OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A Ten Commandments monument on the Oklahoma Capitol grounds is a religious symbol and must be removed because it violates the state’s constitutional ban on using public property to benefit a religion, the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled Tuesday.
The court said the Ten Commandments chiseled into the 6-foot-tall granite monument, which was privately funded by a Republican legislator, are “obviously religious in nature and are an integral part of the Jewish and Christian faiths.”
The 7-2 ruling overturns a decision by a district court judge who determined the monument could stay. It prompted calls by a handful of Republican lawmakers for impeachment of the justices who said the monument must be removed.
Attorney General Scott Pruitt had argued that the monument was historical in nature and nearly identical to a Texas monument that was found constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court. The Oklahoma justices said the local monument violated the state’s constitution, not the U.S. Constitution.
“Quite simply, the Oklahoma Supreme Court got it wrong,” Pruitt said in a statement. “The court completely ignored the profound historical impact of the Ten Commandments on the foundation of Western law.”
Pruitt said his office would ask the court for a rehearing and that the monument will be allowed to stay until the court considers his request. Pruitt also suggested the provision in the Oklahoma Constitution that prohibits the use of public money for religious purposes may need to be repealed.
Ryan Kiesel, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma, which represented the plaintiffs in the case, said Pruitt’s suggestion and the calls for impeachment amounted to sour grapes.
“I think the idea that you go about amending the constitution every time you lose a court battle is a dangerous precedent for anyone to engage in, but in particular for the state’s highest attorney to do so,” Kiesel said. “And the calls for impeachment represent a fundamental misunderstanding of how an independent judiciary functions within our system of democratic government.”
Cub Scout Troop 766 got quite an eyeful last month at a California state park when the boys stumbled upon a nude beach during a nature hike.
“I was nauseated because I’ve never seen just a bunch of nude people walking around holding hands, strange people that I don’t know,” chaperone Diane Lekven told CBS 8 in San Diego.
The local television station reported there were dozens and dozens of buck-naked beach-goers on the “clothing optional” stretch of sand.
Mrs. Lekven said the pack master knew exactly where he was taking the boys.
“When I got up there I said, ‘Hey what are you doing? We’re in the middle of a nudist beach,’ He said, ‘this is a naturalist beach, and my family and I go through here all the time. It’s not that big of a deal.’”
Mrs. Lekven told the television station she got “really angry.” Later, she and her husband filed a complaint with the Boy Scouts.
The Boy Scouts released a statement admitting the Cub Scout pack had “encountered some individuals who were inappropriately dressed.”
And by inappropriately, they mean they weren’t dressed in anything except their birthday suits.
The Boy Scouts said the hike was “quickly rerouted to protect the youth.”
The San Diego Imperial Council and pack leadership determined the pack master did nothing wrong.
“Together we concluded that proper protocol had been observed and appropriate steps were taken in this matter,” the statement read.
But some parents still took issue with the fact their boys were taken to a beach filled with bare bottomed bathers.
“I don’t think it’s OK for somebody to not disclose that they’re going to put other people’s children in an environment like this,” she told the television station. “I think it’s wrong.”
“Accidents” like that could be one of the reasons why parents are pulling their sons out of the Boy Scouts. Last year there was a 7.4 percent decline in membership. In 2013 there was a six percent drop.
Meanwhile, a faith-friendly alternative to the Boy Scouts has grown by leaps and bounds since its creation in 2013.
Bible unburned in spite of fire. The Word will never lose it's power. Eglise Vie Abondante, Harobanda. Niamey, Niger. (Danette Childs)
Neal and Danette Childs knew they were in danger.
From their compound in Niger’s capital city they could see three churches burning. The smoke was filling their home.
“We immediately started packing a trunk, putting in our valuables, our documents, and we loaded up the car,” Neal told me. “There were concerns our family would be targeted.”
The Childs family had every reason to be alarmed. A rampaging mob was attacking Christian houses of worship, and Neal was the prominent leader of a Christian ministry in the mostly Muslim country.
“Our immediate response — there is that little bit of panic,” he said during a telephone conversation from the West African nation of Niger. “We were ready. We were on guard.”
It was Jan. 16 and by the week’s end Muslims had set fire to at least 45 churches and looted the homes of a number of Christian ministers. Ten people were killed. Followers of Christ fled for the lives.
The protests were over the cartoons lampooning the Prophet Muhammad that were published by the French magazine Charlie Hebdo.
The horrors of that weekend did not generate all that much press coverage. There were no solidarity marches for Niger’s tiny Christian community. There was no wall-to-wall cable news coverage. Nor could I find any mention of the burnings on the White House website.
The Associated Press account was a mere four paragraphs.
The New York Times published a dispatch from Reuters that appeared sympathetic to the mob. The story included quotes from a Muslim explaining why they were angry — but there were no quotes from the Christian victims.
Likewise, USA Today’s coverage lacked any commentary from pastors or priests. But they did find an imam who reminded the newspaper’s readers that the Islamic faith is peaceful.
“Don’t forget that Islam is against violence,” he told USA Today as the ruins of 45 Christian churches smoldered across the nation.
But the story of what really happened during that terrifying weekend deserves to be told. And it needs to be heard.
Neal and Danette Childs have been Christian missionaries in Niger since 1998. Neal oversees Reaching Unreached Nations, a ministry of 36 churches across the country.
Two of those churches were destroyed. The mob also attacked the parsonages — leaving two ministers and their families homeless.
“Both of their houses were burned and completely looted,” Neal told me. “One of our pastors lost everything.”
That pastor has a pregnant wife and three children. They are now living with Neal and his family.
But something rather remarkable happened when the mob attacked the other pastor’s house.
“While the mob was burning the front of the house, his neighbors came in through the back and they hauled out clothes and everything they could get through the back window,” Neal said.
The Christian pastor’s neighbors are Muslim.
“They helped to save the pastor’s property while the crazy mob was burning everything,” Neal said.
The following day Neal and his wife ventured outside to survey the ruins of the church house.
“It was still smoking and warm with ashes,” he told me. “As we were looking through the rubble my wife came across the Bible.”
The Bible was charred but not destroyed, and it caused a stirring in the hearts of the Christian couple.
“It was an emotional moment as you see your church in ashes,” Neal said.
Danette took a photograph of that Bible, and it ended up in the hands of Franklin Graham, the president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.
Graham posted the photograph of the Bible on his Facebook page, along with a sobering thought.
“Can you imagine the international outcry if this were the Koran?” he asked.
“I read that,” Neal told me. “That would be huge if it had been a Koran.”
Could you imagine the international outcry if Christians had burned 45 mosques?
But that’s not what happened in Niger. The Christian community did not retaliate. They did not respond with angry voices.
“That’s because we are people of mercy and grace and faith,” Neal told me. “We don’t react in the flesh and we don’t react out of anger.”
Indeed, Christian leaders in Niger held a press conference and announced they forgave those who burned down their churches.
“The church is recognizing this is something to be joyful over — the church and their faith have been proven,” Neal said. “Jesus said rejoice and be exceedingly glad when men persecute you, for great is your reward in heaven.”
The Muslim mobs may return, but that’s OK with Neal.
“We are preaching the Gospel and living as an example before the people,” he said. “It was demonstrated in our response. It is not our nature to be aggressive or violent. We forgive those that attack.”
Good words spoken by a man with a deep and abiding faith in our Lord.
And yet I still can’t seem to get over the image of that charred Bible found in the ashes of that church house. I’m reminded of a passage of Scripture from the Old Testament.
“The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.”
Julie retyped the message and the same red-lettered warning appeared.
“We together figured out that the word God was the problem,” Julie said.
Sure enough, when they removed the word “God” from the post – the Disney Channel approved Lilly’s message. And then – Julie contacted me.
So, I gave it a try, too. I tried posting what I was thankful for on the Disney Channel website.
And just like Lilly and Julie, Disney prevented me from posting any message that included the word “God.”
I reached out to Disney for an explanation. Their people tell me that God was not intentionally blocked from the channel’s website however at this point, they aren’t quite sure why it happened but they assured me they had a team working on it.
Julie is not very happy, though.
“I’m not at all anti-Disney but to shame a ten-year-old, to tell her to ‘please be nice’ for thanking god and sharing her faith with others is what is upsetting to me as a mother,” she said.
Disney certainly seems to be implying that thanking God is not nice. Well, neither is blocking the Almighty from a website.
Julie said her daughter is a very loving and accepting child who was raised to understand that not everyone believes in God.
“We’ve always told her that inevitably there would come a day when she would be discriminated against for her faith but we never thought Disney would be the source,” she said.
I do wonder what sort of message the Disney Channel is sending when they tell children that mentioning God in public is bad manners.
“I want my daughter, and all children of faith, to know that it is OK to share God and Jesus with their peers,” Julie told me. “I want her to know that she doesn’t have to be silent about her faith. I want her to be strong and soldier on.”
Well said, ma’am. Well said.
It sounds to me like the folks over at the Disney Channel have gone looney tunes.
The fine folks who run the school system in Lincoln, Nebraska are on a campaign to make their classrooms gender inclusive and that means teachers will no longer refer to boys and girls as boys and girls.
Instead, they want kids to be referred to as purple penguins. Educators tell the Lincoln Journal Star understanding transgender issues. They provided teachers with documents to help them deconstruct and reconstruct the notion of what constitutes a boy and what constitutes a girl.
They’ve also been told to ask kids if they have a preferred pronoun. Back when I was in school, teachers only asked if we went by our first name or middle name. But that was back in the Dark Ages when there were just two genders.
That, dear readers, is a glimpse into what they’re teaching kids in public schools these days.
While we’re on the subject, what’s a gender neutral term for morons?
Arkansas State University called an audible and decided to reverse its decision banning memorial crosses that football players had placed on their helmets to honor two fallen teammates.
The team had been ordered to either remove or modify the small cross decals, honoring former player Markel Owens and former team equipment manager Barry Weyer, following complaints that the cross violated the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
“It is the university’s position that any player who wishes to voluntarily place an NCAA-compliant sticker on their helmet to memorialize individuals will be able to do so,” the university announced in a letter.
Liberty Institute, a law firm that specializes in religious liberty issues, had given the university until Wednesday to reverse its decision or face a possible lawsuit. They represented one of the ASU football players.
“This is a great victory for the players of Arkansas State University,” said Hiram Sasser, director of litigation for Liberty Institute. “The university officials and the Arkansas Attorney General did the right thing restoring the religious liberty and free speech rights of the players to have the original cross sticker design if they so choose and we commend them for doing so.”
However, (and this is a big however), the university maintains they had a rock solid reason to ban the crosses in the first place. They denied they violated anyone’s constitutional rights.
The decals on the helmets “were not student speech,” ASU legal counsel Lucinda McDaniel wrote in a letter to Sasser. “Rather, the decals constituted government speech.”
The crosses drew the ire of a Jonesboro, Arkansas attorney along with the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a Wisconsin-based atheist group.
“The crosses appeared to confer State’s endorsement of religion, specifically Christianity,” the FFRF wrote. “The inclusion of the Latin cross on the helmets also excludes the 19 percent of the American population that is non-religious.”
The team had worn the cross decals for two football games – without any complaints. And to the best of my recollection, the decals did not spark a Billy Graham-style revival meeting nor did fans bombard the field during halftime seeking to be baptized.
To make matters even worse, perpetually offended FFRF co-presidents Annie Lauire Gaylor and Dan Barker went so far as to suggest alternative ways for the football players to mourn.
“Many teams around the country honor former teammates by putting that player’s number on their helmets or jerseys, or by wearing a black armband,” they wrote in a letter to the University. “Either of those options, or another symbolic gesture free from religion imagery, would be appropriate.”
Fearing a potential lawsuit, McDaniel suggested the cross be modified into a makeshift mathematical plus (+) sign — because apparently nothing says “In Memoriam” like applied mathematics.
Liberty Institute claimed the cross memorial was perfectly legal and had been designed by students. However, ASU said the design was in fact created by the head coach. The memorial was jointly approved by members of the team’s leadership council as well as members of the coaching staff — and paid for with public funds.
And here’s the biggest oops — the coaching staff did all that without consulting with the university’s legal department.
“When this was brought to the attention of ASU’s administrative and legal officials, the decals were modified so that they were a single, horizontal bar that continues to bear the initials of the former students,” McDaniel wrote. “This was done, of course, to avoid Establishment Clause concerns.”
In the university’s opinion, the memorial stickers were “officially sponsored.”
“At no time was it ever our intention to limit the free speech of our student-athletes,” McDaniel wrote. “The university strongly believes in the rights of our students to freely express their beliefs.”
Sasser concedes the coaching staff messed up. Nevertheless, he’s glad ASU is going to let the players honor their fallen teammates.
“The correct solution is for Arkansas State University to get out of the way and let players place the stickers on the helmets if they so choose,” he told me.
How sad, though, that we live in a nation where it is against the law for a university football coach to design a memorial that includes a religious icon.
To wrap things up in Jonesboro, Arkansas – the kids could have the stickers affixed to their helmets by Saturday’s game. And the university made it abundantly clear that not a single penny of public money will be used to fund the memorial.
“The display of these stickers will be totally voluntary and completely independent of university involvement,” McDaniel wrote. “The university will not procure the stickers, purchase them or affix them to the helmets.”
How about that for a bucket load of Grade A legalese?
While they’re at it, maybe they can procure a spine and affix it to some of those intellectual eggheads.
Pastor Daniel Ausbun and his familyPHOTO COURTESY OF DANIEL AUSBUN
YouTube has reversed its ban on Pastor Ausbun’s channel. YouTube sent the pastor a message telling him his account is once again active and operational. “After a review of your account, we have confirmed that your YouTube account is not in violation of our Terms of Service.” Click here to watch the sermon Pastor Ausbun’s preached on ISIS.
The pastor of a small-town Baptist church in Georgia says he got banned from YouTube after he posted video of a Sunday sermon he gave about the persecution of Christians in the Middle East.
On Aug. 24, Ausbun delivered a sermon about the Islamic State, terrorism, radical Islam and Christian persecution in the Middle East.
“So many people in the church had been asking about it,” the pastor told me. “This was almost more of an educational sermon.”
Based on a copy of his sermon notes, the pastor based his message on several New Testament verses – including Matthew 24:9. That verse reads: “Then they will hand you over for persecution, and they will kill you. You will be hated by all nations because of My name.”
Ausbun told his congregation that Middle Eastern Christians were given a choice to convert to Islam, pay a tax, leave immediately or face death. He also warned that ISIS is recruiting Westerners. He encouraged the church to pray for the Gospel message to advance despite terrorism and war.
About three-and-a-half years ago, Ausbun started a YouTube channel for church members who missed the Sunday service. Over the years, he posted dozens of sermon videos without a single problem – until Aug. 27.
“I received an email from YouTube telling me that my account had been terminated for violation of the terms of service and their community guidelines,” he said. “They actually terminated my entire account.”
Ausbun said he decided to read YouTube’s community guidelines, and that’s when he put two and two together. They thought his sermon amounted to hate speech.
YouTube clearly states that it doesn’t permit “hate speech” – and that includes “speech which attacks or demeans a group based on race or ethnic origin, religion” and so on and so forth.
“They didn’t tell me exactly why they terminated my account, but by default there was nothing else wrong,” Ausbun said. “It had to be hate speech.”
For the past week he’s been trying to reach someone at YouTube to explain what happened. So far, his calls have gone unreturned. I sent them a message, too. So far, no response.
“They didn’t like what I preached on,” Ausbun said. “I shared about radical Islam from a Christian perspective, and they consider that to be hate speech.”
I wish I could direct you to a link of the pastor’s message but YouTube deleted it. So, I can’t tell you verbatim what the pastor said. However, according to his sermon notes, there was nothing hateful about what he preached.
Ausbun concedes that YouTube can censor whatever videos it wishes. But he does wonder – what else is it banning?
YouTube came under a firestorm of criticism after ISIS was allowed to post a video showing the beheading of American journalist James Foley.
YouTube removed the video and explained its policy in a statement to the website Mediaite.
“YouTube has clear policies that prohibit content like gratuitous violence, hate speech and incitement to commit violent acts, and we remove videos violating these policies when flagged by our users,” the statement read. “We also terminate any account registered by a member of a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization and used in an official capacity to further its interests.”
To the best of anyone’s knowledge, the First Baptist Church in Moreland is not a foreign terrorist organization. The pastor says he simply wanted to inform his church about the threat posed by Islamic terrorists and pray for the victims of their Islamic slaughter. Is that hate speech?
“I’m literally terminated – like I’m the terrorist,” the pastor said.
Ausbun said what happened to him could happen to other American pastors under the guise of banning “hate speech.”
“Anything a pastor preaches on – whether it be radical Islam, homosexuality, the teachings of Jesus – YouTube can label that hate speech and censor their sermons,” he said.
The Georgia preacher said he decided to contact me because people need to be aware of YouTube’s censorship.
“ISIS is recruiting Americans to get trained over there, and we know what they are going to do,” he said. “They are not going to stay in Iraq and Syria. They’re coming back to our country.
Pastors should be speaking out on this. This is a grave concern to our Christian brothers and sisters who are literally dying for their faith, and it could affect our lives here.”
In the meantime, Pastor Ausbun has launched a new video channel – on Vimeo.
Kendra Turner was brought up right. She’s the kind of kid who says “yes sir” and “no ma’am.” She was “raised up right,” with good manners as they are prone to say around Dyersburg, Tennessee.
So it was not out of character for Kendra to say “bless you” after a fellow classmate sneezed. But that common courtesy landed the 18-year-old in hot water.
Kendra said she was rebuked by her teacher at Dyer County High School and thrown out of class for violating the teacher’s ban on the words “bless you.”
“She said that we’re not going to have godly speaking in her class and that’s when I said we have a constitutional right,” Turner told Memphis television station WMC.
Another student sent the television station a photo taken inside the teacher’s classroom showing a list of banned words. Among the censored words are “dump,” “stupid,” “my bad,” “hang out” and “bless you.”
She wrote about her incredible story on Facebook -– and as they say these days – the story went viral.
“I stood up and said, ‘My pastor said I have a constitutional right – 1st amendment freedom of speech,’” Kendra wrote on Facebook. “She said, ‘Not in my class you don’t.”
Kendra says she was tossed out of the class and sent to the principal’s office where things apparently went from bad to worse.
“The assistant principal said if I didn’t want to respect my teacher’s rules then maybe my pastor should teach me because my freedom (of) speech and religion does not work at their school,” she wrote.
As you might imagine the school has a very different take on what happened inside that classroom.
“We can’t discuss discipline issues because of right to privacy of students,” assistant principal Lynn Garner told the Dyersburg Gazette. “But I can say there are two sides to every story. Sometimes people spin things and turn them to make them seem one way.”
The assistant principal said Kendra was sent to In School Suspension as a matter of protocol. She was allowed to leave at the end of the class period.
“In this case, this was not a religious issue at all, but more of an issue the teacher felt was a distraction in her class,” Garner told the newspaper.
To be clear – the school would have us believe that a child telling a classmate “bless you” after a sneeze somehow caused a classroom commotion so severe it warranted a punishment? It’s a good thing Kendra didn’t offer her classmate a tissue.
Kendra’s pastor is among those not buying the school’s explanation and he’s taking a public stand in defense of the young girl.
“I believe this young lady,” said Steven Winegardner, the pastor of the Dyersburg First Assembly of God. “Everything she said took place.”
Winegardner told me he’s hoping students will lead a petition drive to force the school to overturn the classroom ban on the words “bless you.”
“Christians have been told to be quiet, to shut up,” he said. “It’s ridiculous. Everybody has a right to their beliefs. I’m glad Kendra stood up.”
Winegardener’s wife told WMC that the teacher had issues with other students using the words “bless you.”
“There were several students that were talking about this particular faculty member there that was very demeaning to them in regard to their faith,” she told the television station.
Every now and then a story will land on my desk that seems too outrageous to be true. And to be certain there are two very different versions of what happened in that classroom. But I’m prone to believe Kendra, too.
That’s because Tuesday, a school official tried to convince me this young lady was a trouble maker. They were clever with their words – but that was the impression I received.
That same school official told me there was no ban on the words “bless you.” But a classroom photograph proves otherwise.
They said she was not punished. But Kendra’s pastor saw the slip of paper that ordered her to In School Suspension.
For whatever reason, the school will not explain why the teacher has an issue with the words “bless you.” This one is a head-scratcher, folks. But one thing is clear – religious intolerance is nothing to sneeze at.
There is growing outrage among sailors and religious liberty advocates over adirective that calls for the removal of Bibles from lodges and hotels run on U.S. Navy bases. The directive comes after an atheist group filed a formal complaint earlier this year over the placement of Bibles in the rooms.
“The current direction is to remove all religious material from Navy Lodge guest rooms,” read an email to a Navy chaplain from The Navy Exchange Service Command (NEXCOM). “For those Navy Lodges with religious materials currently in guest rooms, the Navy Lodge General Manager will contact the Installation Chaplain’s office who will provide guidance on the removal procedure disposition of these materials.”
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The American Family Association received an exclusive copy of a similar directive from NEXCOM, the organization that manages the lodges.
“The Navy Lodge General Manager should advise the Installation Commanding Officer of our intention to work through the chaplain’s office to determine what installation policy is and the method to remove religious material currently in the guest rooms,” read a directive approved by Michael Bockelman, the vice president of NEXCOM and the director of the Navy Lodge Program.
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In other words, they’ve got to figure out a way to dispose of God’s Word.
I contacted NEXCOM spokesperson Kathleen Martin hoping to get the inside scoop. Yes or no — are Bibles being removed from Navy-run lodges? Martin dodged my question and to be quite frank, gave me the runaround. She refused, on numerous occasions, to explain the whereabouts of the lodge Bibles.
“Lodge managers are coordinating with base chaplains regarding the disposition of all religious material,” she said.
Martin said the directive will impact about 40 Navy lodges around the world.
“We looked at our policy — and realized there wasn’t a consistent policy regarding Navy Lodges,” she told me. “We decided we needed to have some consistency and be consistent with the Navy.”
I figured I would try one more time. Yes or no — will the Navy allow Bibles to be placed in Navy lodges? Martin refused to answer the question.
The order was hailed by the Freedom From Religious Foundation. The FFRF had filed a complaint with the military — claiming the presence of the Bible “amounts to a government endorsement of that religious text.”
“FFRF is pleased to learn that NEXCOM has taken seriously its constitutional obligation to remain neutral toward religion as a representative of our federal government,” FFRF Sam Grover told me. “By removing Bibles from Navy-run lodges, the Navy has taken a step to ensure that it is not sending the impermissible message that Christians are favored over guests with other religious beliefs or over those guests with no religion.”
The Bibles had been placed in the rooms, free of charge, by Gideons International.
An active duty service member contacted me and alerted me the Bibles were being taken out of hotel rooms and a lodge housekeeper told American Family Association the same thing.
“They told us to put them in boxes where they would be taken to a donation center somewhere,” the housekeeper told AFA.
The Navy even has a plan in the event, heaven forbid, a guest leaves behind their Bible.
“All religious materials left by a Navy Lodge guest, in the future, will be dealt with following established procedures for lost and found property,” the directive states.
FFRF said they were alerted to the Bible controversy by “two concerned service members.”
“One complainant noted that he ‘never saw a Book of Mormon or Koran’ in any Navy-run lodge,” read an FFRF letter to the Navy.
Mikey Weinstein, the president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, told me he was delighted to hear of the Navy’s directive. His organization has been trying for more than seven years to cleanse military hotel rooms of the Good Book.
“We are happy to see the military doing that,” Weinstein said. “For years we’ve been telling them those Bibles are a violation of the Establishment Clause.”
Ron Crews, executive director of the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty, blasted the Navy for removing the Bibles.
“This is just one more assault by military leaders against anything Christian,” Crews told me. “It’s getting tiresome to see senior military leaders cave in to those who appear to be offended by Christians, by Christian symbols and now by the Bible itself.”
Crews said there’s nothing wrong with allowing the Gideons to place Bibles in Navy lodges — at no cost to the Navy.
“Our military service men and women have every right to look at literature in hotel rooms — including the Scriptures,” he said.