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May 26, 2011

God and Mammon in London

The U.K.’s Independent has an interesting article on how a form of charismatic evangelical Christianity is taking a hold of London’s financial district. However, despite the rise in the number of believers, many are afraid to come out of the Christian closet. Here, for example, is what one 29-year-old mergers and acquisitions executive has to say: “I did a course called Christianity Explored in 2006. It’s basically Alpha without the [speaking in] tongues. One of the guys on my desk asked me to go along to a service at St Helen’s Bishopsgate on a Tuesday lunchtime. I did and now I’m a regular. We get hundreds of people most weeks. Huge crowds on Sunday nights.? “Do your colleagues know you’re a Christian?? “Are you joking? Of course not. It’d make things very difficult. The City isn’t immoral any more, it’s amoral. But if my boss thought I was relying on prayer to get me through the day, he’d look down on me. It would make me seem irrational. I tell him I’m going to physio when I go to church.? “Is it tough to be a Christian and not tell anyone?? “It’s sometimes very tough. When you have to entertain clients and they want to go to strip clubs or whatever, it can be awkward. That’s why Christianity Explored is so great, because you go there and there are others facing the same dilemmas. You can support each other through it.? While I can understand the pressure the young believers in London’s financial district must face, I can’t say that I’m all that sympathetic to those who are ashamed of the Gospel. But it appears to be a common problem in London’s equivalent of Wall Street: Eve Poole is a theologian who teaches business ethics on the MBA programme at Ashridge Business School. Describing herself as a “totally paid-up God squadder?, Poole worked at Deloitte Consulting before completing her doctorate on capitalism and Christianity at Cambridge last year. She is full of strong faith, yet with none of the smugness that sometimes seeps from believers. I tell her about my interviews with City Christians, how the younger among them find it difficult to combine their faith with their jobs. “It’s often harder for young people to come out as Christians than it would be for them to come out as gay,? she says. “Because of the vocal atheists – Dawkins and so on – people think your judgement is impaired if you say you’re Christian at work. The problem of serving two masters is at the heart of it. There’s a worry that Christians are up to something, that they’re loyal to something other than the firm.? The choice is clear, and there is no exemption for investment bankers: “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.?

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May 26, 2011

Who to Count On When Disaster Strikes – Gov’t, Church or Both?

In August of 2005, Hurricane Katrina swept through Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi, wreaking havoc over several hundred square miles with dollar losses in the billions. Last month central Alabama suffered substantial damage when a tornado crushed the City of Tuscaloosa, Alabama and surrounding areas. On Sunday, Joplin, Mo., suffered devastating losses due to tornados and just yesterday, the central U.S. was hit by violent storms. When such destruction occurs, should we expect the government to step in and rebuild damaged areas or is the church capable of assuming such a huge role? Bart Smelley, a resident of Tuscaloosa, Ala., is no stranger to destruction. For the past two years he has worked with Global Effects Ministry to manufacture and distribute water filters to the hardest hit areas of Haiti. He’s seen firsthand the most devastating destruction the western hemisphere has experienced in over a century, but now the destruction hit closer to home. In April, while on a mission trip in Haiti, Bart received word his son’s home had been hit by a tornado. Smelley’s experience in Haiti rarely involved working with government agencies; Haiti’s agencies were all but incapable of providing any assistance. Instead, it was the work of church and non-profit groups that traveled thousands of miles to help the people of the Caribbean island. Yet when Smelley arrived back in Tuscaloosa to help his son and daughter-in-law, he was amazed at the efficiency of government agencies and churches working together. “The churches in Tuscaloosa responded hand-in-hand with government and relief organizations to meet the needs of our community. It’s the biggest joint effort I have seen in my life,? said Smelley. Mark Engholm, Public Affairs Officer for the Alabama Emergency Management Agency, echoed Smelley’s comments. “As a government agency, our primary goal after a natural disaster is life safety. After that, we move into the recovery process, then the rebuilding stage, which can take years. Government agencies play an integral role but our primary goal is to help our neighbors,? said Engholm. Volunteer organizations, commonly referred to as “VOAD’s,? play a critical role alongside government agencies and are seen as an effective communication avenue in local communities. Engholm has been watching the press conferences in Missouri and reliving what they went through in Alabama in late April. “I really feel for them because I know what they’re going through. Unfortunately, their work will continue when the cameras and TV trucks leave. That’s when we’ll really need the help of the VOAD’s in our community.? Tuscaloosa may have been the exception. Far too often, communities have relied on government agencies to step in and pick up the pieces caused by such natural disasters. When Hurricane Katrina swept through New Orleans in 2005, everyone from the state capitol to individual citizens began throwing criticism toward Washington and the Bush administration for not responding quickly enough. Criticism centered on condemnations of mismanagement and lack of preparation in response to the hurricane’s aftermath. The Rev. Billy Owen, a retired Alabama minister who has volunteered in Birmingham compared the recent destruction to the post-Civil War era. “When the Civil War ended there was no government service or any agency to fly in and save the day. Rebuilding in many areas of the south took years or even decades, but it amazes me how much people can do when they put their minds to it. I’ve seen the churches in the state step up and do the Lord’s work but the reality is we can’t rebuild as quickly if the government doesn’t help out in a big way. Having both the church and the government involved is the fastest way to rebuild,? stated Owen.

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May 25, 2011

‘Genderless’ Child Ignites Firestorm in Canada

A Toronto couple raising their 4-month-old without identifying the child as a boy or a girl have created a media firestorm in Canada, where some have likened the scenario to a "bizarre lab experiment" that seeks to undo thousands of years of social evolution. Kathy Witterick, 38, and David Stocker, 39, are raising their third child, Storm, to be free of societal norms regarding gender. Is Storm male or female? The parents won't say, so no one knows except Storm's older brothers, Jazz and Kio, as well as a close family friend and two midwives who helped deliver the baby, according to the Toronto Star. Since publishing a story about the couple on Saturday, the newspaper has received a "rush of responses" from readers, including some who believe the Toronto couple is acting "very selfish" and "very inconsiderate" in their attempt to undo evolution. Others, meanwhile, told the newspaper that "breaking social norms" is not synonymous with bad parenting. Attempts to reach Witterick and Stocker -- who reportedly works as a teacher at City View Alternative, a small middle school in Toronto -- were unsuccessful on Tuesday. In a follow-up Toronto Star story on Monday, the couple told the newspaper that they have decided not to conduct any additional interviews. "We don't want them to feel like exotic bugs, and when consulted, they said no thanks to more media attention," Witterick wrote the newspaper in an email. Clinton Anderson, director of the American Psychological Association's Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Concerns Office, told FoxNews.com that while the organization supports gender nondiscrimination, there is no research available regarding potential harms or benefits to raising a so-called genderless child. "I don't think the APA has any basis for concluding one way or the other on that issue," Anderson said. "In the short term, in the long term, there's really just no basis for saying. This is not an area of research that exists, to my knowledge." What is certain, Anderson said, is that a "supportive" environment for any child is one that provides them love, nurturing care and a "good enough" context to develop. "Gender is, of course, hugely important and that is what these parents are trying to challenge," he said. "Gender is hugely important to people, and for most people, a fundamental part of their identities." Other mental health professionals contacted by FoxNews.com said they saw several advantages to the atypical scenario, including true self-determination for Storm. "The child has self-determination as to what its interests may be in life, the goals for that child and what direction the child wants to go in as far as all avenues in life, as well as sexuality," said Jeff Gadere, a clinical psychologist and contributor to HealthGuru.com. "They're banking on the child being genetically predisposed to its sexuality, as well as its station in life." A potential downside, Gadere said, could occur when the child looks to its parents for guidance in areas of self-discipline, education and other topics associated with gender. But overall, Gadere sees little potential for psychological or emotional damage to the child. "If the parents are able to fulfill all of the needs of the child and are able to meet the child's needs in terms of guidance and nurturance, I really doubt that there's going to be any real damage to the child," he said. "I'm more concerned about how other people are going to react to the child." Gadere added: "We're looking at something that is different. Certainly when we're dealing with changing the status quo as far as raising children, people become fearful of that. And let's give them the benefit of the doubt because they're fearful of the impact on the child." Bryan Fischer, director of issue analysis for government and public policy for the American Family Association, a Mississippi-based "pro-family" organization, disagreed with Gadere's assessment, claiming the child will grow up "terribly confused" regarding sexual identity. "I don't think there's any question that this is going to do severe harm to this child," Fischer said. "That child is either a male or female, and it’s a tragedy that his parents or her parents are apparently unwilling to base their approach on scientific and biological truth." The attempt to keep the child's gender a secret is simply a "terrible disservice," Fischer said. "The vast majority of people have enough common sense to recognize that this is lunacy," he continued. "The vast majority of people are motivated by a deep level of concern of what's going to happen to that poor child."

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May 24, 2011

5th Circuit Hears ‘Outrageous’ Appeal in ‘Candy Cane Case’

Are children required to leave their First Amendment rights at the schoolhouse door? That was the issue before the full 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans today. School officials from Plano, Texas, maintain they were correct seven years ago, when they prevented 8-year-old Jonathan Morgan from handing out candy cane pens because they included a message about Jesus. And two years earlier, when they confiscated pencils that read, ?Jesus is the Reason for the Season.? And when they banned an entire class from writing “Merry Christmas? on cards to U.S. troops serving in Iraq. The all-star legal team representing the students includes former Solicitors General Kenneth Starr and Paul Clement — who is defending the federal Defense of Marriage Act in court — as well as the Liberty Institute, a Texas policy group that is associated with CitizenLink. Eight groups of diverse political views — including the American Civil Liberties Union — have filed briefs in support of the students. Kelly Shackelford, president and CEO of the Liberty Institute, said the court was listening intently. “Certainly the court thought it was very serious that they were arguing to take away the rights of all elementary school students,? he said. “They realized how outrageous and how dangerous that would be.? Shackelford said the school officials attempted to claim separation of church and state. “The school officials tried to act like they didn’t realize you couldn’t engage in religious discrimination against children in the school,? he said. “They thought maybe they had to ban religious speech, (because someone) might think that the school was pushing religion.? Hans von Spakovsky, a senior legal fellow at The Heritage Foundation, writes: “Rather than acknowledge that they made a mistake … they have spent over a million taxpayer dollars fighting this lawsuit all the way up to the federal appeals court. “In fact, they claim that they did nothing wrong and should be granted ‘qualified immunity’ because ‘the First Amendment does not apply to elementary school students’ and the ‘Constitution does not prohibit viewpoint discrimination against religious speech in elementary schools.’ And these are the people teaching civics to our children!? A decision in Morgan et al. v Plano, Texas Independent School District is expected in the fall. Shackelford said he expects the case to go to the U.S. Supreme Court.

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May 11, 2011

Shrug It Off

After more than 50 years, Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged finally made it to the big screen and the movie-going public, well, shrugged. One critic called the movie “this decade’s Battlefield Earth,? a reference to the legendarily-awful Scientology-inspired epic.

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May 09, 2011

Head of 2012 Olympic Team Resigns after Criticism from Gay Activists

It’s apparently not very popular to support marriage these days — even though 31 states have affirmed the one-man, one-woman definition through popular vote. Two weeks ago, gay activists convinced a top-tier law firm to stop defending the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). And on Friday, two-time gymnastics gold medalist Peter Vidmar resigned as head of the 2012 U.S. Olympic team after scathing criticism from gay athletes and activists. His crime? He donated $2,000 to support Proposition 8, the 2008 ballot initiative that amended California’s Constitution to protect marriage.

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May 09, 2011

No Money for Abortion

The No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act would have a serious impact on how federal dollars are spent. CitizenLink Federal Policy Analyst Ashley Horne has specifics and also some insight into how it will fare in Congress.

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May 06, 2011

Feds, Others Work to End Human Trafficking

The FBI arrested 19 people Tuesday in a multi-state human trafficking ring that had been operating across the Midwest for up to 10 years. Three brothers are accused of trafficking women from Central America into four Midwestern cities, including Indianapolis, Fox reported. The charges involve conspiracy and racketeering. The FBI also is featured in a new training DVD on human trafficking and the critical role members of the trucking industry can have in fighting it.

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May 06, 2011

Millions Bow the Knee on National Day of Prayer

Some gathered at a community arts theater in Pennsylvania. Others met on the lawn at a City Hall in Washington state. In Kentucky, students circled a county courthouse. Focus on the Family hosted a special chapel service for the community. They were among the millions of Americans who came together today for the 60th annual National Day of Prayer (NDP). An Indiana woman posted this on Facebook: “Thank you, God, for the honor and privilege to be able pray openly to You on our courthouse lawn. I pray that we were a shining light for the community, and that You were honored and praised.?

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May 05, 2011

U.S. House, Indiana Vote to Cut Abortion Funding

The U.S. House of Representatives voted 251-175 today on a bill that would convert some pro-life policies — also known as riders — into law. Reps. Chris Smith, R-N.J., and Daniel Lipinski, D-Ill., who chair the Pro-Life Caucus, are behind the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act (H.R. 3). It had 227 co-sponsors in the House, but is unlikely to pass the Democrat-controlled Senate.

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May 04, 2011

BREAKING: DOJ Apparently Avoiding Your Complaints

Patrick Trueman anticipated trouble when the War on Illegal Pornography — a coalition of 70 pro-family organizations — essentially picked a fight with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) by flooding the attorney general’s office with calls to prosecute illegal pornography. But Trueman never expected what happened next. Trueman, the former head of the Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section of the DOJ’s Criminal Division, received an email today from the phone company that he used to set up the toll-free number that connected people directly to the DOJ.

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May 02, 2011

The Royal Wedding

Today nearly a billion people around the world are focused on a wedding taking place in London’s Westminster Abbey: The marriage between Prince William, second in line to the British throne, and his bride, Kate Middleton. For months people have focused on wedding details: Who will design the wedding dress? What jewels will she wear? What food will be served at the wedding breakfast?

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May 02, 2011

The Defense Rests

WASHINGTON—The law firm the U.S. House of Representatives hired to defend the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in court dropped the case Monday after coming under pressure from gay rights groups. Robert Hays Jr., chairman of King & Spalding, said in a statement that the law firm withdrew from the case because it had not done enough “vetting? before taking the case, and he apologized “for the challenges this may have created.?

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