ranged from 910,361 in 1980 to 1,814,729 in 2000.

We know that we can’t trust the Democrats on national security and foreign policy, but it turns out that we can’t even trust them to secure the border. And if Obama gets a second term, we should expect amnesty for 20 million illegal immigrants. That’s my prediction if we vote him in for a second term.

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When pastors get it right: Pulpit Freedom Sunday 2012

My favorite pastor Wayne Grudem, the best pastor on the face of the planet, explains why he participated in Pulpit Freedom Sunday 2012. (H/T Jeremy)

Excerpt:

This Sunday I have agreed to join nearly 1,500 pastors nationwide and participate in Pulpit Freedom Sunday, sponsored by Alliance Defending Freedom. In my sermon, I plan to recommend that people vote for one presidential candidate and one political party that I will name. We will then all send our sermons to the IRS.

This action is in violation of the 1954 “Johnson Amendment” to the Internal Revenue Code, which prohibits tax-exempt organizations like churches from endorsing any candidate by name. But in our nation, a higher law than the IRS code is the Constitution, which forbids laws “abridging freedom of speech” or “prohibiting the free exercise” of religion (First Amendment).

I fully understand that many pastors might never want to endorse a candidate from the pulpit (I have never done so before and I might never do so again). But that should be the decision of the pastors and their churches, just as it was in 1860 when many pastors (rightly) decided they had to tell citizens to vote for Abraham Lincoln in order to end the horrible evil of slavery. When the government censors what pastors can preach, I think it is an unconstitutional violation of freedom of religion and freedom of speech.

[...]I have compiled a list of 24 differences between the two parties on issues with a moral component. Here are some of them where the parties differ:

The rule of law (vs. judges who change the original meaning of the Constitution), freedom of religion in public expression (vs. freedom of worship in private), protection of life (vs. glorying in unrestricted abortion rights), the preservation of marriage (vs. promoting same-sex relationships as “marriage”), the limitation of federal power (vs. an unconstrained federal government), parental choice in education for children of all income levels and all races (vs. protecting a government-regulated monopoly on schools), turning back government overspending and avoiding debt that we cannot repay (vs. reckless spending that threatens to bankrupt our children and our nation), caring for the poor by reducing taxes to leave more money in the job-creating private sector (vs. ever-increasing taxes that drain money from job-creating businesses), a strong military to protect us and the many small democracies that look to us for protection (vs. damaging defense cutbacks that leave smaller nations, the world’s sea lanes, and our own nation increasingly vulnerable), and a commitment to stand by Israel (vs. snubbing its leaders and demanding that it make ever-greater concessions).

You can read 5 reasons why pastors ought to have participated in Pulpit Freedom Sunday 2012 here.

Here’s one of their reasons:

1.  The issues the country is facing are biblical issues. Pastors, more than many others, are uniquely suited to speak to the issues confronting the country in this election season.  Issues such as life, marriage, the family, the economy, the poor, and many others are addressed specifically in scripture.  The effect of the Johnson Amendment has been to make these biblical issues “political,” as if slapping a “political” label on an issue somehow removes it from the purview of scripture.  For example, a pastor preaching a sermon thirty years ago that abortion is wrong was just being biblical. But that same sermon today is labeled as political and, as a result, the pastor is sidelined into silence.  It’s not that the church is somehow becoming “political.”  It’s that politics is invading the realm of the church.

We need more pastors to connect what the Bible says to policy and events in the real world. We need to take positions that are in accord with what God’s Word says, and we need to be ready to defend our positions in public using public arguments and public evidence – especially scientific research – that will be persuasive to non-Christians who do not accept the Bible. That’s the only way to stop the cultural decline caused by the secular left.

The best introductory book on the interface between Christianity and politics is “Indivisible: Restoring Faith, Family, and Freedom Before It’s Too Late“, co-authored by Jay Wesley Richards. The Kindle edition is $9.99. Richards’ Ph.D is from Princeton University.

The best comprehensive book is “Politics – According to the Bible: A Comprehensive Resource for Understanding Modern Political Issues in Light of Scripture” by Wayne Grudem. The Kindle edition of that one is $4.99. Grudem’s is from Cambridge University. First-rate Christian scholarship on practical Christianity.

And you can listen to Grudem delivering Sunday school training at his church on every single chapter of that book right here. All free, and no ads. Be sure and scroll through all the previous years to get all the topics! Ethics, social policy, fiscal policy, foreign policy and more!

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