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Opponents to religious freedom are becoming more numerous and much bolder in their assaults. And it’s not just the usual crowd anymore. The Obama Administration, American Civil Liberties Union, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Planned Parenthood, and others, are going non-stop in their attempts to radically change the world.

One of the more outrageous recent assaults is coming from the United Nations. The Convention on the Rights of the Child is one of the UN organizations opposing religious freedom, the sanctity of life, marriage and family. The Convention uses pressure tactics to browbeat nations into acceptance of radical social changes.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child told the Catholic Church to yield its Biblical beliefs to a worldview that can only be called secular — and the darker things that come with it.

The Convention called for the Church to approve abortion and homosexual behavior. It told the Church to approve of contraceptives – not just adults, but for children!

Ironically, the Convention originally started out in 1994 with a pro-life stance:

“… the child, by reason of his physical and mental immaturity, needs special safeguards and care, including appropriate legal protection, before as well as after birth.”

In the Convention’s 2014 world, preborn children are no longer entitled to “appropriate legal protection.” The committee demanded the Catholic Church change its teaching on family. It accused the Church of “stigmatizing” and contributing to “violence” against the children of homosexual parents.

The Church, among others, has long believed the Convention undermines parents’ rights. And the committee wants to dispel that perception. It is pressuring the Vatican to give up its reservation.

This assault on religious freedom is not occurring in a vacuum. It raises red flags for Protestants and Catholics alike. Though the Catholic Church is under attack now, everyone with Biblical beliefs on marriage, life, and liberty should pay attention. An attack on anyone’s religious liberty is an attack on all.

Erik Stanley, senior legal counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, said, “These attacks on the Church serve to marginalize the Church simply for standing on Biblical Truth. The church must be allowed to be the church.”

The Vatican is seeking to do just that. It is objecting to the Convention’s “attempt to interfere with Catholic Church teaching.” The Church is confirming its commitment to “the moral and religious values offered by Catholic doctrine.”

Situations like this are increasing in frequency and intensity. And that’s why Alliance Defending Freedom exists. Along with our allies in the U.S. and overseas, we are protecting everyone’s right to speak free, pray free, and live free. The United Nations must respect religious freedom and allow the Church to be the Church. Only then, will children and people of faith truly be free.

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Christmas Bible

Celebrating Christmas in America is, in many ways, predictable.  The decorations go up in the retail stores, the commercials on television take a decidedly “holiday” turn, the Salvation Army bell-ringers are out in force collecting with their ubiquitous red kettles, and radio stations begin to play the Christmas favorites.  These “signs of the season” are predictable and, in many ways, welcome as we look forward to celebrating Christmas.  After all, we take comfort in the holiday traditions that reappear every year.

Yet one of the “signs of the season” that has become just as predictable, but certainly less welcome, are the battles over Christmas celebration in the public square.  Even in recent days, media reports have surfaced of a charter school banning Christmas carols at a school concert and of another school dropping Operation Christmas Child after threats of a lawsuit by atheists.  These battles have become as predictable as the lights and decorations that accompany the signs of the season.

But virtually none of these battles have to end by capitulating to the shrill demands of those who claim celebrating Christmas is unconstitutional.  The truth is that public acknowledgements of the Christmas holiday are not unconstitutional and never have been.  It is constitutional to say “Merry Christmas.”  It is constitutional to sing or perform religious Christmas carols at public school concerts.  It is constitutional to have a Christmas tree, and there is nothing in the Constitution requiring the absurd step of calling it a holiday tree.  It is also constitutional to have a nativity scene on public property, under certain conditions.

There are practical things you can do to ensure that Christ is not removed from the public square this Christmas:

1. Download this resource on seasonal religious expression to learn more about what the constitution protects, and give it to the government officials who attend your church.

2. You can also download a resource specifically targeted to school administrators and teachers.

3. Find out if your town has a public display area and have your church sponsor the display of a nativity scene there.

4. And say “Merry Christmas!” to everyone you meet.

 

As always, let us know if you hear of attempts to remove Christ from Christmas.  Our attorneys are ready to combat the nonsense of those who object to Christmas and to defend the public acknowledgment that Christmas is about the birth of Jesus Christ.  We’ve been blessed to have success in this area, restoring Christmas carols to school concerts this season in Wisconsin and New Jersey.  And our attorneys recently sent out a letter explaining the law in this area to over 13,000 school districts across the country.

Let’s celebrate the Christmas holiday this year with the welcome, time-honored, and constitutional traditions we are so fond of.  And let’s refuse to allow those who wish to use this season to once again establish their radical agenda.  Merry Christmas to all!

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Cities, towns, villages, and hamlets across the country often permit a wide array of signs—especially political signs—to be placed within their borders.  Yet all too often these local governments apply different, and far more restrictive, rules to signs placed by churches.  In legal terms this is called “content-based discrimination,” and it is forbidden by the First Amendment.

Alliance Defending Freedom represents an Arizona church facing exactly this type of discrimination.  In Gilbert, AZ, the town’s sign code broadly permits the display of political, ideological, and other types of signs.  The jumble of political signs depicted below is a common sight on many street corners in Gilbert throughout the year.

While Gilbert broadly permits this dizzying array of signs, it severely restricts signs inviting people to a church’s services.  It does so by requiring church signs to be, among other things, far smaller in size and displayed for a shorter duration than other similar signs.  The graphic below (which is drawn to scale) shows the differences in size:

 

Churches also get the short end of the stick (to say the least) regarding the amount of time their signs can be displayed.  While Gilbert permits political signs to be displayed for five months, it limits church invitation signs to 12 hours before the start of the service.  And to add insult to injury, the combination of the 12-hour limit and the fact that most churches hold services on Sunday mornings results in most church invitation signs sitting in virtual darkness the majority of the time they are displayed.

Unfortunately, earlier this year the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Gilbert’s discriminatory treatment of our client’s signs.  But the battle to protect the church’s religious liberty does not end there.  Alliance Defending Freedom recently asked the United States Supreme Court to hear the church’s case. We expect to find out soon whether or not the High Court will accept this case.

Please join us in praying that the High Court grants review in this important case and upholds the free speech rights of churches.  In addition, if you know of a church that is facing similar obstacles, please contact Alliance Defending Freedom at 1-800-835-523, or online via our Legal Help Form, so we can protect churches from heavy-handed government restrictions in your community as well.

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Guest Author:  Pastor Jimmy Seibert

Dear Friends,

I recently shared a message called, “Clarity and Compassion.” The purpose was to be Biblically clear about gender identity according to God’s word and create a compassionate environment to work towards wholeness.

In Genesis 1:27-28 and Genesis 2:21-24 we see God’s outline for mankind. God is the One who created us and decided we would be male and female. God is the One who initiated how we would relate to one another physically, mentally and emotionally in the purity of marriage and the uniqueness of our gender.

In Genesis 3:1 when Adam and Eve were tempted in the garden, the enemy asked, “Has God really said…?”, beginning the temptation that would eventually bring sin into the world and blind us from God’s purity, purpose, and plan.

Today, that question, “Has God really said…?” is brought up daily. As we move forward during these challenging days we, as pastors and leaders, must be clear on what the Bible says about who we really are. With great compassion, we can draw people back to the scriptures and to God’s original design. Through Jesus we have not only been forgiven of our sins, but also brought back into the wholeness that Adam and Eve had before sin entered the world.

I have spent years meditating on Genesis 1:1-3 because I believe with all my heart that if you can fully absorb God’s original intent and understand the power of sin, you will be well-equipped to navigate the issues of the day, specifically related to gender, marriage, and family.

At Antioch Community Church, we are on a journey to help people through the confusion of our culture. When we deal specifically with the issue of homosexuality, I realize there are three categories of people we are communicating with:

Category 1: Those who know homosexuality is sin and desperately want help. It is our responsibility to offer help with great compassion. At Antioch, we offer a program called Living Waters, an eight week in-depth approach to healing sexual brokenness and clarifying identity. We also have specific counseling services as well. But the core of who we are is our small groups, which we call Lifegroups, where we offer discipleship and community. The sense of belonging that comes from those relationships is really the make or break for someone coming out of any addiction, especially sexual addiction.

Category 2:  Those who are not sure if homosexuality is right or wrong.  I have found that those 30 years of age and younger are Biblically illiterate and culturally immersed. When we are speaking to that group, they are not necessarily resistant to God’s word, it is just that they don’t know what God’s word says. For those who have honest hearts and honest questions, we offer clarity on where we stand in written form, spoken communication and books and resources offered. We also offer discipleship to answer those in-depth questions such as, “How do I deal with a friend or family member?” and “How do I deal with my own struggles?”  By realizing we are re-educating a generation, we can better understand where to go and what is needed.

Category 3: Those who believe homosexuality is who they are and it is their lifestyle of choice despite any loving insight from the Bible or other believers. This is what the Bible calls rebellion. Psalm 68:5- 6 says God is a Father to the fatherless and gives a home to the lonely. The passage ends with the phrase, “only the rebellious live in a parched land.” After 25 years of ministering to people, not just with sexual brokenness but all kinds of sin issues, I find God is willing to heal and restore anyone, unless they are willfully rebellious to God, His word and His people. That rebellion ultimately keeps them from what they need.

The way I describe it to people who choose to walk another way but still want to be a part of the church, is that the church is not simply a civic organization or a social gathering. The church is a group of people gathered around Jesus Christ and the scriptures who are trying to live life according to His way and not their own. In our by-laws we have a clear doctrinal statement that clarifies what we believe about marriage and about how we live our lives. To be a member of Antioch, one must sign off on that doctrinal statement and on a Matthew 18 discipline process for those who choose sin and rebellion. There is a rare occasion where someone will go all the way through a discipline process because they obviously can choose in a voluntary organization to walk away whenever they like. What needs to be clear, though, is what God’s Word says and where we stand for discipline through the journey.

Throughout American history, and actually world history, revival has always come when we have realized our sin and brought people back to God and the scriptures.  In the midst of the brokenness of our society, we need a revival; a returning to God and His ways. As pastors and leaders, we do it with compassion, but we also do it with such clarity that people truly can come face to face with who God is, how their sin breaks God’s heart, and also destroys their own lives.  When we do that, no matter what the challenges are, we can trust that God will use us to set men and women free.  And isn’t that we are called to do? To be the rescued who in turn rescue others so God might be glorified and people might be helped.

http://antiochcc.com/sermons/clarity-and-compassion/

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Churches and religious organizations face a rapidly-changing American culture.  Many churches are confronting things they never thought they would a decade ago.  The issues of same-sex “marriage”, homosexual behavior, and gender-identity, are among the emerging issues that confront churches today.  The legal impact of these issues on churches can appear confusing.

In responding to a culture seemingly bent on fulfilling every whim of the sexual revolution, today’s churches must take the time to revise or implement their statement of faith on the issues of marriage and human sexuality.   Churches who know their position on these issues may think it unnecessary, but every church must understand that culture at large no longer subscribes to a Judeo-Christian sexual ethic or morality.  As one pastor recently put it, the church is no longer the “home team” in America.  As a result, it is important for a church to put in writing what it believes on the issues confronting culture.  And from a legal perspective, it is always better to act in advance.  If a church is ever required to legally prove its religious beliefs on these issues, having written evidence will ensure that it can do so easily.

So, here is some advice and resources to start the process at your church:

1.         Adopt or revise your statement of faith to include the church’s religious beliefs on marriage and human sexuality.  Alliance Defending Freedom has a resource that explains the importance of including these issues in your statement of faith.  Feel free to download and print this document for your church leaders.

2.         Use the suggested language put together by Alliance Defending Freedom as a guide for statements of faith on marriage and human sexuality for your church.

3.         Put it in your own words as your church would state it. There is no “magic” or legally required language to adopt in your statement of faith.  Instead, this simply state the church’s religious beliefs on the issue of marriage and human sexuality

4.         If you are in the process of revising your bylaws, review the resource by Alliance Defending Freedom entitled Seven Things All Churches Should Have In Their Bylaws.

Taking proactive steps to update or implement your church’s statement of faith will strengthen a defense should one be legally necessary in the future.  Please take advantage of these resources or call us at (800) 835-5233 if you have specific legal questions.

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