Temple activists were euphoric Monday after a precedent-setting ruling by Magistrates’ Court Judge Malka Aviv in the case of Yehuda Glick vs. the Israeli Police, a day earlier. The judge ruled that the police “must make sure that Jews are able to pray on the Temple Mount” – in a ruling replete with harsh criticism of the police’s policies on the Temple Mount.
Activists were quoted on a Temple activists blog as saying: “This day will be remembered for generations in the annals of the struggle for the return of Jews to the Temple Mount.”
The police are legally bound “to ensure that Jews are able to pray on the Temple Mount, and not to act sweepingly to prevent Jews from praying on the Temple Mount,” the judge determined.
Attorneys for Rabbi Glick pointed out the historic nature of the ruling.
Attorney Aviad Visoly, who represented Glick said Tuesday that the verdict “has made prayer on the Temple Mount ‘kosher’. In essence, the court took the Supreme Court’s rulings about the Jews’ right to pray on the Temple Mount, and implemented them.”
“This is almost the first ruling – and certainly the most sweeping – in which the court implements the right of Jews to pray on the Temple Mount. From today, every Jew is allowed to pray on the Temple Mount. The prayer itself is not an offense.”
Prior police policies had barred Jewish prayer at the site for fears that such actions would spark Palestinian violence. Judge Aviv ruled the policy “arbitrary” and “without appropriate consideration” and awarded Glick roughly the equivalent of $125,000 in damages and $37,700 in legal fees.
Temple Mount is considered to be one of the most important religious sites in the Old City of Jerusalem. Jews, Christians and Muslims all consider it sacred, making it one of the most contested sites in the world. Among Christians and Jews, there is some dispute as to whether it is the biblical Mount Moriah or Mount Zion.
According to Jewish tradition, it is the place where God’s presence is most manifested, and followers of rabbinic Judaism believe it to be the site where God gathered dust to create Adam.
Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock / Mikhail Markovskiy
At the end of a circus of a trial in the case of alleged cheating within the Atlanta Public School System, a key figure in that case, former Superintendent Dr. Beverly Hall, has passed away, according to WSB-TV in Atlanta. She lost her battle with breast cancer at the age of 68.
Hall has been battling breast cancer as dozens of educators stand trial for a cheating scandal that happened during her tenure as head of the school district.
Hall faced racketeering and conspiracy charges but has not been well enough to stand trial.
The former administrator, who received an award as National Superintendent of the Year in 2009, resigned her post in 2010 following a report from the State of Georgia which stated that Hall ignored widespread cheating on standardized tests throughout the system. Hall denied involvement and placed the blame for the cheating on others on her staff.
Hall first received a diagnosis of breast cancer in 2004. Last summer, her attorneys argued that she was unfit to stand trial because the stage 4 cancer had spread throughout her body.
Her legal team issued a statement that read, “Dr. Hall fought this disease with great courage and dignity. For the last year and a half, Dr. Hall’s directions to her doctor have been simple: get me well enough to stand trial; and to her lawyers: see to it that I get a fair trial. She was never concerned about the outcome of such a trial, only that the process be fair. She never doubted that in a fair trial, with the jury hearing the state’s contentions and her rebuttal, to include her own testimony, she would be acquitted. In the end, she was not strong enough to go to trial although that had been her earnest hope.”
“I’m just saddened by her passing and my condolences to her family,” defense attorney Gerald Griggs told Channel 2′s Richard Elliot.
Griggs said he thinks Hall’s death will have some impact on the jury, but “I think we have to look past that at this point,” he said.
In all, 20 educators stood trial in the case. Testimony in the trial wrapped up last week, and closing arguments will begin on March 16.
Featured image courtesy of YouTube.
As ISIS suffered a couple of setbacks in their conquest in the Middle East and as leaders in the region gear up to fight them, the terrorist group captured at least 90 Assyrian Christians, and many people in that part of the world are wondering the same thing many Americans are: where is a response from the West?
Juliana Taimoorazy, with the Assyrian Philos Project, described the situation.
“These women were sobbing, saying, ‘What is our fault? Why is the West silent? Why is the Church not talking about our persecution?’” Taimoorazy said.
“And they’re asking, they’re questioning the foreign policy of America and also other world powers and Europe, saying, ‘Why is it that there’s nothing; there’s no agenda.’ There’s really nothing being done to help the persecuted in the Middle East,” she continued.
Arab Americans are getting involved in the act, questioning their leaders as to why their response has been so tepid.
On Tuesday, a group of Egyptian-American Coptics gathered near the White House, demanding the Obama administration do more to protect Egyptian, Syrian, and Iraqi Christians.
“Obama, Obama, did you see? Christian blood in the sea,” they chanted.
Featured image is a modified image courtesy of Shutterstock / Steve Allen
On Tuesday, testimony concluded in the trial of 20 educators in the Atlanta Public School system who are accused of cheating on standardized tests. The defense called its final witness, and the Judge Jerry Baxter gave instructions to the jury and attorneys. Closing arguments will begin on March 16 after a longer-than-usual recess.
Prosecutors also say the teachers on trial prompted students as they struggled to answer test questions. Administrators for the district and at several schools allegedly threatened teachers if their students were failing and punished anyone who reported cheating.
Former Atlanta schools Superintendent Beverly Hall is also charged with racketeering, but she did not go on trial because she is being treated for Stage IV breast cancer. She will be tried once she is healthy enough.
If the jury finds the defendants guilty of racketeering, they could be sentenced to 20 years in prison. The defendants also face lesser charges that could bring prison sentences.
None of the 12 defendants testified, and eight of them called no witnesses.
In total, four defense attorneys called 31 witnesses in the past two weeks. In contrast, the prosecution called 133 witnesses, two in rebuttal.
The mood in the courtroom was jovial and giddy, as prosecutors posed for photos and Baxter dropped his usual hard-edged persona and addressed the courtroom in a more folksy manner.
“Y’all are fantastic,” Baxter told the jurors who first came to the Fulton County Courthouse for the trial more than six months ago. “I have never seen anything like this. The most striking thing is your diligence. We’re not over yet. The ultimate decisions will be in your lap and that’s coming soon.
“I want you to try to get back to what you were doing. Relax. You need to get in shape mentally and physically. Work out. Do the Rocky thing,” Baxter said.
Once the jury had left on Tuesday, Baxter, who has been testy throughout the trial, apologized to attorneys for his “gruff” behavior.
“If I have made anybody mad, I’m sorry. Sincerely,” Baxter said. “It’s been a long, long journey.
“I’m not perfect. Right, Evelyn?” he said to the court reporter.
“Right,” she answered.
“I have the highest respect for all of you. You battled for your clients and you’ve been professional,” Baxter said. “This trial turned out to be a lot better than I thought it might be. I had visions of nightmares. They have not come true. … I tried to give everybody a fair trial and I hope I have.”
Closing arguments will put the finishing touches on a truly bizarre trial, with accusations of teachers insulting and even threatening students and holding parties where they would change the answers on standardized tests. The trial took on the air of a soap opera many times, so we’ll see if the conclusion of the trial will bring the same kind of excitement.
Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock / Matthew Benoit
Iran’s Supreme Leader Seyyed Ali Khamenei recently told a group of religious minority leaders in the country that they are safe and have always been under Iran’s watch.
Iran’s Supreme Leader, stated that based on Islamic teachings, followers of other religions should be treated with justice and fairness.
He went even further and added, “Muslims in Europe and America face death threats. There is a great propaganda campaign against them, and their places of worship are under constant attack.”
He claimed, “Such treatment of non-Muslims is nonexistent in the history of our Islamic regime. Even our hotheaded conservative youth do not allow themselves to attack a non-Muslim.”
Naturally, Khamenei’s statements hold no water whatsoever when stood up against the facts.
Such claims of tolerance of non-Islamic faiths by the Iranian Supreme Leader are made while a large number of religious minorities have been imprisoned and executed since the establishment of the Islamic Revolution in 1979.
Even religious minorities that are recognized in Iran’s constitution have been harassed, persecuted and marginalized since the early days of the Islamic Revolution, which has led to a mass migration of many religious minorities, especially Jews and Christians.
In 1979, when the Islamic Revolution took place, the Armenian-Iranian population was around 180 thousand. Comparing this number to the new census of the community, 60 percent of Armenian-Iranians have left the country. There has been a significant drop in the Iranian Jewish population as well.
Several United Nations special reports and resolutions have condemned the violation of Human Rights, especially the violation of the rights of religious minorities.
Also, Ahmad Shaheed, the UN’s Special Rapporteur for Iran, wrote in his report, “At least 307 religious minorities are being held in Iran’s prisons for their faith, including 136 Bahai’s, 19 Dervishes, 50 Christians, 90 Sunni Muslims, and two Zoroastrians.
In addition, Open Doors’ 2014 World Watch List ranked Iran among the ten countries where Christians are persecuted the most. Its 2013 list put Iran in the 9th spot, but in 2014 Iran was moved to the 7th spot.
Christians face persecution and death, while practitioners of the Baha’i faith lose all social rights and face execution. Sunni Muslims may not build their own mosques in Tehran.
There’s no word on what, if any, statistics and facts Khamenei attempted to use to back up his claims.
Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock / Bruce Stanfield
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi has finally broken his silence on attacks by Hindu militants against Christians and other religious minorities. He made a promise to protect these minorities at an event honoring two new Catholic saints from India.
“I condemn all incidents of violence where religious minorities were targeted,” Modi told an event organized by the Christian community to celebrate the beatification of two Indians by Pope Francis late last year.
“No religious group can incite violence … my government will ensure there is complete freedom of faith.”
Modi, a self-proclaimed Hindu nationalist, rarely attends events organized by minority communities.
His decision to appear among Christians followed a drubbing for his party in elections to the Delhi local assembly last week, where it won just three of 70 seats, raising concerns that it could face setbacks in other state elections on the horizon.
The poll took place against the backdrop of a clash between police and priests, nuns and parishioners who were protesting over a series of vandalism and arson attacks on churches.
In a nation with a large Hindu majority – nearly 80% of Indians identify as practicing Hinduism – Modi’s remarks represent a shift toward protection of those who practice other faiths, and it’s a welcome change to critics of the Modi administration.
In January, Christian leaders criticized Modi for his previous silence on the attacks on churches in Delhi. The series of incidents in the region led Christian leaders to believe there was pattern in the attacks on Christian churches, motivated by religious radicals in the country.
“These are not isolated events. It is the fourth attack on a church in Delhi archdiocese since December 1,” Father [Savarimuthu] Shankar said in January, according to UCA News.
Christian leaders previously stated that Modi’s denouncement of the attacks will help strengthen the relationship and ease tensions between Christians and Hindus.
“The prime minister owes an answer to all. … In fact his silence is eloquent and disturbing,” opposition Congress Party spokesman Abhishek Singhvi said to UCA News.
Militants have targeted converts from Hinduism to other religions in particular, but Modi vows that his administration will not tolerate such violence.
Religious conversions have become a sensitive issue in recent months after hardliners with links to the BJP said Hinduism was under threat and started a campaign to convince Christians and Muslims to change their faith.
“My government will not allow any religious group, belonging to the majority or the minority, to incite hatred against others, overtly or covertly,” Modi said.
Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock /Nisarg Lakhmani
When Atlanta mayor Kasim Reed dismissed fire chief Kelvin Cochran over a book the latter wrote, he ignited a firestorm of controversy that led to a renewed call for a religious freedom law in Georgia. And now, six members of the state’s congressional delegation have gotten involved in the fight, siding with Cochran.
In a move that escalates the fight between Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and supporters of Kelvin Cochran, lawmakers led by Rep. Barry Loudermilk this week said the firing robbed the former chief of his religious freedom to speak and write his view.
“Your action against Chief Cochran appears to violate fundamental principles of free speech and religious freedom,” they wrote to Reed. “As fellow Georgians, we are extremely troubled that a capable and long-standing public servant in our state can be targeted for retaliation and dismissed solely because of his religious views,” they added.
While the city said Cochran’s religious beliefs had nothing to do with his November suspension and eventual firing last month, he and his supporters claim it was retaliation for a book he published over a year ago that, among other things, equates homosexuality with bestiality.
The letter from the six House members raises the political element in the controversy. In it they said Cochran’s belief in the Bible is at stake.
“Chief Cochran relied upon religious text from the Bible to express his opinions in his personal writings. The only way Chief Cochran cold avoid his views would be to disown his religion,” they wrote. “What could be more intolerant and exclusionary than ending a public servant’s 30 years of distinguished service for his religious beliefs?”
Cochran has filed suit against the city of Atlanta and Reed with assistance from the non-profit group Alliance Defending Freedom. The former chief’s firing has become a cause célèbre among certain circles in Georgia, with multiple petitions popping up on his behalf and supporters such as Ralph Reed and Erick Erickson. One local pundit on the other side of the issue referred to Cochran as “the face of ‘religious liberty’ bills.”
Reed, a Democrat, issued a statement of his own, stating, “It was a decision that was not made lightly because I appreciated Chief Cochran’s service to the City of Atlanta.”
In the meantime, a group of lawmakers have introduced SB129 into the Georgia legislature, a bill designed to “provide for the preservation of religious freedom” in the state. Erickson has already issued a call to action for his listeners to voice their support to their state senators.
Will Cochran’s firing and the firestorm surrounding it be the catalyst for Georgia to pass a religious freedom bill? That remains to be seen, but we’ll stay on top of it and report it here.
Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock / Sean Pavone
The measles outbreak that has spread like wildfire across the United States has now made its way to Canada, and, according to Yahoo News, it may have spread at a Christian youth conference in Toronto.
Canadian health officials warned Monday that a person with measles may have spread the virus at a recent large gathering of Christian youth in Toronto.
An outbreak with at least one case linked to a flare-up of the virus in the neighboring United States has so far struck three Canadian provinces.
The latest case of a person who attended the “Acquire the Fire” event at the Queensway Cathedral in Toronto on February 6 and 7 brings the Canadian total to 22.
Local health officials are warning the conference’s attendees to monitor themselves.
Ontario province’s acting chief medical officer, Robin Williams, said the Toronto event attracted “a large number of youth from all over Ontario, as well as performers, volunteers and speakers.”
He said the person with a newly-confirmed case of measles had attended the event during the infectious period.
Williams urged anyone who was in attendance to keep an eye out for symptoms over the next two weeks. These include fever, cough, runny nose, and inflammation of the eyes or rash.
Canada has been free of endemic measles since 1998, except for an outbreak in 2011 in Quebec province that reached 700 cases.
The outbreak began to draw international attention when California health officials discovered that the infections had spread due to one or more infected individuals attending Disneyland during the holidays last year.
Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock / Kiev.Victor
State politics can be pretty boring sometimes, but once in a while we run into stories that sound stranger than fiction. One of those cases involved a bill in the Georgia legislature that comes across as bizarre on the surface but raises some intriguing ethical questions – a proposed law to ban human-animal hybrid embryos.
Rep. Tom Kirby (R-Gainesville) says such research is already being done in the United States and he’s heard possibly even in Georgia.
“It deals with the banning of mixing of those two different types of species and creating this Frankenstein science,” he tells WSB’s Sandra Parrish.
It’s not hard to find images on the internet of glowing cats, pigs, rabbits, and monkeys that were injected with a DNA from jellyfish as embryos. The research is done to help scientists map the genes that can cause devastating diseases in humans such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and diabetes.
Kirby wants to make sure none of the research is ever done on human embryos in Georgia.
“Just because we’re capable of doing it doesn’t mean it’s the right way to go,” he says.
Kirby’s bill brings to mind some wild, and even creepy, images, but the ethical concerns are pretty obvious and easy to see: as science advances and scientists experiment more boldly, could experiments on actual human embryos be too far behind?
The bill has its opponents, naturally from the other side of the aisle.
But some lawmakers are skeptical of the legislation, calling it a solution without a problem.
“It invokes a chuckle, but at the same it’s a waste of precious time when we could be dealing with education, transportation, and jobs,” says Sen. Vincent Fort (D-Atlanta).
The question remains: is a law necessary to curb such experimentation, or is Kirby’s bill so far-fetched as to be a waste of time? The Georgia legislature may make that decision this term.
Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock / SUWIT NGAOKAEW
The Church of England launched its own credit union this week, with two objectives in mind: to create a trustworthy place for Britons to bank and to help lift people out of poverty.
The foundation of the Churches’ Mutual Credit Union is part of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s drive to promote access to responsible credit and savings.
“It could transform the way retail finance is done in this country,” Archbishop [Justin] Welby said, adding that it will put an ethical basis back into the industry and help forge community links back into the sector.
The credit union was launched by leaders of member churches with a video of a ship being launched in the background, emotive music and the slogan: “God bless the CMCU and all who save with her.”
It is currently open to about 60,000 church workers, charities, clergy and volunteers such as church wardens and members of the parochial church council, but will eventually be rolled out to every church member in the country. This could be more than one million people in the Church of England alone, with many hundreds of thousands more in the ecumenical partner churches; the Methodists, Church of Scotland, Scottish Episcopal Church and Church in Wales.
Welby is the first archbishop to come from a financial background, and he refers to the unprecedented launch as “putting our money where our mouth is” to both fight poverty and hold up high ethical standards for the financial marketplace.
Rather than preaching at the problem, the Church is becoming part of the solution.
“Credit unions are essential. We are trying to build a new financial sector in this country,” the Archbishop added. The new credit union was a “major step” in this direction, he said.
Canon Antony MacRow-Wood, president of the new credit union, said: “Of immediate interest to many, especially ordained ministers, will be our plans to provide a competitive car loan scheme (APR 5.54%). The Church forms an obvious community with many shared interests and as such it has a natural fit with the idea of a credit union. The recycling of capital within the community, not least for mission, will be of benefit to all.”
Rev Ken Howcroft, president of the Methodist Conference, said: “The gap between rich and poor seems to be widening and leaving people without the resources to do new things, or even pushing them into crippling debt. When we recognise your interdependence we can share our resources to help each of us meet our needs.”
CMCU treads much of the same ground as American faith-based credit unions like America’s Christian Credit Union and Christian Community Credit Union, but it may well be the first credit union run directly by a church. Its success or failure should make for an interesting story in the years to come.
Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock / yurchello108
It sounds like the stuff of movies, but a real-life crime of passion may result in the first execution of a woman in Georgia since 1945. The state of Georgia has set a date of later this month for the execution of Kelly Renee Gissendaner, but the Board of Pardons and Paroles will hold a clemency hearing the day before Gissendaner is set to be put to death for murdering her husband in 1998.
The board said in a statement Tuesday that the clemency hearing for Kelly Renee Gissendaner will be held Feb. 24. Gissendaner is set to die Feb. 25 at the state prison in Jackson.
If the execution happens, Gissendaner will be the first woman executed in Georgia since 1945.
The Parole Board is the only entity in Georgia with the authority to reduce a death sentence to life without parole.
After Gissendaner’s conviction and appeals, the Georgia State Supreme Court upheld her death sentence in 2000, with her first execution date set for January 2001.
Gissendaner and her lover, Gregory Owen, plotted to kill her husband, Doug Gissendaner, in 1997.
Prosecutors said Gissendaner, a mother of three from Auburn, wanted her husband dead so she could profit from two $10,000 life insurance policies and the couple’s $84,000 house.
She dropped off Owen at her Auburn house before going out with friends on Feb. 7, 1997. Owen surprised 30-year-old Doug Gissendaner and forced him at knifepoint to drive to a remote area in eastern Gwinnett near the Walton County line.
Owen forced the victim to walk 100 yards into the woods and get down on his knees. He beat him in the head with a nightstick, stabbed him in the neck and back several times and left. The wife later helped her boyfriend set the car on fire to destroy evidence.
The last woman to be executed in Georgia, Lena Baker, died on March 5, 1945. She claimed self defense, and the state of Georgia granted her a posthumous pardon in 2005.
Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock / Charles Knowles
It’s been a great week for parents who are figuring out the best way to discipline their kids. The day after a suburban Atlanta barber went viral with his embarrassing haircut method of discipline, the ever controversial Pope Francis has said that he thinks parents have the right to “smack” their child for bad behavior.
The Pope recalled a conversation he had had with a father, who told him that on occasion he hits his children if they have been naughty.
The Pope, smiling and miming the action of slapping a child on the bottom, said: “One time, I heard a father say, ‘At times I have to hit my children a bit, but never in the face so as not to humiliate them.’
“That’s great. He had a sense of dignity. He should punish, do the right thing, and then move on,” he told around 7,000 people gathered in the Pope Paul VI Hall on Wednesday.
Naturally, the anti-spankers jumped out in full force to condemn the pontiff.
“It is disappointing that anyone with that sort of influence would make such a comment,” said Peter Newell, the coordinator of the Global Alliance to End Corporal Punishment of Children.
Peter Saunders, the founder of the National Association for People Abused in Childhood, told The Telegraph: “I think that is a very misguided thing to have said and I’m surprised he said it, although he does come up with some howlers sometimes.”
Others came to Pope Francis’ defense.
But the remarks were defended by Father Antonio Mazzi, a priest well-known in Italy for his television appearances.
“This Pope is always astounding us because he uses the same language we use. Naturally there will be psychologists who protest, but they make me laugh,” he said.
The pope has a history of controversial statements. Most recently, he remarked that that he would punch anyone who insulted his mother.
In other news related to Pope Francis, House Speaker John Boehner announced that the Pope will address Congress in September, making him the first pontiff to address a joint session of Congress.
Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock / giulio napolitano
It’s a parent’s nightmare and an age-old problem. Mom and dad find out their son has gotten in trouble. Or his grades are dropping. Or he’s showing disrespect.
Parents resort to so many different tactics to enforce rules and enact discipline. One barber in metro Atlanta thinks he has the solution – right there in his shop.
Three days a week, parents can take their misbehaving kids to A-1 Kutz and ask for the “Benjamin Button Special,” which Russell Fredrick and his team of barbers are offering — free of charge — to parents who want to try a novel form of discipline.
The cut involves shaving hair off the child’s crown until he begins to resemble a balding senior citizen, inviting that unique brand of adolescent humiliation that can only come from teasing classmates and unwanted attention.
Supporters say it’s the perfect punishment for misbehaving kids who want to “act grown.”
Fredrick, the A-1 Kutz co-owner and a 34-year-old father of three, said he decided to advertise the cut after he used the unique disciplinary measure on his 12-year-old son, Rushawn, last fall — and saw immediate results. Rushawn’s grades, which had fallen, “dramatically skyrocketed” after he got his old-man haircut, Frederick said.
The boss barber said he has already had one parent take him up on the offer.
On one local newscast, Fredrick also referred to the cut as the “George Jefferson,” and the, um, style has gone viral.
Fredrick said he was surprised by the attention the photo garnered, but he thinks he knows why his alternative disciplinary measure struck a chord: Cases like the one involving Adrian Peterson – the NFL star who was charged with child abuse after spanking his 4-year-old son with a tree branch — have forced many parents to reevaluate they way they bring order to their households, Fredrick said.
“I hope that most people won’t have to do this unless it’s an extreme circumstances and nothing else is working,” he said. “First, you talk or implement your restrictions. But when the conventional ways don’t work these days, you have to get creative.”
As much support as Fredrick has gotten for his unique discipline — and clever marketing — idea, there are plenty of naysayers as well.
Xanthia Bianca Johnson, a Washington-based psychotherapist who works closely with adolescents and families, told The Post that in her experience, using shame as a disciplinary tool is often counterproductive. When children misbehave, she said, they’re letting parents know that they’re in distress. The goal of effective discipline, she said, is giving children an opportunity to reflect on their mistakes; that, she said, becomes increasingly hard to do if they’re “distracted” by blame and shame.
Douglas Gotel, a clinical social worker and credentialed play therapist, said different communities rely on different disciplinary measures, but in his experience shame and humiliation build resentment and erode self-esteem over time.
What do you think? Are offbeat disciplinary ideas effective, or do they simply serve as an embarrassment?
Image courtesy of Instagram/rusty_fred
Thousands of high school students in Los Angeles are hearing positive messages of faith thanks to the efforts of one outreach organization.
About 2,500 students at 15 high schools hear the gospel each week through campus Christian clubs, which invite One Voice representatives to speak, [coordinator Allan] Giglio says. Kids have been saved from drugs, violence, sexual sin, and hopelessness.
Teachers and students alike have found themselves amazed at the effectiveness of the clubs.
Roosevelt teacher Samuel Alba acts as a teacher advisor for the Christian club. Both his father and grandfather ministered in Mexico and the U.S., where they saw extraordinary things happen. But he has seen nothing like the current outpouring of the Spirit.
“This is a whole new thing,” Alba says. “This is something extremely new to the students. Many days you see kids with tears asking Christ to come into their hearts.”
Hugo Aguilar started a Christian club at Kennedy High School in Granada Hills last year called “the Love Club.” When he heard about One Voice, he invited them to speak. From 30 students, the group skyrocketed to 60 at the next meeting and then to 140 at the third, he says.
“It was nuts. I’ve never seen anything like this before in my life,” Aguilar said. “It was just amazing to see so many people responding to Jesus.”
The Los Angeles school system allows students to run Bible studies and Christian clubs. Administrators monitor the meetings from time to time, but for the most part the clubs meet with little resistance because teachers and principals see the positive effects of students turning away from drugs and gang violence.
Leaders often lure students in with free pizza, but the life-changing message of Jesus Christ keeps them coming back.
Today, Aguilar leads youth leaders in lunch-time prayer on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday. “It’s just awesome to see God bringing in people,” he said.
Winfield, Alabama, is a sleepy little town not far from Birmingham where about 5,000 people work, live, and worship – a city where the year’s biggest event is Mule Day every September.
Winfield has also become the site of a fight over religion. Because the greatest defense against theocracy is an attack on a tiny Southern town, militant atheists have targeted the town over a proclamation the mayor and city council issued back in December of last year “acknowledging the blessings of God and expressing a desire to seek Divine guidance.”
Over the next several weeks, the city received blistering letters of condemnation from the American Civil Liberties Union and Freedom From Religion Foundation decrying the alleged violation of separation of church and state. The FFRF letter was particularly harsh, suggesting that God was the mayor’s “imaginary friend” and that, if God did exist, he probably did not care about the small Alabama town.
The Pacific Justice Institute has come to the defense of Winfield, citing recent rulings that support the town’s proclamation and its decision to stand behind it.
In response, PJI sent a letter to Mayor Randy Price late Friday, pointing out the proclamation’s consistency both with recent cases and historic American traditions. The PJI letter noted the omission in either the ACLU or FFRF letters of failed attempts by those groups to mount similar legal challenges. Within the last few years the FFRF lost a legal challenge to President Obama’s continuation of the National Day of Prayer proclamation, and the ACLU lost a case where it had sued over Ohio’s state motto, “With God all things are possible.” Court decisions in this area have also allowed local proclamations and resolutions to voice anti-religious sentiments. For instance, the federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld the right of San Francisco officials to issue scathing denunciations of religious groups and the Catholic Church, in the name of free speech.
PJI’s president, Brad Dacus, weighed in:
This proclamation does not compel or coerce anyone to do anything. As with any governmental action, not everyone is going to like it, but that doesn’t make the proclamation unconstitutional.
Here’s hoping that, in the end, Winfield will prevail against the forces trying desperately to be the squeaky wheel against the First Amendment.
Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock / Marcos Mesa Sam Wordley
Over the last couple of decades it seems like we’ve had more than our fair share of non-traditional office seekers. Kentucky voters can add one more name to that list: Drew Curtis, founder of the snarky aggregate news site Fark.com.
Curtis announced his candidacy – where else – on his blog at Fark.com on Monday. He also announced his wife Heather for lieutenant governor. He promises a completely different paradigm – completely removing the influence of so-called “special interests” from governance.
The 41-year-old Curtis is part the Citizen Candidate movement in which members pledge to make “data-driven” choices without party affiliation, which they argue makes them not beholden to special interest money.
Though political history is full of candidates who tried to win office by playing outside the prescribed rules, Curtis insists he’s unlike many of them.
“I’m not some wealthy person who calls himself an outside candidate,” he told FoxNews.com on Monday.
At his blog, Curtis laments the influence of big money in politics and proposes himself and other independent candidates as the answer.
The only way to fix this is from within. So I’m taking my shot. I’m running for Governor because if I get elected, the vicious cycle of influence money in politics grinds to a halt. Corporations are remarkably predictable – they won’t spend money on politics unless it has a chance of creating a beneficial return. Why would any corporation spend money on legislation in a state where they can’t buy the Governor? The game would be completely disrupted.
So that’s what this is about – trying something new. And proving that normal people can run for elected office and win. If one million people can call the FCC and back Net Neutrality, surely I have a chance. The best part is, win or lose, I’m going to help produce the blueprint to allow other people to run for office and win without party support.
In terms of where Curtis stands on issues – well, he’s made it abundantly clear that he doesn’t really stand on any issues at all.
One thing that people have been asking is where I stand on “the issues”. I’m still working up a response to that, mainly because I think it’s the wrong question. Political parties use “the issues” as weapons of mass distraction. If any of the really difficult political questions were solvable we’d have done it already. Besides, I’ll be an unaligned Governor with no ability to submit legislation. And Kentucky’s Legislature is currently split, which I think is a great thing.
I really want people to think in terms of solutions. For example, someone asked me where I stood on the issue of equal pay for women. Who would be against that? However the problem there is what’s the mechanism? What law could we pass that would solve that problem? I would much rather people provide me with solutions – preferably ones that have worked in other states.
I don’t have “beliefs” on issues of economics. I’m more or less agnostic on social issues. And I’m far more excited about retooling the executive branch to better interface with customers than anything else. The boring stuff is the most important stuff. It doesn’t grab headlines but it’s the part of being Governor I really want to sink my teeth into.
The only fringe idea I have is that Government could work better.
Curtis talks a good game, but the question that remains to be seen is whether his data-driven, third-way political style will work. Will voters buy his apparent pragmatic approach, or will they find themselves turned off by a candidate with little-to-no stance on issues? It looks like Kentucky may become the first big test of a whole new approach to politics.
Featured image courtesy of Business Lexington
New technology that allows scientists to remove the glue from the masks of mummies without damaging the ink on the paper used to make the mask has yielded an exciting discovery: a piece of papyrus that may contain the oldest known copy of one of the gospels.
The finding, a fragment of the Gospel of Mark, which dates back to the year 90, is one of several fascinating texts that archaeologists are discovering in the masks of mummies.
This first-century gospel fragment was written on a sheet of papyrus that was later reused to create a mask that was worn by a mummy. Although the mummies of Egyptian pharaohs wore masks made of gold, ordinary people had to settle for masks made out of papyrus (or linen), paint and glue. Given how expensive papyrus was, people often had to reuse sheets that already had writing on them.
The first-century gospel is one of hundreds of new texts that a team of about three-dozen scientists and scholars is working to uncover, and analyze, by using this technique of ungluing the masks, said Craig Evans, a professor of New Testament studies at Acadia Divinity College in Wolfville, Nova Scotia.
“We’re recovering ancient documents from the first, second and third centuries. Not just Christian documents, not just biblical documents, but classical Greek texts, business papers, various mundane papers, personal letters,” Evans told Live Science. The documents include philosophical texts and copies of stories by the Greek poet Homer.
Lest you worry that scientists are destroying valuable antiquities, the discoveries in the papyrus fragments yield more thrilling finds than these particular mummies are worth.
Evans emphasized that the masks that are being destroyed to reveal the new texts are not high-quality ones that would be displayed in a museum. Some are not masks at all but are simply pieces of cartonnage.
Evans told Live Science, “We’re not talking about the destruction of any museum-quality piece.”
The technique is bringing many new texts to light, Evans noted. “From a single mask, it’s not strange to recover a couple dozen or even more” new texts, he told Live Science. “We’re going to end up with many hundreds of papyri when the work is done, if not thousands.”
Naturally, Bart Ehrman, the leftist “Biblical scholar” that Kurt Eichenwald cited in his hit piece on the Bible in Newsweek, expressed his disdain for the find.
This complete disregard for the sanctity of surviving antiquities is, for many, many of us not just puzzling but flat-out distressing. It appears that the people behind and the people doing this destruction of antiquities are all conservative evangelical Christians, who care nothing about the preservation of the past – they care only about getting their paws on a small fragment of a manuscript. Can there be any question that with them we are not dealing with historians but Christian apologists?
Archaeologists are finding not just biblical texts, but fragments of writings by Homer and other Greek writers, as well as documents that capture slices of everyday life in that time period. The destruction of some masks that are less than museum quality is a small price to pay for such rich discoveries.
Image courtesy of Shutterstock / Patryk Kosmider
Two weeks ago, I wrote here about the outbreak of measles that had its genesis at Disneyland in Anaheim, California. The disease has now mushroomed to nearly 50 cases, over four states and south of the border.
As the first measles patients create new clusters of disease, “I think we’ll see some satellite outbreaks,” says William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert and professor at the Vanderbilt School of Medicine in Nashville. “It’s going to take a while to control.”
The first group of patients to develop measles had visited the parks from Dec. 15 to Dec. 20, according to California health officials. The officials have not yet identified “patient zero,” the person who started the outbreak. People can develop measles three to 21 days after being exposed.
At least 42 cases of measles related to Disney have been diagnosed in California, plus three in Utah, two in Washington, one in Colorado and one in Mexico. The Mexican case is a 22-month-old girl.
Robert Glatter, an emergency physician at New York’s Lenox Hill Hospital, says the Disney outbreak “has the potential to develop into one of the worst outbreaks since 1989.”
Experts lay the blame for the outbreak at the feet of the anti-vaccine movement that has taken hold in pockets of the country, particularly in Southern California.
Measles was declared eradicated in the USA in 2000, meaning that it no longer spreads routinely like the common cold. The country continued to experience a few dozen cases a year as travelers from abroad were diagnosed here.
Last year, though, measles infected 628 people, according to the CDC.
The recent surge in measles cases reflects the impact of huge measles epidemics around the world. In 2014, there were more than 57,000 cases in the Philippines and more than 17,000 in Vietnam, according to the World Health Organization.
The increased rate of measles also reflects the influence of the anti-vaccine movement, Schaffner says.
Vaccination rates in the USA are generally high. But measles can spread quickly among children of “vaccine-resistant” parents, who sometimes cluster together, living near like-minded parents with doubts about vaccine safety, Schaffner says.
California health officials say Disney did nothing wrong.
The outbreak has become so severe that officials in Orange County, where Disneyland is located, are not allowing children who have not received a measles vaccination at school or daycare for 21 days. Authorities in California and throughout the West Coast and Southwest are urging parents to vaccinate their children.
Wendy Sue Swanson, a Seattle pediatrician, notes that some children are at higher risk of measles than others, including those who are immune-suppressed or who are too young to be fully vaccinated.
“We can’t forget that we have responsibility for our community,” Swanson says. “Not only are unvaccinated children at risk for measles right now, we have to remember that they are also at risk for spreading it, too.”
The law finally caught up with a pair of Kentucky teens on the run in an alleged crime spree that spread up and down the South on Sunday.
Grayson County Sheriff officials said in a statement that 18-year-old Dalton Hayes and his 13-year-old girlfriend, Cheyenne Phillips, were arrested without incident about 12:10 a.m. Sunday in Panama City Beach. The two had eluded police in multiple states while raising concern about their increasingly bold behavior.
Authorities said the U.S. Marshal’s Service and local law enforcement in Panama City Beach discovered Hayes and Phillips asleep in a 2001 Toyota Tundra that was stolen in Georgia. The vehicle was surrounded by law enforcement and both Hayes and Phillips were taken into custody. Authorities plan to extradite the pair back to Kentucky where they are expected to face felony charges.
Hayes’ family did not realize that Phillips was only 13 until the two had been dating for months.
Cheyenne “would go in and write checks, and she would come out with cigarettes and stuff, so I didn’t have any reason not to believe she wasn’t 19,” Martin said. “Because normally you can’t buy cigarettes when you’re 13 years old.
By the time her son realized she was a mere 13, “he was already done in love with her,” Martin said.
Hayes was no stranger to legal trouble when he and Phillips fled their hometown two weeks ago.
When he hit the road, Hayes was running away from trouble back home. He faces burglary and theft charges in his home county, stemming from an arrest late last year, according to Grayson County court records.
He was planning to be at the local judicial center on Jan. 5 to find out if a grand jury had indicted him on the charges, his mother said. His case did not come up, but by that time the teens were gone.
After leaving Grayson County, where the first truck they allegedly stole crashed, Hayes and Phillips were spotted at a Walmart in South Carolina, where authorities suspect they passed off stolen checks. The two then fled to Georgia, where they allegedly stole another truck in Henry County, a few miles south of Atlanta, before fleeing further south to Panama City Beach, where authorities arrested them.
In 2014, in the midst of a slew of lawsuits cropping up over whether businesses could refuse to bake cakes or provide flowers for same-sex weddings for religious reasons, a group of Georgia lawmakers proposed a religious freedom act in the state legislature. The measure failed, largely due to pressure from the business community.
This legislative session, the theme of religious freedom has reared its head again, this time for a different reason — the firing of Atlanta’s Fire Rescue Department Chief Kelvin Cochran over a book Cochran wrote in which he makes his views on homosexuality and adultery known.
Cochran has since become what one local columnist calls “the face of ‘religious liberty’ bills“:
Last month, Cochran was brought before the executive committee of the Georgia Baptist Convention, the state’s largest denomination and a supporter of a religious liberty bill already on file in the House. Cochran was greeted as a hero, though his appearance, while a formal city investigation was underway, made him no new friends at City Hall.
The Georgia Baptist website has put audio excerpts of Cochran’s speech online, as well as a sales link to his book, “Who Told You That You Were Naked?” at Amazon.com. A Georgia Baptist online petition in support of Cochran now has 4,452 signatures.
But supporters of the bill currently before the legislature argue that a religious freedom act is about more than one man — it’s about protecting the rights of people of faith in an era in which those rights are increasingly precious.
Opponents argue this legislation is unnecessary, that religious freedom is well protected by the First Amendment. But in 1990, the Supreme Court limited that protection, which was the very reason Congress passed the federal RFRA. That law restored the protection Americans had enjoyed for decades before the unfortunate Supreme Court decision. Many states have followed suit to ensure religious freedom is similarly guarded against state and local assaults.
Opponents also deny faith-based speech and activities are ever disfavored in Georgia. But students of faith at the University of Georgia, Georgia Tech and other universities would disagree. Christian student organizations at Georgia universities and public schools have been denied the recognition and funding routinely granted to non-religious student organizations. Tech prohibited students from engaging in “intolerant” faith-based speech. At Savannah State, a Christian student club was expelled from campus for “hazing.” The offense? Engaging in a foot-washing ceremony at a discipleship retreat.
Though many examples of discrimination against faith-based activity arise in the context of public schools and universities, the problem isn’t restricted to academia. In DeKalb County, a church that had been renting a recreation center for weekly services was suddenly told it was no longer welcome, pursuant to a new (unwritten) policy against renting the center to churches. A Christian in Pine Mountain was prohibited from placing free Bibles in a library that allowed distribution of other community materials. Rockdale County required churches — alone among all other organizations — to have at least three acres of land. In case after case, people of faith have been singled out for more burdensome treatment.
A group of pastors, rabbis, and other people of faith have stepped out to oppose the measure, as have the same corporate interests who helped defeat the bill last year.
Critics say its passage, regardless of Teasley’s intentions, would open the door for private business owners to discriminate against gays and other minorities — by citing religious beliefs — and make the Peach State a national laughingstock and economic pariah.
It’s early in the legislative session, and it remains to be seen whether the bill has enough support to pass this year. Stay tuned, and we’ll see what happens under the Gold Dome.
Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock / f11photo
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. preached nonviolence and finding the civil way to solve problems between people. Now, his children are at odds over what should happen to two of his most prized possessions – his traveling Bible and his Nobel Peace Prize — and they’ve taken the fight to court.
King’s sons – Martin Luther King III and Dexter Scott King – run his estate, and want to sell the relics to a private buyer. It is thought the Bible could fetch between $200,000 and $1 million, while the medal could go for more than $10 million.
However, King’s daughter, Bernice, controls their mother’s estate and contests that King gave the medal to his wife as a gift and therefore belongs to her. She opposes the sale.
Bernice King has said publicly that selling the items would be ”spiritually violent” and “outright morally reprehensible,” and some of Dr King’s contemporaries agree. Rev. Joseph Lowery, who marched alongside King in the 60s, said:
“I don’t even want to admit there’s a discussion about putting those items on the market,” he said.
“They are sacred items, not only are they sacred to the family but they’re sacred to the community. They represent Martin’s life work and commitment to justice and serving God.”
Rev. Timothy McDonald, who served at Ebenezer Baptist Church in the 80s, agreed.
You don’t sell Bibles and you don’t get but one Nobel peace prize. There are some items that you just don’t put a price on.
The items currently reside in a safe-deposit box controlled by the court, and after a January 13 hearing, the case will go before a judge. King’s sons have indicated that they would not necessarily sell the items but that they merely want to clarify the question of ownership of the Bible and medal.
One Atlanta judge has stated that the Martin Luther King Jr. estate, led by his sons, would likely win the case if it were to go to trial.
Featured image from Shutterstock / Olivier Le Queinec
Mike and Kelli Hopkins never thought they’d ever leave their hometown. After raising four children in Covington, Georgia, the Hopkins family had deep roots in the community, among friends, and at church. Three of the Hopkins’ children have suffered from separate genetic disorders with one factor in common — seizures.
When they found out about a strain of cannabis oil that offered a proven track record of curtailing seizures without the “high” associated with marijuana, they held out hope that Georgia would make the medicine legal. After a bill to make the oil legal failed to pass the legislature in 2014, the Hopkins family made plans to move to Colorado, where the oil is legal.
Kelli and the children would move to Colorado full-time, while Mike would fly back and forth from their home in Covington, where he serves as director of the local water authority, and Colorado to spend time with the family. But the move came too late for two of the Hopkins children, as 21-year-old Mary Elizabeth and six-year-old Abe passed away just a few months apart.
Mike and Kelli vowed to fight again in 2015 to make this near-miraculous oil legal in their home state. Meanwhile, in Colorado, Kelli has tried the oil with 17-year-old Michala, and the family has seen dramatic results.
HB1, The bill in this year’s legislative session, has 84% support, according to WSB in Atlanta – however, Governor Nathan Deal vowed to veto the current bill but would support a compromise version that offers immunity from prosecution to anyone who transports the oil into Georgia.
To Mike Hopkins, such an option is too risky for his family to move back home.
“Well, you know when we received the oil in Colorado we signed a document saying we would not leave the state of Colorado with this medicine. That makes it illegal to leave the state of Colorado,” he said.
The legislator behind the bill, Representative Allen Peake, has considered engaging in “a little civil disobedience.”
“I’m ready and willing to risk going to jail to be able to go get the product, (and) bring it back to Georgia so that these families can have access to it,” he said.
In the meantime, the Hopkins family, along with around 16 other Georgia families, will remain in Colorado until the Georgia legislature can clear the way for them to come home with the medicine that is making a difference in their children’s lives.
Image courtesy of Shutterstock / urbans
There’s hardly any place more magical than the Disney Parks at Christmastime. However, this holiday season a handful of guests at Disneyland in Anaheim, California, got a souvenir they didn’t bargain for: measles.
Nine people with confirmed cases of measles were at Disneyland or the adjacent Disney California Adventure Park in Orange County between Dec. 15 and Dec. 20, according to the California Department of Public Health. Three more people with suspected measles also visited Disney during that time.
Pamela Hymel, chief medical officer at Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, said, “We are working with the health department to provide any information and assistance we can.”
If you’re thinking, “I thought measles was practically eradicated with those shots we had to get as children,” think again. The anti-vaccination subculture deserves the blame for this outbreak.
Measles was once a nearly universal disease of childhood. Thanks to vaccines, however, it was declared eradicated in the USA in 2000. Since then, the country has seen 60 to 70 cases a year, usually people who were infected in other countries and diagnosed here.
The disease has returned in recent years, as more parents skip or space out their children’s vaccines because of misguided concerns about vaccine safety, [Paul] Offit [chief of infectious disease at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia] says. Dozens of studies have found vaccines to be safe, with no link to autism or other serious conditions.
Still, fears stoked by misinformation from celebrities and the Internet have done a lot of damage, Offit says.
The majority of these cases involve people who were never vaccinated, including two babies too young for the shot, but in one case, the patient had received all vaccinations.
Health officials have expressed concern over this particular outbreak, especially since it centers around a popular tourist destination.
The Disneyland outbreak is disturbing, Offit says, because it affects people who are likely to get on planes, where measles can spread easily. Two of the confirmed cases linked to Disneyland were Utah residents.
Disneyland is safe as of now, but for those nine guests, this Christmas trip was more than they bargained for.
Image via Shutterstock / Hatchapong Palurtchaivong
Let’s face it – local politics can be boring, even in your own hometown. So it’s not often that a local political story makes waves nationwide. Frederick, Maryland has brought us a rare local political story that’s not only interesting, but downright hilarious.
Kirby Delauter, a city council member in the town located in the center of Maryland, published a Facebook post on January 3 in which he threatened to sue the local paper, the News-Post, if they used his name again without permission:
In a Facebook status posted Saturday, Delauter said he was upset with reporter Bethany Rodgers for “an unauthorized use of my name and my reference in her article” published Jan. 3 about his and Councilman Billy Shreve’s concerns over County Council parking spaces.
“So let me be clear…………do not contact me and do not use my name or reference me in an unauthorized form in the future,” Delauter, R-District 5, said in a Facebook status update.
Delauter, a Republican, has expressed his disdain with bias at the paper on other occasions – in fact, one of his fellow Republicans on the council agreed with him in the article – but the paper’s response was priceless: an editorial using his name as often as they could:
Kirby Delauter, an elected official; Kirby Delauter, a public figure? Surely, Kirby Delauter can’t be serious? Kirby Delauter’s making a joke, right?
Round about then, we wondered, if it’s not a joke, how should we now refer to Kirby Delauter if we can’t use his name (Kirby Delauter)? Could we get away with an entire editorial of nothing but “Kirby Delauter” repeated over and over again — Kirby Delauter, Kirby Delauter, Kirby Delauter? OK, imagine we agreed because of temporary madness or something funny in the water that week, how would we reference “Kirby Delauter” and do our job as journalists without running afoul of our lack of authorization?
You know, Delauter could be right about the bias (and he and I are on the same side politically), but the paper is right to stand behind what it calls “that whole First Amendment thing.” After all, arrogant politicians of any political stripe need someone to take them down a peg or two.
Thankfully, the News-Post figured out how to do it with a dose of laughs.
Newsweek made its way back into print with a bang, ringing in 2015 with a lengthy cover article about the Bible. In the 8,500 word piece, business writer Kurt Eichenwald barely hides his disdain for evangelicals and those who interpret the Bible through a theologically conservative lens:
They wave their Bibles at passersby, screaming their condemnations of homosexuals. They fall on their knees, worshipping at the base of granite monuments to the Ten Commandments while demanding prayer in school. They appeal to God to save America from their political opponents, mostly Democrats. They gather in football stadiums by the thousands to pray for the country’s salvation.
They are God’s frauds, cafeteria Christians who pick and choose which Bible verses they heed with less care than they exercise in selecting side orders for lunch. They are joined by religious rationalizers—fundamentalists who, unable to find Scripture supporting their biases and beliefs, twist phrases and modify translations to prove they are honoring the Bible’s words.
The Bible is not the book many American fundamentalists and political opportunists think it is, or more precisely, what they want it to be. Their lack of knowledge about the Bible is well established.
Eichenwald sets out to rip apart just about every mainstream belief about the Word of God, relying almost exclusively on liberal scholarship to prove his points.
The article probably ticked off plenty of theological conservatives, but one evangelical leader found himself angry enough to refute Eichenwald. Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, mounted his missive in a post on his website.
When it comes to Newsweek‘s cover story, “The Bible: So Misunderstood It’s a Sin,” Eichenwald appears to be far outside his area of expertise and knowledge. More to the point, he really does not address the subject of the Bible like a reporter at all. His article is a hit-piece that lacks any journalistic balance or credibility. His only sources cited within the article are from severe critics of evangelical Christianity, and he does not even represent some of them accurately.
Eichenwald demonstrates absolutely no attempt to understand traditional Christian understandings of the Bible, nor ever to have spoken with the people he asserts “claim to revere [the Bible] but don’t read it.” What follows is a reckless rant against the Bible and Christians who claim to base their faith upon its teachings.
In a predictable move, Eichenwald claims to base his research on “works of scores of theologians and scholars, some of which dates back centuries.” But the sources he cites are from the far, far left of biblical studies and the most significant living source appears to be University of North Carolina professor Bart Ehrman, who is post-Christian. Even so, he makes claims that go far beyond even what Bart Ehrman has claimed in print.
Mohler muses aloud whether “some fundamentalist preacher [ran] over young Kurt Eichenwald’s pet hamster when the reporter was just a boy” and accuses the journalist of raising arguments “that could only impress a ten year old.”
Yet, most impressively, Mohler refutes nearly all of Eichenwald’s points and blows holes in the writer’s logic before concluding that Eichenwald “has an axe to grind, and grind he does.”
Anyone who has read the Newsweek screed would do themselves a favor to read Mohler’s response. It’s nice to see him stand up to the flimsy scholarship and agenda-driven writing Eichenwald puts on display.
Image courtesy of Shutterstock / Natykach Nataliia
If you’ve ever walked around an area known for its nightlife, you’ve seen them: handwritten signs outside bars on chalkboards or whiteboards with clever sayings designed to draw patrons in. Folks who walked past Bar Bar at City Market in Savannah, GA, on Friday night may never forget the sign they saw — or the controversy it has caused.
Someone took a photo of the sign, which read, “We like our beer like we like our violence, DOMESTIC,” and sent it to Cheryl Branch, director of Savannah’s Safe Shelter, Inc., and that’s where the firestorm began.
“I have 18 years of really bad stuff in my head,” she says. “I think it was just really poor judgement and bad taste.”
Her staff members sent her the photo.
“…as much domestic violence has been in the news, and then to see a sign…” she feels such a message has the potential to be damaging for domestic violence survivors.
So, she took to Yelp to post a review of the bar.
Bar Bar’s owner, David Thorne, emailed Branch directly and informed her that the sign was meant as a joke and that he didn’t personally approve of the sign but that he stood by it nonetheless.
He wrote: “It is obvious that you are reactionary, oversensitive, and can’t recognize the First Amendment rights of our staff.”
In the email, the owner says his bar had no intention of promoting domestic violence, and he would not have approved the sign but a female staff member wrote it without asking.
The bar had taken the sign down by Saturday, but the controversy remained, as Bar Bar dealt with plenty of complaints on social media from others who saw the sign. Thorne would not talk directly to the media, but by Monday morning, Bar Bar came back with its own defiant response.
In response, the bar posted this on their Facebook page: ”To everybody who has a problem with the sign that was put up Friday night and have never been to, or won’t return to the Bar Bar: How about instead of wasting your time whining about a sign at a bar you take your TIME and MONEY and DONATE to SAFE Shelter! Stop the Violence by DOING something……not whining about it!”
Obviously, Bar Bar stands behind its employees’ First Amendment right to make dumb statements, but it may be too early to tell how much patrons will exercise their right not to spend money at the establishment.
In a moving message on Facebook, Canon Andrew White, the Anglican vicar of Baghdad, writes that Christians in Baghdad have nothing left but the “refugee child” Jesus this year.
White writes movingly: “I will never forget the day in Baghdad when we had some visitors. They had come to see what it was really like for Christians in Iraq. They were so surprised by how happy the thousands of people were in our congregation. ‘How can you be so happy when you are surrounded by suicide bombs, mortar rockets and such violence?’ One of our young people answered the statement. ‘You see when you have lost everything, Jesus is all you have got left.’
“All you have got left is the love of that refugee child. That to us in the Middle East is all that matters this Christmas.”
White, who had to relocate to Bethlehem after threats to his life, also writes about the refugee tents the church has set up to care for Christian suffering at the hands of ISIS.
Christians have been dismissed from their hometowns in there hundreds of thousands. They have fled in their masses to the very North of Iraq fleeing the onslaught of the terrorist group known as ISIS. There for weeks my staff team have fed and clothed, provided mattresses and cradles for the thousands and thousands of internally displaced people.
This Christmas season, we who celebrate in the safety of the West, let us not lose sight of the true meaning of this special holiday. To quote Canon White’s closing statement:
Christmas is a time when we should never lose the meaning of this Christ Child who came to us so that by simply trusting in him we will have a life filled with hope and purpose and love. He is still with us 2000 years after he first came. This Christmas let us not forget that he so loves us that we must love him and in response our life will be changed forever.
This post uses an image from Shutterstock.
Around the same time that Mississippi State University’s football team found themselves at the top of the college football rankings, an archaeological team from the school was getting ready to go public with some key finds from their three-year project at Khirbet Summeily, a site in southern Israel.
These finds shed light on life in the Old Testament era. One of the finds, a series of clay seals called bullae, lends credence to the Biblical accounts of the reigns of Kings David and Solomon.
Jimmy Hardin, associate professor in the MSU Department of Anthropology and Middle Eastern Cultures, said these clay bullae were used to seal official correspondence in much the same way wax seals were used on official documents in later periods.
“Our preliminary results indicated that this site is integrated into a political entity that is typified by elite activities, suggesting that a state was already being formed in the 10th century B.C.,” Hardin said. “We are very positive that these bullae are associated with the Iron Age IIA, which we date to the 10th century B.C., and which lends general support to the historical veracity of David and Solomon as recorded in the Hebrew biblical texts.
“These appear to be the only known examples of bullae from the 10th century, making this discovery unique,” he said.
“Some text scholars and archaeologists have dismissed the historic reliability of the biblical text surrounding kings David and Solomon, such as recorded in the Bible in the books of Kings and Second Samuel, which scholars often date to the Iron Age IIA or 10th century B.C,” Hardin said.
Other finds in and around the dig site help clarify what everyday life was like in Israel during that era. Jeff Blakely, another archaeologist involved in the Hesi Regional Project, notes that these finds change the way scholars have viewed economic life at that time.
From the start of the project, archaeologists have tried to determine what people were doing in the region of Khirbet Summeily, Blakely said.
“Generations of scholarship have suggested farming, but over the past few years, we have slowly realized that humans rarely farmed this region,” he said. “It was a pasture. Shepherds tended sheep and goats under the protection of their government. Finding the bullae this past summer strongly supports our idea that Khirbet Summeily was a governmental installation.”
This post includes an image from Shutterstock.
So your exhausting search for the ideal Christmas present for that hard-to-shop-for friend has taken you to the package store. You browse the aisles looking for the perfect bottle — something that reflects good taste at the best price — when suddenly you’ve found what you’re looking for.
Not so fast. A new Consumer Reports poll has found that a quarter of Americans surveyed see hard liquor as the least desirable holiday gift.
One in four Americans surveyed cited whiskey, vodka, brandy, rum, and other spirits as the least desirable gift to receive; 23 percent identified flowers and plants as the biggest buzzkill, while 13 percent singled out candles, picture frames, and other home décor items as the most unwanted presents. Even socks would be a better choice.
The same poll showed that consumers are much more comfortable with the idea of receiving wine as a present.
Wine, however, proved a different story. It was far more acceptable—and desirable. Only 6 percent of respondents said they wouldn’t want to receive a bottle for the holidays.
Just outside of Charleston, SC, the assistant manager of package store Bottles says she doesn’t see the aversion to the giving of booze that the poll reflects.
“I was like, ‘hmm, I guess they’re not in South Carolina’,” Sara Capparelli says of her initial reaction to the finding. “We’re selling out of gift sets.”
…liquor remains popular with Christmas shoppers in Charleston. More than 100 gift givers this weekend attended a bottle-engraving that Capparelli called the most successful such event in the Mt. Pleasant store’s three-year history.
However, Capparelli says she does understand why many people might prefer wine to liquor as a gift.
The gulf between wine and liquor makes sense to Capparelli, who points out that most Cabernet drinkers could probably be coaxed into trying Merlot. But it’s significantly harder to persuade a whiskey drinker to sip vodka, no matter how nicely the bottle is wrapped. Additionally, Capparelli says, wine offers a better value for the gift giver.
“You don’t want to give someone a $5 bottle of value liquor,” she says, whereas many well-made wines are relatively inexpensive.
So the bottom line is this: unless you really need to buy the liquor for yourself, put it back and walk over to the wine section for a better gift-giving experience.
This article contains an image courtesy of Shutterstock.
Atlanta police have charged 34-year-old Aeman Presley with a September murder days after charging him in three deaths that rocked the city over Thanksgiving and the week after.
Authorities had already charged Presley in conjunction with the shooting deaths of two homeless men while they slept on the streets of Atlanta, as well as with the murder of a popular hairstylist in Decatur, a suburb just east of the city.
Presley is accused of firing multiple times — “overkill,” police say — while the two homeless men were wrapped in blankets, sleeping on the sidewalk in Atlanta. Dorian Jenkins, 42, was killed Nov. 23, followed by Tommy Mims, 68, on Nov. 26.
Additionally, Presley now faces charges in the September shooting of a mentally ill man who police believe was homeless at the time of his murder.
Presley, 34, shot Calvin Gholston, 53, to death Sept. 27 at a shopping center outside Atlanta, police said. They believe Gholston was homeless and was shot multiple times as he slept — like two of the other victims, though his death came about a month earlier.
The woman who found Gholston’s body told officers he had been living in an alleyway near the shopping center for at least two months, according to a police report.
Police officers for MARTA, Atlanta’s transit system, apprehended Presley when he entered an entry gate without paying the fare. They found a loaded gun with more ammunition on Presley when they searched him, and a weapons expert with MARTA noted that the ammunition matched photos of the bullets police believed the gunman used in the November murders.
By putting out the information on the weapons, “I compromised all of my evidence, knowing that if we could just save one more homeless person” it would be worth it, Atlanta police Detective David Quinn said.
Police declined to give many details from Presley’s interviews with investigators but called him cooperative and forthcoming.
“I wouldn’t even say it was an interrogation. It was a conversation,” Quinn said. He later added: “After the interview, we had enough evidence to charge these four murders, I’ll put it that way.”
Police consider Presley a serial killer.
The term “serial killings” means a series of three or more killings, having common characteristics such as to suggest the reasonable possibility that the crimes were committed by the same actor or actors, according to the FBI.
Image provided by Fulton County Jail.
In the 1800s, London became a haven for tens of thousands of Russian Jews fleeing their czarist homeland. Today, a similar scene takes place in the United Kingdom, but this time the refugees are Muslim converts to Christianity fleeing persecution in England or the Middle East.
Many Muslims who convert to Christianity face threats of death and harm, and friends and family turn them away. One organization in particular, Christian Concern, is helping converts find safe haven in homes, churches, and other places in the UK.
Christian Concern believes thousands of Muslims are anxious to convert and in need of housing so they can get back onto their feet after suffering verbal — and sometimes physical — attacks from families, friends and co-workers.
“We are motivated by a deep sense of love and compassion for those that feel trapped in a situation from which they cannot escape,” said Andrea Williams, the group’s chief executive.
“The penalty for converts at best is to be cut off from their family; at worst they face death,” she added. “This is happening not just in Sudan and Nigeria but in East London. The government has failed to deal with the rise in anti-Christian sentiment.”
Some of these converts are like Shokit Ali Sadiq, whose wife is also a Christian. He and his family received safe haven thanks to members of their church. Sadiq now works to convert others from Islam to Christianity, and he says that many Muslims want to convert but are afraid to do so.
“There are hundreds of people out there who want to leave Islam,” said Sadiq. “But they’re frightened of making their desire known.”
Others are like a woman who went unnamed for her interview. She faced physical attacks from other women after becoming a Christian. She prays that “one day my own family will have me back.”
Twenty-three-year-old Ali, whose former friends stabbed him and left him for dead when he converted in Pakistan at age 17, fled to England, where these same young men from his hometown tracked him down and threatened him again. He now works at a store and lives essentially in hiding,but he is hopeful that he can return to Pakistan one day to do the same work that saved his life.
“My life’s ambition,” he said, “is to return and start a charity that would provide safe houses for Muslims who convert to Christianity.”
This post uses a modified image from Shutterstock.
The Atlanta Public Schools cheating trial may have been in progress since September, but this week it has taken some bizarre twists and turns that more resemble a soap opera than a courtroom trial.
This week alone, we’ve learned of teachers who continued changing answers on standardized tests because no one explicitly told them that their actions were wrong, along with teachers who threatened and insulted students when it came to the test cheating.
On Monday, one teacher testified that she and other teachers erased answers on the Georgia Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests (CRCT) in order to elevate scores for their school:
Former Dunbar Elementary School second-grade teacher Rose Neal testified that she saw second-grade teacher Diane Buckner-Webb and first-grade teachers Pamela Cleveland and Shani Robinson cheat on Georgia’s Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests in the spring of 2009. Neal said she too cheated.
Buckner-Webb, Cleveland and Robinson all face charges of racketeering and making false statements. A statewide analysis found an abnormally high number of wrong-to-right erasures on standardized tests taken by their students in 2009.
No one in the room — including former Dunbar testing coordinator Lera Middlebrooks — suggested cheating was wrong or that they should stop, Neal said in response to a prosecutor’s question.
“I wish they had, but no,” she said.
On Wednesday, another school system employee testified that certain teachers insulted their students’ intelligence while those same students went on to perform too well the CRCT:
Certain fourth-grade teachers at Dobbs Elementary School told their students things like “You all just dumb. You can’t learn anything,” former Dobbs teaching coach Lori Revere-Paulk testified in the Atlanta test-cheating trial Wednesday.
But many of those students went on to ace state tests, even though results from other tests suggested they would fall short, Revere-Paulk said.
On Thursday, students testified that teachers threatened them when they witnessed or reported cheating:
“If I lose my job, I’m ’a beat your ass,” former Dobbs Elementary School teacher Derrick Broadwater told one fifth-grader after the boy reported possible cheating to a school employee, according to the student’s account, which Broadwater disputes.
Then Broadwater came closer to the child and shared another message.
“He was going to kill me,” the student testified.
The boy, now a broad-shouldered 17-year-old in his Atlanta high school’s ROTC program, said he was too scared to report the threats until recently.
Two other former Dobbs students testified that [teacher Angela] Williamson told them and other students the answers on fourth-grade state tests.
But the girls didn’t tell anyone about the cheating at the time. Williamson told them not to, they said.
“If you tell anyone, it’ll be the last person you tell, I promise you that,” Williamson told the class, one of the girls testified.
The cheating scandal came to light when the Atlanta Journal-Constitution questioned unusually high scores on the CRCT between 2002 and 2009 at certain Atlanta schools. Indictments went all the way to the top, including to former superintendent Beverly Hall, who will not testify because she is gravely ill with cancer.
Stay tuned as we bring you more unusual details from the trial as they unfold.
The defeat of Mary Landrieu, Louisiana’s newly lame-ducked senator, over the weekend led the news cycle. But the untold story of Louisiana’s election day came from St. Bernard Parish, just east of New Orleans, where voters rejected measures for over $6 million in property taxes.
Voters struck down most of the proposed renewals Saturday by at least 60 percent, a percentage that Parish Council Chairman Guy McInnis McInnis called “a serious message to government.”
“We have to seriously look at the budget, and we need to look at cutting the budget,” McInnis said. “Regardless of whether we put them on the ballot again, we have to prepare ourselves for not having that money because they may fail again.”
And the tax rejection came as the costs of maintaining services rise for the parish’s smaller post-Hurricane Katrina population.
There are roughly a third less people, homes and jobs in St. Bernard now than before Katrina, and those who returned are paying about 30 percent more in taxes, including 35 new mills added to the tax rolls in 2013 for firefighting and the policing.
This isn’t the first time voters in the parish have spoken up — in April, 80% of voters rejected a $9 million tax increase to benefit the county’s hospital.
Residents blame an unusually large levee tax proposal for spearheading the anti-tax sentiment, while others claim the timing of the vote – just after property tax bills arrived in the mail – for fanning the flames. One local educator coined a phrase that hits the nail on the head.
Ron Chapman, a Nunez Community College history professor, said he blamed the “administration and the council for not educating voters.”
“If you don’t know what something is, you vote against it,” Chapman said.
He also said there is post-Katrina tax fatigue in the parish.
“We have a real problem here. We are stuck having to pay for infrastructure that is too big for the people in it,” he said. “It’s like old people who own a large home and then their children move out and it is just too big for them to maintain.
Chapman added, “The parish really should have shrunk its footprint after the storm. Because, how are we going to pay for it? We are finding out now that we can’t.”
Republican lawmakers in Tennessee have filed two separate bills for the upcoming legislative session which would do away with Common Core educational standards and replace them with a system developed within the state. One bill would have new standards in place by the 2016-17 school year, while the other would implement new standards sooner.
Senate Education Committee Chairman Dolores Gresham, R-Somerville, and Senate Government Operations Committee Chairman Mike Bell filed legislation Monday that would establish a Tennessee Standards Commission that would later recommend changes to the State Board of Education. It would also “cancel” Tennessee’s memorandum of understanding regarding Common Core standards in English language arts and math.
New standards to replace Common Core, which has phased into Tennessee classrooms for the past four years, would be ready by the 2016-17 school year.
Meanwhile, Rep. John Forgety, R-Athens, has introduced a separate House bill that would require the state board of education to adopt new Tennessee-developed standards before July 1, 2016. It would halt future Common Core expansion beyond this school year, establish teams of educators to review and recommend new standards and create what would become known as “Volunteer State Standards.”
This legislative groundswell puts Republican lawmakers at odds with Tennessee’s Governor Bill Haslam, himself a member of the GOP who has overseen the state’s implementation of Common Core. Haslam, who some call a potential 2016 candidate for the White House, recently did an about face and called for a public “vetting” of Common Core, via a website where citizens can voice concerns.
Haslam said he was not surprised that the legislature is considering rolling back Common Core.
“I’ve said all along: We’re here to do a full review of the standards,” Haslam said. “I don’t know how to say that any other way. The good news is people are engaging — 15,500 people have already commented on the standards. That’s great news.”
He said he’s willing to be a part of any discussion that maintains high standards and takes a “realistic view” of the current standards.
“I’ve always said it’s not about what we call the standards. Let’s talk about what the standards are. My commitment is to make certain we have the very best standards we can,” Haslam said.
Multiple bills last year failed to gain traction, but growing opposition to Common Core leaves GOP lawmakers hopeful they can defeat it this legislative sesson.
An inmate in Cobb County, Georgia, north of Atlanta, pleaded guilty to charges of filing a false report for claiming he had visited Ebola-stricken countries after developing a fever and flu-like symptoms in custody.
Police pulled over 35-year-old Virginia native Harry Randall Withers, Jr. for DUI on October 3. While in custody, he fell ill, and he told jailers he had traveled to Africa. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution breathlessly reported the story back in October:
Withers developed a fever, had flu-like symptoms, and when questioned acknowledged that he had recently traveled to Africa, the Georgia Public Health Department and Cobb County officials said at a press conference Friday afternoon,.
Withers had been to Kenya and Nigeria, and had spent a few hours in Liberia, a country at the epicenter of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. He flew into the United States through the Washington, D.C., area and landed at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.
It remains unclear what he was doing in Cobb.
He was immediately placed into isolation at the jail and the Cobb-Douglas Heath Department was notified. He was then transferred to WellStar Kennestone Hospital.
The jail area where he was held was sanitized twice.
After Withers tested negative, officials learned that he had not been out of the country since 2005. His lie led to Ebola precautions taken at the jail, the hospital where he was transported, and for the ambulance company that transported him. They also led to three felony counts of filing a false report.
“We will not tolerate anyone manipulating the system like this and preying on our worst fears,” Deputy Chief ADA John Melvin, who prosecuted the case, said in a news release Thursday. “When you put the county and law enforcement through such a useless exercise as this, we will find out the truth.”
Cobb Superior Court Judge Robert E. Flournoy III sentenced Withers to 10 years, with one year to serve, though that sentence will be suspended upon Withers’ successful completion of a six-month inpatient drug rehabilitation program in Virginia. He was also ordered to pay $10,000 in restitution to the Cobb Sheriff’s Office.