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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Wendy Davis for governor...

...not!

Time is running out on the Texas gubernatorial race, and apparently Wendy Davis is getting desperate. One of the first signs of desperation was attacking the guy in a wheelchair. Republican candidate Greg Abbott has long been confined to a wheelchair since an accident left him partially paralyzed. If a broad sense, if Davis attacks Abbott she is attacking a guy in a wheelchair. But that be damned, she decided to go directly after the wheelchair. Who is her campaign manager, and is he or she still employed? Actually there was a legitimate concern in the ad that opens with the shot of an empty wheelchair and complaining about Abbott. But, really, who thought this approach would fly with the public?


The legitimate concern is the possible hypocrisy of Abbott -- he sued after his accident and won, but may have fought to deny the same kind of justice to other accident victims. I believe that is a fair question for Abbott to answer. But the ads by Davis simply don't sell to the Texas public. 


Now perhaps Davis is in dire straits. Recently she has implied that Greg Abbott opposes interracial marriage -- despite the fact he is married to a Latina. Not enough, another article shows that Wendy Davis hyperventilates, attacks Greg Abbott over dildos.


That writer concludes that “Wendy Davis, the Texas Democrat known as 'abortion Barbie,' never learned the first rule about holes. Digging them, that is...”


[Note: This post should not be considered an endorsement of Greg Abbott, but an anti-endorsement of Davis.]

Can the Hitching Post deny homosexual marriages?

Advocates of same-sex marriage have long said that they want the right to marry, but aren't interested in forcing religious officials to consecrate those marriages in violation of their own religious beliefs. Apparently some same-sex couple in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, does think this way. 

This month the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals invalidated Idaho's ban on same-sex marriage. This apparently makes gay marriage legal in the state (at least barring the Supreme Court ever weighing in on the issue) and changed some of the outlook of city anti-discrimination ordinances. Friday, October 17th the Hitching Post Wedding Chapel was contacted by a man wanting a same-sex wedding. The chapel turned him down. This put Donald and Evelyn Knapp, who own and operate the wedding chapel, in violation of a 2013 Coeur d'Alene discrimination ordinance. "Violation of the ordinance is a misdemeanor punishable by fines and jail time." (Up to 180 days in jail and $1,000 per day in fines, and the ADF claims "each day the Knapps decline to perform a requested same-sex wedding ceremony, they commit a separate and distinct misdemeanor, subject to the same penalties.") When it was passed, opponents of the ordinance said, for example, that the rule would "discriminate against those with religious beliefs, especially in the business world, by forcing them to go against their conscience for the benefit of a select few."

In 2013 Coeur d'Alene passed an ordinance that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation. This includes housing, employment and "public accommodation". The city's position seems to be that since the Hitching Post is a for-profit business, this is a matter of "public accommodation" and they will be required to perform homosexual weddings. The Alliance Defending Freedom filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Knapps. Attorney Jeremy Tedesco contends that “The city is on seriously flawed legal ground, and our lawsuit intends to ensure that this couple’s freedom to adhere to their own faith as pastors is protected just as the First Amendment intended.” He asserted, “The government should not force ordained ministers to act contrary to their faith under threat of jail time and criminal fines.” According to ADF, punishing ministers under this ordinance violates both the US Constitution and Idaho's Free Exercise of Religion Protected Act.

Backers of the Knapps call the Hitching Post Wedding Chapel a "ministry" and point out that they are ministers of the gospel (though not pastors). Online sources state that the Knapps are ordained by the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel, a Pentecostal denomination. Opponents contend that this is not a freedom of religion issue because Churches are not being forced to perform same-sex weddings, and that this is a for-profit business.

The lawsuit is a preemptive attack by ADF to prevent the city from enforcing the ordinance re the Knapps (i.e., they have not yet been fined or jailed). To me it seems pretty clear that the Knapps are ordained ministers and that they run a for-profit business -- that is, the purpose of the Hitching Post is to conduct wedding ceremonies for paying customers. I can't confirm that last part for sure. It seems that the excitement caused by this uproar has brought so much traffic to their website that they have exceeded their band width.

I found it interesting that the HuffPo crowd is spinning this that it not a church that is "being forced to perform same-sex weddings." Technically they are correct, and we should note the other side has their spin too (e.g., referring to the wedding chapel as a ministry rather than a business).* But as a Baptist minister I can say that it is ministers and not churches who perform weddings -- and they often are paid for their service. I don't pretend to know how it works in other denominations, but in my case I alone -- with my conscience -- decide whether or not I will marry someone. If the Knapps, as ministers, become unable to choose whom they will marry -- even if they do it for profit -- how long will it be before other ministers are herded into the same corral? 

Don't worry about the "slippery slope," you say, we won't go there. Really? Homosexual marriage has been part of a creeping agenda. With every victory comes a new iteration as the movement takes courage and remakes itself. First it was civil unions. We just want the same legal advantages as marriage, it doesn't matter what you call it. I said then that the passing of civil unions would prove that will not satisfy. Now having legal homosexual marriage does not satisfy (some, at least). We don't just want those who want to perform such marriages to perform them, we want those who don't want to perform them to perform them as well. At least that's what this Coeur d'Alene Hitching Post casesays to me. I'm not sure why it shouldn't?

Links to news and opinion on Coeur d'Alene and the Hitching Post Wedding Chapel

* I think groups like ADF may over-sensationalize issues such as this in order to "boost their ratings" among their supporters, as well as gain new supporters. (Groups on the other side do this too.)

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Man Comes Around

There's a man going around taking names,
And he decides who to free and who to blame.
Everybody won't be treated all the same.
There'll be a golden ladder reaching down
When the Man comes around.

Johnny Cash's The Man Comes Around is an intriguing mix of half talking/half singing that is recognizable to a lot of people -- at least in its opening lines, "There's a man going around taking names, And he decides who to free and who to blame." It has numerous biblical references which leave me wondering exactly what Johnny believed and what he meant. Generally it must speak of the judgement day, but specifically I'm not sure. 

What do you think?

Monday, October 20, 2014

Freaky coincidences, and other links

The posting of links does not constitute an endorsement of the sites linked, and not necessarily even agreement with the specific posts linked.

* 6 Ways to Benefit from Reading Genealogies -- "Most Christians inwardly, if not outwardly, groan when they arrive at a genealogy in their Bible reading. This is a shame."
* 14 Freakiest Coincidences Of History -- "Very rarely, we witness or hear about moments that amaze us with how weirdly coincidental they are."
* Catholic Bishop: 'Homosexual Relationships' Destroy 'Identity' of Man and Woman -- "Archbishop Zbigevs Stankevis...said foreigners, including the U.S. government, are trying to impose a pro-gay agenda on Latvia and other East European countries..."
* Pastor who admits to having AIDS and sleeping with parishioners won't step down -- "A pastor in Alabama is refusing to step down after confessing to having AIDS, sleeping with church members without telling them about his HIV infection, taking drugs, and misusing funds."
* Rights group asks for probe into shooting range that refuses to cater to Muslims -- "This is more than enough loss of life on my home soil at the hands of Muslims to substantiate my position that Muslims can and may follow the directives in their Koran and kill here at home."
* Slave photo discovered from Robert E. Lee's home -- "It's extremely rare to have an identified photo of an enslaved person."
* When guys find out I’m a virgin -- "Dating is hard — especially when you're a 26-year-old woman who wants to save sex until marriage."
* Why Are You Tired All The Time? -- "While the benefits of a good night's sleep are well documented, chronic and more ambiguous tiredness afflicts millions of people over 50."
* Why I Want My Range to be a Muslim Free Zone -- "One mistake in judgement on my part could cost innocent people their lives."

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Gone to the country

Local Nacogdoches humorist and lawyer Bob Murphey observed that rural is a relative thing. As best I remember, his story went like this:
Murphey was called upon to repossess a refrigerator. He drove out of town into the country. He pulled up at a bank on the side of the road and then followed a small trail into the woods to find the house. He found a rope to swing across the creek that ran in front of the house, then walked up to the front door. What did he find but a note on the door that said...
"Gone for the weekend. Gone to the country."

Friday, October 17, 2014

Quotes from here and there: wise, witty, weird and wild

“It’s déjà vu all over again.” -- Yogi Berra

"Let us do with any other philosophy what we will, but let us not hesitate to accept all that the Scriptures teach...There are many true things in and out of the Bible beyond our satisfactory explanation. Let faith apprehend even where the finite mind cannot comprehend. " -- B. H. Carroll

"It doesn't take a lot of strength to hold on. It takes a lot of strength to let go." -- J. C. Watts

"Everyone tries to define this thing called Character. It's not hard. Character is doing what's right when nobody's looking." -- J. C. Watts

"Our success has not been as complete as we could desire, but God knows best." -- Robert Edward Lee

"I would rather spend Sunday morning in a saloon than sitting in a church under the preaching of a modern Higher Critic." -- Cyrus I. Scofield

"Sometimes stress is the desire to excel in disguise." -- Kasi Dickerson

"Only shallow people know themselves." -- Oscar Wilde

"A highly intelligent man should always choose a primitive and stupid woman." -- Adolf Hitler

"It would be wrong for me to identify one of my children as my favorite. To pick one as favorite is necessarily to relegate all of the others to secondary status. In the same way, even from my childhood, it has always felt wrong to me to try to pick out a favorite verse of the Bible." -- Bart Barber

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Houston, we have a problem

...and Houston is the problem!

Over the past several days, a Houston, Texas controversy has lit up TV news, newspaper, and especially the internet. At question is the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (or HERO for short), a petition for a referendum to the ordinance, and subpoenas of five (some say four) Houston pastors for records, including the content of their sermons. On May 28, 2014, the Houston City Council passed HERO. The ordinance was go into effect on  June 27, 2014. It has not because of legal wranglings over it. Though there are numerous problems with the ordinance, but perhaps the most prominent issue is over bathroom usage by persons with gender identity issues -- prompting the nomer "Bathroom Bill."


A great deal of misinformation has gone out on the internet, including that all pastors (not just the five) have to submit sermons to the city -- even that  sermons will be reviewed prior to being preached -- and that the ordinance allows men to go into women’s bathrooms (partially true, but not that simple).


Here's where things seem to be at the moment:

The city passed the "Bathroom Bill", 11 for, 6 against.
A petition was floated to vote to repeal the ordinance, garnering about 3 times as many signatures as needed.
The city secretary certified the petition.
The city attorney and mayor invalidated the petition, claiming too many irregularities (that would be about 33,000 irregularities).
A group of citizens have sued the Mayor, City Secretary and the City of Houston.
Seeking "discovery of evidence" for the lawsuit, the city has subpoenaed records of five Houston ministers.

This subpoena of records from these ministers is what has created the firestorm.

An example of City of Houston subpoena request in Woodfill v. Parker can be found HERE. The purpose of the subpoena is discovery of admissible evidence. In itself, this is a legitimate exercise of subpoena. I’m not a lawyer but here is a simple way I can illustrate it. If a pastor confessed to breaking the law in a sermon (or libeled someone), there would be a legitimate reason to get a transcription or recording of that sermon as evidence. So their might be some legitimate reason within the subpoena. The subpoena posted requires 17 different records (with various subpoints to some of the 17). This goes beyond looking for information, and is at least harassing these people or exacting retribution for daring to fight the mayor and city council on this issue. While it may not be a direct assault on religious liberty, it is what some people call “chilling effect.” The extreme nature of the request -- even asking for -- can produce desired response beating into silence those who wish not to encounter "the long arm of the law." Further, it distracts persons from the regular life and ministry and ties them up with frivolous searches for minutia.

The five ministers from whom the records have been demanded are not parties to the lawsuit against the city. But the city attorney defended the subpoena on the basis of:

* the five were actively involved in leading the fight against the "Bathroom Bill" and launching the petition drive
* they appeared before the city council repeatedly regarding the ordinance and the petition
* the petition was organized at the churches
* the organizing of drives and rallies, as well as signing parties, were held at the churches

It seems now that the mayor and city attorney are backing away from these subpoenas now that they see the enormous push-back that they are getting. A report in Religion News states: “Mayor Parker agrees with those who are concerned about the city legal department’s subpoenas for pastor’s sermons. The subpoenas were issued by pro bono attorneys helping the city prepare for the trial regarding the petition to repeal the new Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO) in January. Neither the mayor nor City Attorney David Feldman were aware the subpoenas had been issued until yesterday. Both agree the original documents were overly broad. The city will move to narrow the scope during an upcoming court hearing. Feldman says the focus should be only on communications related to the HERO petition process.”


The “Notice of Intention to Subpoena Pastor Steve Riggle to Produce Documents or Tangible Evidence” lists three law firms and the “City of Houston Legal Department” (they are representing the mayor). It was submitted by Susman Godfrey L.L.P., a law firm that is listed in the subpoena notice as “Lead Counsel for City of Houston.” City Attorney David Feldman is also named on the document. It also states, “Issued at the instance of the City of Houston, represented by the undersigned attorneys of record.” If they didn’t know it seems like they chose not to know so they would have plausible deniability! A letter from Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott to Houston City Attorney Feldman put it this way, "Nevertheless, these lawyers acted in the City’s name, and you are responsible for their actions."


The upside of all this is that a judge will probably quash these subpoenas -- if the city doesn't withdraw them before that happens!


Finally, is men going into women's bathrooms -- and vice versa -- a legitimate concern if this ordinance goes into effect? Yes, I believe it is. Now there was specific "bathroom" language in the original draft of the ordinance. The language was: "It shall be unlawful for any place of public accommodation or any employee or agent thereof to deny any person entry to any restroom, shower room, or similar facility if that facility is consistent with and appropriate to that person’s expression of gender identity." This was was removed before HERO was passed. Then all is well, right? Wrong. The removal the specific wording about restrooms and showers does not mean that "public accommodations" (i.e. businesses) cannot be sued under this ordinance. HERO makes it unlawful for “any place of public accommodation…to intentionally discriminate against any person on the basis of any protected characteristic…” The protected characteristics include “gender identity,” which means one own’s gender identification, “although the same may not correspond to the individual’s body or gender assigned at birth.” If a man identifies as a woman, e.g., a store cannot prohibit that man from using the women's restroom.


This is an issue that is not going away, and it will be interesting to see how it plays out in Houston.

Houston HERO links

To go with the "Houston we have a problem" post above, here are links to some things available online related to the Houston "HERO" ordinance.

* A Draft of Houston's HERO ordinance -- Makes it "unlawful for any place of public accommodation...to intentionally discriminate against any person on the basis of any protected characteristic..." Protected characteristics include "gender identity," which means own gender identification, "although the same may not correspond to the individual's body or gender assigned at birth."
* Annise Parker Has a Discrimination Issue -- "If opposition to the ordinance is a matter of partisan politics, wouldn’t promotion and approval of the ordinance by implication also qualify as an example of partisan politics?"
An example of City of Houston subpoena request in Woodfill v. Parker
* Attorney General Greg Abbott Asks Houston City Attorney to Withdraw Subpoenas Seeking Sermons, Other Documents from Houston-area Pastors -- "If we err, it must be on the side of preserving the autonomy of religious institutions and the liberty of religious believers.  Your aggressive and invasive subpoenas show no regard for the very serious First Amendment considerations at stake."
* City subpoenas pastors' sermons in equal rights ordinance case -- "City attorneys issued subpoenas last month during the case's discovery phase, seeking, among other communications, "all speeches, presentations, or sermons related to HERO, the Petition, Mayor Annise Parker, homosexuality, or gender identity prepared by, delivered by, revised by, or approved by you or in your possession."
* Houston subpoenas pastors’ sermons in equal rights ordinance case, prompting outcry -- "The ordinance, which exempted religious institutions, was passed in June, though its implementation has been delayed due to legal complaints."
* Houston subpoenas pastors’ sermons -- "Attorneys for several Houston pastors are challenging the city’s attempts to subpoena their sermons as part of a lawsuit against the recently passed transgender-rights law, also known as the 'bathroom bill'."
* Is it constitutional for a court to enforce a subpoena of ministers’ sermons? -- "In principle, I don’t think there’s a First Amendment bar to subpoenaing the text (or video or audio recordings) of sermons, if they are sufficiently relevant to a case or an investigation...But all this presupposes that the information in the subpoenaed sermons really is substantially relevant to a case or an investigation."
* Memorandum in Support of Nonparty Pastors’ Amended Motion To Quash Subpoenas to Produce Documents or Tangible Evidence Or Otherwise Issue a Protective Order
* Pastors to mayor: Don’t mess with Texas pulpits -- "But City Attorney David Feldman told me that doesn’t matter. He said in an interview Tuesday that the five pastors were actively involved in leading the fight against the Bathroom Bill and launching the petition drive."

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

No Neutral, and other links

The posting of links does not constitute an endorsement of the sites linked, and not necessarily even agreement with the specific posts linked.

How liberalism became an intolerant dogma -- "Human beings will be religious one way or another. Either they will be religious about religious things, or they will be religious about political things."
* Irrational Atheism -- "The idea that the atheist comes to her view of the world through rationality and argumentation, while the believer relies on arbitrary emotional commitments, is false."
* Liberalism’s Parochialism -- "...what I’ve been reading accords with my experiences in higher education where certain thoughts trigger an almost primitive response from liberal intellectuals."
* Religious Language and Everyday Discourse -- "We are moving in the West further along this path as a post-Christian culture. No longer are Christian terms and biblical concepts commonplace."
* The Illusion of Neutrality -- "...you cannot have a Half-Nude Beach. A beach on which some people stroll without a stitch of clothing is a nude beach, period."
* Why do so many liberals despise Christianity? -- "Liberals increasingly want to enforce a comprehensive, uniformly secular vision of the human good. And they see alternative visions of the good as increasingly intolerable."
* Will Someone Explain Christianity To The New York Times? -- "...maybe the New York Times can get an in-house Christianity consultant to help them navigate the topics not covered in journalists’ education any more."

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Praise of Folly

Yesterday I noticed the recommendation of a book titled The Praise of Folly: The Enigmatic Life and Theology of C.I. Scofield by David Lutzweiler. Interested to see what it is, I did some searching online. Looks like it will be an interesting book, and I'm going to order a copy.

C. I. Scofield (1843–1921) was preacher, theologian, writer, and compiler of a the popular Scofield Reference Bible (and a soldier, lawyer, and politician before that). It was common to see his Study Bible among churches and preachers I came up amongst. It is perhaps most loved and hated for its pretributional premillennial dispensationalism. I have long since ditched Scofield's Study Bible, and I do not recommend it. (In fact, though I own several "Study Bibles" I don't regularly use any of them, or recommend them.) While searching online it became apparent that Scofield's life is the source of much controversy. Was he a saint or a scalawag, or a bit of both? Detractors point to financial and personal dealings that seem less than upright, while supporters explain that most of this was before he was converted. Some pretribulationists and anti-pretribulationalists write as if the doctrine stands or falls with the life of Scofield!

Whoever or whatever Scofield was, his signature doctrine must stand the test of the Scriptures and rise or fall with them.

Further reading, which I found while "Googling" the internet
* Book Briefs: The Praise of Folly: The Enigmatic Life and Theology of C.I. Scofield by David Lutzweiler from FundamentallyReformed.com
* C. I. Scofield - The Rest of the Story by Thomas Williamson, From the Northern Landmark Missionary Baptist Newsletter, March, 2012
* Cyrus Ingerson Scofield on Find-a-Grave.com
* From Confederate Deserter to Decorated Veteran Bible Scholar, a Master's thesis by D. Jean Rushing
* Lutzweiler's "Folly" (Part 1) by  Robert L. Sumner, Editor of The Biblical Evangelist
* Pretrib Rapture Dishonesty by Dave MacPherson
* Scofield, Cyrus Ingerson from The Handbook of Texas Online
* Wikipedia article

History and the making

The posting of links does not constitute an endorsement of the sites linked, and not necessarily even agreement with the specific posts linked.

* 1000-year old Viking treasure hoard found in Scotland -- "Derek McLennan, a retired businessman, uncovered the 100 items in a field in Dumfriesshire, southwest Scotland, in September."
* Britain to hunt for King Harold's body to test theory about his death -- "King Harold II, the last Anglo-Saxon king of England, has long been thought to have been killed at the Battle of Hastings in 1066."
* Forgotten facts about George Washington’s private life -- "At one time, Washington’s distillery produced 11,000 gallons of whiskey in one year."
* Kennewick Man, an ambassador from the past -- "Eighteen years ago two teenagers made news when they found a skull on the bank of the Columbia River near Kennewick, Wash. Suspecting foul play, they called the police who thought the skull looked very old."
* The Diario of Christopher Columbus (October 11-15, 1492) -- "All of them go around as naked as their mother bore them; and the women also, although I did not see more than one quite young girl. And all those that I saw were young people, for none did I see of more than 30 years of age. They are all very well formed, with handsome bodies and good faces. Their hair coarse—almost like the tail of a horse—and short. They wear their hair down over their eyebrows except for a little in the back which they wear long and never cut. Some of them paint themselves with black, and they are of the color of the Canarians, neither black nor white; and some of them paint themselves with white, and some of them with red, and some of them with whatever they find."
* Why Columbus Day isn’t really a national holiday -- "A federal holiday is a day off with pay for people who work for the federal government in what are classified as non-essential positions...Many states have chosen to honor some of the federal holidays, and in the long run, it is the states, and not the federal government, that control the observance of the holidays within their borders."