July 2012

Billy Graham plans to ‘Eat Mor Chikin’

July 27 2012 by BR staff

With many media outlets covering the recent controversy over statements made by Chick-fil-A’s president, more people have begun publicly supporting the business.
Evangelist Billy Graham released a statement July 26 supporting Chick-fil-A and its stance on the traditional family.
“I want to express my support for my good friends Truett Cathy and his son Dan Cathy, and for their strong stand for the Christian faith,” Graham said in the release. “I’ve known their family for many years and have watched them grow Chick-fil-A into one of the best businesses in America while never compromising their values. Chick-fil-A serves each of its customers with excellence, and treats everyone like a neighbor. It’s easy to see why Chick-fil-A has become so popular across America.”
Graham declared his support for the traditional definition of marriage earlier this year as North Carolinians prepared to vote on the issue. That amendment, which defined marriage in the state’s constitution as being between a man and woman, passed May 8.
“Each generation faces different issues and challenges, but our standard must always be measured by God’s word,” Graham’s statement said. “I appreciate the Cathy family’s public support for God’s definition of marriage.”

Along with the support for traditional marriage, Graham indicated he will join with thousands of Americans in eating at a Chick-fil-A restaurant Aug. 1 for “Support Chick-fil-A Day.” Almost 270,000 people have indicated they are going to join Mike Huckabee, former presidential candidate and current host of “Huckabee” on the Fox News Channel. As some were calling for boycotts of the company, Huckabee challenged others to show their support for the organization.
“I also appreciate Governor Mike Huckabee’s leadership and for encouraging Americans to support Chick-fil-A on August 1,” Graham added in the statement. “As the son of a dairy farmer who milked many a cow, I plan to ‘Eat Mor Chikin’ and show my support by visiting Chick-fil-A next Wednesday.”
Dan Cathy, Chick-fil-A’s president, said the company was “guilty as charged” when asked about supporting the traditional family in a Biblical Recorder interview in June. The media storm grew larger when a June 16 radio program was spotlighted in which Cathy underscored the need for children to have a mom and a dad.
“We are very much supportive of the family – the biblical definition of the family unit,” said Cathy during his interview with the Recorder. “We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that.”

Related story
Experts: Politicians can't legally block Chick-fil-A
7/27/2012 1:01:02 PM by BR staff | with 0 comments

Experts: Politicians can’t legally block Chick-fil-A

July 27 2012 by Michael Foust, Baptist Press

CHICAGO – Attempts by Chicago and Boston politicians to block the opening of Chick-fil-A restaurants because of the company president’s views on marriage would be unconstitutional and also set a dangerous precedent for other businesses, say several attorneys.

Boston Mayor Thomas Menino and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel each have been quoted as saying they want to prevent Chick-fil-As from opening in their cities, with Menino declaring in a letter to Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy, “There is no place for discrimination on Boston’s Freedom Trail and no place for your company alongside it.” The Freedom Trail is a path through the city’s streets highlighting historic buildings. Emanuel voiced agreement with a Chicago alderman who also opposes a new Chick-fil-A, saying of the company, “They disrespect our fellow neighbors and residents.”

Menino and Emanuel backed off their statements Thursday (July 26) – with each saying they realize they constitutionally cannot block a restaurant from opening – but the Chicago alderman has not.

Cathy, in two interviews in recent weeks – including one in the Biblical Recorder that was reposted on Baptist Press – has said he believes in the biblical definition of marriage. The company issued a statement saying it treats every customer with “honor, dignity and respect” and that, “going forward,” it is going to stay out of the gay marriage debate.

David Cortman, an attorney with the legal group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), said a restaurant cannot be blocked from opening because of the restaurant’s or the owner’s beliefs.

“It absolutely is not constitutional,” Cortman told Baptist Press. “And I think the irony here is that they are claiming this is an issue of freedom and civil rights, but they’re actually the ones who would be violating the civil rights of Chick-fil-A not to allow them to open up their business simply because of their views.”

But the issue concerns more than just Chick-fil-A, Cortman said, and impacts any business or organization in America whose owners hold views different from that of the government. Boston and Chicago would be practicing viewpoint discrimination – a violation of the Constitution’s Free Speech clause, Cortman said.

“It does create both a dangerous and an illegal precedent,” Cortman said. “The government shouldn’t be in the business of threatening or punishing people for their thoughts or ideas – whether they are individuals or businesses themselves. And, there’s certainly a double standard. You did not hear a politician threatening to deny permits to companies like Home Depot or Starbucks or Target over those companies’ aggressive promotion of the homosexual agenda.”

Mat Staver, president of the legal group Liberty Counsel, said he, too, believes the attempts would be unconstitutional.

“No city can ban Chick-fil-A because the [company] president has his own view regarding marriage – a view that is held by much of the American public,” Staver told Fox News. “To discriminate against Mr. Cathy because of his biblical view and then to extrapolate that to Chick-fil-A is illegal. It would be unconstitutional and certainly any city trying to do so would not win that battle.”

Eugene Volokh, a law professor at UCLA, wrote on his blog, “Denying a private business permits because of such speech by its owner is a blatant First Amendment violation.”

The Chicago alderman who initially spoke up against Chick-fil-A, Joe Moreno, told local media he might simply block a proposed new Chick-fil-A in his ward because of traffic concerns. Moreno, though, previously said he opposed a new Chick-fil-A because it was “intolerant” and because he disagreed with Cathy. On Thursday (July 26) Moreno told WBEZ radio he wants an explicit guarantee from the potential local owners of the restaurant that they won’t donate to political causes. But that, too, apparently would be unconstitutional.

Cortman, the ADF attorney, said Moreno won’t legally be able to use a legitimate reason – traffic concerns – as cover for his previous comments.

“His true motivations already have been made public, so I think any attempt to backtrack to create what normally would be a legitimate reason wouldn’t work in this situation,” Cortman said.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) – which supports gay marriage – also said the politicians’ attempts would be unconstitutional.

The Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune and Boston Globe editorial boards – normally not sources of traditional beliefs – also have defended Chick-fil-A’s right to open restaurants.

“Which part of the First Amendment does Menino not understand?” a Globe editorial read July 25. “A business owner’s political or religious beliefs should not be a test for the worthiness of his or her application for a business license.”

The Chicago Tribune editorial board wrote, “We’re sure there are plenty of businesses in town run by people whose views are offensive to some. It’s not up to the mayor or the alderman to decide which opinions are appropriate.”

Meanwhile, support for Chick-fil-A continues to grow. Sign-ups for “Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day,” launched by Mike Huckabee, surged past 250,000 Thursday (July 26). The event will take place Wednesday, Aug. 1. (More information is available at www.ISupportChickFilA.com.)

Billy Graham also spoke up for the company Thursday.

Huckabee has said Chick-fil-A deserves support.

“Let’s affirm a business that operates on Christian principles and whose executives are willing to take a stand for the Godly values we espouse by simply showing up and eating at Chick-Fil-A on Wednesday, August 1,” he wrote on Facebook. “Too often, those on the left make corporate statements to show support for same sex marriage, abortion, or profanity, but if Christians affirm traditional values, we’re considered homophobic, fundamentalists, hate-mongers, and intolerant. This effort is not being launched by the Chick Fil-A company and no one from the company or family is involved in proposing or promoting it.”

“There’s no need for anyone to be angry or engage in a verbal battle,” Huckabee added. “Simply affirm appreciation for a company run by Christian principles by showing up on Wednesday, August 1 or by participating online – tweeting your support or sending a message on Facebook.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Michael Foust is associate editor of Baptist Press.)

Related story
Billy Graham plans to ‘Eat Mor Chickin’
7/27/2012 12:55:36 PM by Michael Foust, Baptist Press | with 1 comments

School supt.: Churches opposed to homosexuality not welcome

July 27 2012 by Todd Starnes/Fox News & Commentary

NEW YORK – The head of Miami-Dade County Public Schools wants to evict a Southern Baptist church that rents space in one of its buildings because of the congregation’s opposition to homosexuality.

Supt. Alberto Carvalho released a statement to a local television station alleging that Impact Miami’s opposition to homosexuality “appears to be contrary to school board policy as well as the basic principles of humanity.”

“I have asked for immediate legal review to seek the termination of the contract that is involved,” he told Local10.com. “I am making this decision not on the basis of policy or politics but as a rejection of prejudice and intolerance.”

The controversy surrounds Impact Miami, a new Southern Baptist church that is currently renting space inside North Miami High School for its Sunday worship services.

When President Obama announced that he supported gay marriage, Pastor Jack Hakimian preached two sermons explaining the biblical position on homosexuality.

One of the sermons was titled, “Gays and Sex Addicts Can Change and Should Change.” Another was titled, “Pedophiles Use the Same Argument as Homosexuals and the Weed Smoking Community.”

“The school board chair, as well as the superintendent, have both reviewed the allegations and found this disturbing and appalling,” school spokesman John Schuster told www.Local10.com.

Hakimian said he and his congregation have been unfairly labeled as bigots. He said they are facing eviction from their space simply because he preached that homosexuality is a sin.

“It’s about a message that homosexuality is a sin that God wants to redeem as all other sins,” he told Fox News.

The church pays nearly $1,500 a month to rent the high school facility, and Hakimian said “as taxpayers we have the right to assemble in public spaces.”

“I never thought I would be penalized for teaching on Christian marriage and sexual ethics from the Bible – the very Bible that presidents swear on,” he said.

Impact Miami is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention, the nation’s largest Protestant denomination. SBC President Fred Luter told Fox News that the controversy is a “sign of the times.”

“We’re living in a day and time when people are calling wrong right and they’re calling right wrong,” Luter said. “Any time a man of God stands up for the Words of God, I think we should expect opposition – simply because of the fact that God’s ways are not man’s ways.”

The possible eviction has enraged religious liberty groups – several of whom have already volunteered their services to defend the pastor and the church should they be thrown out of their meeting space.

“He has the right to be able to speak on Sunday from the Scriptures and speak about his viewpoint on human sexuality,” said Mat Staver, president of Liberty Counsel, a Christian legal group. “This is not someone who is advocating violence or some whacko that is extreme that would be a threat to society. This is a pastor who is speaking on issues from their own moral, political and biblical perspective.”

Staver told Fox News that he’s had a chance to review the pastor’s sermons and said the messages were in line with what millions of Americans believe.

“It is not contrary to humanity,” he said, refuting the school superintendent’s allegations. “It is absolutely outrageous that you would have a superintendent who would [think] along these lines.”

Staver added, “It’s serious for all of us. If we lose the right to free speech in this area – we lose it in every other area.”

Joel Oster, senior counsel with the Alliance Defending Freedom, told Fox News the U.S. Constitution is clear on matters regarding free speech.

“A school cannot be listening to sermons and then discriminate against the church based on the content of the sermons,” Oster said. “This church does have a constitutional right to use these facilities. Public schools cannot discriminate against religious use of their facilities based upon viewpoints – and that’s exactly what’s going on here.”

Andre Pierre, the mayor of North Miami, told Fox News he had concerns about the school board’s actions and wondered what kind of an impact it might have on other religious groups renting space.

“You cannot censor his speech,” Pierre said. “The school should stay out of it. Pastor Jack is paying rent. He’s not getting the space for free.”

The mayor said he believes the school board attorney will side with the church.

“I think he’ll come down on the right side – which is – you cannot censor freedom of speech,” Pierre said. “You have to respect the American principles and you have to uphold the Constitution.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Todd Starnes is host of Fox News & Commentary, heard daily on Fox News Radio stations around the nation. He is the author of “Dispatches From Bitter America” and “They Popped My Hood and Found Gravy on the Dipstick.” This article first appeared at www.toddstarnes.com. Used by permission.)
7/27/2012 12:50:01 PM by Todd Starnes/Fox News & Commentary | with 0 comments

Aurora churches kindle hope after the horror

July 26 2012 by Aaron Earls, Baptist Press

AURORA, Colo. – Almost as soon as the gunfire ceased in the Century Theater in Aurora, Colo., local churches began meeting the needs of the hurting in the community and their own congregations.

“I immediately felt the same anxiety that many others felt,” said Mitchell Hamilton, pastor of Mississippi Avenue Baptist Church, “as I considered the very real possibility that one of our members might be directly affected. My second thought was to get to the church and begin organizing a response.”

The church, located less than a mile from the scene of the shootings, opened its doors for prayer vigils and counseling. All of the church staff members have been involved, Hamilton said, and other counselors were brought in, including one who had ministered following the Columbine shooting.

During one counseling session, Hamilton was faced with a teary eyed 6-year-old girl asking why her cousin died.

“It was tough,” Hamilton said of talking with the little girl and her mother. “The mother came to our church because that was the first place she thought might could help her daughter.”

After sharing some about heaven and praying with the family, Hamilton scheduled an appointment for them later that day with a professional grief counselor.

While several people came by the church and received counseling, others simply wanted a place to mourn and pray.

Located less than a mile from the scene of the Aurora shooting, Mississippi Avenue Baptist Church has offered hope and comfort to the suburban Denver community.

“A young Marine came by in tears. He ran in and just wanted to go to the altar,” said Allie McNider, associate pastor at Mississippi Avenue. “We lost two local servicemen, and he was grieving for them.”

Besides providing on-site help for the community, the church has empowered their members to minister to those around them.

“We offered any resource they may have needed,” McNider said, “anything from counseling to a gift card for family members to eat at local restaurants while they are here.”

“This is the essence of Ephesians 4:11-12,” Hamilton said. “Our members were able to touch our community in ways the staff never could.”

Rose Lamb, a Mississippi Avenue member, has been helping a co-worker who lost her son.

“Parents are not supposed to bury their kids,” Lamb said.

While prayer was the most important need, Lamb said she and other co-workers have been able to meet some of their friend’s immediate needs of “food, hugs, errands and daily visits to the home for emotional support.”

While the church may not always have the answer to the “why” questions, Lamb said Christians “can offer comfort and support through listening, prayer and just being there for a hurting world. Just offering to pray with someone makes a huge impact. People remember that.”

For Lamb, reaching out to the hurting should be how believers respond during tragedies. “Bottom line,” she said, “it’s what Christians are called to do.”

Lamb said her friend needs prayer to have the strength to keep going and her community needs to regain a sense of security that was ripped away early Friday morning.

“Folks need to feel safe,” she said. “There are so many who are struggling. Even those that were there but got out safe, their minds and hearts will be forever scarred. The city needs emotional healing as well as physical healing.”

Despite the tragic events, both Lamb and Hamilton also expressed amazement at seeing God’s hand at work since the shooting and even during those tragic moments in the theater.

In the midst of the pain, Hamilton rejoiced that the gunman’s weapon jammed and that he was taken into custody without incident, allowing the police to discern that his apartment was rigged with explosives, preventing additional deaths.

Lamb has seen non-Christian friends attend Mississippi Avenue and Christians come together in prayer and support.

“There are incredible testimonies of believers who were in critical places to save and counsel the hurting,” Hamilton said, “and there are miraculous survival stories.”

Ryan Heller, pastor of The Edge Church, a Southern Baptist church plant in Aurora, experienced one of those stories as he discovered that one of his members was among the 58 wounded.

Pierce O’Farrill told Dave Delozier of NBC 9 News that he and a friend were only a few feet from the gunman when he first unleashed his torrent of bullets. O’Farrill and his friend were hit and fell to the ground.

As he lay motionless on the floor unable to attempt an escape due to his gunshot wounds, O’Farrill heard the shooter walk toward him, stopping only six inches from him.

“He was literally standing directly above me, and I could feel his boot right next to my head,” O’Farrill said. “I just had my face down on the ground and stayed as still as I possibly could, and I prayed and prayed. He fired off a couple more rounds and then he left.”

As soon as they realized one of their own was one of the victims, The Edge Church began to minister to O’Farrill.

“Our whole staff has really been involved in encouraging him,” Heller said. “Lots of our people are visiting and loving on him. Kids from our children’s ministry made him get well cards. We visited him in the hospital and joined hands in prayer over him and his family.”

While O’Farrill will be sharing his story with his church family on Sunday, he has, in the words of his pastor, “stirred a national debate on forgiveness” after he told national media figures that he forgives the accused gunman.

The media exposure has allowed church members like O’Farrill and pastors like Hamilton to share their message personally with reporters and media personnel.

“We became very intentional to share the love of Christ and the gospel with each member of the press we met,” Hamilton said. “I had one videographer, with tears, tell me that he had never had anyone pray for him.”

Since the shooting, Mississippi Avenue has had more than 10 media outlets on the campus.

“God has allowed us to tell His story of hope to the world through the media,” McNider said. “This is a very small window. Next week, we could not pay them to come through our doors.”

However, through this tragedy, McNider feels that they were “able to show them a side of church they may not have experienced. From statements they made, they saw the true spirit of the living God through His people.”

Bob Ryan, team leader for the Denver-area Mile High Baptist Association, was clearly moved when speaking about the response of the area pastors and churches. “I’m so proud of my pastors,” Ryan said.

Ryan recalled the string of tragedies that have occurred in and around the Denver metro area, beginning with the shooting at Columbine High School in 1999. He said these tragedies pose a danger to churches and Christians.

“You can become desensitized to pain and calloused to the hurting around you, but our pastors have not done that,” Ryan said. “They have responded with brokenness and responded with hope.”

Speaking of the Aurora tragedy along with the deaths of 14 in a recent truck accident in Texas, Ryan said Christians must always weep with the weeping and never stop being shocked at such events.

Mike Edlund, executive director of the Colorado Baptist General Convention, found the events hit “very close to home,” as his daughter and son-in-law live near the theater and she works at University Hospital, where many victims were taken after the shooting.

Edlund said that despite the vivid reminder of the fallenness of this world, a responsibility exists for Christians. “We have the message of hope that must be shared with our state,” Edlund said.

Hope was the theme that so many stressed as a community began seeking to move beyond this tragedy.

“The world will move on quickly,” McNider said, “but this is only a mile from here. We will have to drive past that theater as we travel around Aurora. That makes it more difficult to move on, but we will move on. We have to get up and proclaim the message of hope in the midst of what the world would say is hopeless.”

The church must be about “sharing hope in darkness,” Ryan said. “This Sunday, there will be a lot of talk about pain, and in a way that helps, but there will also be talk of hope.”

Hamilton had a similar message.

“We will continue to encourage our community,” he said. “As time moves forward, we will continue to give a message of hope. It is quite obvious that God is here and touching lives.”

McNider echoed these sentiments saying, “God will see us through this. He is beginning to give us the strength to put one foot in front of the other.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE  – Aaron Earls is a writer based in Wake Forest, N.C. With additional reporting by Amber Cassady, Colorado Baptist General Convention correspondent.)
7/26/2012 2:27:06 PM by Aaron Earls, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

‘Chick-fil-A Day’ sign-up tops 175,000

July 26 2012 by Michael Foust, Baptist Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – More than 175,000 people have signed up so far to take part in Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day Aug. 1, despite the fact that Facebook workers may have censored the event page for about 12 hours Tuesday.

Mike Huckabee launched the idea for a Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day over the weekend, saying he was “incensed” at the “vitriolic assaults” that have been made at company president Dan Cathy for affirming a biblical definition of marriage. Cathy made the comments to the Biblical Recorder in a story re-posted by Baptist Press, and he also discussed the issue in a radio interview.

On Tuesday, a Facebook sign-up page that Huckabee had launched suddenly disappeared, leaving him and others wondering what had happened. Huckabee posted a note saying he had asked Facebook “to look into this,” and about 12 hours later the page reappeared.

“We caught a 12-hour bug, apparently it hits when large numbers of Christians support something and post about it on Facebook!” he wrote, about midnight.

Huckabee went a step further July 25, saying Facebook had censored the page for a short time.

“Yesterday, Facebook decided to censor and delete the entire event page, and it was down for over 12 hours until they finally decided that maybe that wasn’t really smart,” Huckabee said.

He noted that during those 12 hours, Facebook had left up a webpage sponsored by gay activists promoting a “national same-sex kiss day” at Chick-fil-A Aug. 3. (About 4,700 have signed up for that event.)

“But they were censoring one that said simply, ‘Go and buy a chicken sandwich,’” Huckabee said.

As part of Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day Aug. 1, Huckabee is asking supporters to visit the restaurant or speak up for it via social media. (More information is available at www.ISupportChickFilA.com.)

Meanwhile, a handful of city politicians continue to speak out against the restaurant chain. Boston Mayor Thomas Menino was the first to say he would try and block a Chick-fil-A from opening in his city, and a Chicago alderman, Joe Moreno, followed by saying he opposes a Chick-fil-A opening in his area. Chick-fil-A wants to open a restaurant in Moreno’s ward, which would be its second store in the city, the Chicago Tribune reported. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel agreed with Moreno, alleging of Chick-fil-A in a Politico.com article, “They disrespect our fellow neighbors and residents.”

But Chick-fil-A has received support in some surprising corners. The Los Angeles Times editorial board – which supports gay marriage – said it is wrong for politicians to block construction of the restaurants. The editorial was written before Chicago’s politicians joined the mix.

“Menino suggested that it would be appropriate to block the chain from opening in Boston because Cathy’s views amount to discrimination,” the editorial read. “That would rightly apply if Chick-fil-A were to refuse service to gay customers; the city has a right and an obligation to prevent discriminatory actions against its residents and visitors. But there’s no evidence that any such thing has occurred. ... It was the freedom to express politically unpopular views and to oppose such views that the Founding Fathers fought to establish.”

Family Research Council President Tony Perkins asked rhetorically on Twitter, “Could you imagine the outrage if a mayor in TX decided to block a Starbucks from opening in her town b/c of their support of SSM [same-sex marriage]?”

Business, though, appears to be booming at Chick-fil-As. About 200 people were camping out in Forest Hill, Md., Wednesday, waiting for the newest Chick-fil-A in the area to open, according to the Baltimore Sun. The first 100 customers were set to receive free meals for a year.

The company issued a statement July 19 telling its customers that “going forward, our intent is to leave the policy debate over same-sex marriage to the government and political arena” and that its tradition is “to treat every person with honor, dignity and respect – regardless of their belief, race, creed, sexual orientation or gender.” It also noted that it has applied “biblically-based principles” to business management and will continue to do so. There are more than 1,600 Chick-fil-A restaurants nationwide.

Chick-fil-A continues to receive the most heat on the issue despite the fact that other companies have taken the exact opposite position, with little media attention. For example, the same week the Chick-fil-A controversy broke, the video gaming company Electronic Arts (EA) signed onto a legal brief opposing the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman. Just this year, General Mills, Target, JC Penney and Nabisco all have taken actions in support of gay marriage.

Huckabee said the goal of the Aug. 1 event is “simple.”

“Let’s affirm a business that operates on Christian principles and whose executives are willing to take a stand for the Godly values we espouse by simply showing up and eating at Chick-Fil-A on Wednesday, August 1,” he wrote on Facebook. “Too often, those on the left make corporate statements to show support for same sex marriage, abortion, or profanity, but if Christians affirm traditional values, we’re considered homophobic, fundamentalists, hate-mongers, and intolerant. This effort is not being launched by the Chick Fil-A company and no one from the company or family is involved in proposing or promoting it.

“There’s no need for anyone to be angry or engage in a verbal battle,” Huckabee added. “Simply affirm appreciation for a company run by Christian principles by showing up on Wednesday, August 1 or by participating online – tweeting your support or sending a message on Facebook.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Michael Foust is associate editor of Baptist Press.)

Related story
Seminary to support ‘Chick-fil-A Day’ Aug. 1
7/26/2012 2:16:49 PM by Michael Foust, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Seminary to support ‘Chick-fil-A Day’ Aug. 1

July 26 2012 by Keith Collier, Baptist Press

 FORT WORTH, Texas – Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary will be buying chicken sandwiches for faculty, staff and students on Aug. 1 to show its support for Chick-Fil-A as part of a nationwide initiative launched by former presidential candidate and Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.

Beginning at 11:30 a.m. Central time, the Fort Worth seminary expects to purchase more than 200 sandwiches at the local Chick-fil-A in Fort Worth.

In light of harsh criticism and calls for boycotts of the company after Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy recently stood for the biblical definition of marriage, Huckabee is urging people to visit the restaurant on Aug. 1 for “Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day.” Huckabee, who was honored as a distinguished alumnus by Southwestern Seminary in June, created the website ISupportChickfilA.com where people can “RSVP” that they intend to participate Aug. 1. More than 125,000 have signed up.

“No one is being asked to make signs, speeches, or openly demonstrate,” Huckabee wrote on the site. “The goal is simple: Let’s affirm a business that operates on Christian principles and whose executives are willing to take a stand for the Godly values we espouse by simply showing up and eating at Chick-Fil-A on Wednesday, August 1.”

Southwestern Seminary, an entity of the Southern Baptist Convention, is one of the largest seminaries in the world with more than 3,500 students, faculty and staff. The seminary affirms the biblical definition of marriage and is in full agreement with the Southern Baptist statement of faith, The Baptist Faith & Message 2000, which says in its article on the family: “Marriage is the uniting of one man and one woman in covenant commitment for a lifetime.” Additionally, the seminary’s administration supports Cathy’s First Amendment rights.

“Southwestern Seminary wants to encourage Chick-Fil-A’s support of the traditional family and the First Amendment right of Dan Cathy to live out his religious beliefs,” said Thomas White, the seminary’s vice president for student services and communications. “We gladly partner with organizations like Chick-fil-A who take a stand for faith, and we will also be providing all of our students with Chick-Fil-A sandwiches during our all-campus picnic in September.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Keith Collier is director of news and information for Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, swbts.edu/campusnews/.)

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‘Chick-fil-A Day’ sign-up tops 175,000
7/26/2012 2:13:50 PM by Keith Collier, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

For Planned Parenthood, bad news becoming commonplace

July 26 2012 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

WASHINGTON – There’s good news and bad news for Planned Parenthood.

The good news is the Obama administration continues to go out of its way to funnel money to the country’s No. 1 abortion provider.

The bad news is Planned Parenthood can’t stop scandals and negative reports from reaching at least some of the American public. For instance:

– A 24-year-old woman died July 20 after undergoing an abortion at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Chicago, according to the CBS television affiliate in that city.

– Sue Thayer, a former Planned Parenthood clinic director, has charged the abortion giant’s Iowa affiliate with filing nearly 500,000 false Medicaid claims over a seven-year period, according to a federal lawsuit unsealed July 9.

– The North Carolina legislature voted July 2 to override Gov. Bev Perdue’s veto and defund Planned Parenthood and other private family planning providers.
– Another investigation by the pro-life organization Live Action has shown Planned Parenthood employees in four states – Hawaii, New York, North Carolina and Texas – on undercover videos released in late May and June seeking to help women who indicated they wanted sex-selection abortions.

– The U.S. Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected a Planned Parenthood legal challenge July 24 when it upheld a South Dakota provision requiring pregnant women to be informed that an increased risk of suicide may accompany an abortion and thereby affirmed all of the state’s informed consent law.

Such reports, however, do not seem to have done much to tarnish the perspective Americans generally have of Planned Parenthood, a pro-life leader says.

Planned Parenthood’s “public image, unfortunately, is still good,” said Carol Tobias, president of the National Right to Life Committee. While pro-life advocates learn about Planned Parenthood’s negative news through pro-life blogs and websites, those reports do not appear to have made much of an inroad in wider society, she said.

“I don’t know that the general public is that familiar with what is happening, so I don’t know that it’s really impacting yet what the general public thinks of Planned Parenthood,” Tobias told Baptist Press July 23.

And the scandalous and even lethal news about Planned Parenthood has not prevented the Obama administration from coming to the rescue of its affiliates that have lost local or state funds. Twice already in July, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has announced grants to Planned Parenthood entities that have experienced cuts in government funding.

HHS gave $3.1 million to Planned Parenthood affiliates and other family planning organizations in New Jersey, it was announced July 10. The federal government action came after Gov. Chris Christie vetoed a bill that would have restored $7.5 million in state funding to Planned Parenthood and the other groups.

Planned Parenthood Greater Memphis (Tenn.) received a HHS grant worth nearly $1.2 million over three years, The Tennessean newspaper reported July 5. The federal government intervened after the Tennessee legislature eliminated more than $700,000 in state funds for the Memphis Planned Parenthood affiliate and Shelby County transferred a nearly $400,000 family planning contract to another entity.

Last year, New Hampshire barred six clinics of Planned Parenthood of Northern New Hampshire from receiving $1.8 million in federal and state family planning funds, but the Obama administration granted a $1 million contract to the organization three months later.

“The President’s loyalty to Planned Parenthood – the nation’s largest abortion business and his top political ally – knows no limits,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List, in a written statement after the HHS grant to New Jersey clinics.

The pro-life effort to expose and defund Planned Parenthood faces serious disadvantages, Tobias said.

“This is an organization that has an annual income of more than $1 billion, almost half of that coming from federal, state and local grants and contracts,” she told BP. “They’re not going to go down easily. They are going to be fighting tooth and nail to hang on, to keep getting those government, taxpayer funds. Unfortunately, this is going to be a big battle.”

An administration that is willing to circumvent state funding decisions on Planned Parenthood and similar organizations leaves pro-lifers with one option, Tobias said.

“The only way we will be able to stop that is to put someone else in the White House,” she said. “As long as President Obama and his administration have executive branch authority, they will continue to fund the nation’s largest abortion provider – regardless of what the citizens want.”

In the latest reported death following an abortion, Tonya Reaves, 24, died at a Chicago area hospital from a hemorrhage following a dilation and evacuation abortion, according to the medical examiner’s office, Channel 2, the CBS affiliate, reported. A dilation and evacuation abortion typically takes place in the second trimester of a pregnancy and normally involves the use of a suction tube and/or forceps to remove the unborn child’s body in pieces.

Reaves was taken from Loop Health Center Planned Parenthood to Northwestern Memorial Hospital, according to the pro-life activist organization Operation Rescue.

Carole Brite, president of Planned Parenthood Illinois, said her organization was “shocked and saddened upon learning of a tragic development at a nearby hospital. Our hearts go out to the loved ones of this patient.”

Day Gardner, president of the National Black Pro-life Union, also expressed her sympathy to Reaves’ family and friends, adding, “It is so heartbreaking and tragic that this young woman believed the continuous lies of Planned Parenthood [which state] that abortions are perfectly safe. ... I am so sad and angry about the death of this beautiful black girl and her baby.”

Federal family planning funds may not be used for the performance of abortions. But pro-life advocates point out that government grants free up other funds for use in Planned Parenthood’s abortion business.

Planned Parenthood’s national organization, the Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA), and its affiliates received $487.4 million in government grants, contracts and reimbursements in 2009-10, the most recent year for which statistics are available.

That money helps support an organization with clinics that performed 329,445 abortions in 2010. That was more than one-fourth of the lethal procedures in the United States for the year.

Various scandals have plagued Planned Parenthood in recent years, and it is currently the target of a congressional investigation.

Rep. Cliff Stearns, R.-Fla., who is leading the probe by the House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee, has requested Planned Parenthood audits, documentation, policies and procedures regarding such issues as improper billing, segregation of federal funds from abortion services and reporting of suspected sex abuse and human trafficking.

Hidden camera investigations conducted by Live Action have uncovered Planned Parenthood workers demonstrating a willingness to aid self-professed sex traffickers whose prostitutes supposedly are in their early teens and seeking to cover up alleged child sex abuse.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.)
7/26/2012 2:07:18 PM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Poll: Minn. marriage amend. up 52-37 percent

July 26 2012 by Baptist Press

ST. PAUL – A proposed constitutional amendment in Minnesota that would define marriage as between one man and one woman is enjoying a 15-point lead, according to a new poll.
The amendment, which will be on the ballot in November, leads by a margin of 52-37 percent, according to the SurveyUSA poll, which was conducted July 17-19 among 552 likely voters for KSTP-TV.

The proposed amendment reads simply, “Only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Minnesota.” It would prevent gay marriage from being legalized by state judges, as has happened in Massachusetts and two other states. There currently is a lawsuit in Minnesota seeking to legalize gay marriage.
“This shows what we've always believed – our opponents have the cultural elite, wealthy contributors and editorial writers, but we have voters on our side,” said John Helmberger, chairman of Minnesota for Marriage (minnesotaformarriage.com), the group promoting the amendment. “We are particularly pleased with the lead the amendment enjoys among Independent voters and the large percentage of Democratic voters who support the amendment.”

Seventy-five percent of Republicans, 38 percent of Democrats and 48 percent of Independents support the amendment, according to the survey.
The poll contrasts with a Public Policy Polling (PPP) survey done May 31-June 3 that found registered voters (not likely voters) opposing the amendment, 49-43 percent.

The SurveyUSA and PPP surveys used similar language in their polls. SurveyUSA asked, “An amendment to the Minnesota Constitution on the ballot defines marriage as between one man and one woman. Will you vote for the amendment? Against the amendment?” The PPP poll asked, “Should the Minnesota Constitution be amended to provide that only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Minnesota?”

Thirty states have constitutional amendments defining marriage as between a man and a woman.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by Michael Foust, associate editor of Baptist Press.)
7/26/2012 1:59:41 PM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Church and family connect

July 25 2012 by Brian Upshaw, BSC Congregational Services

I have been involved with ministry to families in one role or another for over 20 years. For the last 13 of those years, I’ve also been a father.
Ironically, the twin roles of pastor and father collided for me when my kids were preschoolers.
At the time I was an associate pastor responsible for discipleship and education ministries at a county seat, First Baptist Church.
As a student of the Bible I knew that scripture was clear that my God-ordained responsibility as a dad was to make disciples of my son and daughter (see Deuteronomy 6:1-9 and Psalm 78:5-8 for starters).

Yet as a minister I realized that the programs I was planning and leading for children and youth had little to do with helping parents know how to disciple their kids.
It’s not that the church programs I was leading were hostile to parents. Instead, these programs did not address the role of parents as disciple-makers.
The church programs relied on parents to be volunteers, workers, chaperones, and chauffeurs, but not necessarily disciplers.
Over the years I have realized that I am not alone in this tension between church and family.
I am encouraged that many voices are emerging and calling churches to be more intentional in encouraging and equipping parents in discipleship at home.

NAMB photo by Jim Whitmer

In his book, The Legacy Path, Southern Baptist pastor Brian Haynes comments, “for a very long time parents have depended on children’s pastors or youth pastors to disciple their kids.
“This is a great partnership but it does not take the place of parent-to-child faith training.”
I am convinced that a dearth of family discipleship exists in large part as an unintended consequence of our stellar church programming for youth and children, which is relegating parents to the backseat when it comes to delivering faith to our children. Notice I said “unintended consequence.”
We are, as it were, victims of our own success when it comes to ministry to children and youth.
We have given parents a “drop-off” mentality in which they perceive their role in spiritual formation ends when the child is transported to the church.
Because we value the role of parents and churches in family discipleship, the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina has launched a ministry called “Church and Family Connect.”
The cornerstone of this ministry to date has been the Church and Family Connect Podcast featuring authors like Brian Haynes and other significant voices who are leading this movement for more intentional family discipleship. Also available is the Church and Family Connect seminar.
The seminar is a two- or three-hour workshop that can be customized for your church to specifically address the needs of parents, church leaders, or preferably the whole church to talk about how to make disciples of the next generation.
Coming this fall, we will offer a family discipleship survey that will help churches assess the state of discipleship in the homes of their members.
One of the questions I am frequently asked is, “Who is doing this well in North Carolina?”
In the current episode of the podcast, we begin to answer that question. Recently, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Pastor Michael Barrett and the pastoral staff of Pleasant Garden Baptist Church in Pleasant Garden.
In the July and August podcast episodes they share the journey that they have been on in transitioning to a more intentional partnership with parents.
You can listen to the podcast and learn more about Church and Family Connect by visiting our website, www.ChurchAndFamilyNC.org.
For more information or to schedule a Church and Family Connect seminar contact us by email at bupshaw@ncbaptist.org or by calling (800) 395-5102, ext. 5635.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Brian Upshaw is church ministry team leader for the Baptist State Convention of N.C.’s Congregational Services.)
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7/25/2012 2:33:13 PM by Brian Upshaw, BSC Congregational Services | with 0 comments

Critics: State fumbled China trafficking rating

July 25 2012 by Baptist Press

WASHINGTON – The U.S. State Department’s refusal to categorize China as one of the world’s worst countries at combating human trafficking continues to receive criticism.

In its annual Trafficking in Persons Report, the State Department again placed the communist power on the Tier 2 Watch List instead of dropping it to Tier 3, the designation reserved for governments that fall short of standards established by U.S. law and are not making meaningful attempts to reach them.

A spokeswoman for a leading anti-trafficking organization told a Senate committee July 17 the ranking for China and other countries was based on “political considerations.”

“There are a handful of countries on the Tier II Watch List for the second year right now, including China, Russia, and Uzbekistan[,] that certainly do not meet the Tier II standard,” said Holly Burkhalter of International Justice Mission (IJM) in written testimony prepared for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “But the State Department because of political considerations unrelated to trafficking may feel that they should be moved up to Tier II.”

While Burkhalter commended the quality of the State Department report as “very high,” she told the panel, “[P]olitical considerations occasionally erode the ranking system.”

The report, which was released June 19, ranked 185 countries on their efforts against slavery. The State Department analyzes governments regarding “prevention, protection and prosecution,” said Luis CdeBaca, ambassador at large of the State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons.

It is estimated between 21 to 27 million people worldwide are victims of human trafficking, which involves such forced activities as prostitution and other forms of sexual exploitation, labor in sweatshops and on farms and child service in the military. Sex trafficking includes the abduction or coercion of women for prostitution, as well as the sexual exploitation of minors by “tourists” from other countries.

Some members of Congress criticized the State Department’s handling of China even more sharply than IJM’s Burkhalter when the report was released.

“China has remained on the ‘Watch List’ for eight years now, evading a downgrade to Tier 3 – and sanctions – by stringing this president along with empty promises,” said Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., who drafted the original federal law to combat trafficking in 2000 and also authored subsequent laws that strengthened it.

“China was granted a waiver last year because its government allegedly had a ‘written plan that, if implemented, would constitute a significant effort to bring itself into compliance with the minimum standards’ and it was allegedly ‘devoting sufficient resources to implement that plan’ – it is the exact same story this year, except ... we still do not know the contents of the plan and its release has been postponed yet again,” Smith said in a written statement. “Where are the results? When will the Administration say that enough is enough?

“Our obligation is to the victims of trafficking, not the dictatorship,” Smith said.

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., chair of the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a written release she was “extremely skeptical” about China receiving a waiver to stay on the Tier II Watch List, “where it has been parked for the past 8 years. Real progress, not paper promises, should be required to keep abusive regimes from receiving deserved Tier 3 designations.”

In its report on China, the State Department said it was “unclear what efforts” Beijing made to protect victims and reported the government “made minimal efforts” regarding prevention of trafficking.

Last year, a provision went into effect that limits countries to two years on the Tier 2 Watch List before being demoted to Tier 3, unless the secretary of State grants a waiver. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has issued such a waiver for China the last two years. The secretary can issue a waiver for only two consecutive years. Afterward, the country must go to either Tier 2 or Tier 3.

While China evaded Tier 3 status, 17 countries did not – including Algeria, Cuba, Eritrea, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria and Zimbabwe. Under the law, the United States may refuse aid that is not humanitarian or trade-related to governments on Tier 3.

In addition to China, Russia and Uzbekistan, the Tier 2 Watch List’s 42 countries this year included Afghanistan, the Bahamas, Belarus, Burma, Cyprus, Ecuador, Haiti, Iraq, Jamaica, Kenya, Lebanon, South Sudan, Thailand and Venezuela.

The Tier 2 Watch List is for governments that fall short of the minimum standards required by U.S. law but are making significant attempts to achieve them. Watch List countries also have sizable numbers of trafficking victims, have provided no evidence of greater efforts against trafficking or have made commitments to improve their work.

Tier 2, which is different from the Tier 2 Watch List consists of governments that have made important attempts to comply, has 93 countries, including Argentina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Chile, Egypt, Ethiopia, Greece, Guatemala, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Japan, Jordan, Laos, Mexico, Nepal, Pakistan, Peru, the Philippines, Portugal, Romania, South Africa, Switzerland, Turkey, Uganda, Ukraine and Vietnam.

The 33 Tier 1 countries that fully comply with the standards included Australia, Canada, Colombia, Croatia, Denmark, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Ireland, Israel, Italy, the Netherlands, Nicaragua, Poland, South Korea, Spain, Taiwan, the United Kingdom and the United States.

It is estimated as many as 17,500 people are trafficked into the United States each year.

Twenty-nine countries gained upgrades to higher tiers in the latest report, which “could mean enacting strong laws, stepping up their investigations and prosecutions, or simply laying out a roadmap of steps they will take to respond,” Clinton said upon the report’s release.

The report showed increases in some important categories: Prosecutions increased from about 6,000 in the 2011 report to more than 7,900 in the new report; convictions grew from 3,619 to 3,969, and victims identified escalated from about 33,000 to 42,000.

Burkhalter is IJM’s vice president for government relations.

The trafficking report may be accessed at the State Department’s website, state.gov/g/tip.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by Tom Strode, Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.)
7/25/2012 2:29:29 PM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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