World Report, Week #35, 2014

Written by Editor in Chief on . Posted in World

WORLD News Service – September 12 2014


More turmoil for Seattle’s Mars Hill Church: Worship leader Dustin Kensrue’s resignation caps two difficult weeks since Pastor Mark Driscoll announced a six-week sabbatical

Missouri family appeals contraceptive mandate ruling


Missouri lawmakers override veto to enact abortion wait period


Why do some feminists oppose nail polish that prevents date rape?


Air Force won’t let atheist airman skip God in enlistment oath


Missing children: With dashed hopes and dreams, infertile couples embark on an often misunderstood journey


Man challenges Belgium’s euthanasia law after mom’s death





More turmoil for Seattle’s Mars Hill Church


Worship leader Dustin Kensrue’s resignation caps two difficult weeks since Pastor Mark Driscoll announced a six-week sabbatical

By Warren Cole Smith

(WNS)--Two weeks ago, Pastor Mark Driscoll announced he was taking a six-week sabbatical from the pulpit of Mars Hill Church. It was reasonable to think the church would then go through a cooling-off period, and things might return to normal. But the last two weeks have proven anything but that.

The first jolt came just days after Driscoll’s announcement: Nine elders at Mars Hill Church—out of approximately 30 on the Full Council of Elders (FCE)—wrote a 4,000-word letter to their fellow elders calling on Driscoll to step down “not just from the pulpit, but from all aspects of ministry and leadership.” The letter called on him to submit to a “restoration plan … under the authority of the elders of the church. He will continue to receive his salary so long as he continues to cooperate with the restoration plan set before him by the elders of Mars Hill Church.”

Although the letter was leaked after Driscoll’s sabbatical announcement, it was dated Aug. 22, two days before the pastor told his congregation of his plans.

It’s not clear if the letter influenced Driscoll’s decision to take a break. What is clear is that within a week at least four of the letter’s signers had left the church. Among them was Mars Hill director of worship Dustin Kensrue, who resigned on Monday and issued his own 3,000-word statement Wednesday, saying, “Because of the letter, my voice within the leadership is so sufficiently tainted that I believe I can have a bigger and more helpful impact by resigning and raising a red flag for the people who remain.”

Kensrue said five of the signers of the letter were from the church’s main campus in Bellevue, Wash., a suburb of Seattle.

“It was made clear we weren’t going to be fired at this point (I am assuming for PR reasons),” he wrote. “But it was also made equally clear to us where the door was, and that it would be just fine if we chose to walk through it.” He added, “Mars Hill is not on a good trajectory. … If Mars Hill is to survive even another six months, it needs to be a place of radical repentance: repentance of pride, deception, domineering attitudes, lazy and self-serving hermeneutics, and a slew of other sins.”

Representatives from Mars Hill Church did not respond publicly to Kensrue’s resignation, but the church did issue a statement about the elder letter through its newly engaged public relations consultant, Mark DeMoss.

“This letter, as with past letters voicing accusations toward Mark Driscoll will be processed in accordance with Article 12 of the church’s bylaws,” DeMoss wrote. “This means the accusations will be thoroughly examined and a report issued when the review is complete. In the meantime, it does not seem appropriate to comment on specific accusations before/while they are being formally reviewed as we don’t want to circumvent the process prescribed by the governing body of Mars Hill.”

But the church did comment on its current financial position. A statement posted on the Mars Hill website Monday said recent events have had a negative financial impact on the church. “While we were able to end the fiscal year [June 30] strong, giving and attendance have declined significantly since January,” the statement said. “Specifically, we have seen a substantial decrease in tithes and offerings these past two months, due to the increase in negative media attention surrounding our church.”

Mars Hill has gone through two rounds of layoffs since the beginning of the year, and it has canceled a number of events and projects, including its flagship Resurgence Conference. Despite these cost-cutting moves, the statement said, “We now find ourselves in a tougher financial position than we expected. The drop in giving revenue has exceeded what we have been able to cut in expenses. This has required us to now consider further ways we can reduce expenses, such as additional staffing reductions. The reality is that just because we are a church does not mean we can defy economic gravity.”

Whether Mars Hill Church can survive this crisis depends in large part on how it responds. The church has taken some significant steps. Two members of its Board of Advisors and Accountability (BOAA)—Paul Tripp and James MacDonald—have resigned, and the church has replaced them with local church members, a move recommended by Tripp as a way to create a “biblically functioning internal elder board.” But Mars Hill critics—including those elders who signed the letter released on Aug. 28—say the Full Council of Elders already exists and should fill that role.

The two new members of the BOAA, who will replace Tripp and MacDonald, have long ties to Driscoll, though they do meet the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability’s definition of independence because they are not on the payroll of the church.


Missouri family appeals contraceptive mandate ruling


By Leigh Jones

(WNS)--A Missouri state legislator and his wife are hoping the U.S. Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby ruling will prompt a federal appeals court to side with them in their fight against the government’s contraceptive mandate.

Paul and Teresa Wieland filed suit against the Obama administration last year claiming the requirement to pay for contraceptives and abortifacient drugs through their health insurance plan violates their religious beliefs. A three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments in the case Sept. 8.

“The U.S. Supreme Court rightly honored the religious liberty of business owners by granting an exemption from providing abortion pill coverage to their employees in Hobby Lobby,” said Tim Belz, an attorney with the Thomas More Society representing the Wielands. “The government has no business forcing parents to purchase coverage of abortion drugs and contraceptives for their family in violation of their religious beliefs. The government’s position is a wrecking ball in the cathedral of conscience rights.”

The Wielands, who are Catholic, claim the mandate violates their religious liberty, free speech, and parental rights by forcing them to choose between canceling healthcare coverage for their three daughters or paying for drugs and services they object to on moral grounds. The family gets its health insurance through the Missouri Consolidated Health Care Plan, which provides coverage for state employees. They previously requested a plan that did not include objectionable drugs, but when the Obama administration announced the contraceptive mandate, the Wielands’insurer informed them they would have to pay for contraceptive and abortifacient coverage.

When they filed their suit, the Wielands claimed the government had no right to deny them an exemption to the mandate, since it had offered exemptions to other groups, including churches. The Wielands’ suit is the first brought by individuals against the mandate. A district judge in St. Louis sided with the government last year.

But that was before the Hobby Lobby ruling. Now that the Supreme Court has ruled business owners who object to the mandate on religious grounds don’t have to pay for the coverage for their employees, the Wielands have a stronger case.

“If the corporations don’t have to do this for their employees, certainly Mom and Dad don’t have to do it for their daughters,” Belz told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch after court.

The government’s attorney, Alisa Klein, said the Wielands’case is different because they are asking for the state insurer to tailor a plan just for them.

“Here we have 100,000 beneficiaries in the Missouri group healthcare plan and there is no precedent for having the employer design the plan 100,000 ways,” she said.

Missouri lawmakers override veto to enact abortion wait period


By Courtney Crandell

(WNS)--The Missouri state legislature enacted a 72-hour wait period for abortions in early September, overriding Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto from earlier this year.

The Democratic governor had previously vetoed the legislation because it didn’t include exceptions for rape and incest. Missouri passed a 24-hour wait period in 2003 that also didn’t include rape and incest exceptions. The governor labeled the new bill “extreme and disrespectful” toward women.  

The law, set to take effect in 30 days, places Missouri in second place for most stringent wait-period laws. North Dakota’s 72-hour wait period, the strictest in the country, doesn’t include weekends or holidays. Utah follows Missouri; its 72-hour wait period allows exceptions for rape, incest, and other extreme circumstances.

Missouri’s bill passed with bipartisan support, despite an attempted filibuster by Democratic senators. The vote was 117-44 in the House and 23-7 in the Senate.

The extended wait period will help women make more informed decisions about their abortions, said Missouri Right to Life President Pam Fichter. “This reflection time gives a woman time to contemplate her situation, research information about the dangers and consequences of abortion, and review the help and resources that are available to her through the alternatives-to-abortion program and other sources,” she said.

Planned Parenthood, which operates Missouri’s only licensed abortion facility, didn’t say whether it would challenge the legislation in court, but did say the legislation would make obtaining an abortion less convenient.

Linda Raymond of St. Louis said that if her abortion had been more inconvenient 38 years ago, along with having more available information and an ultrasound, she might have chosen to keep her child. “A 72-hour time frame is compassionate for women,” she said.

The legislature also overrode a veto of legislation that increases funding available to pregnancy resource centers through tax credits. Like the wait-period bill, it also passed with a bipartisan vote. “More and more women are choosing life and are in need of help and services,” Fichter said. “These bills work together to protect the women of Missouri and ensure that, in this matter of life and death, they don't make a decision that will have a detrimental effect on them both physically and emotionally.”

Missouri has a history of bipartisan support for pro-life bills. In 1999, Democrats and Republicans worked together to pass a bill prohibiting partial-birth abortions. The 2003 wait-period bill also passed with bipartisan support.

Missouri has successfully passed several other laws restricting abortion including laws limiting insurance coverage and public funding of abortions. Statistics demonstrate the laws’ success. Abortions in Missouri have decreased by a third since 1999,and several facilities have stopped providing abortions.


Why do some feminists oppose nail polish that prevents date rape?


By Caroline Leal

(WNS)--Preventative solutions to sexual assault are getting stylish.

The startup company Undercover Colors, which markets itself as “the first fashion company to prevent sexual assault,” is currently developing a nail polish capable of detecting the presence of common date-rape drugs like Rohypnol and Xanax, which are generally colorless and odorless, in beverages. All a woman has to do is dip her nail into a drink and see if the polish changes color. What the product may lack in discretion (or good table manners and hygiene, for that matter), it makes up for in ingenuity, its developers claim. 

Undercover Colors was founded by four undergraduate engineering students at North Carolina State University. According to co-founder Ankesh Madan, inspiration for the polish came from personal experience. 

“We were thinking about big problems in our society, [and] the topic of drug-facilitated sexual assault came up,” he recently told Higher Education Works. “All of us have been close to someone who has been through the terrible experience, and we began to focus on preventive solutions, especially those that could be integrated into products that women already use.”

While the company is still in the development and fundraising phase, and there’s no word on when the polish will be made available to the public, Undercover Colors has received positive reviews on social media and from online critics applauding its cleverness. “This is an amazing idea that I support wholeheartedly,” wrote one commenter on the Undercover Colors Facebook page. “I have a daughter myself, and will ensure that she uses the product.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that nearly 1 in 5 women experience sexual assault during their lifetimes. Nearly a third of sexual assault cases take place while women are in college. A 2009 study estimates 20 percent of college women will become victims of date rape by the time they are seniors, with alcohol playing a role in their assault nearly 90 percent of the time.

Scarlet Devens, a 23-year-old single woman from Westtown, N.Y., said that while she rarely goes on dates with men she does not already know and trust, she would still use a product like Undercover Colors as a safeguard and encourage her female friends to do the same: “I am confident that certain friends and acquaintances of mine have experienced these horrors [of sexual assault], and I am very intentional about avoiding potentially dangerous situations to the extent that I am able.”

But the likely effectiveness of Undercover Colors has recently come under fire, with some critics arguing that clever ideas and good intentions don’t add up to a product that actually empowers women. The blog Feministing claims date rape drugs are not used to facilitate sexual assault all that often in comparison to the use of plain alcohol. The blog complains the nail polish, like anti-rape underwear and pepper spray cameras, is yet another “gimmicky” precaution that will only succeed in falsely convincing women they are protected from sexual violence. 

Tara Cul-Ressler of Think Progress wrote that well-intentioned products like Undercover Colors could actually end up fueling victim blaming: “Any college students who don’t use the special polish could open themselves up to criticism for failing to do everything in their power to prevent rape.”

Air Force won’t let atheist airman skip God in enlistment oath


By Andrew Branch

(WNS)--The Air Force has given an atheist airman until November to take his enlistment oath, which includes the phrase “so help me God.” If he refuses, he will not be allowed to rejoin his unit. Atheist groups have taken up the unnamed airman’s cause, but he may find himself caught in a battle over the separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches.

The American Humanist Association (AHA) has written to inspectors general for the Air Force and Creech Air Force Base in Nevada, arguing the airman’s constitutional rights have been violated. The airman’s terms of service expire in November, and AHA claims his commanding officers rejected his written re-enlistment oath on Aug. 25 because he crossed out the words “so help me God.”

Article VI of the U.S. Constitution states “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” Monica Miller, an attorney with the AHA’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center, told the Air Force on Sept. 2 that her organization will sue if the airman is barred from re-enlisting.

Air Force spokeswoman Rose Richeson told the Air Force Times on Tuesday that the Air Force has asked Defense Department lawyers to review the oath requirement. The controversy has become the latest front in an ongoing battle over religious freedom in the military, packaged and painted in starkly different ways by both sides.

AHA and similar groups are known for protesting virtually any kind of expression, including Bibles on officers’ desks, that identifies a leader’s religious affiliation while in his or her official capacity. This summer, a Freedom From Religion Foundation complaint led the Navy Exchange to remove Bibles donated by Gideons International from rooms in base lodges. An outcry prompted Navy leadership to order the Bibles returned last month.

Evangelicals often see such cases as a growing hostility toward Christians in the military, while atheist groups claim they’re fighting an ingrained culture of religious fundamentalism that may make non-Christians feel uncomfortable.

The most recent Air Force battle occurred in March, when a cadet at the Air Force Academy voluntarily removed a Bible verse from the whiteboard on his dorm room door after someone complained to the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, which notified Air Force Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson. Because the cadet had a leadership position, the Academy decided he could not write a Bible verse on his door.

The reenlistment oath poses a different question, but it’s no less nuanced. The Air Force Times reported Wednesday that neither the Army nor the Navy requires soldiers to say “so help me God” in their enlistment oaths. The Department of Defense doesn’t require it. A quiet change to Air Force regulations in October 2013, though, removed the option for airmen not to say the phrase—because a United States law requires it.

Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force James Cody told the Air Force Times that the Air Force is “more than willing” to work with the airman, but “we have to comply with the law.”

The Air Force seems to have taken the stand that not even recent Department of Defense orders relaxing enforcement can ignore the law and circumvent Congress, though MRFF president and activist Mikey Weinstein calls following the law a “pathetically partisan, conservative theocratic agenda.” Weinstein wrote to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on behalf of 17 Air Force officers concerned about the oath.

“‘Believe or be gone’ was not the motto of our founders, and it’s not an idea that our predecessors fought and died for,” Weinstein said. He also claimed the Air Force policy amounts to “deliberately leaning the singular most lethal organization ever to exist on this planet towards a reflection of ISIS.”


Missing children


With dashed hopes and dreams, infertile couples embark on an often misunderstood journey

By Bethany E. Starin

(WNS)--Five days before Christmas, I stood in the shower—hot water pelting my back, blood running down my legs as I miscarried our first baby. Choked by tears, I managed to croak out the only stable thing I could hold on to: “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. His rod and His staff, they comfort me.”

I had spent the previous year undergoing blood tests, ultrasounds, and a pile of negative pregnancy tests. Then in December, blood work showed an early pregnancy, which turned into a miscarriage that same week. Before this experience, infertility had never crossed my mind, but the loss of our unborn child opened my eyes to a new world. In my pain, I found I wasn’t alone.

Eleven percent of women nationwide are infertile—unable to conceive or carry a baby to full term. One in four pregnancies ends in early miscarriage. For more than 80 percent of couples, it takes a year to conceive. Despite the number of people it affects, infertility is a widely avoided topic. Even Christians who are adamantly pro-life often understate the grief attached to infertility and miscarriage. They treat these tiny human beings as if they never existed and unintentionally isolate suffering couples.

Lauren Casper, 30, teared up as she talked about her nine years of infertility, the two babies she miscarried, and the two children she and her husband have since adopted. Casper said even in her loving church, she has never found a kindred friend who similarly experienced infertility: “You have all these broken hearts and all these hurting people sitting in church pews and it is not being addressed. … Where are all these grieving mothers and fathers?”

Casper breaks that silence by blogging and speaking about her infertility. She describes one vivid memory when she was Christmas shopping with her husband and his cell phone rang. It was the fertility specialist calling with the results of four months of testing. Definitive infertility on both sides, he said: “Some people just can’t have children. Now you need to work on accepting that.”

At that time Casper had been married two years. She was 23. “I couldn’t accept it. … How could everything you have ever wanted be taken from you at the beginning?” Grappling with a God who would ask her to surrender her lifelong dreams, Casper found herself weeping in a pew at Virginia Military Institute’s chapel, where her husband now serves as chaplain. “Am I going to trust God? That was the pivotal moment.”

Two years later Casper began researching Ethiopian adoption agencies. Their now 3-year-old son, Mareto, came home in February 2011, followed a year and a half later by their now 2-year-old daughter, Arsema. Casper says motherhood didn’t remove her longing for a biological child. After Mareto came home, she was surprised the struggle was still painful: “Did that longing for pregnancy go away? No. But it got so much better.” She says she’s “thankful for the journey of infertility because I don’t know if otherwise I would have Mareto and Arsema. I cannot imagine life without them.”

In Oklahoma, three packets of carefully collected pictures, handwritten notes, and pregnancy tests are all Jessica Cockroft has to remember the three lives she carried but never got to meet: “I wrote their stories from start to finish and added any pictures I took while I was pregnant with them. I have those as memories.”

Cockroft, 24, and her husband Joshua, a Republican state representative, celebrated their third anniversary in January. She first became pregnant seven months after her wedding in January 2011: “I had no thought of the possibility that we would lose the baby.”

In February 2012, morning sickness and mood swings returned with the joyful discovery that she was again pregnant. But the baby died before doctors could detect a heartbeat. “That was the only time I can remember in my life that I was angry at God.” Cockroft said. “I knew that God heard me in my anger and He stayed with me.”

About a year later, Cockroft had a third positive pregnancy test. She recalled lying on the examination table on a beautiful morning in April 2013, staring at that same screen that had revealed the passing of their other two babies. This time, the line on the monitor screen jumped up and down. The Cockrofts walked out the door holding pictures of their 8-week-old baby, the sound of its heartbeat seared in their minds. At a follow-up appointment, the heartbeat was gone.

“People who have not experienced this loss think it should be easier because we hadn’t actually had the child yet,” Cockroft said. “It’s the same grieving process for a mother who has lost a child.”

Cockroft said her caring church family didn’t know how to respond to her repeated losses, and she couldn’t articulate her feelings. She withdrew, working through much of her pain privately and with a small circle of friends. As time went on, she realized that many people thought their lack of children indicated a lack of interest in having them: “People are not taking into consideration that perhaps we had trouble having kids.”

While women experience most directly the pain of miscarriage, men also suffer. It took Indiana pastor Nate Pyle, 34, and his wife Sarah about 15 months to get pregnant with their now 4-year-old son, Luke. They’ve recently passed the two-year mark of hoping for a second child: “Every month is a month that you hope. Maybe this is the month where it will happen. … The monthly cycle starts to crush any desire to hold out hope.”

After they lost a baby to an ectopic pregnancy in March 2013, Pyle got into a yelling match with God. “You said that you formed us in our mother’s womb. Why didn’t this child make it to the womb?” Pyle screamed into the woods. He sensed God replying: I am grieving that this world isn’t the way it is supposed to be either. Pyle said his grief changed. He experienced God as a personal God who brings comfort in suffering.

With so many couples struggling with infertility, Pyle wonders why Christians speak so little about it. The silence, he says, “doesn’t create a great space to care for people.”

Like those other couples, I assumed having children would be easy. The pain of infertility and losing a child challenged me to grapple with what I was created to be. Soon after my miscarriage, I spoke with a friend who pointed out the cultural lie we buy into—that we control our own fertility. This truth helped transfer my hope from a positive pregnancy test to trust in God.

Three months later, I learned I was expecting again—and this time with twin boys! Yet, one twin is not developing properly and has less than a 50 percent chance of survival. In this new stage, I hurt in a deeper way but have found freedom in not pretending I’m in control. There is One who controls my fertility, and I hold onto that in the midst of the rawness, the pain.


Man challenges Belgium’s euthanasia law after mom’s death

By Andrew Branch

(WNS)--Tom Mortier is taking Belgium to Europe’s highest court for allowing doctors to euthanize his depressed mother and waiting to notify him until the next day.

Euthanasia killings in Belgium and the Netherlands have spiked in recent years, especially for people with mental illness or depression, and the elderly who don’t want to go to nursing homes. Godelieva De Troyer died April 19, 2012, at the hands of an oncologist—not her psychiatrist of 20 years, who refused to say her depression was untreatable.

Mortier, a professor at Leuven University College, has spent the last two and a half years learning about and fighting euthanasia, decrying its morbid disguise as healthcare. “This has nothing to do with humanism,” Mortier seethed in an interview last year. “This has nothing to do with taking care of a human being.” 

Mortier told me in a brief email Sept. 10 that he delved into euthanasia law and where it came from after his mother died. He was featured in international media as an advocate for life as Quebec debated and eventually legalized euthanasia last year. “I believe that the appeal to ‘free choice’ is becoming a dogma of convenience,” Mortier argues in a post on his blog. “We are rapidly changing into a society of absolute loneliness where we don’t want to take care of each other any more.”

It wasn’t until last week, though, that Mortier and Christian legal group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) filed a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights over his mother’s death.

ADF’s Robert Clarke, based in Vienna, Austria, told me the organization heard about the case “through providence.” Roger Kiska, another ADF attorney, heard of Mortier’s case while in Belgium this year as the country debated and eventually legalized the euthanasia of children. Kiska and ADF have worked with Mortier ever since, developing the case for the high court after verifying Mortier had exhausted all his legal options in Belgium.

The court doesn’t have to take the case, but Clarke and his team believe it has a chance to roll back euthanasia advocates’ gains in western Europe. ADF and Mortier want to “challenge … what has essentially become euthanasia without any limits,” Clarke told me. 

First, they argue the euthanasia of Mortier’s mother violated Belgium’s own laws. “She suffered from a mental illness that is not only treatable, but on her own account was caused at least in part by feeling distant from her children,” Clarke said.

The doctors she sought out to approve her death—after those who knew her refused—never sought treatment for her depression by asking the children to speak to their mother, who had broken off contact with them. 

“The few safeguards that do exist in the law aren’t being used to safeguard anyone,” Clarke said. 

Even worse, oncologist Wim Distelmans did not approve De Troyer’s request until after she donated €2,500 to Life End Information Forum, a euthanasia organization Distelmans co-founded. Distelmans also co-chairs the government's policing arm that verifyies euthanasia cases comply with the law, so he was “policing himself,” Clarke told me. 

ADF also is challenging the larger issue of euthanasia, arguing it is illegal based on European human rights law. Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights declares that “everyone’s right to life shall be protected by law,” and “no one shall be deprived of his life intentionally” unless ordered by criminal conviction. But Article 8 gives Europeans a right to a private life—a clause used by pro-euthanasia activists to justify allowing people to take their own lives.

Bioethicist Theo Boer, who sits on a Dutch government committee that reviews the country’s euthanasia cases, told me in an email that while unusual, similar cases can happen in the Netherlands. “I think the fact that the children weren't informed is heartbreaking, but it happens here, too,” he said. Boer, once a supporter of euthanasia, now urges countries against legalization as his country’s safeguards, once lauded by many for protecting human dignity, have disintegrated.




Highland Park Presbyterian settles with PCUSA

(WNS)--Highland Park Presbyterian in Dallas, one of the largest churches in the Presbyterian Church (USA) will pay the denomination $7.8 million to settle a suit over ownership of the church’s campus and other assets. In October, 89 percent of the church’s membership voted to disassociate with the PCUSA and join the more conservative A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians (ECO). The PCUSA’s support for gay clergy provided one reason for the split. Another former PCUSA church, Menlo Park Presbyterian in California, reached a similar arrangement with the denomination when it left earlier this year, agreeing to pay $8.9 million for its property. Menlo Park also joined ECO.


Cruz walks out on gala to protest anti-Israel hecklers


(WNS)--Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, walked off the stage at a gala dinner for Middle Eastern Christians after some in the crowd booed his pro-Israel remarks. “I told the attendees that those who hate Israel also hate America, that those who hate Jews also hate Christians, and that anyone who hates Israel and the Jewish people is not following the teachings of Christ,” Cruz said in a statement after the speech. He was speaking at a dinner hosted by the recently founded group In Defense of Christians (IDC), which seeks to call attention to the persecution of Christians in the Middle East. When the hecklers would not quiet down, Cruz reportedly said, “If you will not stand with Israel and the Jews, then I will not stand with you” and walked off the stage. IDC has denounced the disruption, saying a small group of political opportunists caused it. 

Dinesh D’Souza Pleads for Mercy, Voices Regret


(WNS)--Conservative commentator and former Christian college president Dinesh D’Souza, facing a Sept. 23 sentencing in New York, asked for community service probation instead of prison time in court filings on Wednesday. He told the judge overseeing his sentencing that he was sorry for his actions and wouldn’t repeat them. Accompanying the pre-sentencing memo were dozens of letters of support from D’Souza’s friends, family, and colleagues.  In May, D’Souza pleaded guilty to orchestrating $20,000 in illegal campaign contributions for U.S. Senate candidate Wendy Long. D’Souza faces 10 to 16 months in prison under the plea deal, but his defense has argued that his integrity and lack of criminal record should allow a ‘nonguideline’ sentence. His lawyer, Benjamin Brafman, argued that similar cases had resulted in probation, not prison time. Brafman suggested a probation sentence under which D’Souza could do community service at the Boys and Girls Club of Greater San Diego or teach English to new immigrants. D’Souza also argued that he had “paid a price” for his crimes because of the public humiliation around the case and his conviction. 

Women’s College Redefines “Women”


(WNS)--An all-women’s college in South Hadley, Mass., has expanded its definition of “women” with a new admissions policy this week. Mount Holyoke College President Lynn Pasquerella announced in her convocation speech that the school would accept openly transgender students, including students who were born male but identify themselves as women. The policy change comes after Mills College in Oakland, Calif., announced this summer it would accept “self-identified women” into its all-women’s school—the first single-sex college in the United States to publicly establish such a policy.

Andrew Klavan Hired to Write Script for Gosnell


(WNS)--The producers of the movie about convicted killer and abortionist Kermit Gosnell have hired bestselling and award-winning novelist and screenwriter Andrew Klavan to write its screenplay. The hire is the latest gutsy move for the team behind Gosnell, which broke records by raising the most money—about $2.1 million with the help of almost 27,000 donors—at Indiegogo, a crowdfunding website.  Husband-and-wife filmmakers Phelim McAleer and Ann McElhinney, along with Magda Segieda, decided to make a film about Gosnell because they believed nobody else in liberal-leaning Hollywood would. They call Gosnell “America’s biggest serial killer”— but he’s also one of the least known. The Gosnell case caused much ire and disgust within pro-life and conservative circles, but barely sparked interest from mainstream media.

Federal Judge: Louisiana Has a Right to Ban Gay Marriage

(WNS)--A federal judge in New Orleans became the first in the nation to uphold traditional marriage laws on Sept. 3, ruling Louisiana has a right to regulate marriage as it sees fit. Louisiana bans same-sex marriage and does not recognize such unions formed in other states. U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman said the couples challenging the laws failed to prove they violated the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection or due process provisions. The couples also argued the state’s laws violate the First Amendment because they can’t file joint tax returns, which would allow them to access federal tax deductions. The Louisiana couples, represented by Forum on Equality, plan to appeal to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Traditional Marriage Laws Fall in Two More States


(WNS)--A three-judge panel of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously struck down traditional marriage provisions in Wisconsin and Indiana. A constitutional amendment approved in 2006 by voters limited marriage in Wisconsin to heterosexual couples, while state law did the same in Indiana. Neither state recognized same-sex marriages performed in other states. During oral arguments in August, Ronald Reagan appointee Judge Richard Posner said bans on same-sex marriage amounted to “hate” and “savage discrimination.” Posner continued his extreme language in the court’s opinion on the case, stating, “homosexuals are among the most stigmatized, misunderstood, and discriminated-against minorities in the history of the world.” The 7th Circuit is the third federal appeals court to reverse state laws on marriage.

Louisiana Abortionists Can Practice Without Hospital Support, For Now


(WNS)--A federal judge on Aug. 30 temporarily blocked enforcement of a Louisiana law that requires abortionists to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. Three of the state’s five abortion facilities filed suit, represented by the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR). The law requires all Louisiana abortionists to obtain admitting privileges at hospitals within 30 miles of their respective facilities. Violators risk losing their licenses and a $4,000 fine. The restraining order allows abortionists to continue to practice while they seek admitting privileges. District Judge John deGravelles said he will hold a conference in 30 days to evaluate the progress toward obtaining admitting privileges and set a court date for his ruling on a preliminary injunction.



Hamas to talk with Israel

(WNS)--A Hamas leader said the group was ready to break its long-standing silent treatment of Israel and talk directly to the country’s leaders. The terror group that controls the Gaza Strip, where a bloody conflict ended just two weeks ago, wants to negotiate over issues such as border crossings between Gaza and Israel and prisoner releases. “Up till now our policy was no negotiation with (Israel), but others should be aware that this issue is not taboo,” said Hamas’s second-in-command, Musa Abu Marzouk, in an interview with Al Quds TV.



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