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April 28, 2015

Gay marriage and the Supreme Court: a critical fact

Today is one of the most significant days in the history of the United States Supreme Court. The justices will hear arguments regarding the legality of same-sex marriage, and will hand down their ruling in June. A number of different outcomes are possible. The Court could legalize gay marriage in all 50 states. Its decision could also open the door to legalizing other types of marriages, including polygamous relationships, changing the nature of marriage in this country forever. And its ruling could even require churches to perform same-sex marriages or face threats to their non-profit status.

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April 13, 2015

‘ABC Family Launches Unscripted Series about Transgender Dad and Family’

"This summer, ABC Family will premiere Becoming Us, an unscripted show that chronicles the life of 17-year-old Ben Lehwald of Evanstan, Illinois, as his father Charlie transitions to become Carly. The docu-series from Ryan Seacrest Productions will take Ben's perspective as he watches his dad divorce his mom, Suzy, before undergoing gender reassignment surgery."

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March 19, 2015

New Mexico Dems kill state’s first abortion restrictions

A New Mexico Senate committee killed two pro-life bills Sunday that would have aligned the state with 42 others that currently limit abortion in some way. The bills, an induction abortion ban and parental notification requirement, died in a Public Affairs Committee hearing on a 5-3, partisan vote. Just two weeks ago, the bills sailed through the Republican-controlled house. But because Democrats control the Senate, some pro-lifers expected Sunday’s outcome. Others had hoped the bills’ broad appeal would encourage a positive vote.

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March 16, 2015

Dolce & Gabbana: “The only family is the traditional one”

In an interview with Panorama magazine, Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana, the two men whose business partnership—and one-time romantic partnership—lies behind one of the world's great fashion powerhouses, have declared that “The only family is the traditional one.” “The family is not a fad,” Gabbana told the interviewer. “In it there is a supernatural sense of belonging.” Procreation “must be an act of love.” Children born through artificial insemination or egg donors are “children of chemistry, synthetic children. Uteruses for rent, semen chosen from a catalog,” Dolce said. “The only family is the traditional one. No chemical offsprings and rented uterus: life has a natural flow; there are things that should not be changed.” Domenico and Stefano were for years perhaps the globe's most prominent gay power couple. In the tightly knit, family-based, quasi-aristocratic world of Italian fashion, these two men came from nowhere to make a name for themselves that the whole world would recognize.

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March 04, 2015

Why Our Children Don’t Think There Are Moral Facts

What would you say if you found out that our public schools were teaching children that it is not true that it’s wrong to kill people for fun or cheat on tests? Would you be surprised? I was. As a philosopher, I already knew that many college-aged students don’t believe in moral facts. While there are no national surveys quantifying this phenomenon, philosophy professors with whom I have spoken suggest that the overwhelming majority of college freshmen in their classrooms view moral claims as mere opinions that are not true or are true only relative to a culture. What I didn’t know was where this attitude came from. Given the presence of moral relativism in some academic circles, some people might naturally assume that philosophers themselves are to blame. But they aren’t. There are historical examples of philosophers who endorse a kind of moral relativism, dating back at least to Protagoras who declared that “man is the measure of all things,” and several who deny that there are any moral facts whatsoever. But such creatures are rare. Besides, if students are already showing up to college with this view of morality, it’s very unlikely that it’s the result of what professional philosophers are teaching. So where is the view coming from?

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February 03, 2015

MPs say yes to three-person babies

MPs have voted in favour of the creation of babies with DNA from two women and one man, in an historic move. The UK is now set to become the first country to introduce laws to allow the creation of babies from three people. In a free vote in the Commons, 382 MPs were in favour and 128 against the technique that stops genetic diseases being passed from mother to child. During the debate, ministers said the technique was "light at the end of a dark tunnel" for families. A further vote is required in the House of Lords. It everything goes ahead then the first such baby could be born next year. Proponents said the backing was "good news for progressive medicine" but critics say they will continue to fight against the technique that they say raises too many ethical and safety concerns.

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February 03, 2015

Iceland to build first temple to Norse gods since Viking age

Icelanders will soon be able to publicly worship at a shrine to Thor, Odin and Frigg with construction starting this month on the island’s first major temple to the Norse gods since the Viking age. Worship of the gods in Scandinavia gave way to Christianity around 1,000 years ago but a modern version of Norse paganism has been gaining popularity in Iceland. “I don’t believe anyone believes in a one-eyed man who is riding about on a horse with eight feet,” said Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson, high priest of Ásatrúarfélagið, an association that promotes faith in the Norse gods. “We see the stories as poetic metaphors and a manifestation of the forces of nature and human psychology.” Membership in Ásatrúarfélagið has tripled in Iceland in the last decade to 2,400 members last year, out of a total population of 330,000, data from Statistics Iceland showed.

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January 29, 2015

Pastor Saeed Writes Letter Thanking President Obama for “Standing Up” for the “Persecuted”

American Pastor Saeed Abedini has written a letter from his Iranian jail cell to President Obama thanking him for meeting with his wife and kids. Last week, President Obama met with Pastor Saeed’s wife, Naghmeh, and their two children, Rebekka and Jacob, and promised to make Pastor Saeed’s freedom a “top priority,” even telling Jacob that he “will try” to work to get Pastor Saeed home by Jacob’s birthday in March. Yesterday, Pastor Saeed told a family member in Iran who was able to visit him that President Obama’s willingness to take the time to meet with his wife and kids greatly encouraged him.

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January 21, 2015

Scores of Churches Destroyed by Charlie Hebdo Protests in Niger

Less than a week after Niger's president marched alongside dozens of world leaders in Paris following the Charlie Hebdo shooting, Muslim protests in Niger have claimed the lives of 10 people and destroyed more than 70 Christian churches in the desert nation's two largest cities. Niger, long praised for its secular government and relative tolerance towards Christians (more than 98 percent of its population are Muslim), has seen growing radicalization in recent years. In 2012, several churches in the country’s second-largest city, Zinder, were vandalized by mobs in response to a provocative video, The Innocence of Muslims. This led Open Doors to add Niger to its 2013 ranking of the 50 countries where it's most difficult to be a Christian. (Niger was removed from this year's World Watch List, although persecution levels remain virtually the same.) The weekend protests started in Zinder on Friday (Jan. 16) and spread to surrounding areas before reaching the capital, Niamey, on Saturday.

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January 15, 2015

After Saying Yes, Duke Nixes Muslim Call To Prayer From Chapel Bell Tower

Duke University announced this week it would allow the traditional Muslim call to prayer from the Duke Chapel bell tower. The reaction from some Christian groups was angry, and today the private university in Durham, N.C., reversed course. "Duke remains committed to fostering an inclusive, tolerant and welcoming campus for all of its students," Michael Schoenfeld, vice president for public affairs and government relations, said in a statement. "However, it was clear that what was conceived as an effort to unify was not having the intended effect." Traditional Muslim Friday prayers, which are currently held in the Duke Chapel's basement, will now take place in the quadrangle outside the chapel, the statement said. The location is used for interfaith programs and activities. More than 700 of the university 15,000 undergraduate and graduate students identify as Muslim.

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January 09, 2015

350 YWAM Missionaries Fear Forced Exit from United Kingdom After License Suspended

The England and Wales office of YWAM (Youth With A Mission) may lose more than 350 missionaries and their families by April in the wake of British immigration officials suspending the ministry's visa sponsor status. “Whilst we recognize and support the [UK Visas & Immigration (UKVI) office's] legitimate right to concern over compliance to the rules, we do not feel that the issues raised in the letter from the UKVI justify such a draconian outcome as losing our license would produce,” wrote YWAM Harpenden in an "urgent request" sent Friday and highlighted by the Evangelical Alliance UK (EAUK). Following a September audit related to the UK's attempt to reduce immigration numbers, UKVI officials found that YWAM had erred in two out of the seven areas audited. While the missions organization says it “immediately” submitted a corrective action plan to the government, the UKVI warned that YWAM could be downgraded, limited in its visa sponsorship capacity, or lose its license over the errors.

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December 29, 2014

The Spiritual Openness of the Younger Unchurched

There's an idea that Christianity in America is dying. No serious researcher—not one—thinks that. However, I still am surprised that some people think this. Facts are our friends, in this and in every situation, and what do the facts really show about the situation? A few years ago, LifeWay Research did some significant research on the faith of young adults to see where they stood. Here are a few stats from that study: 73% of unchurched 20- to 29-year old Americans consider themselves “spiritual” because they want to know more about “God or a higher supreme being.”; 89% of unchurched young adults say they would listen to what someone believes about Christianity.; 63% of young adults said they would attend church if it presented truth to them in an understandable way “that relates to my life now.”; 58% of 20-somethings would be more likely to attend if people at the church “cared for them as a person.”

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December 16, 2014

Christian Colleges vs. Hookup Culture

American college campuses are dangerous places. On our campuses, women are sexually assaulted in alarming numbers. Men are being hauled before campus sex tribunals, many of which lack any semblance of due process. United Educators, an insurance company owned by 1,160 member colleges and universities, reported that between 2006 and 2010, student-perpetrated sexual assault cases cost $36 million in losses to its member schools. Accusing students and accused students sue their schools in almost equal numbers.

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December 11, 2014

Wheaton’s ‘gay celibate Christian’

Three months ago Wheaton College, one of America’s leading evangelical undergraduate institutions, hired Julie Rodgers to provide spiritual care for students. Not surprising in some ways: She has a master’s degree in English, has mentored inner-city youth, and speaks at Christian churches and conferences. One surprise: She openly identifies as homosexual. “The best way I can describe my experience of ‘being gay,’” Rodgers, 28, wrote on her blog, “is that with certain women I feel the ‘it’ factor: that sense of chemistry that longs to share life with them. … Most women feel that chemistry or longing for other men … while I usually feel like ‘bros’ with men.” Wheaton, located just west of Chicago, sees homosexual behavior as sin. Rodgers, though, is a “gay celibate Christian”—someone who identifies as homosexual but does not act on her same-sex desires because she also believes such behavior is sinful.

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December 10, 2014

College president sorry for saying ‘All lives matter’

The president of prestigious Smith College is red-faced and apologetic Tuesday for telling students on the Northampton, Mass., campus that "all lives matter." Kathleen McCartney wrote the phrase in the subject line of an e-mail to students at the school, whose alumni include feminists Gloria Steinem and Betty Friedan, former First Lady Nancy Reagan and celebrity chef Julia Child. McCartney was attempting to show support for students protesting racially charged grand jury decisions in which police in Missouri and New York were not charged in the deaths of unarmed black men. Protesters have adopted several slogans in connection with the cases of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, including "Black Lives Matter." McCartney's more inclusive version of the refrain was seen as an affront that diminished the focus on black lives and racism, according to emails obtained by FoxNews.com. “We are united in our insistence that all lives matter,” read the e-mail,in which she made clear she was strongly behind the protests, writing that the grand jury decisions had “led to a shared fury… We gather in vigil, we raise our voices in protest.”

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December 05, 2014

Court Stops Execution of Mentally Ill Man Defended by Many Evangelicals

More than 50 evangelical leaders often at odds recently united, asking Texas to commute the death sentence of a mentally ill inmate who believes he is being persecuted for preaching the gospel. Scott Panetti's execution was scheduled for today. This morning, an appeals court delayed his death with just hours to spare. Shane Claiborne, David Gushee, Lynne Hybels, Joel Hunter, Sam Rodriguez, Jay Sekulow, and other conservatives and progressives signed the letter, which states that Christians are called to protect the most vulnerable and that Panetti, who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia since the 1970s and murdered his in-laws to “get rid of the devil” inside them, falls into that category.

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December 03, 2014

What ever happened to Rob Bell, the pastor who questioned the gates of hell?

(RNS) Rob Bell was once the evangelical It Boy, the hipster pastor with the thick-rimmed glasses and the skinny jeans whose best-selling theology was captured in books with names such as “Velvet Elvis” and “Sex God.” By 2006, the Chicago Sun-Times wondered aloud whether the Michigan megachurch pastor could be the next Billy Graham. And then he went to hell. In 2011, his book “Love Wins” pushed the evangelical envelope on the nature of heaven, hell and salvation. Many dismissed him as a modern-day heretic, unwilling to embrace traditional evangelicals beliefs about the hereafter. While evangelicalism has always wrestled with the pull of its fundamentalist roots and a desire for a modern-day openness within certain boundaries, for many Bell had gone too far. “Farewell, Rob Bell,” retired megachurch pastor John Piper famously tweeted. Now, the man who built a church of an estimated 10,000 people isn’t even attending an organized church. Instead, he surfs the waves near Hollywood and has teamed up with the goddess of pop theology, Oprah Winfrey.

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November 25, 2014

Why You Should Still Care about Ferguson DESPITE the Facts

The grand jury in Ferguson, Missouri has decided not to indict police officer Darren Wilson following the death of Michael Brown. Last night, after the grand jury's announcement, peaceful protests quickly turned into violence, arson, and looting. It breaks my heart to see. As the family of Michael Brown and the President of the United States ask for peace and change and this is what we see. However, it is important to note that this does not mean most African Americans are involved in the looting. Not at all. Yet, the looting itself is repugnant in more than one way. It will cause many to lose property and some may lose their lives. However, it may also cause many to say, “See, this is what happens with those people.” Even more, we need to be careful about our discussion of "facts." Bryan Loritts says, "Facts are a first and last resort in a court of law, but when it comes to human relationships, let us first stop and feel before we go to facts." The point is not to ignore or devalue facts in a specific instance, but to recognize that, in all relationships, there are other issues to also consider.

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November 18, 2014

Court to Decide if Catholic Midwives Can Refuse to Perform Abortions

The United Kingdom’s highest court will decide by next year whether Catholic midwives can refuse to perform abortions according to their religious objections to the practice. The same judge threw out the midwives’ case in 2012, concluding that they weren’t sufficiently involved with the abortion procedure to claim standing. The Scottish midwives maintain that any involvement with abortions violates their consciences and the teachings of the Catholic Church. Archbishop Philip Tartaglia of Glasgow commended the women for their “courage and determination in standing up to an unjust requirement of the employer that they be involved.”

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November 17, 2014

Couple fined for refusing to host same-sex wedding on their farm

Cynthia and Robert Gifford, the upstate New York couple who refused to host a same-sex wedding ceremony at their farm, have been ordered by a judge to pay $13,000. The fine comes after the Giffords lost their discrimination case against a lesbian couple who had hoped to rent the Christian couple’s property for their wedding, and covers what their attorney called “mental anguish” on the part of the two women. “This is scary,” Cynthia Gifford said. “It’s scary for all Americans.”

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