WORLD News Service – July 25 2014
Christian Newspaper Editor Files Discrimination Complaint Over Firing
Trumpeting a Dinosaur Horn: A partially fossilized triceratops horn offers evidence he animal lived less than 65 million years ago, say scientists who discovered it
SIDEBAR: University Fires Scientist After Dinosaur Discovery Offers Young Earth Evidence
Changing Course? After a public apology and the adoption of a softer tone from the pulpit, star pastor Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church face new challenges
Meriam Ibrahim Released From Sudan: After diplomatic efforts by the Italian government, the family arrived safely this morning in Rome
Steady Destruction -- and Deafening Silence: The Islamic State destroys Jonah’s tomb and other Judeo-Christian sites in Mosul while President Obama remains mute
Christian Newspaper Editor Files Discrimination Complaint Over Firing
By Andrew Branch
(WNS)--An Iowa newspaper editor is claiming his former employer fired him because of his biblical beliefs about sexuality. Bob Eschliman, the former editor-in-chief of the Newton Daily News, filed an official discrimination charge on Jul. 24 with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
“No American—especially people in the journalism field—should be fired simply for expressing their religious beliefs,” said Jeremiah Dys, senior counsel for the Liberty Institute, a nonprofit legal group representing Eschliman.
Eschliman, a Christian, took to his personal blog in April to lambast the Queen James Bible, a revision put forward by gay activists. They say Greek and Hebrew passages on homosexuality either refer to pagan rituals or promiscuity. “We edited those eight verses in a way that makes homophobic interpretations impossible,” the editors say.
Eschliman’s April 28 post brought statewide attention. “I’d like to talk a little bit about deceivers among us, most notably the LGBTQXYZ crowd and the Gaystapo effort to reword the Bible to make their sinful nature ‘right with God,’” he wrote.
He accused Queen James editors of “'proselytizing' to church leaders” on homosexuality, citing New Testament prophesies that false prophets will encourage lawlessness. “If you ask me, it sounds like the Gaystapo is well on its way,” Eschliman concluded. “We must fight back against the enemy.”
The Newton Daily News is a member of Shaw Media, a small Iowa and Illinois news network. Shaw Media and Daily News leaders suspended Eschliman and eventually fired him on May 5, even though he took down his blog in response to their concerns. While some people defended Eschliman, others called the post “hate speech,” and four former Newton staffers wrote to company managers decrying his “deep-seeded, zealously hateful views toward a societal group.” By declaring “gays the enemy,” wrote media critic Jim Romenesko, he likely compromised his journalistic integrity.
In an editorial in the Daily News, Shaw Media President John Rung claimed Eschliman damaged the organization. “While Mr. Eschliman is entitled to his opinion, his public airing of it compromised the reputation of this newspaper and his ability to lead it,” he argued. Shaw Media has a right to an editor that best represents the company, he said. And one of the responsibilities of a media company is “to advocate for the communities we serve.”
Liberty Institute lawyers argue that Rung fired Eschliman for expressing his biblical beliefs—not for the nicknames he used to refer to LGBT activists. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of religion.
“I think Bob would like to redo some of what he wrote,” Dys told me. “But he made his decision to write what he wrote, and he’ll have to live with that.” But ultimately, Dys argues, the wording doesn’t matter. “They cannot fire him just because they would have used different words than he did,” Dys said. “He was expressing his religious beliefs on that blog.”
Daily News publisher Dan Goetz, largely silent on the “personnel matter” since the beginning, continued his silence Thursday. “We have no further comment on this matter,” he told me.
The EEOC often takes 6 to 12 months to decide such cases, Dys said. If Eschliman wins, he could be awarded back pay and other damages.
Trumpeting a Dinosaur Horn
A partially fossilized triceratops horn offers evidence the animal lived less than 65 million years ago, say scientists who discovered it
By Daniel James Devine
(WNS)--A few miles outside Glendive, Montana, on May 12, 2012, the sun beat down on three researchers as they hammered away at sandstone. They were hunting fossils scattered in the Hell Creek Formation, a geological trove for dinosaur bones. They had no power tools—just chisels, muscle, and the excitement of watching a large triceratops horn emerge inch-by-inch from sediment that swallowed it long ago.
The team spent three hours chipping away the rock. “That wears you out, especially for a bunch of old scientists,” recalled Kevin Anderson, a member of the team and a microbiology professor at Arkansas State University in Beebe, Ark. The Triceratops horridus horn they excavated was 2 feet long and weighed 20 pounds: “We always joked, this would have been the grandpa triceratops.”
After paying the landowner $3,000 for the fossil, the scientists hauled it to their lab to see if it contained any unfossilized soft tissue the ravages of time might have left untouched. After giving the fossil an acid bath that dissolved the hard material, they found—sure enough—soft tissue and structures that appeared to be original dinosaur cells.
In February 2013, Anderson and another member of the dig team, Mark Armitage, a part-time employee at California State University, Northridge, (CSUN) published their discovery in the journal Acta Histochemica. A few days afterward, CSUN dismissed Armitage from his job in the microscope lab, claiming it had inadequate funding to continue his position.
This week, the Pacific Justice Institute filed a religious discrimination lawsuit against the school on Armitage’s behalf. The organization claims the school fired Armitage because of his view that the Earth was created a few thousand years ago. Both Armitage and Anderson are affiliated with the Creation Research Society, a creation science organization based in Chino Valley, Ariz.
Pacific Justice Institute declined to make Armitage available for an interview because of the pending lawsuit, but Anderson, the co-author of the triceratops horn paper, spoke to me about the fossil discovery and its implications. While the Acta Histochemica paper doesn’t make any claim on the age of the fossil, Anderson said the preservation of soft tissue—absent a convincing explanation—suggests the horn is far less than 65 million years old, the approximate date that would be assigned to the triceratops based on a standard interpretation of the Hell Creek Formation.
This isn’t the first time scientists have found soft tissue inside a dinosaur fossil. In 2005, North Carolina State University researcher Mary Schweitzer famously reported her discovery of “transparent, flexible, hollow blood vessels” inside a Tyrannosaurus rex leg bone. Others have found soft tissue inside fossils from a mosasaur (an extinct marine reptile), a Brachylophosaurus (a duck-billed dinosaur), and a Tarbosaurus (a theropod).
Soft tissue has also emerged from triceratops bones, but Anderson and Armitage were the first to report the discovery of soft tissue within a triceratops horn—a structure presumably less likely than bone to preserve original tissue over a long period.
Once the two scientists had decalcified the fossil by submerging it in a mild acid for four weeks, they discovered, in the words of their report, “clear to milky-white or reddish brown pieces of soft material, which swayed gently upon bone surfaces when solutions were disturbed.” When Armitage examined the horn under a powerful scanning electron microscope, he saw structures appearing to be vessels that would have supplied blood to the horn, and even what may have been crystalized blood proteins. In addition, he found what appear to be osteocytes, cells involved in building and maintaining bone.
“These are real dinosaur tissues, loaded with real dinosaur cells,” Anderson said. “How is it they were preserved?” He believes the preservation of soft tissue challenges the assumption that the fossil is at least 65 million years old. According to the evolutionary timescale, triceratops lived at the end of the Cretaceous Period, which would have spanned 65 to 145 million years ago. “We have biological evidence that it’s not 65 million years,” Anderson said of his discovery.
Other scientists have recognized the quandary created by soft dinosaur tissue. In 2008, some researchers attempted to solve the problem by suggesting the soft tissue was not part of the original dinosaur, but a later “biofilm” formed by bacteria.
Anderson and Armitage explained in their paper why they thought the biofilm theory broke down on consideration. It is unclear, they wrote, “how such biofilm structures could themselves survive the ravages of time, as once produced other microorganisms could begin to digest even these.”
Other researchers have also been unconvinced by the biofilm explanation. Instead, they’ve proposed another solution: Last year, Schweitzer, who discovered the T. rex tissue, co-authored a paper in Proceedings of the Royal Society B suggesting the iron in hemoglobin molecules played a role in preserving the tissue for millions of years by producing a chemical effect similar to formaldehyde. Other than that, the paper admitted, “the persistence of original soft tissues in Mesozoic fossil bone is not explained by current chemical degradation models.”
As a test of the theory, Schweitzer submerged ostrich blood vessels in hemoglobin, and found it preserved them for more than two years.
Anderson says extrapolating a two-year laboratory study to 60 or 80 million years of deep time leaves “a lot of questions” unanswered. He remains unconvinced soft tissues could survive so much longer than the dinosaurs that produced them.
University Fires Scientist After Dinosaur Discovery Offers Young Earth Evidence
By Sarah Padbury
(WNS)--A scientist is suing California State University, Northridge (CSUN) for firing him after he publicized a discovery that suggests dinosaurs roamed America thousands of years ago, rather than the millions most evolutionists cite.
Mark Armitage, who specializes in microscopic evidence for a young earth, unexpectedly stumbled upon soft tissue in a triceratops fossil and wrote about his discovery for a scientific journal. Two weeks later, he was out of a job. Armitage filed suit against the university’s board of trustees on Tuesday, citing wrongful termination and religious discrimination.
Armitage’s fascination with microscopes and tiny creatures started as a teen when he spent a summer on a marine science station staring at tiny planktonic algae through double lenses. Since then, he’s founded a successful microscope sales and consulting company, patented an optical inspection device, and discovered two new parasites. He holds memberships in several national scientific societies, and also serves as a Creation Research Society board member.
In 2012, while at a world-famous fossil dig in Montana called Hell Creek Formation, Armitage uncovered the largest triceratops horn ever found at the site. To his surprise, he discovered soft tissue in the horn when he examined it under a high-powered microscope back at CSUN. Armitage believes the fact that the soft tissue wasn’t completely fossilized indicates dinosaurs roamed in the United States only thousands of years ago. Evolutionists claim dinosaurs went extinct more than 60 million years ago.
As the manager for the Electron and Confocal Microscopy Suite in the CSUN biology department, Armitage trained students to use the school’s high-powered microscopes. In the summer of 2012, while demonstrating one of the instruments, Armitage showed students the horn’s tissue samples and engaged them in “brief Socratic dialogue about the age of the horn,” according to the lawsuit. He believed the exchange was in keeping with leading students through the scientific method. A student reported the event to Armitage’s supervisor.
According to the suit, the supervisor stormed into the lab, shouting, “We are not going to tolerate your religion in this department!” and berating Armitage for his “creationist” views. Armitage informed the biology department chair and the head of technical services that what the supervisor said was a “clear example of religious discrimination.” Both of them assured Armitage his views would “not be a problem” and to “forget about the confrontation.” But they took no action to correct the supervisor or prevent future discrimination in the department, the suit claims.
Armitage published his findings in February 2013 with a peer-reviewed article for Acta Histochemica, a journal dedicated to the structural biochemistry of cells and tissues. His findings mirrored other recent discoveries of soft tissue in dinosaur bones. Two weeks later, CSUN fired Armitage, claiming his contract was temporary and the school lacked funding to continue the position.
On July 22, Pacific Justice Institute (PJI) filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court on Armitage’s behalf, declaring he was fired due to his “perceived” religious views and, contrary to the school’s claim, his position was not temporary nor was funding an issue in the department. Armitage’s contract defined his position as “permanent part-time” and he was enrolled in the university’s benefits package. On the job for three years, he held progressively increasing responsibilities, received numerous commendations from co-workers and supervisors, and was told by his supervisor via email there were “big plans” to increase his lab, “complete with it’s own building(!)”
The lawsuit accuses the university of violating the Fair Employment and Housing Act, as well as Armitage’s First Amendment right to free speech and his academic freedom. A CSUN spokeswoman said on Thursday she couldn’t comment on the lawsuit because the school hadn’t been served.
“Terminating an employee because of their religious views is completely inappropriate and illegal,” Brad Dacus, president of PJI, said in a press release. “But doing so in an attempt to silence scientific speech at a public university is even more alarming. This should be a wakeup call and warning to the entire world of academia.”
After a public apology and the adoption of a softer tone from the pulpit, star pastor Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church face new challenges
By Warren Cole Smith & Sophia Lee
(WNS)--On a hazy Sunday morning in downtown Seattle, cars crawled around a century-old, terra cotta–domed church, one of the city’s oldest church buildings. The reason: Seattle’s 40th annual gay pride parade closed a portion of 4th Avenue near the historic church. Police officers in kilts and colorful beads patrolled the area, and volunteers set up purple balloons and rainbow flags in preparation for the thousands that would swarm downtown that afternoon.
But before the parade, drivers, cops, and volunteers got a good blast of Mars Hill Church’s rock ’n’ roll remix of the classic hymn “Nothing but the Blood of Jesus.” Mars Hill moved its downtown location to this old church a year and a half ago to be a local church amid a community, and “preach the Bible clearly, without compromise, without excuse, but still loving our neighbors,” said Justin Dean, deacon and communications director of Mars Hill.
The church’s rugged black cross with the bold words “Jesus Saves” is hard to miss, and so is the aroma of coffee and soy milk from the welcome station, both parked at the top stairs to the entrance. Sometimes, Dean said, passersby enter the church to use the bathroom or score free hot coffee—and then stay for the service. When trend watchers want to point to a successful example of hipster Christianity, they often cite Mars Hill Church because of its rapid growth.
Mars Hill and its pastor Mark Driscoll are also known for controversy: brash, in-your-face preaching, and Driscoll’s own sometimes unfiltered language. Lately, the controversy includes behavior that stepped over ethical boundaries. Last year, a plagiarism controversy forced Driscoll and his publisher Tyndale House to issue a joint statement admitting “mistakes were made.” This year, WORLD reported Mars Hill Church spent a quarter-million dollars in church funds to put his book Real Marriage on The New York Times bestseller list. Former staff members have increasingly taken to the internet to voice their grievances with what some have called Driscoll’s overbearing management style.
These controversies came to a head in March, when Driscoll made a remarkable public apology. In a letter to his congregation that received national coverage, he said his “angry-young-prophet days are over” and he would take steps to become “a helpful, Bible-teaching spiritual father.” Among the steps Driscoll planned to take included refraining from posting on social media until “at least the end of the year” and to doing few, if any, media interviews.
Driscoll has kept his word in at least one area: The normally media-hungry pastor would not agree to an interview for this story. But in other ways, Driscoll’s critics charge, it’s business as usual. Just weeks after Driscoll’s public confession, the executive elders (Mark Driscoll, Sutton Turner, and Dave Bruskas) surprised Mars Hill staff by announcing a new document retention policy that would destroy all staff emails more than three months old. The plan was dropped only after a group of former staff, elders, and members sent a letter to the church saying the new policy was an attempt to destroy documents that might be used in litigation against the church. The group’s attorney, Brian Fahling, asked the church to “preserve electronically stored information that may contain evidence” for legal action in which the church, Driscoll, and others in church leadership “will be named as defendants.” The letter lists anticipated litigation in the areas of “RICO [Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act], Fraud, Conspiracy, Libel, Slander, Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress.”
In late May, Phil Smidt, a respected Mars Hill elder and pastor, refused to sign a non-compete agreement that prevented him from serving in a leadership position of any other church within 10 miles of a Mars Hill location if he left the church. Such non-compete agreements have become common for departing staff. Given Mars Hill’s many locations in the Seattle area, the agreement would make it difficult for him to find a church anywhere in western Washington—the most populated area in the state—where he could serve as a pastor, deacon, or elder. For refusing to sign such a restrictive document, the church fired Smidt without severance compensation.
It is common for churches to require departing staff to sign non-disparage agreements, but “non-compete agreements cross over into paranoia,” said Clint Pressley, pastor of the large Hickory Grove Baptist Church in Charlotte, N.C. Pressley said he could name nearly a dozen former staff members of his church who were on church staffs within a 10-mile radius. “The Kingdom of God is big enough for us all,” he said.
Smidt’s story ended well. In an unusual show of support, 206 of Smidt’s friends—many of them former Mars Hill Church members—donated more than $50,000 in just five days using the crowd-funding platform GoFundMe.com. The public show of support for Smidt, and an equally public online show of disdain for Mars Hill administrators for the way they treated Smidt, caused the executive elders to offer Smidt severance compensation without his having to sign the non-compete agreement.
Controversies have also surrounded Mars Hill Global. At issue: whether millions of dollars raised for what many believed was the foreign missions arm of the church actually went to foreign missions. The mission statement for Mars Hill Global says, “Mars Hill Global is how we as a church participate in the worldwide mission of Jesus.” Mars Hill spokesman Justin Dean said Mars Hill Global raised more than $10 million dollars during fiscal years 2009-2014.
However, it is difficult to determine where the money went, though it is now clear some of the money went not to international efforts but to domestic church plants, including some in the Seattle area. When WORLD asked via email for an itemized accounting of those funds, Dean wrote, “Since donations given by the Mars Hill Global family were never intended to be designated solely for international efforts, we don’t provide an itemized accounting of those funds.”
Mars Hill has apologized for donor “confusion caused by a lack of clarity,” and offered to redirect previous donations to international missions if requested. According to Dean, “Only a small handful of people have decided to designate their donations solely for international efforts, and we have gladly made those changes.”
The Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA) conducted a review of Mars Hill Global and issued a statement that read, in part, “The Church has gone the second mile to address use of any funds if they were not used consistently with donor intent. This commitment, which ECFA will periodically verify, demonstrates the integrity of Pastor Mark Driscoll and Pastor Sutton Turner.”
Meanwhile, church life goes on at Mars Hill.
Melissa Yao, a middle-aged, long-time Christian who has attended Mars Hill’s satellite location at U-District with her husband for two years, said she’s familiar with the controversies brewing within her church. But she shrugged and quoted a Chinese saying: “A big tree encounters wind.” Mars Hill is huge, so it attracts scrutiny that uncovers flaws other churches can hide, Yao said. She plans to continue attending Mars Hill, because she finds the sermons “very clear” and “biblically sound.”
During a recent 10:30 a.m. Sunday sermon at Bellevue, the main campus where Driscoll preaches, almost every one of the 900 seats was filled. Bellevue, a booming suburban town-turned-city, is home to large companies like Microsoft and Nintendo. Mars Hill Bellevue’s demographics reflect that with many working professionals and young families of various races.
That Sunday morning, young and old couples sat with arms around each other. Teenagers sat in the middle-front row and took notes. Parents took turns rocking babies in their arms. People came with beards, pubescent pimples, tattoos, hipster glasses, button-up shirts, sundresses, cardigans, and skinny ties. The audience murmured in agreement as Driscoll, dressed in a polo shirt, jeans, and his usual black sneakers, continued a sermon series on Acts. A sign language interpreter translated while Driscoll preached about healing. Jesus will wipe away every tear even if you don’t receive physical relief on earth, he said. Several people wiped away their own tears.
Driscoll is a gifted speaker. Neither supporters nor critics deny that, and under his leadership the multisite church has grown to nearly 7,000 members. Since the late 1990s, Mars Hill has burgeoned across five states in 15 locations. Each Sunday, more than 12,000 people attend a Mars Hill worship service, and an estimated 250,000 people listen to a Mars Hill sermon each week via podcast and website. According to the latest annual report, Mars Hill baptized 1,141 people last year.
These days, Driscoll screams less and uses more self-deprecation. In a recent sermon, Driscoll recalled his college days. He said he was “very self-righteous, thought I was better than everyone, very proud, very independent.” Then he joked, “Some of you would say, ‘And what has changed?’ You know, it’s still in process, right? I’m a hard colt to get a saddle on and Jesus is still working on me.” But he also gets serious about his flaws. In that same sermon, Driscoll said God has been allowing him to see himself “through the eyes of the Lord, accurately, and soberly, and honestly” and then asked for prayers to “grow in godliness.”
Many Mars Hill pastors, including Driscoll, have said the past year has been one of the toughest seasons for Mars Hill. Due to financial pressures possibly related to recent controversies, Mars Hill laid off nine staff members on June 20. But Steve Tompkins, pastor at Mars Hill Shoreline for eight years, said he believes Mars Hill is growing “healthier.” He said he’s seen Driscoll become “quicker to repent publicly, demonstrate humility, and express love.” AJ Hamilton, pastor at Mars Hill Huntington Beach in California, said he’s seen a “pattern of confession and repentance emerge” among church leaders over the past 12 to 18 months, starting with Driscoll’s open description of his failures.
Dave Kraft, a former Mars Hill pastor and elder who raised some of the original questions, said the process of repentance and reconciliation in Mars Hill is in “very early stages” and has “a long way to go,” but he is “cautiously optimistic” about Mars Hill’s progress.
Meriam Ibrahim Released From Sudan
After diplomatic efforts by the Italian government, the family arrived safely this morning in Rome
By J.C. Derrick & Jamie Dean
(WNS)--Meriam Ibrahim and her family have arrived safely in Rome, ending a year-long effort in Sudan to put her to death for her Christian faith.
“This is a day of celebration,” said Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, who welcomed the family at the airport on Thursday.
Ibrahim’s release came only hours after the U.S. House of Representatives held a hearing to highlight the stalled efforts to get her out of Sudan, but the wheels were already in motion before the proceeding began. Sudanese authorities gave Ibrahim back her passport on Wed., July 23, and told her she could leave, shortly before Lapo Pistelli, Italy’s deputy minister for foreign affairs, arrived in Sudan to accompany her back to Italy. Italy’s effort illustrated the kind of advocacy lawmakers said was lacking from the Obama administration.
Others had advocated for Ibrahim’s release as well. American pastor Bill Devlin traveled to Sudan last week to urge Sudanese officials to release the mother and her family. Devlin—a ministry leader who has visited Khartoum four times during the last several years—said he met with Foreign Minister Ali Karti and other Sudanese leaders during his six-day visit.
He also met with Ibrahim, her husband, and their two children in a conference room at the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum, where the family had lived since Ibrahim was re-arrested at the airport in June. In a phone interview on Wednesday (before news of her release broke), Devlin said the family was eager to leave Sudan but seemed healthy and in good spirits. He also said a pediatrician had advised Ibrahim’s infant daughter appeared healthy, although the baby would need further tests to assess her health. After her release from prison, Ibrahim said she feared the baby might be disabled due to the circumstances of her birth.
After her sudden release on Wednesday, it was unclear how the next steps in the family’s journey would unfold. On Thursday morning, the family met with Pope Francis at his residence at the Vatican. They may soon travel to the United States. Ibrahim’s husband, Daniel Wani, is an American citizen and a long-time resident of Manchester, N.H.
“Mission accomplished,” Pistelli wrote on his Facebook account.
Steady Destruction -- and Deafening Silence
The Islamic State destroys Jonah’s tomb and other Judeo-Christian sites in Mosul while President Obama remains mute
By Mindy Belz
(WNS)--Islamic State militants have destroyed tombs long ascribed to the Old Testament prophets Jonah and Daniel yesterday in Mosul, according to eyewitness reports and video footage posted on YouTube. The demolition came as the Sunni-led, al-Qaeda-linked militants—who stormed Mosul June 10 and have since occupied Iraq’s second largest city and the surrounding area in Nineveh province—also demolished tombs and related sites sacred to Shiite Muslims. Already the fighters have chased thousands of Christians out of Mosul, confiscating their homes and belongings.
In addition—according to Archimandrite Emanuel Youkhana, an Assyrian Christian leader who heads the Christian Aid Program in northern Iraq—Islamic State fighters have seized all 30 churches and monasteries in the Mosul area, removing their crosses and burning or destroying many of the buildings. They have converted to a mosque the Syriac Orthodox Cathedral in Mosul’s Al Shurta district, Mar Ephraim, installing loudspeakers issuing calls to Islamic prayer. Two ancient monasteries have been looted and their residents forced to convert to Islam or be killed, forcing them to flee into exile farther north.
“What comes next is a real concern,” Youkhana said in an email. “Our fears are that all the churches, Ancient Assyrian archeological sites, Mosul Museum, and other sites will have the same thing happen. This is a huge loss for human beings everywhere.”
Islamic State militants also are targeting non-Sunni Muslim communities, and Youkhana said he believed all Yezedis, a minority Kurdish religious community, have been forced out of the area since June.
In a further sign of Islamic State brutality, reports emerged yesterday that the terror group is ordering women ages 11 to 46 in and around Mosul to undergo female circumcision. The BBC and Al Jazeera quoted a top UN official who said that militants controlling the city since June issued the decree, which could affect 4 million women.
“This is not the will of Iraqi people, or the women of Iraq in these vulnerable areas covered by the terrorists,” said Jacqueline Braddock, the UN’s resident and humanitarian coordinator in Iraq. The decree was posted on Twitter, but several sources in Iraq have questioned its authenticity.
Female genital mutilation, a ritual cutting and suturing of women’s genitals, has been practiced by some groups in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia as way to prepare women for marriage. It poses many health risks: severe bleeding, infection, problems with urinating, and increased risk of newborn deaths in childbirth. Its practice in Iraq is not common or widespread, and many countries have banned it in recent years. The UN approved a resolution calling on member states to ban the procedure in 2012.
Events have reached a point of madness on Iraq. With the worst atrocities and injustices being carried out in broad daylight, the Obama administration is determined to pretend that the Iraq war did not happen—that thousands of American families didn’t commit their loved ones to serving there, that lingering security pacts no longer exist, that the United States having been the primary force for change there for almost a decade has no control over events, and that it can feign indifference without consequence.
Since the Islamic State ordered the ethnic and religious cleansing of Christians (mostly Assyrians in a city long a mix of Arab, Kurd, Turkmen, and Assyrian) a week ago, President Barack Obama has made no statement on those events. The silence is deafening, considering that former military commanders and Democrats are vocally taking issue with the president’s posture, and that Muslim leaders in Mosul have spoken against ISIS. One, University of Mosul law professor Mahmoud Al-Asali, was killed as a result of his outspoken opposition of the terrorists’ reign.
Newspapers have noted the void, with the British Spectator saying, “The mass culling of Chaldean and Assyrian Christians brings out in Obama a streak of insouciance and laid-back cowardice that is very much his own.”
The lack of concern is more striking considering the way Obama and the State Department under Hillary Clinton, both Democratic leaders affiliated with Christian churches, stood up for Muslim Brotherhood extremists in Egypt, joined a NATO war on the side of Muslim revolutionaries in Libya, and have sided with Islamic State affiliates in bringing down the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria.
Thus far this week the only reaction to ethnic and religious cleansing in northern Iraq has been from the State Department. One week ago it issued a statement calling “abominable” the Islamic State’s announcement “that Christians in Mosul must either convert, pay a tax, leave or face execution.”
When deputy spokesperson Marie Harf was again asked about the situation on Monday, she repeated that statement. Asked if there had been any change since Friday, she said, “No. … All about consistency here.” Asked on Tuesday if the State Department was equipped to deal with the persecution of Christians in Iraq, she said, “Well, we’re very well-equipped to deal with this kind of issue. We have a number of people working on it. I don’t have an update for you on that. I’m happy to check.”
Early on in the war U.S. officials and military commanders recognized that Mosul was strategic to overall security in the country—given its mix of ethnic and religious groups, a progressive and thriving business climate, low crime rate, proximity to oilfields, and welcome of U.S. troops. In 2004, troops under Gen. David Petraeus, then commander in the north, walked the streets and mingled with locals freely, even at night. In Mosul under Petraeus, U.S. troops first stood up the Iraq Civil Defense Corps, a homegrown security force of Kurds and Arabs that successfully trained and policed alongside the 101st Airborne Division.
Now those gains—along with the ancient mix of the population itself and its vast archaeological treasures—has been lost. U.S. opportunities to impose a no-fly zone (as it did for 10 years over northern Iraq between the two Gulf wars), to carry out surgical air strikes to weaken the Islamic State and protect civilians, or to send any kind of aid or military assistance to Kurdish forces are dwindling. And, at any rate, as Christians and other minorities disappear from lands they have occupied for nearly 2,000 years, none of those options to protect them are apparently on the table.
Plan to Overturn Hobby Lobby Ruling Stalls
(WNS)--A bipartisan attempt to overturn the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision has failed—for now. In mid-July, the Senate fell short of the 60 votes needed to move forward with the Protect Women’s Health From Corporate Interference Act, in a 56-43 vote on bringing the measure to the floor. The bill would have overruled the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA)—the law the Supreme Court cited when it ruled the federal government cannot force a family-owned business to provide contraceptive coverage that goes against its religious beliefs. The bill also would have required employers to cover all forms of contraception and other healthcare mandated in the Affordable Care Act, regardless of conscience objections.
“The federal government doesn’t have the right to force Americans to violate their faith,” said Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., who voted against bringing the measure to the floor for consideration. “The bill put forward by Senate Democrats is nothing more than a political charade, designed to falsely suggest to the American people that employers can deny their employees access to birth control.”
Hobby Lobby Critics Target Green Family’s Bible-based Projects
(WNS)--In the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of Hobby Lobby in its fight with the government over the contraceptive mandate, critics in the media and atheist groups have zeroed in on the Green family’s plans for a Bible museum and public school curriculum. Some cheered in July when editors at the nonprofit Museum of the Bible announced that a Bible elective in an Oklahoma school district will be postponed until at least January. Steve Green, Hobby Lobby’s president, has been a proponent of teaching the Bible in public high schools nationwide. The public Mustang School District near Hobby Lobby’s Oklahoma headquarters was set to beta-test part of the curriculum this fall. But Jerry Pattengale, editor for the four-year course, cited “unforeseen delays” for pushing the launch back a semester. It’s not clear whether the postponement came from increased publicity—and criticism—following the Supreme Court ruling.
Judge Rules Florida Same-Sex Couples Can Narry in the Keys
(WNS)--A county judge in the Florida Keys ruled July 17 that same-sex couples could marry in his jurisdiction starting next week. Circuit Judge Luis M. Garcia agreed with plaintiffs who argued Florida’s voter-approved constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman treats gay couples as second-class citizens. Florida voters approved the ban on same-sex marriage in 2008. Attorney General Pam Bondi said the state of Florida, as opposed to individual counties, has sole authority to define marriage in the state. The Florida ruling puts couples in the Keys in a similar position to those in parts of Colorado, where a county clerks have been issuing marriage licenses to gay couples despite an in-place state ban on same-sex marriage. Colorado differs slightly because a federal judge there has already ruled the state’s ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional and stayed the ruling pending appeal.
Christian College Loses City Contract Over Biblical Teachings About Sexuality
(WNS)--A Massachusetts Christian college is facing a backlash for supporting religious exemptions to a proposed presidential order that would add sexuality to the anti-bias policy applied to all federal contractors. The mayor of Salem, Mass., ended Gordon College’s contract to operate the city-owned Old Town Hall this week when the school’s president, along with 13 other religious leaders, signed a public letter to President Barack Obama asking him to include a religious exemption from a new executive order expected to require all federal contractors and subcontractors to hire LGBT persons, regardless of the organization’s religious stance on homosexuality.
Court Rules for Christian College in Transgender Dispute
(WNS)--A Christian university in Oregon can keep the rooming restrictions it has placed on a transgendered student, without risking any penalty from the federal government. The U.S. Department of Education granted George Fox University a religious exemption from Title IX, which prohibits schools that receive federal funding from discriminating on the basis of sex. George Fox is a private, Christian university, but does receive some federal funding. In April, a student referred to in legal documents as Jayce M. filed a discrimination complaint against George Fox for not allowing him to live in an on-campus apartment with other men. Jayce was born female and registered as such when first admitted to George Fox. Last Spring, Jayce completed the legal process of reassigning his gender from female to male, although he hadn’t at that time had any operations to change his anatomy.
Government Survey: Gay Population Smaller Than Previously Thought
(WNS)--Less than 4 percent of the U.S. population identifies as gay, lesbian, or bisexual, a surprisingly small number given the outsized influence they have had on the nation’s cultural and legal landscape. Based on 2013 data collected by the government in The National Health Interview Survey, 1.6 percent of adults identify as gay or lesbian and 0.7 percent identify as bisexual. The numbers were lower than earlier approximations, which placed gay and lesbians at closer to 3 percent of the population. More than 96 percent identified as straight, and 1.1 percent did not provide an answer or said they were “something else,” or “I don’t know the answer.” This is the first time since its inception 57 years ago that the NHIS has included sexual orientation in its questions.
Dutch Official Pleads with Britain to Keep Euthanasia Illegal
(WNS)--Less than six weeks after Quebec legalized euthanasia, Britain’s House of Lords is considering its own euthanasia endorsement. Brought by Lord Falconer, the Assisted Dying Bill would allow doctors to administer poison to terminally ill patients given less than six months to live. Lawmakers will debate the measure during a second reading Friday. But the bill won’t pass without a fight. Bioethicist Theo Boer, once a supporter of euthanasia in the Netherlands, the world suicide capital for 12 years, told the chamber last week the evidence shows he “was wrong, terribly wrong.” Boer, who sits on a Dutch government committee that reviews all euthanasia cases, said his native country may top 6,000 assisted suicides this year. In comments reprinted by The Daily Mail, Boer pleaded with parliamentarians, “Don’t do it, Britain.” The very existence of a euthanasia law seems to be “an invitation to see assisted suicide and euthanasia as a normality instead of a last resort,” he said. The practice has been legal in the Netherlands since 2002.