March 2017

Alabama lawmaker wants to nix marriage licenses

March 28 2017 by Kiley Crossland, WORLD News Service

Alabama is considering a law that would abolish marriage licenses in the state.
The proposed bill, sponsored by Republican state Sen. Greg Albritton, amends Alabama law to remove any requirement that couples obtain marriage licenses or have marriage ceremonies.
Albritton said the law would protect the religious liberty of probate judges and clergy who have moral objections to signing same-sex marriage licenses while also avoiding likely litigation.
“It keeps the state from making the decision of who can and cannot get married,” Albritton said. “It prevents the state from that gatekeeper position.”
Instead, under the proposed bill, couples would file signed affidavits with a probate judge, who would be required to record, but not authorize or condone, marriages. The notarized affidavit would ask each party to declare they were old enough to marry, not currently married, not related and voluntarily desire to marry. The bill also would remove any requirement that a ceremony take place.
Some conservative opponents argue the bill threatens the sanctity of marriage. Two Republican state senators spoke against the bill during the Senate hearing, arguing the state should have a role in authorizing marriage and that removing marriage licenses and ceremony requirements would reduce marriage to a contract between two parties.
“To take it and reduce it to a contractual arrangement like a mortgage or a deed feels a little concerning,” Republican Sen. Phil Williams said during debate.
But Albritton maintained the “state does not make things sacred.”
He said his goal with the bill was simply to resolve a judicial controversy. Eight Alabama counties still refuse to issue marriage licenses since the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage.
“I am not changing marriage. I am not changing the definition of marriage,” Albritton said. “The courts have already decided, both local state courts and federal courts. … I am just changing the procedure.”
The bill cleared the Alabama Senate by a vote of 22-6 earlier this month and is awaiting a hearing in the House Judiciary Committee.
This is the fourth time Albritton has introduced the bill since a federal judge struck down an Alabama law defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman in early 2015. Albritton’s bills have always cleared the Senate but failed in the House.
During a special session in September 2015, the bill came up for a vote before the whole House of Representatives. A majority of representatives voted for it, but it failed because it did not get the two-thirds majority required to pass in the special session.
Albritton said he anticipated the bill would pass out of the House Judiciary Committee and hoped it would get a vote before the whole House this session.
Alabama will be the first state with such a law if the bill passes. Oklahoma tried and failed to pass a similar measure in 2015.
But Albritton says this is not a new idea: “I am only going back to the way we were doing things about 100 years ago,” he said, noting that until Alabama initiated marriage licenses in the early 20th century, marriages were conducted and then recorded in the probate office, exactly as his bill would require.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Kiley Crossland writes for WORLD News Service, a division of WORLD Magazine,, based in Asheville. Used with permission.)

3/28/2017 9:15:27 AM by Kiley Crossland, WORLD News Service | with 0 comments

Volunteers needed for Crossover

March 28 2017 by Tobin Perry, NAMB

The goal of this year’s Crossover is to “Engage Phoenix with the Gospel” through a partnership with Harvest America.

NAMB graphic

North American Mission Board (NAMB) and Arizona Southern Baptist Convention leaders are praying for more than 5,000 salvation decisions through this summer’s Crossover activities prior to the 2017 SBC annual meeting in Phoenix.
But for that to happen, they need the help of Southern Baptists to come and serve as volunteers, according to Eddy Pearson, evangelism director for the Arizona Southern Baptist Convention.
This year’s Crossover efforts will center on a June 11 Harvest Crusade led by Greg Laurie. Prior to that, organizers need volunteers to help local churches conduct door-to-door visitation across Phoenix, engaging residents in gospel conversations and extending personal invitations to attend the crusade.
“We can’t do this if Southern Baptists don’t show up,” Pearson said. “We are not having the typical 50 or more block parties [for Crossover], but we are focusing on inviting the community to Harvest America and sharing the gospel as the Lord provides opportunities.”
Pearson said they need 4,000 to 6,000 volunteers to fully staff the evangelistic outreach event. Many of those volunteers will come from Arizona churches – both Southern Baptist and other churches – but not all of them will.
In addition to Friday night training and Saturday outreach, volunteers will participate in a variety of roles at the Harvest Crusade on Sunday evening, including decision follow-up workers, prayer support, security and ushers. Volunteers must sign up through the Harvest Crusade online portal (see below). Once they sign up, they will receive instructions for training in preparation for the crusade.
Organizers hope more than 50,000 attendees will participate in the crusade. Pearson says Harvest Crusades typically see 8 to 10 percent of attendees make professions of faith.
The crusade will be simulcast online and include a gospel message by Laurie and music by top-name Christian artists, including Needtobreathe, Trip Lee and Phil Wickham. According to the event’s website, the crusade will focus on “bringing the cross over into people’s lives.”
More than 100 Southern Baptist seminary students will take part in on-the-ground evangelism in the area around the crusade the week prior to the event. Pearson hopes these students will invite 20,000 homes to the crusade during the week.
The crusade marks one of the most significant shifts in the history of the Crossover outreach efforts. Crossover began with an Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) resolution in 1983 that urged Southern Baptists to plan an evangelistic outreach to coincide with the 1989 annual meeting in Las Vegas. Since that year Southern Baptists have annually led city-wide evangelistic celebrations in the host cities of the SBC annual meeting. Co-sponsored by the North American Mission Board and the local SBC association, the event has typically included local church outreaches like block parties and service projects. June 2017 will mark the 29th consecutive year Southern Baptists have hosted Crossover events.
“I think people see the great potential of this crusade,” said Joel Southerland, NAMB’s executive director of evangelism. “In years past we’d have 300, 400, or 500 people come to faith in Christ. With this crusade, we could have 4,000, 5,000 or 6,000 people come to faith in Christ.”
Greg Laurie, who serves as senior pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, Calif., has been leading Harvest Crusades since 1990. More than 5.7 million people have attended Harvest Crusades since that time.
Those who come to faith through this summer’s crusade will be connected to local churches for follow up. Each participating local church will have a follow-up coordinator who will lead the congregation’s follow-up efforts.
Every person who makes a commitment to Christ will be connected with a person to pray and follow up with them that night. They will receive a new believer’s Bible and a copy of their commitment to Christ.
The Harvest America team will process all the decisions that night and mail the information to churches the next morning. Once local churches receive the information, they will follow up with new believers through e-mail, a phone call and possibly a visit.
Monty Patton, who serves as NAMB’s city missionary for Phoenix, says the spiritual need is significant in Phoenix. According to the North American Mission Board, only 12.6 percent of Phoenix residents are affiliated with evangelical churches.
Patton says that new church plants in the central and west sides of the city are particularly excited about the potential of new believers coming into the congregations through the event.
“Phoenix has not seen this kind of crusade or a gathering of like-minded churches since I’ve been here,” Patton said. “It’ll be great.”
North Phoenix Baptist Church will host a “Day of Evangelism” on June 9 at 7 p.m. to help train Christians in evangelism and prepare them for the June 10 evangelistic blitz of the city preceding the next day’s crusade.
Pearson asks that Southern Baptists would pray that “God’s Spirit would permeate the city of Phoenix.”
“Pray that we have boldness,” Pearson added. “Pray that we share about this where we live, work and play.”
For information about volunteering for the Sunday crusade, visit For information about outreach opportunities on Friday and Saturday, visit
For more information about Crossover and how you and your church can be involved, visit
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tobin Perry writes for the North American Mission Board.)

3/28/2017 9:14:52 AM by Tobin Perry, NAMB | with 0 comments

Assisted suicide bills faring poorly in 2017

March 28 2017 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Bills that would legalize assisted suicide have failed to advance in eight of 24 states considering them this year, with pro-life victories in Hawaii and New Mexico drawing media focus.
No state has passed assisted-suicide legislation thus far in 2017 after 2016 saw Colorado and the District of Columbia legalize the practice and California enact a bill passed the previous year.
Assisted-suicide bills “have done very poorly” this year, said Rita Marker, executive director of the Patients Rights Council (PRC), a group that opposes assisted suicide. “That has been a shock to those who are in favor of it because they thought that all of the sudden the dam had burst and everything would happen for them.”
Legislation to legalize assisted suicide looks to have suffered final defeat this year in Indiana, Mississippi, New Mexico and Tennessee, Marker told Baptist Press. Bills have failed to advance but could be brought back up in Hawaii, Maryland, Utah and Wyoming, she said.
Legislation is pending in Alaska, Arizona, Connecticut, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, according to the PRC website.
Marker said assisted-suicide proponents introduce legislation annually in states unlikely to pass it because they regard the ensuing debate as an opportunity to win support for their cause.
In Hawaii, a House of Representatives committee decided March 23 by unanimous consent not to advance a proposal that would have allowed doctors to prescribe lethal drugs the same day a patient was diagnosed as terminally ill.
Rep. Della Au Bellati, chair of the House Committee on Health, said assisted suicide has divided the state, according to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Other lawmakers said the legislation under consideration was flawed and couldn’t be fixed before this year’s legislative session ends in May.
Eva Andrade, president of the Hawaii Family Forum, wrote in a blog post that Hawaiians should “say a prayer of thanksgiving” while remaining vigilant in their opposition.
“Although this may seem like the battle is over, please be advised that the battle is not over until the last day of session,” Andrade wrote. “And even then, the bill is still alive for next session. Even now, proponents are most likely regrouping to see what they can do to keep the bill alive for this session.”
New Mexico lawmakers made news March 15 when the state senate voted 22-20 against a bill that would have legalized assisted suicide for those expected to die within six months, The Santa Fe New Mexican reported. Seven Democrats joined 15 Republicans in the vote.
Dauneen Dolce, executive director of the Right to Life Committee of New Mexico, told the American Family Association’s One News Now that similar legislation likely will be introduced next year because the vote was so close.
Assisted suicide opponents must remain “actively involved in some way,” Dolce said, by “educating yourself, or giving support to the organizations that are educating others, or [being] involved in the political arena. If you don’t do that, you are handing over our state [and] our laws, and the culture of death will come to us – and that’ll be from apathy.”
Marker echoed the call for continued vigilance, noting the importance of talking with neighbors about the dangers of legalizing physician-assisted suicide. She added that those who oppose assisted suicide must work together across ideological and political party lines.
“Those who are promoting [assisted suicide] want to make it seem as though the only people who oppose this are doing so out of religious opposition or right to life [advocacy],” Marker said.
“That’s not true. In fact, some of the most effective [assisted-suicide opponents] are from the disability rights community.”
In all, 36 states and the District of Columbia have considered assisted suicide bills since 1994, according to PRC data. Physician-assisted suicide is legal in California, Colorado, Montana, Oregon, Vermont and Washington state.
A LifeWay Research survey last year found 67 percent of Americans believe it is morally acceptable for terminally ill patients to ask their doctors for help in ending their lives.
At least four Southern Baptist Convention resolutions have opposed assisted suicide since 1992. Most recently, a 2015 resolution “on the sanctity of human life” noted the legalization of “physician-assisted suicide in several states” and “affirm[ed] the dignity and sanctity of human life at all stages of development, from conception to natural death.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

3/28/2017 9:14:26 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Canada harvesting the organs of euthanasia patients

March 28 2017 by Samantha Gobba, WORLD News Service

A recent push in Canada to encourage euthanasia patients to donate their organs appears to be working.
In Ontario, the first province to report data, 26 people who died by lethal injection decided to donate tissue or organs since the Medical Aid in Dying Act (MAID) came into effect last June, according to the National Post. A total of 388 people have chosen to die by lethal injection in Ontario, over half of the 744 total Canadians who have been euthanized.
Proponents of linking organ harvesting to euthanasia point to the shortage of organ transplants readily available and the lower cost associated with euthanasia than with end-of-life care.
Canadian ethicists Julie Allard and Marie-Chantal Fortin encouraged the joining of euthanasia with organ harvesting in an article in December’s Journal of Medical Ethics.
But even supporters acknowledge the potential unintended consequences. Allard and Fortin warned in their article that encouraging organ harvesting could put pressure on those diagnosed with terminal illness to consider assisted suicide as an alternative sense of purpose.
Jennifer Chandler, professor of policy and ethics at the University of Ottawa, said linking euthanasia with organ harvesting “might create pressure to continue with the MAID” and make it hard for terminally ill people to change their minds about taking their lives.
“The people in the euthanasia lobby want people to think of it as a social good,” Alex Schadenberg, director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, said. Once people accept euthanasia, the logical next step is organ harvesting, Schadenberg noted. He pointed to the worldwide push for organ harvesting not hours or minutes after someone’s heart stops, but while their heart is still beating.
The practice – which supporters argue will allow the organ to better graft into recipient – is being considered in Belgium and is legal in the Netherlands if patients are brain-damaged and their death seems imminent.
“This is the future in the dark world of euthanasia that we have – euthanasia by organ donation,” Schadenberg said.
He added that this should come as no surprise: “The horrible thing is that we’re killing people. That is absolutely devastating to our culture. But the fact that you’re doing organ donation with it too, is only a natural outcome of the concept of killing people.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Samantha Gobba writes for WORLD News Service, a division of WORLD Magazine,, based in Asheville. Used with permission.)

3/28/2017 9:13:47 AM by Samantha Gobba, WORLD News Service | with 0 comments

Year after Pakistan Easter bombing, suffering lingers

March 28 2017 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Families are still struggling a year after a suicide bomber killed more than 70 people and injured hundreds others in an attack targeting Christians at Easter in Lahore, Pakistan, International Christian Concern (ICC) noted on the event’s March 27 anniversary.

BP file photo
March 27 marks the first anniversary of the deadly suicide bombing that targeted Christians during an Easter celebration in Lahore, Pakistan.

At least 21 Christians were killed and 45 Christians injured when an Islamic State terrorist denoted a suicide vest, killing an estimated 75 people and injuring about 340 others during an evening Easter celebration in a public park.
“The Easter day bombing left me alone,” Tariq, a bombing survivor who was injured and lost his brother in the blast, told ICC. “My brother always supported me in difficult times; however, after his death I was extremely depressed.” Added Tariq’s sister Sumbal, “I will never forget my brother.”
The 3.9 million Christians who comprise only two percent of Pakistan’s population continue to live in danger in the country that Open Doors ranks as number four of its 2017 World Watch List noting the most severe persecution of Christians.
“Pakistan continues to be a deadly country for Christians to live and practice their faith,” ICC Regional Manager William Stark said in a press release. “Christians not only face deadly attacks … but they must also endure social discrimination and blasphemy laws.”
The anniversary comes at a heightened period of terrorism against various sectors of Pakistani society, with half a dozen bombings one week in February alone killing more than 125 and injuring several hundred, the Washington Post reported Feb. 18. In the most deadly February attack, at least 88 were killed and 250 injured during a religious gathering in the courtyard of a Sufi Muslim shrine in southeastern Sindh province, the Post said.
In response to the series of attacks, the Pakistani government placed security forces on high alert and pledged to “liquidate” all terrorists, the Post said. More than 100 suspected Islamist militants were hunted down and killed, authorities reported. But Pakistani citizens have accused the government of complacency.
In the Easter 2016 bombing, many of the victims were women and children, as the suicide bomber detonated at least eight kilograms of explosives near the children’s swings in Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park, Morning Star News said after the tragedy.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)

3/28/2017 9:13:19 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Friends, foes debate Gorsuch; Democrats to filibuster

March 27 2017 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

Proponents and opponents voiced their opinions of U.S. Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch on the final day of his hearing – the same day the Senate’s Democratic leader announced he would try to block a confirmation vote.

Neil Gorsuch

After three days of appearances before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Gorsuch was followed by witnesses who urged panel members either to vote for or against his confirmation. Among the witnesses were a religious freedom expert who endorsed Gorsuch’s confirmation and abortion and gay rights advocates who urged his rejection.
Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., the minority leader, took to the floor of the Senate March 23 to say he would vote against Gorsuch and lead a filibuster effort to prevent the judge’s confirmation.
“My vote will be ‘no,’ and I urge my colleagues to do the same,” Schumer told senators. “He will have to earn 60 votes for confirmation.
“I say if this nominee cannot earn 60 votes ... the answer isn’t to change the rules. It’s to change the nominee.”
The Judiciary Committee is expected to vote April 3 to send Gorsuch’s nomination to the full Senate, but it remains to be seen whether the 52 Republican senators can persuade at least eight Democrats to join in overcoming a filibuster. Sixty votes will be required to halt a filibuster and bring Gorsuch’s nomination to the floor for a confirmation vote. If the GOP falls short, it can still take the controversial step of holding a vote to change the rules and confirm Gorsuch by a simple majority.
Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., responded by saying Schumer and the Democrats “have no reason to try to mount a filibuster.”
“Judge Gorsuch has an impressive record of interpreting the law without trying to legislate from the bench,” said Lankford, a Southern Baptist, in a written statement. “Adherence to the rule of law, refusal to legislate from the bench and dedication to the separation of powers are not extreme ideas. However, filibustering a Supreme Court nomination is.”
Schumer’s filibuster pledge came after Gorsuch patiently explained his judicial philosophy and defended his record during two full days of answering questions from 20 committee members. Gorsuch espouses originalism and textualism – interpreting the Constitution based on its original meaning and laws based on their text, respectively.
Southern Baptist legal and policy specialist Travis Wussow described Gorsuch’s hearings as “nothing short of remarkable.”
“We were encouraged by Judge Gorsuch’s responses and feel confident based on those responses and his record that he will be a powerful voice advancing a conservative jurisprudence on the Supreme Court,” Wussow, general counsel and vice president for public policy of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), said in written comments for Baptist Press. “We now look for the Senate to do its job and confirm Judge Gorsuch to the Court, using the full extent of its constitutional authority if necessary.”
During the March 23 witness testimonies, Hannah Smith – senior counsel at Becket, a leading defender of free exercise for all religious adherents – said she reviewed all 40 religious liberty opinions involving Gorsuch, who has served on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver more than 10 years.
“My assessment is that Judge Gorsuch, as an associate justice of the Supreme Court, would be a jurist committed to protecting this vital freedom,” Smith told the committee. “None of his religious liberty opinions has ever been reversed by the Supreme Court.”
Gorsuch “has demonstrated repeatedly that he applies the law fairly to protect religious minorities and incarcerated persons, some of the most politically powerless in our society,” she said, citing his rulings in support of Native American and Muslim prisoners.
His record consistently shows Gorsuch rules “without regard to a particular ideological outcome,” Smith said. “His jurisprudence demonstrates an even-handed application of the principle that religious liberty is fundamental to freedom and to human dignity and that protecting the religious rights of others, even the rights of those with whom we may disagree, ultimately leads to greater protections for all of our rights.”
A gay rights legal specialist, however, told the senators Gorsuch “cannot be given a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court.”
Sarah Warbelow, legal director of the Human Rights Campaign, said Gorsuch “has employed a dangerous brand of originalism that ignores the essential context and values of each case and the lives that they touch. His record and statements place him squarely in the mold of Justice Antonin Scalia, who consistently demeaned and denied the dignity of LGBTQ [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer] people from the bench.”
Scalia – whose death in January 2016 resulted in the vacancy that Gorsuch will fill if confirmed – was well-known as a proponent of originalism.
Warbelow criticized Gorsuch for his ruling against a man who transitioned into being a woman and was terminated from his job because he refused to use the men’s restroom.
“We need a justice who recognizes our basic equality and shared humanity,” Warbelow said. “Judge Gorsuch has never met this bar, and that’s why the Human Rights Campaign opposes his nomination to the Supreme Court.”
Though Gorsuch has yet to rule on abortion, Amy Hagstrom Miller of Whole Woman’s Health, told the senators the judge’s “positions raise concerns about his ability to be open-minded, fair and guided by the Constitution, and not his own ideology or personal beliefs.”
Miller – founder and chief executive officer of the group of clinics that performs abortions – said, “We need justices on the bench who oppose unnecessary obstacles to our constitutional rights. Neil Gorsuch is not that judge.”
Whole Woman’s Health, which last year won an important Supreme Court case involving regulations on abortion clinics and doctors in Texas, has joined 54 other organizations in a letter opposing Gorsuch, Miller said.
The ERLC sponsored a letter Feb. 1 in which more than 50 Southern Baptist and other evangelical leaders called for confirmation of Gorsuch. The signers said they believe Gorsuch’s judicial philosophy meets the thresholds of their “core social principles.” Those precepts include in the Supreme Court’s purview “the protection of the unborn, the strengthening of religious liberty, and a dedication to human flourishing – which we believe can only be accomplished by a biblical definition of marriage and family,” they said.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)

3/27/2017 10:52:54 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Student sues school over girl in boys’ locker room

March 27 2017 by Bonnie Pritchett, WORLD News Service

A high school junior is suing his Boyertown, Pa., school district after administrators told him he could either “tolerate” having a biological female share his locker room or withdraw and be homeschooled.
The lawsuit filed March 21 in federal court calls on the district to rescind its secretly implemented policy granting transgender students access to the private facilities of their choice.
Without notifying parents or students, administrators at Boyertown Area School District initiated the policy midway through last semester. The complainant, cited as Joel Doe in court documents, knew nothing about the plan when he began changing clothes for PE class in October. Undressed to his underwear, Doe realized a female student – wearing only shorts and a bra – was in the locker room with him.
“Humiliated” and “embarrassed,” he and several other classmates notified Assistant Principal Wayne Foley after class, according to the lawsuit. Foley allegedly told the male students to “tolerate” the situation and make changing in front of a female as “natural” as possible.
“There is a level of egregious, callous disregard for the students,” said Randy Wenger, the Alliance Defending Freedom-affiliated attorney representing the unidentified male student and his parents.
Doe’s parents, listed as John and Jane Doe, filed the lawsuit on behalf of their minor child. Foley, Principal Brett Cooper, and Superintendent Richard Faidley are co-defendants in the case. The district has until April 4 to respond.
“We are committed and confident that working together we can reach a satisfactory resolution that is consistent with our mission ‘to enable all students to succeed in a changing world,’” Faidley said in a press release issued today.
Faidley reasserted the district’s commitment to the transgender policy, which he claims complies with “the law of the land,” and said the district is seeking guidance from the State Department of Education, the administration and school board.
In another recent Pennsylvania case, three male students who identify as female sued a school district for access to the girls’ restrooms. The judge ordered the district to allow open access to school restrooms while the lawsuit proceeds.
Wenger said that case is still pending, not precedent-setting, and not applicable to Boyertown, which involves locker rooms, not restrooms.
The Boyertown plaintiffs asked administrators to rescind their policy because it violated their son’s privacy and Pennsylvania state law requiring sex-segregated facilities on all school campuses. According to the lawsuit, Cooper said “he would not do anything because Joel Doe can simply change in the nurse’s office from now on if he does not want to change around people of the opposite sex.”
Wenger did not know whether the transgender student had been offered the same accommodation in order to avoid any conflict associated with using the boys’ locker room. But transgender advocates have refused similar suggestions in other cases, calling them discriminatory and a violation of the transgender students’ rights.
Following the locker room incident, Doe avoided using the boys’ restrooms all day for fear of encountering the female student. He also took a failing grade in PE class for each day he refused to dress out. Changing clothes in the nurse’s office did not remedy the situation because he still had to enter the boys’ locker room to store his clothes.
“Now he and the other boys are left without a boy’s room,” Wenger said.
Following multiple meetings with district officials, the Doe family was told “that the school was no longer going to discuss this issue with them or any parents,” according to the lawsuit. And Faidley allegedly told the parents that if using the nurse’s bathroom was not acceptable to their son, “he could just withdraw from school and be homeschooled.”
And that, Wenger claims, is a violation of Title IX. Typically used to defend women’s educational pursuits in publicly funded schools, the federal statute also protects teenage boys pushed from their designated sex-specific private spaces by a policy accommodating a student of the opposite sex. Last year, the Obama administration directed schools to interpret protections in Title IX to include gender identity. The Trump administration rescinded that directive last month.
Even without federal support, Wenger said local school districts continue to do “the wrong thing” by forcing students into untenable situations that push moral and social boundaries surrounding intimacy and personal privacy.
“The adults are putting these kids in a place where standing up to this is awkward,” he said, noting his client and the lawsuit are the talk of the school. “It’s hard enough to do school. Who wants to be that person everybody is talking about?”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Bonnie Pritchett writes for WORLD News Service, a part of the WORLD News Group, based in Asheville. Used with permission.)

3/27/2017 10:42:58 AM by Bonnie Pritchett, WORLD News Service | with 0 comments

SWBTS launches Center for Early Christian Studies

March 27 2017 by Alex Sibley, SWBTS

Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS) has launched a new center dedicated to the study of the ancient church – the Southwestern Center for Early Christian Studies (SCECS).

The seminary has a long history of research and publications in early Christianity, but now it meets with a heightened focus. A new website, special lectures, patristic reading groups, regular graduate and postgraduate seminars and a group of faculty and students dedicated to researching the early church will all be features of the new initiative.
“In recent years, evangelicalism and early Christianity have been intersecting in new and exciting ways,” said Stephen Presley, the center’s director and associate professor of church history at Southwestern.
“Every month, it seems there are conferences surveying the life and thought of the early church, seminars retrieving early Christian thought or new publications engaging the early Christian world. As an institution, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary is uniquely positioned to have an important voice in these conversations.”

Through its website – – the center “aims to facilitate concentrated research and teaching in early Christianity that recovers important theological voices of the past,” Presley said.

Stephen Presley

“This website will be a clearinghouse for patristics resources,” he said. “The features of the website will include discussions of current research in patristics, news about events and conferences related to the early church, regular updates about resources for early Christian studies, interviews and lectures on topics related to the study of the early church and much more.”
Southwestern’s patristics scholars – including Presley; D. Jeffrey Bingham, dean of the seminary’s school of theology; executive vice president and provost Craig Blaising; assistant professor of systematic and historical theology Dongsun Cho; and President Paige Patterson – have a range of specializations and research interests in the early church, including various doctrinal, hermeneutical, archaeological, cultural/historical and philosophical topics.
The confluence of these interests, Presley said, “will strengthen the contribution of the SCECS and help make Southwestern an exciting place to study early Christianity.”
The center will uphold Southwestern’s mission, vision and values by equipping students and ministers to make important contributions to the field of early Christian studies and recover the significant theological voices of the early church. In addition, the center will support local churches through providing resources for pastors and laypeople who want to learn more about early Christian life and thought.
“We are excited about this new initiative and the prospects it holds for future research and teaching at the seminary,” Presley said. “For any prospective students or researchers in early Christianity, I encourage you to check out our website and subscribe for regular updates.
“Most of all, through the work of the center, we will strive to read more old books and, in the words of [C.S.] Lewis, ‘keep the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through our minds.’”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Alex Sibley is associate director of news and information at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.)

3/27/2017 10:34:18 AM by Alex Sibley, SWBTS | with 0 comments

Court hears ACLU challenge to Kentucky ultrasound law

March 27 2017 by Tom Latek, Kentucky Today

A federal judge didn’t immediately rule after hearing arguments seeking a temporary restraining order against Kentucky’s new law requiring women seeking abortions to have a chance to see ultrasound images and hear a description of the images.

Steve Pitt, general counsel for Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin, is leading the defense of Kentucky’s ultrasound law.

U.S. District Judge David Hale is considering whether to grant the request from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) to block the law pending the outcome of the ACLU’s overall challenge to its constitutionality.
After the day-long hearing on March 23, Hale gave attorneys additional time to file supplemental briefs before rendering his decision.
The ACLU filed the suit shortly after Gov. Matt Bevin signed the legislation into law in early January. Bevin said at the time the law was constitutionally sound and would stand up to scrutiny in the courts.
Bevin’s general counsel, Steve Pitt, has taken the lead in defending the law, saying it is intended to provide women with information they need to make a better informed decision about whether to have an abortion.
Steve Pitt, general counsel for Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin, is leading the defense of Kentucky’s ultrasound law.
Proponents of the law believe that if a women gets to see their unborn babies they will likely opt against having abortions.
Pitt was the only attorney to speak in defense of the new law in the hearing. While Attorney General Andy Beshear sent attorneys to Louisville, they sat silently throughout.
The ACLU had estimated the hearing would last two days but Hale said he intended to finish it in one, and did so, working through the lunch hour.
In court documents, the ACLU contends the law forces physicians “to deliver a government-mandated, ideological message to patients in violation of the First Amendment, all the while causing harm to their patients.”
“It also compels women to listen to this government-mandated speech while lying captive on the examination table,” ACLU attorneys said in the lawsuit.
The ACLU filed the lawsuit on behalf of EMW Women’s Center in Louisville, its staff and patients and three physicians and their patients.
The law requires abortion providers to display the ultrasound images so the women can look at them if they want to. However, they have the option not to look.
The law provides penalties of up to $100,000 against doctors and other medical professionals for first offenses and up to $250,000 for subsequent offenses. Doctors also would be reported to the state licensure board for possible disciplinary action.
Kentucky lawmakers passed two new abortion laws in the first week of this year’s legislative session. The other, which bans abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, has not been challenged in court.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Latek is the Frankfort bureau reporter for Kentucky Today,, an online news resource of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.)

3/27/2017 10:27:04 AM by Tom Latek, Kentucky Today | with 0 comments

Each Thursday, they ramp up their ministry

March 27 2017 by Scott Barkley, The Christian Index

For those with trouble getting a step ahead, this group of men provides a way up.

Photo by Richard Eckler
Among First Baptist Church’s ramp building team are (from left) Jim Stevens, Sam Pagett, Asbury Dunn, Robert Whitworth, Kyle Branan and Bill Palmer.

Richard Eckler experienced it himself. Having undergone eight knee surgeries, including two replacements, he knew what it was like having trouble getting around.
However, he healed. In fact, he moves well enough now that he’s helped construct more than 120 accessibility ramps since 2014 for homes in Elbert County, Ga., as part of Elberton First Baptist Church’s ramp building team.
People need the ramps for different reasons. They’ve grown older. They lost a foot to diabetes. They had a life-altering surgery akin to Eckler’s. Whatever the case, a basic set of steps out their front door becomes a danger.
“We’d been building ramps for church members and others for a few years, then the Rotary Club asked if we could take on their requests [for ramps],” Eckler recounted. The number of those needing a ramp grew from there, as individuals and local churches also heard of the ministry.
The ramp building team consists of 16 men, most in their 60s and 70s, with one member in his 80s.
“It’s a lot of fun,” Eckler said. “We pick at each other while building and have a lot of fellowship and camaraderie.”
And even though they’re retired, they keep busy. Thursdays have been designated for their projects. Generally, around 10 members show up.

Photo by Richard Eckler
When smaller ramps such as this one are requested, First Baptist Church’s ramp building team can sometimes build two in one day.

“Our goal is to start at 8 in the morning and finish in time for lunch at Wendy’s,” Eckler laughed.
On the serious side, Eckler, whose 32-year teaching career included 27 at Elbert County High School, said, “It amazes me how there are so many people living on the edge” from what he’s learned through pre-construction visits at a potential work site. His group can’t keep up with the demand; so, while trying to take the requests as they’re received, time and need also factor in. For instance, the beneficiary of one ramp had her completion date moved up because of knee and hip replacement surgery.
“Some just can’t get in and out of the house. They’re held hostage by their own homes,” said Eckler, who teaches a Sunday School class at First Baptist. “It breaks your heart that someone who’s worked hard all their life and paid for their home and property can’t even leave.
“We’ve had instances where people had to crawl from their house to the car. That should not be.”
Ramps are built according to specifications in the American Disability Act and funded largely by donations, like the man who recently gave Eckler a $100 bill when told about the ramp building team. A lady donates an entire dividend check she receives periodically. As one who had received a ramp, she wanted to pay it forward.
Other ramp recipients donate what they can, maybe $10, but it’s not expected of them to do so. Lake Russell Building Supply in Elberton provides a sharp enough discount that basically the company provides the materials for every seventh ramp, Eckler said.
The finished product provides its own witness to others, he added.
“Neighbors will come over and ask how much [the ramp] costs. We’ll say it was free or from donations. We’ve been blessed by the Lord and want to bless others. We’ll hand out Bibles donated by other churches. Donations come in from churches whose members we’ve built ramps for.”
Eckler’s own prior hurdles have helped get the word out. Going through those knee surgeries led to a lot of time with physical therapists. When those same therapists now have a patient needing a ramp, they know whom to suggest. Soon for that patient, the challenge of simply trying to make it through the front door doesn’t loom so large.
“The recipients sometimes cry. They can’t believe how nice the ramps look, especially if we’ve replaced an old ramp that had fallen into disrepair,” Eckler said. “They’re very emotional and appreciative.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Scott Barkley is production editor for The Christian Index,, newsjournal of the Georgia Baptist Convention.)

3/27/2017 10:05:23 AM by Scott Barkley, The Christian Index | with 0 comments

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