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Judge rejects churches’ challenge to Virginia’s LGBT antidiscrimination law


Reported by By Michael Gryboski, Christian Post Reporter | Thursday, July 22, 2021

Read more at https://www.christianpost.com/news/judge-rejects-churches-challenge-to-virginia-lgbt-antidiscrimination-law.html/

Gay pride parade
Participants carrying a rainbow flag attend the annual gay pride. | Reuters/Annika Af Klercker/TT News Agency

A judge has ruled against a group of churches, schools and a pro-life pregnancy center challenging a Virginia law that adds sexual orientation and gender identity to state antidiscrimination law. Judge James E. Plowman Jr. issued a ruling from the bench last week in favor of the Virginia Values Act, which was passed by the Democrat-controlled state government in 2020.

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring released a statement last Friday expressing support for the ruling, which will be entered as an order within the next few weeks.  

“Our landmark civil rights protections will remain in place, and Virginia will remain a place that is open and welcoming to all, no matter what you look like, where you come from, how you worship, or who you love,” stated Herring.

“I was proud to support passage of the Virginia Values Act and am so proud of our work to successfully defend the law twice against legal attack.”

In late September of last year, Alliance Defending Freedom filed a lawsuit on behalf of two churches, three private schools, and a pregnancy care center against the Virginia Values Act. In the suit, Calvary Road Baptist Church of Fairfax County and its school, Community Fellowship Church of Staunton and its school, Community Christian Academy of Charlottesville, and Care Net of Loudon County claimed that the new law forced them to compromise various hiring and employment practices based on their sincere religious beliefs.

“[The Act] puts the Ministries in an impossible position: they must either abandon the religious convictions they were founded upon, or be ready to face investigations, an onerous administrative process, fines up to $100,000 for each violation, unlimited compensatory and punitive damages and attorney-fee awards, and court orders forcing them to engage in actions that would violate their consciences,” stated the suit, in part.

“Even merely posting their religious beliefs on their own websites could subject the Ministries to prosecution and exorbitant fines. These penalties could easily exceed a million dollars, ruin the Ministries financially, and make continuing their Christian missions impossible.”

In March, U.S. District Court Judge Claude M. Hilton rejected a separate challenge to the Virginia Values Act, another lawsuit filed by the ADF, this time on behalf of Robert Updegrove of Bob Updegrove Photography. In his decision, Hilton argued that the Updegrove lacked the standing to sue since the Act “has never been enforced against” him “or any other person.”

“In the almost nine months since the statute became effective, no complaint has been filed under the statute,” wrote Hilton in late March. 

“No case or controversy exists when a person expresses a desire to change his previously compliant conduct to violate a new statute that no person, government or otherwise, has ever sought to enforce.”

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California Pastor Che Ahn warns church closures rooted in Marxist ideology


Reported By Ryan Foley, Christian Post Reporter| Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Read more at https://www.christianpost.com/news/california-pastor-covid-church-closures-rooted-in-marxism.html/

Harvest Rock Church, Ché Ahn
Pastor Ché Ahn speaks at Harvest Rock Church in Pasadena, California, 2019. | Facebook/Harvest Rock Church

A California pastor who has challenged his state government over worship restrictions and church closures in response to COVID-19 believes such restrictions are rooted in Marxist ideology. 

In an interview with The Epoch Times published Saturday, Pastor Che Ahn of Harvest Rock Church in Pasadena, California, asserted that “When the pandemic happened, I think a lot of what I would call left-wing governors, you can call Democrat or liberals, but I feel they’re more left-wing, I think they seized the opportunity to really control society and one of the areas that I think they really like to control is the church because historically, the church has been the most outspoken against government control in this country.” 

While many proponents of limiting the number of people who can attend in-person church services point to public health concerns as the justification for their actions, Ahn attributes the restrictions to a more sinister motive: “Marxism is a religion. Humanism is a religion. It is putting the human at the top instead of God, and so, [socialism] will do everything possible to get people to reject worshiping the true God.” 

“That’s why we’re having such a battle in our nation against the values of our Founding Fathers who are mostly Christians and you know they had biblical values, Judeo-Christian values. So that’s why I feel there is an assault going on,” he asserted. 

Over the past year, Ahn has found himself among several pastors clashing with the government over coronavirus worship restrictions. California implemented particularly strict restrictions on worship services during the coronavirus pandemic. The state faced criticism for not imposing similar restrictions on secular businesses, which led to some pastors to designate their churches as “strip clubs” so they could remain open during the pandemic. 

In addition to limiting the number of people who could gather for in-person worship services, the state prevented people from conducting at-home Bible studies, which prompted Ahn to file a lawsuit against the state. Pastor Ahn took his challenge against the ban on all forms of in-person worship to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and later to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ordered the district court to rehear the case in light of its ruling in Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn v. Cuomo that struck down coronavirus worship restrictions in New York state. 

In April, more than a year after the coronavirus pandemic first began to spread in the U.S., California lifted its mandatory restrictions on religious services, changing the language on capacity limits regarding worship services from “mandatory” to “highly recommended.” In response to this move, Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel, who represented Harvest Rock in its legal proceedings, expressed relief that California’s Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom “finally dropped his draconian restrictions on churches.”

In May, the state of California was ordered to pay Harvest Rock Church $1.35 million in attorneys’ fees and legal costs that the church incurred as a result of its litigation against the state. Last month, a federal judge ordered the state to pay $1.6 million in attorneys’ fees to South Bay United Pentecostal Church and an additional $550,000 to a Catholic priest who also sued the state over its worship restrictions. 

At the same time, the same federal judge issued an injunction preventing Newsom and other state officials from “issuing or enforcing regulations” against churches and places of worship in response to the pandemic. Although Ahn was threatened with fines and jail time for holding in-person worship services in violation of public health orders, he maintained that he made the right decision by defying the state’s restrictions in his interview with The Epoch Times. 

“Thank God that we chose to be open, defying [Newsom’s] orders because we feel strongly that the Constitution is the Supreme Law of the Land, and no one’s above the Constitution, even our president or governor, and the Constitution protects our right, not only for free speech but for us to assemble, to worship, and they will not interfere with a free exercise thereof, ” he said. 

Ahn is not the only person warning about the advance of Marxism in the U.S. In a recent interview with The Christian Post, Kevin McGary, the co-founder of Every Black Life Matters, said “Marxism is really what we’re fighting on all fronts at the moment,” specifically noting its prominence in American education.

Even as churches in California no longer face the strict worship restrictions they were subject to at the beginning of the pandemic, Newsom could still face political consequences for the restrictions he imposed during the height of the pandemic. His private dinner at an upscale French restaurant, which took place as coronavirus restrictions prevented Californians from eating out, resulted in allegations of hypocrisy and accelerated the effort to recall him. 

The recall campaign gathered enough signatures to force a recall election, which is scheduled to take place Sept. 14. California voters will be asked if they want to remove Newsom from office. If a majority vote to oust him, the votes for replacement candidates will be tallied. In such a scenario, the replacement candidate that receives the most votes would become governor. 

The most recent poll of the recall election, conducted by Democratic pollster Change Research in June, found that 54% of California voters oppose the recall election compared to 40% who support it. However, a June poll from Republican pollster Moore Information Group found a plurality of likely voters (49%) support the recall effort and 46% oppose it. The most recent nonpartisan poll, conducted by the Public Policy Institute of California in May, found that 57% of Californians oppose the recall while 40% would vote in favor of it. 

Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at: ryan.foley@christianpost.com

David French Joins NYT, New Yorker In Bashing Christians On Christmas


Reported by Nathanael Blake DECEMBER 28, 2020

So much for peace on earth and goodwill to men. America’s legacy media elites used the Sunday before Christmas for extra Christian-bashing, with white evangelicals the preferred targets.

Writing in The New Yorker, Michael Luo complained that “white evangelical Protestants, once again, overwhelmingly supported President Trump in the election,” and that “churches, particularly conservative ones, fought lockdown orders and rebuffed public-health warnings.”

New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof interviewed leftist pastor Jim Wallis, with the conversation quickly turning to accusations that “White evangelicalism has destroyed the ‘evangel.’” At The Dispatch, Time columnist David French concluded that much of the scorn white evangelical Christians receive is deserved. He says the world often “rejects Christians because Christians are cruel.”

Yeah, well, merry Christmas to you too.

To be sure, Christians should humbly accept correction if it is deserved, even when the word of reproof is delivered by pagans. But the above writers’ broad indictments against American evangelicals do not withstand scrutiny. Although each criticism has particular errors, they are united by two shared mistakes. The first is a failure to account for differences of denomination and devotion. Lumping Pentecostals, Presbyterians, and prosperity-gospel preachers together is sloppy, as is neglecting to distinguish between those who are committed churchgoers and those who are only nominally evangelical.

It might be said that these varieties of white evangelicals have in common an overwhelming political support for Donald Trump, but this retort only highlights the second error shared by these writers: the assumption that voting for Trump was necessarily immoral.

It is easy to pick out Trumpian words and deeds that are not compatible with the gospel. It is also easy to do the same with his Democratic opponents and their policies. Asserting that voting for Trump is a moral stain on evangelicals, without weighing the alternatives, presumes what is in question. This error is shared by each writer (and Kristof’s interview subject), but each finds some unique ways to express it.

Luo, for instance, unfavorably compares the response of today’s Christians to the pandemic with Christians’ response to past plagues. But although he is correct that reckless churches should be rebuked, he makes no effort to distinguish between the reckless and those cautiously meeting in person, or to value preserving the gathering of believers. Nor does he quantify how many churches are foregoing precautions, or show how many of these congregations fall under the “white evangelical” category.

He suggests that, to eliminate risk, Christians should forgo all in-person meeting, and he dismisses the religious liberty claims that have been raised against capricious government restrictions on churches. But if the casinos, strip clubs, and abortion clinics are getting better treatment than churches, then anti-Christian discrimination has replaced public health policy.

Furthermore, even from a secular public health perspective, eliminating church services would do more harm than good, as churchgoing seems to have been essential to helping many Americans make it through the difficulties of this year. We are physical beings, not disembodied minds who can live in the cloud indefinitely.

Meanwhile, Kristof and his interview subject Wallis presume that technocratic welfare-statism is the obvious way to care for the poor and oppressed, so they dismiss anyone who disagrees with them as bad Christians. This complacent assumption of moral and political rectitude precludes them from understanding those they condemn.

Thus, although Kristof recently wrote a column of questions about Christians and abortion, he seems to have ignored the many responses explaining its paramount importance as a political issue for conservative Christians. His indifference is particularly notable at Christmas, because Luke’s advent narrative emphasizes the humanity of both the unborn John the Baptist and of Jesus. And if the unborn are human, then Christians cannot support the party of abortion on demand.

Kristof and Wallis’s reflexive acceptance of the left’s shibboleths of the moment also leads to ridiculous anachronisms such as declaring Jesus a “person of color.” This conceptual colonization of first-century Israel by modern American racial concepts is odious and misleading—“person of color” makes no sense in that context.

It is, indeed, worse than the depictions of a blond, blue-eyed Jesus (are there many of those?) that Wallis complains about. Portrayals of Jesus and other biblical figures in local style and appearance have been a common, if inaccurate, artistic practice across centuries and cultures.

Race is also central to French’s condemnation of his fellow white evangelicals. In his telling, they are guilty of “some outright racism” but perhaps even more of being seduced by a “Christian nationalism” that “will always minimize America’s historic sins and the present legacy (and reality) of American racism.” French is, for instance, upset that more white evangelicals do not believe that racism is an “extremely” or “very serious” threat to “America and America’s future.”

But even if white evangelicals are wrong in their assessment of the depth and danger of America’s racial problems, this is not enough to condemn them as cruel. It is, in fact, precisely the sort of issue on which Christians may reasonably disagree.

Furthermore, the data French cites does not account for crucial factors such as whether respondents are regular churchgoers or merely culturally evangelical. In addition, French ignores education and class in his analysis, even though the study he relies on emphasizes the importance of these factors in understanding the politics of white evangelical subgroups.

French’s article, like the others, is mostly an impressionistic interpretation of white evangelicalism in America. By their reckoning, white evangelicals have become reckless plague-bearers with no regard for the poor and oppressed, and their cruelty rightly earns them the world’s opprobrium.

There may be some individuals who match this grim depiction, but as a general description of tens of millions of evangelicals, it is obviously untrue. Look around the country and evangelical churches are holding services with masks, distancing, and lots of hand sanitizer. Evangelicals, both individually and corporately, are caring for those in need in their communities and around the world, and treating people of all races with dignity and respect.

In this Christmas season, French, Kristof, and Luo should stop building evangelical strawmen to burn in effigy. Instead, they, like all of us, should contemplate and rejoice in the miracle of God become man to save His people from their sins.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Nathanael Blake is a Senior Contributor at The Federalist. He has a PhD in political theory. He lives in Missouri.

Supreme Court blocks ruling against church fighting California’s worship restrictions


Reported By Michael Gryboski, Christian Post Reporter 

Pastor Ché Ahn speaks at Harvest Rock Church in Pasadena, California, 2019. | Facebook/Harvest Rock Church

The United States Supreme Court granted temporary relief to a church fighting a legal battle against California over its restrictions on in-person worship gatherings. Harvest Rock Church and others filed suit against California over ongoing shutdown orders instituted by Gov. Gavin Newsom that they argued are in violation of their religious freedom.

In the Thursday order, the Supreme Court provided “injunctive relief” for the church, vacating a September ruling against the church by a district court.

“The application for injunctive relief, presented to Justice Kagan and by her referred to the Court, is treated as a petition for a writ of certiorari before judgment, and the petition is granted,” read the brief order.

The Supreme Court cited its recent 5-4 ruling in Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn v. Cuomo to justify granting the relief and sending the case back to the district court. In that case, the high court majority blocked New York from implementing certain lockdown restrictions on a Roman Catholic diocese and an Orthodox Jewish community.

“Members of this Court are not public health experts, and we should respect the judgment of those with special expertise and responsibility in this area. But even in a pandemic, the Constitution cannot be put away and forgotten,” read the opinion in Cuomo.

“The restrictions at issue here, by effectively barring many from attending religious services, strike at the very heart of the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious liberty.”

In July, Harvest Rock Church and Harvest International Ministry which includes multiple member churches, filed suit against California over its ongoing restrictions in its response to COVID-19. The suit argued that Newsom’s order from July banning indoor worship in as many as 30 counties also bans members from gathering at each other’s homes for Bible studies in said counties. In October, a three-judge panel from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit ruled 2-1 against Harvest Rock, arguing that they were not being wrongly treated.

“The Orders apply the same restrictions to worship services as they do to other indoor congregate events, such as lectures and movie theaters. Some congregate activities are completely prohibited in every county, such as attending concerts and spectating sporting events,” stated the majority opinion.

Circuit Judge Diarmuid O’Scannlain authored a dissent in which he disagreed, arguing that in 18 counties, houses of worship are put under stricter standards than most secular entities.

“… in these same counties, the State still allows people to go indoors to: spend a day shopping in the mall, have their hair styled, get a manicure or pedicure, attend college classes, produce a television show or movie, participate in professional sports, wash their clothes at a laundromat, and even work in a meatpacking plant,” wrote O’Scannlain.

“The Constitution allows a State to impose certain calculated, neutral restrictions—even against churches and religious believers—necessary to combat emergent threats to public health. But the Constitution, emphatically, does not allow a State to pursue such measures against religious practices more aggressively than it does against comparable secular activities.”

TYRANNY: Kansas City is Now Requiring Churches to Keep Lists of People Entering Churches


Reported by  

Mayor Quinton Lucas enacted the policy where houses of worship receive the same treatment as “non-essential” businesses when it comes to keeping information of those who attend a service or anyone who enters the building.

“Never in our wildest dreams could we have imagined Nazi-like measures designed to surveil, track and spy upon what was once a free American people,” declared Liberty Council, founder and Chairman Matt Staver. “That is exactly what Kansas City’s misguided government officials are now demanding.”

The new policy declares “In-person religious gatherings (including weddings and funerals) may resume, subject to the 10/10/10 rule (if held inside) or limited to 50 people outside, provided social distancing precautions are followed and event organizers maintain records of all attendees.”

The 10/10/10 rule refers to the 10 people or 10 percent of the allowable number of people detailed in the fire code. However, it only applies to individuals who stay in the building for more than 10 minutes. In reality, the record keeping is what worries people. The new rule mandates that all churches to “record the names, contact information, and approximate entry/exit time of all customers who are on premises for more than 10 minutes.” Churches, synagogues, and mosques along with businesses are covered under these regulations. Medical facilities and grocery stores are the only establishments that are exempt.

Rich Bott, President of Bott Radio Network, argues that this new regulation is a clear violation of First Amendment protections.

“This is outrageous on the part of the KC municipal government officials. They are treating churches the same as businesses for COVID contact tracing purposes,” Bott said to the Metro Voice. “This is a massive overreach violating the sanctity of churches and the privacy of their attendees.  This must not go unchallenged.”

In a recent letter to supporters, Liberty Council’s Staver declared that Kansas City’s actions constitute “attacks” on basic civil liberties.

“These attacks on our churches cannot stand. The backbone of our country relies on our constitutionally guaranteed ability to worship and serve our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,” Staver declared.

According to Liberty Council, churches are also compelled to hand over their “membership lists,” something the city government denies. Morgan Said, director of communications for Mayor Lucas, said that houses of worship must keep a list. That said, the possession and control of the information is still in their hands unless a health emergency comes about.

“We are not asking that churches provide a list immediately to the city,” Said highlighted. “Churches keep the list and only if a member tests positive, and that member attended a church function, would the church provide a list to the city.”

According to Said, the church or other religious institution only have to keep records for just 30 days, “Unless, God forbid, someone tests positive, the church can destroy the list.”

“Churches must abide by the 10/10/10 rule just like businesses and other organizations,” Said noted when talking about the capacity guidelines laid out by the regulation. “Church capacity is determined by the structure’s fire code limits.”

Metro Voice makes the claim that the guideline’s enforcement “will also be a tricky dilemma for authorities.”

The guidelines outlined what violations look like, “Violations of any provision of this Order constitutes an imminent threat, creates an immediate menace to public health, and shall be considered a violation of Section 50-155 of the City’s Code of Ordinances.”

The city asserts that it can fine churches and subject them to other penalties such as jail time for violations.

Liberty Council has multiple lawsuits on deck against governors who have “illegally and unconstitutionally fomented the arrests of pastors and launched attacks on the liberties of congregants.”

“I am running out of adjectives to describe how completely insane the tyrannical abuses launched by state governors and local officials against pastors and churches are becoming,” Staver with Liberty Council stated. “It is as if these leaders never bothered to so much as glance at the Constitution they swore to uphold and defend. They seem to be governing from some make-believe, dystopian viewpoint.”

We wish all the best for Liberty Council.

Public health crises are serious, but destroying civil liberties is not only immoral but also sub-optimal when dealing with a matter that really needs more of a targeted approach. America is a dynamic polity that can rely on civic institutions, market actors, and minimal government to handle a pandemic like the Wuhan virus.

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