Freedom from Religion Foundation

Freedom from Religion Foundation
There are always those who just can’t stand the idea of Americans, especially leaders, acknowledging their dependence upon God. The Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) perpetuates its existence by trying to stamp out every recognition of God from across our land. They are doing the same thing that Communist governments tried to do in the last century.

For over 240 years, our elected representatives to the federal government have begun their public duties with a prayer seeking God’s guidance. This prayer is a reflection of the faith of many people across America who themselves seek His guidance in their lives.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation has challenged public monuments, prayer, and virtually any public recognition of religion. Like most on the Left, FFRF engages in bullying tactics threatening to haul the “offenders” into court for their “unconstitutional” activities. Unfortunately, too many school districts and city and town councils hand over their milk money to the bullies and capitulate.

When the Freedom From Religion Foundation actually does sue, a very high percentage of their cases are simply dismissed. However, they occasionally find a sympathetic ear as when a federal judge in Wisconsin ruled in favor of the group’s claim challenging housing allowances for pastors. After failing so many times, the FFRF is now trying a new tactic. Co-president Dan Barker (who has publicly proclaimed his atheism but maintains ministerial credentials) applied to the U.S. House of Representatives chaplain to lead a prayer. His application was rejected, and he sued, claiming the practice of House prayer was in violation of the Supreme Court’s decision in Town of Greece v. Galloway. That ruling said that permitting ministers to pray before legislative gatherings is constitutional.

Thankfully, Judge Rosemary Collyer from the D.C. District Court wasn’t too eager to go along. She rejected FFRF’s claims, holding that Barker could not piggyback on Town of Greece to demand that the House allow a “prayer” to what or whoever he wanted. The judge wrote: “[C]ontrary to Mr. Barker’s hopeful interpretation, Town of Greece did not reference atheists–who are, by definition, nontheists who do not believe in God or gods–but ‘any minister or layman who wished to give [a prayer].'”

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.), who was named a defendant in Barker’s suit, praised the ruling. He wrote, “Since the first session of the Continental Congress, our nation’s legislature has opened with a prayer to God. Today, that tradition was upheld, and the freedom to exercise religion was vindicated. The court rightfully dismissed the claims of an atheist that he had the right to deliver a secular invocation in place of the opening prayer.” He concluded: “I am grateful that the People’s House can continue to begin its work each day as we have for centuries: taking a moment to pray to God.”

The interpretation of the Establishment Clause in this and other cases simply doesn’t require what Barker demanded. Sanity has prevailed–for now.
–J.R. Towell © 2017

Religious Test for Judges?

Religious Test for Judges
A new question has come up about who is fit to serve as a judge in American courts. The Senate Judiciary Committee has been screening candidates for judicial positions and some members of the committee seem to be establishing a religious test for judges. The indication is that faithful Christians should not be allowed to serve on the bench.

One of the candidates is Amy Coney Barrett who is a practicing Roman Catholic. The committee challenged Barrett’s fitness to serve as a judge because, in the words of Senator Dianne Feinstein, “the dogma lives loudly within you.” Barrett has said that “faith informs her views.” However, she has also said that she is obligated to interpret and apply the Constitution and the laws, not her own beliefs. She was a former clerk for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia who was also a faithful Catholic. Senator Dick Durbin asked Barrett, “Do you consider yourself an orthodox Catholic?” What the senators seem to be forgetting is that the United States Constitution strictly prohibits a religious test for judges. That question should not even be asked of a judicial candidate.

This anti-Christian bias in judicial appointments reminds us that the U.S. Supreme Court is set to make a decision that will affect the religious freedom of Americans. The judges serving on the lower courts are usually the ones that are later appointed to the Supreme Court. It seems that atheism is the only faith that some of the senators would accept as valid for being a judge. David Harsanyi of the National Review said that in the view of some senators “the only acceptable religion for public officials is ‘orthodox liberalism.’”
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Israel-Palestine Questions

Israel-Palestine Questions
We have had several Israel-Palestine questions which are out of our field of expertise. Douglas Jacoby has a website in which he answers many important questions. Here is what Dr. Jacoby said in a recent post.

The politics of the crisis are complex. In the biblical period, the Promised Land, or Canaan, became Israel. It was named after the covenant name of Jacob, whose 12 sons became the 12 Tribes (Gen 32:28). The term was also used of the idolatrous breakaway Northern Kingdom of Israel, from 931 BC till its fall in 722. The “10 Lost Tribes” were lost, not by being removed to a distant location (like the British Isles, the US, or Central Asia), but by intermarriage with Assyrians and other foreign groups. Thus the 10 Tribes were lost forever — genetically. The southern kingdom of Judah remained until 587 BC when it was destroyed by the Babylonians.
When the Romans defeated the Jews in the war in 132-135 AD (the Bar-Kokhba Revolt), they renamed the land Philistia–after the perennial enemies of the Israelites, the Philistines. In English this becomes Palestine.
When the modern State of Israel was created in 1948, many Palestinians (most of whom were Christian or Muslim, rather than Jewish) were evicted from their homes, their land expropriated by the new government. In my view, none of these developments fulfill prophecy. The Jews came back to their land in the 6th century BC, under the Persian king Cyrus (2 Chron 36:22-23). The majority of the architects of modern Israel were atheists and agnostics, and Orthodox rabbis oppose Zionism for its atheism and humanistic emphasis.”
Today the Palestinian territories, consisting of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, are semi-autonomous –like a country within a country, separated from Israeli territory by walls, fences, checkpoints and lots of guns. In many (sad and unfortunate) ways, the Palestinians are stateless. Being pro-Israel typically means being anti-Palestinian–and vice versa. A friend of mine, a university professor and peace activist, declares, “If you’re pro-Israel or pro-Palestine, you aren’t pro-peace.” Think about it.

We appreciate Douglas Jacoby letting us share his post about Israel-Palestine questions. You can follow him at www.douglasjacoby.com
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Religious Freedom Threatened

Religious Freedom Threatened
We have recently posted about some believers who have had their religious freedom threatened merely because they want to live out their faith. Government agencies at various levels are attacking believers with fines, jail time, or bankruptcy because they will not participate in something which is against their Christian convictions. Wedding photographers, cake artists, and owners of flower shops and wedding venues have been charged with discrimination. Their only crime is not wanting to participate in same-sex wedding ceremonies because they believe it violates God’s plan and design for marriage.

Now government punishment is being carried out against Christian farmers because they expressed their belief in the God’s design and sanctity of marriage. Steve and Bridget Tennes and their five children live on a farm 22 miles from East Lansing, Michigan. For the past seven years they have been selling their produce at the East Lansing Farmer’s Market. The city has adopted a policy that bars those who believe in traditional marriage from selling produce in the market. Steve Tennes posted his Christian view of marriage on Facebook. When the administration of the East Lansing Farmer’s Market learned about that, they said the Tennes farm, known as Country Mill, would no longer be allowed to sell.

Country Mill was selling the only organic apples available in the East Lansing Farmer’s Market, and those sales are a significant part of the income for the Tennes family. Steve Tennes filed a federal lawsuit against the city, and a federal district judge ordered that he should be allowed to return to the farmer’s market until the case is settled. Tennes does not want to see Americans’ religious freedom threatened. He said, “This isn’t just about our ability to sell at the farmer’s market. It’s really about every American’s right to make a living and not have to worry about being punished by the government.”

In the meantime, the U.S. Justice Department has filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in one of the cases we reported on earlier. That is the case of Jack Phillips, a Christian cake artist who will not participate in a same-sex marriage ceremony by designing a cake for it. The Justice Department is siding with Phillips in this case. It will be interesting to see how the Supreme Court will decide. There are Christians who just want to live out their faith and not be forced to participate in something they believe is in violation of God’s commands. The Jack Phillips case could have repercussions for many others.

We can’t ignore the fact that religious freedom threatened just because it hasn’t directly threatened us. Believers should not be forced to do something that violates their faith. That sounds too much like the situation the early Christians faced in ancient Rome.
–Roland Earnst © 2017

Turkish Government Will Remove Evolution

Turkish Government Will Remove Evolution
Turkish education minister Ismet Yilmaz has announced changes to the textbooks in that country. Starting next fall, the Turkish government will remove evolution and all references to Charles Darwin from the textbooks along with 170 other topics that do not coincide with the Islamic government views. The new curriculum to replace these topics is said to be “value-based” and in harmony with student development.

The current biology course for twelveth grade biology has a section titled “The Beginning of Life and Evolution.” It is being replaced with a unit titled “Living Beings and the Environment.” This new course will include discussions of adaptation, mutation, and natural and artificial selection without mentioning evolution or Darwin. An earlier section for an eleventh-grade philosophy class will be titled “Evolution and other Ontological Opinions.”

The situation is complicated in Turkey not only because of the influence of Islam but also because of the failed coup in 2016. The government is using the schools as a way to control the population. Included in the new curriculum are units about the groups that the government is fighting such as the Kurdistan Worker’s Party and the U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen.

American creationist groups that want to include their particular view of biology in education may want to look at what is happening in Turkey. The new curriculum, which is religiously based, is turning the classroom into a political football. It will be interesting to see if the Turkish government will remove evolution from the educational system without causing major civil unrest.

We have pointed out that modern agriculture, animal husbandry, aquaculture, and fish management depend upon the basic concepts that Darwin presented. The fact that animals can change and that this change can be used to benefit the world is important for young people to learn. The enemy is naturalism in which these concepts are expanded to exclude God’s role.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Reference: Detroit News 9/18/17, page 5A, AP release by Zeynep Bilginsoy.

Political Issues as a Barrier

Political Issues
We get a lot of mail related to things that we express in our posts. In recent months some have wanted to know why we haven’t had any articles about the Supreme Court, the political parties, Donald Trump or about the political issues of our day.

Recently our good friend and brother in Christ David Thurman, had a beautifully crafted article in his periodical Gospel Minutes in which he said what we believe is true about how we should handle the political issues of our day. Here is his statement:

“When it comes to morality, God is our only authority. So whatever the Supreme court says about marriage is not relevant to our teaching and practice on the subject. We will still teach that marriage is between a man and a woman. Whatever our society says about sexuality, we will still contend that sex belongs in a monogamous, married relationship between a man and a woman. Whatever our society says about violence in the streets and black lives and police officers being targeted, we are going to contend that all violence is evil and has no place in our society.

“However, much of politics is not morality based. It is merely opinion. I have good friends who grew up in one political mind-set. They are polar opposites to my upbringing and current political views. Yet, we are brothers in Christ and love each other. I am not going to let his/her political view alter my more important relationship in Christ.

Paul puts it this way in Romans 14, ‘One person regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it for the Lord, and he who eats, does so for the Lord, for he gives thanks to God, and he who eats not, for the Lord does not eat, and gives thanks to God’ (Romans 14:5-6). Substitute ‘political viewpoint’ for ‘day’ in these verses, and we get the point. One man’s opinion is between him and God. My opinion may differ, but that is between me and God. Each should be convinced before God that what he/she thinks is the right thing for us. That is, God should be involved in our political viewpoint. But, if another man reaches a different conclusion, that is between him and the Lord, not between him and me. Just as the ‘day’ should not be a barrier to fellowship, so politics should not be either.

So, include God in all aspects of your life, including your political thinking. But if another believer reaches a different political position based on his or her understanding of the Lord’s values, then let him or her have that conviction, and do not let politics become a barrier to unity and fellowship.”

Reference: David Thurman in Gospel Minutes February 24, 2017, page 4.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Medical Marijuana–Good or Bad

Medical Marijuana
All the discussion of medical marijuana and the questions of legalization are based on the assumption that people understand the endocannabinoid system (ECS) of the human body. The general public is almost universally unaware of this system, and yet it is a major player in the question of the use of medical marijuana.

In our brain and throughout our central and peripheral nervous systems we have receptors that are involved in appetite, pain sensation, mood, sleep, and memory. This complex system operates by chemical reactions with enzymes and molecules released by the system itself called endocannabinoids. When life experiences such as stress act on the brain, chemical secretions influence the ECS system and our behavior.

Marijuana contains phytocannabinoids which interact with the endocannabinoids which the body makes. The scientific name for marijuana is Cannabis sativa, and this plant contains more than 100 different cannabinoids as well as hundreds of other chemicals. The following cannabinoids have been studied enough to know what effect they have on the human brain:

Cannabidiols (CBD)

– painkiller, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anxiety reducer, antipsychotic, reduces muscle spasms

Tetrahydrocannabinols (THC)

– painkiller, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, euphoriant, suppresses nausea and vomiting

Cannabigerols (CBG)

– painkiller, anti-inflammatory, antibiotic, antifungal

Cannabichromenes (CBC)

– painkiller, anti-inflammatory, antibiotic, antifungal

Cannabinols and Cannabinodiols (CBN, CBND)

– anti-inflammatory, antibiotic, sedative, anti-convulsant

Marijuana has a high potential for abuse, but it also has useful purposes. As we understand more about the design of our brain and nervous system, we will find ways that cannabinoids can be used to relieve human suffering. However, medical marijuana benefits do not come from smoking it which can damage the lungs and become addictive just as cigarette smoking does. Tests have shown that long-term use can lead to psychotic disorders, heart problems, and sexual/reproductive problems.

Marijuana itself is not evil, and certainly not a creation of Satan as some have implied. Humans can and do use marijuana as a destructive agent, but God designed it and intended it for good.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Business Owner’s Religious Freedom

Business Owner's Religious Freedom
One of the most critical issues of this decade in America is a business owner’s religious freedom. If you own a business, do you have a right to refuse to perform a service which violates your religious faith? Here are some examples of Christian business owners being told by the government that they must provide a service that they find morally objectionable.

Barronelle Stutzman owns Arlene’s Flowers in Richland, Washington. She declined to design a flower arrangement for a same-sex wedding. The Washington Attorney General and the ACLU brought suit against not only her business but her personally. She could lose everything because of taking a stand based on her Christian faith. This case is being appealed to the United States Supreme Court.

Blaine Adamson owner of promotional printing company Hands On Originals in Kentucky turned down a job to print promotional t-shirts for a gay pride festival. He had refused to print other materials that he considered to be morally objectionable. The local human rights commission charged him with sexual orientation discrimination saying that he must print the shirts. In 2015 a Kentucky circuit court found in favor of Adamson, and that decision was upheld in 2017 by the Kentucky Court of Appeals. Now the Kentucky Supreme Court will decide whether to hear the case.

Masterpiece Cake Shop vs. Colorado Civil Rights Commission is one of a dozen similar cases where a private business owner of a bakery wishes not to produce something that violates their religious convictions. In this case, Jack Phillips did not want to design a cake for a same sex wedding. The state is threatening him with a fine and jail time.

It is not only Christian printers, flower shops, and cake decorators that are being forced by the government to provide services that violate their faith. Christian wedding photographers and videographers also face legal challenges. In the Minnesota case of Telescope Media Group vs. Lindsey, Carl and Angel Larsen have a video business. They produce videos that teach Christian values and educate couples about God’s plan for marriage. They are being threatened with a $25,000 fine and 90 days in jail because they do not make videos of same sex marriages as well.

These cases bring to mind many questions about a business owner’s religious freedom. Can a printer refuse to print pornography because of the moral issues involved, even if it is legal? Should a black business owner be required to provide materials promoting a KKK rally? Should a Jewish business be required to provide facilities for a neo-Nazi rally? Should a Christian printer be required to print materials promoting atheism? Does a business owner’s religious freedom end when the doors open for business? To turn the question around, should a business owner who is a gay rights advocate be required to produce material saying that homosexual activity is immoral?

We have commented before about the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) and their efforts to protect religious freedom and Christian values. In Acts 4:18-20 we read about the authorities telling Peter and John “not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.” They responded with, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”
–John N. Clayton and Roland Earnst © 2017

Deception in Politics, Religion, and Anglerfish

Deception in Politics, Religion, and Anglerfish
Lying seems to be a heavily used skill in today’s political climate. The fact that there is so much deception in politics is interesting to me because as an atheist I viewed deception as a survival skill. When I was a child, my mother took me to narrated movie shows on nature. These were 16 mm movies filmed by photographers usually associated with The Audubon Society or The National Geographic Society. The person who did the filming usually was the narrator, and that added color and personality to what we saw on the screen.

My mother usually had an object lesson for me at the end of those films and deception was a major theme. My favorite film was an underwater movie about reef fish. The scene I liked most involved an ugly fish known as the anglerfish. This fish would lie on the bottom and dangle a piece of flesh that was worm-shaped in front of its mouth on a rod attached to its head. The fish would wiggle the lure to attract reef fish. When a fish came close to investigate, the anglerfish would suddenly lurch forward and swallow the fish whole.

My mother seized on the moment to tell me that I needed to learn a lesson about life from the anglerfish. That lesson in her atheist perspective was that life is hard and to survive we must to learn to deceive and not be deceived. Later in my efforts as an atheist, I would maintain that deception is simply survival of the fittest. The fit survive by deceiving and exploiting the unfit.

I always had good results using this to support my atheist arguments. When I tried to justify stealing money from my mother, it was less effective. I protested by referring the anglerfish, but she screamed at me, “You’re not a fish!!”

Now looking back at that from a Christian apologetic position I have to say “Bingo!!” But from her atheistic evolutionary perspective, I AM no more than a fish. When we have so much deception in politics, that is an indication of the perspective of our elected officials.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Teacher Bible Case Settled

Teacher Bible Case Settled
In 2013 we had a news item in our printed journal about Walt Tutka, a teacher in New Jersey who was fired because he gave a Bible to a student. After four years, this teacher Bible case is settled.

Tutka said to a student, “So the last shall be first, and the first shall be last.” The student asked him where that came from. Tutka showed the student the statement in the Bible, and the student asked Tutka for a Bible of his own. Tutka is a member of Gideon’s International, an organization that distributes Bibles to hotels and hospitals. Naturally, Tutka gave the student a Bible. The school system fired him.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission backed Tutka saying that the school system had unfairly discriminated against him based on his religion. The case was going to be filed as a federal lawsuit in May, but the school district decided to settle out of court. Mr. Tutka is now back in the classroom.

When I was teaching in the public schools in South Bend, Indiana, groups brought books explaining their faith to the schools and gave them to kids who requested them. There were never any problems over that, but times have changed. We have even heard of cases where a teacher had a Bible in their book rack on their desk in a public school and was told to get rid of it or be fired. If a teacher had a copy of The Humanist Manifesto, that would be OK, even though it is a statement of faith–atheist faith.

We hope that this teacher Bible case and others will wake people up to the fact that blind prejudice against religion in the schools deprives people of freedom. Restricting our freedom to quote from or share a Bible should not be tolerated in America.
–John N. Clayton © 2017