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from Breitbart:

More than 90 per cent of Christians in the UK believe their faith is being marginalized in British society, a survey has revealed.

It also found a majority of Christians thought their faith was not given the same respect as other religions in the UK, with most feeling it was considered unacceptable for them to share their beliefs in public.

The survey, conducted by Premier Christian Communications, questioned more than 12,000 “ordinary Christians” as part of a ‘State of the Faith’ study.

93 per cent of respondents said they “believe that Christianity is being marginalized” in Britain, and half said they had experienced prejudice because of their faith.

80 per cent of respondents said “Christianity is not given equal respect” compared with other religions and worldviews, and 67 per cent said they did not think it was considered acceptable in society for Christians to share their faith with others.

Younger Christians were more likely to say that they experienced prejudice for their faith, with 70 per cent of respondents aged 15 to 19 reporting negative experiences.

“Partly because of illiteracy [and] partly because of those who have a very different agenda, we may be moving into a period when debate is shut down — where you can’t have an honest debate and agree to differ,” said Nola Leach, head of a Christian lobbying group Care.

Premier CEO Peter Kerridge said in a statement that “It’s clear we are not the liberal accepting society we think we are if we don’t tolerate and accept everyone, including Christians.”

He added that the survey “clearly indicates how it feels to be an ordinary Christian today … This is not the clergy talking, or academics theorising, or politicians making a case.

“These are ordinary Christians who feel overwhelmingly that their Christian beliefs are being marginalised and that as a result, it is becoming far more difficult to live as a person of faith in the UK.”

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from PJ Media:

penly gay LGBT activist Tim Gill, who has poured $422 million into the homosexual movement since the 1990s, recently told Rolling Stone why he won’t allow Christians to opt out of participating in same-sex weddings.

“We’re going to punish the wicked,” Gill told Rolling Stone. After the 2015 Supreme Court decision Obergefell v. Hodges legalized same-sex marriage across the country, Gill turned his activism apparatus against religious freedom restoration acts (RFRAs) and toward a legal mentality that would penalize Christians, and anyone else in business, who refuse to participate in a same-sex wedding.

“In the wake of Obergefell, … some donors and activists declared victory and moved on,” Rolling Stone‘s Andy Kroll explained. “But Gill insists the LGBTQ civil-rights movement is far from finished: In 28 states, it’s still legal to discriminate against LGBTQ people in housing, employment and public accommodations like restaurants, hotels and restrooms.”

It may not be surprising to see Rolling Stone so misrepresent the situation like this (see “UVA rape scandal”). But the record needs to be set straight: The “public accommodations” push is exactly the line LGBT activists use to undercut Christians’ freedom to opt out of serving same-sex weddings.

Concrete court cases reveal the falseness of this “discrimination” narrative. A Washington state florist and Oregon bakers were fined for refusing to serve same-sex weddings, but they each gladly served the lesbian and gay people who requested wedding services. In both cases, they refused to serve a wedding, fearing that such service would be a public endorsement of something they believed a perversion of marriage.

Under Obergefell, same-sex couples can get married. But a wedding ceremony is still a private event, and people should not be forced to celebrate it, if such a ceremony is opposed to their convictions. This isn’t just an issue of religious freedom — it also involves free speech and free association.

But public accommodation laws have become a cudgel by which LGBT activists attempt to force people to violate their consciences. Indeed, an LGBT group in Ohio actually announced plans to try to force churches to host same-sex weddings on their property. A Christian farmer and his wife in Michigan were excluded from a farmer’s market because they posted on Facebook that they would not host a same-sex wedding on their own property.

In March, the ACLU sued a Sacramento Catholic hospital, even after the hospital helped a transgender patient find another hospital at which to have “his” hysterectomy. The ACLU’s lawsuit makes it clear that this debate isn’t about access — it’s about forcing people to violate their religious convictions.

Last month, the Supreme Court announced that it will consider the case of Colorado baker Jack Phillips, who also refused to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding. Like the Washington florist, the Oregon baker, and the Michigan farmer, Phillips gladly served LGBT people, he just would not endorse a public event which violated his beliefs.

 

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from The Review Journal:

A man yelled “Freedom!” as he crashed his vehicle into Arkansas’ new Ten Commandments monument early Wednesday, nearly three years after he was arrested in the destruction of Oklahoma’s monument at its state Capitol, authorities said.

The privately funded Arkansas monument had been in place outside the state Capitol in Little Rock for less than 24 hours before it was knocked from its plinth and smashed to pieces.

Michael Tate Reed, 32, of Van Buren, Arkansas, was booked in the Pulaski County jail shortly after 7:30 a.m. on preliminary charges of defacing objects of public interest, criminal trespass and first-degree criminal mischief. An arrest report lists his occupation as “unemployed/disabled.”

Authorities did not know whether he had an attorney who could speak on his behalf, and a video arraignment was set for Thursday morning, a Pulaski County sheriff’s spokesman said.

Arkansas Secretary of State’s Office spokesman Chris Powell said officials believe a Facebook Live video posted on a Michael Reed’s Facebook account that depicted the destruction is authentic.

In the video, the sky is dark and the Arkansas Capitol’s dome is visible. Music is heard followed by a female voice, likely on the radio, saying, “Where do you go when you’re faced with adversity and trials and challenges?” The driver is then heard growling, “Oh my goodness. Freedom!” before accelerating into the monument. The vehicle’s speedometer is last shown at 21 mph (33 kph) and then a collision can be heard.

Arkansas’ monument fell from its plinth and broke into multiple pieces as it hit the ground. The debris had been cleaned up by midmorning Wednesday.

Oklahoma County Sheriff’s spokesman Mark Opgrande told The Associated Press on Wednesday that Reed was arrested in October 2014 in the destruction of Oklahoma’s Ten Commandments monument at the state Capitol. Opgrande confirmed that the suspect arrested Wednesday in Arkansas was the same person arrested in the Oklahoma case.

In a 2015 email to the Tulsa World , Reed apologized for wrecking Oklahoma’s monument and said he suffered from mental health issues.

“I am so sorry that this all happening (sic) and wished I could take it all back,” Reed said.

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from The Express:

Violence broke out in Shanggiu in Henan province after 300 police officers and officials demolished the Shuangmiao Christian Church—which was under construction.

Officers dragged out around 40 Christians with one worshipper comparing the brutal scenes to the Japanese invasion of during the Second World War, according to charity China Aid.

Eight Christians remain in custody following the incident amid a crackdown on churches by the communist regime.

hina Aid said: “During the demolition, officials beat dozens of church members, pushing them to the ground and twisting their hands.

“The church was completely razed, and a church member likened the scene to the Japanese invasion of China during World War II.

“Of the 40 seized, eight are still in custody, and the cases of Shuangmiao Christian Church pastor Zhang Di and the church’s vice director, Lü Yuexia, were recently transferred to the Procuratorate, which will decide whether or not to formalise their arrest.”

The Supreme People’s Procuratorate is the highest agency in China responsible for prosecutions.

According to churchgoers Xi Jinping’s Communist Party ordered the church to be destroyed after branding the building an “illegal structure”.

Party officials were sent to the church to search the building and belongings of people on site.

China Aid said the party confiscated phones and other personal property, damaged closets, smashed offering boxes, and stole laptops, money, and jewellery.

The demolition came as row between the church and government escalated over allegations the church refused to pay a £450 arbitrary road usage fee.

Pastor Zhang Di was summoned for questioning last month and accused of assaulting police officers and attacking a village official.

Church leaders are urging the government to release the pastor and churchgoers. They are also calling for police linked to the investigation to be punished.

The Chinese Communist Party has launched a major crackdown on in recent months in an attempt to oppress religious freedom and exercise control.

Churches not sanctioned by the government have been put under surveillance with hundreds of Christians arrested for disturbing public order for offences such as holding bible study groups and displaying crucifixes outside their homes.

There have been reports of Christians being banned from praying, singing hymns, crosses removed from buildings and people arrested for attending church services.

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From MSN:

TANTA, Egypt—Like the Jews before them, Christians are fleeing the Middle East, emptying what was once one of the world’s most-diverse regions of its ancient religions.

They’re being driven away not only by Islamic State, but by governments the U.S. counts as allies in the fight against extremism.

When suicide bomb attacks ripped through two separate Palm Sunday services in Egypt last month, parishioners responded with rage at Islamic State, which claimed the blasts, and at Egyptian state security.

Government forces assigned to the Mar Girgis church in Tanta, north of Cairo, neglected to fix a faulty metal detector at the entrance after church guards found a bomb on the grounds just a week before. The double bombing killed at least 45 people, and came despite promises from the Egyptian government to protect its Christian minority.

As congregants of the Tanta church swept the grounds of debris and scrubbed blood from the walls, a parishioner waved his national identity card: “This ID says whether we are Muslim or Christian. So how did that suicide bomber get into my church? If this identification isn’t for my protection, it’s used for my discrimination.”

By 2025, Christians are expected to represent just over 3% of the Mideast’s population, down from 4.2% in 2010, according to Todd Johnson, director of the Center for the Study of Global Christianity at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Hamilton, Mass. A century before, in 1910, the figure was 13.6%. The accelerating decline stems mostly from emigration, Mr. Johnson says, though higher Muslim birthrates also contribute.

The exodus leaves the Middle East overwhelmingly dominated by Islam, whose rival sects often clash, raising the prospect that radicalism in the region will deepen. Conflicts between Sunni and Shiite Muslims have erupted across the Middle East, squeezing out Christians in places such as Iraq and Syria and forcing them to carve out new lives abroad, in Europe, the U.S. and elsewhere.

“The disappearance of such minorities sets the stage for more radical groups to dominate in society,” said Mr. Johnson of the loss of Christians and Jews in the Middle East. “Religious minorities, at the very least, have a moderating effect.”

Ahmed Abu Zeid, Egypt’s foreign ministry spokesman, denied the government discriminates against Christians. “The presidency has been keen since day one to treat the Egyptian society as one nation, and one fabric,” he said, adding that the government is doing all it could to protect the minority and fight terror.

President Donald Trump expressed his confidence in President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi’s commitment to protecting his Egyptian population in a call between the leaders last month.

Christian activists in Egypt say Washington’s ally in the war on terror has long discriminated against the minority, with recurring bouts of mob violence directed against Christians by their Muslim neighbors often leading to no arrests or charges in the courts. Christians have been barred from some government jobs, such as the state intelligence services, and laws make it virtually impossible to build or restore churches.

The exodus of Christians from the Mideast started about a century ago, with many heading to the U.S. for jobs as America opened its doors to migrants. Later waves stemmed from conflict, such as Lebanon’s civil war, and from fresh economic hardship, such as the U.S.-led sanctions in the 1990s that hobbled Iraq.

At the start of the 21st century, as wars waned, the oil business flourished in the Gulf region and a financial crisis hit the West, the Christian outflow ebbed.

Then in 2011, the outlook darkened dramatically. What started as hopeful revolutions across the Mideast largely degenerated into strife, civil war and the rise of extremist groups.

The outbreak of Syria’s multisided civil war in 2011 prompted about half of the country’s Christian population of 2.5 million to flee the country, according to Christian charities monitoring the flow. Many escaped to neighboring Lebanon, an anomaly in the region with Christians wielding political power and worshiping freely.

In Iraq, the instability that started in 2003, when a U.S. invasion toppled Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, deepened more than a decade later when Islamic State took over about one-quarter of the country. Iraqi church officials and the religion’s political representatives say only one-fifth of the country’s Christians remain of the approximately 1.5 million before 2003, according to estimates based on church attendance and voter rolls that identify religion.

Even though Iraqi forces have gained the upper hand over Islamic State, the country’s Christians show no sign of returning to homes they fled.

In northern Iraq, blue and white charter buses crisscross neighborhoods of recently liberated Mosul, returning Muslim families displaced by Islamic State. They drive through Christian areas without stopping. For the first time in nearly two millennia, Iraq’s second-largest city, once a melting pot of ancient religions, lacks a Christian population to speak of.

The Al-Aswad family, a clan of masons who built the city’s houses, churches and mosques and trace their lineage back to the 19th century, vow never to return. They’ve opted to live in the rat-infested refugee camps of Erbil in northern Iraq, where they await updates on their asylum application to Australia.

A Christian charity has given them a small apartment until June, at which point they will have to return to the refugee camps to live in a converted cargo shipping container.

“We call it the cemetery,” said Raghd Al-Aswad, describing how the cargo containers are covered with dark blue tarps to protect against the rain. “It looks like dead bodies stacked side by side with a giant hospital sheet on top of them.”

Mrs. Aswad fled Mosul with her husband, three children and in-laws in June 2014 when Islamic State took control of the city by routing Iraqi security forces, many of whom fled instead of fighting. The family was also run out of Mosul by al Qaeda in 2007, returning two years later.

Before the Aswads fled Mosul the last time, they left a bag of family photo albums with their Muslim neighbor, Ahmed Abou Hassan, for safekeeping. It was a risk for Mr. Hassan under Islamic State rules, one he says he gladly took.

Mr. Hassan couldn’t protect the Aswad home itself from the extremist group, which used it to house their fighters. The neighborhood was liberated in January. A recent visit by a reporter showed that the windows were broken, furniture destroyed. Weeds covered a cherished garden and tangerine tree.

Mr. Abou Hassan yearns to see his old friends again. “When the Christians come back to Mosul, hope will come back,” he said.

The Aswads say that won’t happen. “We don’t have any more trust,” said Raghida’s husband, Adwer. “This wasn’t the first time. The next time we might die.”

The Iraqi government says it is working to secure Mosul and other Christian areas so the minority can return.

“Terrorism has affected everyone and for sure the Christians as well,” said Sa’ad Al-Hadithi, a spokesman for the prime minister’s office. “The Iraqi government is working to alleviate all concerns by encouraging Christians to stay in Iraq since they are an indigenous group.”

Today, more Arab Christians live outside the Middle East than in the region. Some 20 million live abroad, compared with 15 million Arab Christians who remain in the Mideast, according to a report last year by a trio of Christian charities and the University of East London.

In 1971, Egyptian Coptic Christians had two churches in the U.S. Today there are 252 Coptic churches, according to Samuel Tadros, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom.

Mr. Tadros estimates that some one million Copts have fled Egypt since the 1950s, many to the U.S., Canada, U.K. and Australia.

Mr. Trump has indicated he would welcome more Christian refugees from the Middle East. His initial efforts to overhaul immigration policies have been blocked by the courts amid criticism his executive orders would discriminate on the basis of religion.

The Arab Christian diaspora in the U.S. has already emerged as powerful in politics and business. Dina Powell, Mr. Trump’s influential deputy national security adviser, is of Egyptian Coptic origin.

With the near-depletion of the Christian population in the Middle East and the recent flight of the Kurdish minority Yazidis from Islamic State, followed just a few decades after the flight of its Jews, many fear for the region’s future—not only because of the rise of radicalism but the loss of talent needed for sputtering economies.

Killed in the Palm Sunday attack at the church in Tanta was Mina Abdo, an engineer who left Egypt over a decade ago with his family, in part to allow his wife Yvonne to pursue her profession of gynecology.

Christian Egyptians have had a hard time getting work in her field since the 1970s when a fraudulent police report emerged accusing the sect of plotting to outnumber Muslims by performing abortions on unsuspecting Muslim women, or secretly slipping them birth control. The document has been likened to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a fabrication used to discriminate against Europe’s Jews a century ago.

The family returned to Tanta after celebrating Holy Week for years in their adopted home of Kuwait City. In Egypt, they could sit under a steeple, which their church in Kuwait lacks because official churches are banned there. Mr. Abdo and his son, Kerollos, 11, took the front pews in Mar Girgis, which had a good view of the altar, where many of the family had been baptized and married.

When the suicide bomber detonated his vest that morning, the explosion mangled the same front pews, killing Mr. Abdo instantly. His body shielded his son, Kerollos, who survived but suffered shrapnel wounds to his face and right leg.

Two days after the attack, at a nearby hospital, Mrs. Abdo and her 14-year-old daughter, Miriam, tended to Kerollos. Mother and daughter wore the sweaters Mr. Abdo packed for their trip back home. Miriam wore her father’s crucifix, his wedding ring and hospital identity tag hanging off the thick gold chain—possessions the hospital put in a plastic zip-lock bag when Mr. Abdo was pronounced dead on arrival. His remains would stay in Egypt.

When asked whether she’d return, Mrs. Abdo hesitated. “I love Egypt. I love my memories here. But I’m scared now,” she said. “We will come back for visits, we must. My husband is buried here.”

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From CBN News:

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A new California bill could prevent faith-based organizations from enforcing their own ethical standards and codes.

Many religious organizations ask new employees to sign a code of conduct that aligns with what the Bible says about abortion, contraception, and sex outside of marriage. However, a new bill called AB 569 calls these provisions discriminatory and says they should be banned.

The bill’s author, Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzales Fletcher, says religious organizations are “invading the privacy and personal lives of women” when they prohibit their “reproductive choices,” including abortion or extramarital sex.

“A woman should never face repercussions in the workplace for her reproductive choices,” said Assemblywoman Gonzalez Fletcher. “It’s unacceptable.”

California Family Council President Jonathan Keller argues that preventing religious organizations from enforcing their own policies is religious discrimination.

“Every organization that promotes a pro-life message must be able to require its employees to practice what they preach,” said Keller. “The right to freely exercise one’s religion is enshrined in our Constitution and has always protected every American’s ability to freely associate around shared beliefs and practices. It is unconscionable for any politician to attempt to abridge this sacrosanct religious liberty by inserting themselves into the employee-employer relationship.”

Keller went further by pointing out that organizations must implement these policies if they are to be faithful to their religious beliefs and core mission.

Randy Thomasson, president of SaveCalifornia.com, is working tirelessly to mobilize the nation against the bill. He encourages Americans  to call their lawmakers and make their voices heard.

“They have to call in droves,” Thomasson told CBN News. “But really, the repeal needs to be in our own hearts and minds. We have to stop voting for people that are against religious freedom.”

Americans who wish to get involved can do so by going to savecalifornia.com where they can find steps on how to fight the bill.

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from the Seattle Times:

A Richland florist who refused to provide flowers to a gay couple for their wedding violated anti-discrimination law, the state Supreme Court ruled Thursday.

The court ruled unanimously that Barronelle Stutzman discriminated against longtime customers Rob Ingersoll and Curt Freed when she refused to do the flowers for their 2013 wedding because of her religious opposition to same-sex marriage. Instead, Stutzman suggested several other florists in the area who would help them.

“We’re thrilled that the Washington Supreme Court has ruled in our favor. The court affirmed that we are on the right side of the law and the right side of history,” Ingersoll and Freed said in a statement.

 Stutzman and her attorneys said they would appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court. They also held out hope that President Donald Trump would issue an executive order protecting religious freedom, which was a campaign pledge.
Stutzman called the ruling “terrifying when you think the government is coming in and telling you what to think and what to do.”

In its decision, the state’s highest court rejected Stutzman’s claims that since other florists in the area were willing to provide flowers, no harm resulted from her refusal.

Writing for the court majority, Justice Sheryl Gordon McCloud said, “We emphatically reject this argument. We agree with Ingersoll and Freed that ‘this case is no more about access to flowers than civil rights cases were about access to sandwiches.’ … As every other court to address the question has concluded, public accommodations laws do not simply guarantee access to goods or services. Instead, they serve a broader societal purpose: eradicating barriers to the equal treatment of all citizens in the commercial marketplace.”

 The court also rejected Stutzman’s claims that her floral arrangements were a form of artistic expression and so protected by the First Amendment. Citing the case of a New Mexico photographer who similarly refused to take pictures at a gay marriage, the court said, “while photography may be expressive, the operation of a photography business is not.”

In December 2012, soon after the state legalized gay marriage, Ingersoll and Freed began planning a large wedding. Stutzman, who had provided flowers to the couple numerous times over the years, refused, citing her religious belief that marriage is a sacred covenant between a man and a woman.

The couple went ahead with their wedding, but they had it at home with 11 guests and flowers from another florist, instead of the larger event they had envisioned.

 The couple, state Attorney General Bob Ferguson and the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington (ACLU) sued Stutzman under the state’s anti-discrimination and consumer-protection laws in what became a high-profile case that highlighted the clash between the right to be treated equally under the law and the free exercise of religion and speech.

A Benton County Superior Court judge last February ruled that Stutzman’s religious beliefs did not allow her to discriminate against the couple and that she must provide flowers for same-sex weddings, or stop doing weddings at all. The trial court also imposed a fine of $1,000 and legal fees of just $1.

Thursday’s state Supreme Court ruling upheld the lower court.

Ferguson on Thursday hailed the decision, saying, “It is a complete, unequivocal victory for equality in the state of Washington and sends a clear message around the country as well.”

 Speaking with Ferguson at a news conference in Seattle, Michael Scott, the ACLU attorney for the same-sex couple, said the decision recognizes “human beings and their lives” while upholding the “core value of American law” regarding human dignity.

Scott said he would be surprised if the U.S. Supreme Court heard the case, citing a century of unbroken legal precedent. “It’s not groundbreaking law,” he said.

read the full article here.

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