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Chris Queen

All Chris Queen wanted to be growing up was a game show host, a weather man, or James Bond. But his writing talent won out. By day, Chris is a somewhat mild-mannered church communications director, but by night, he keeps his finger on the pulse of pop culture and writes about it. In addition to his Disney obsession (as evidenced by his posts on this website), Chris's interests include college sports -- especially his beloved Georgia Bulldogs -- and a wide variety of music. A native of Marietta, GA, Chris moved with his family as a child to nearby Covington, GA, where he still makes his home. He is an active charter member of Eastridge Community Church and enjoys spending time with family and friends. In addition to his work at PJ Media, Chris spent nearly a year as a contributor to NewsReal Blog. He has also written for Celebrations Magazine and two newspapers in Metro Atlanta. Check out his website, www.chrisqueen.net. Chris is the author of Football, Faith, & Flannery O'Connor: A Love Letter To The South,,.
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Police Seek Help Finding the ‘Portland Pooper’

Friday, August 28th, 2015 - by Chris Queen

Portland, Oregon, is one of those “anything goes” kind of towns. The newest evidence of Portland’s, um, uniqueness is the latest crime wave sweeping one area of town: a man has been seen defecating in public in certain areas of town. And now police want the public’s help in catching the “Portland Pooper.”

Officers say the man pictured in flyers posted around the city has officially been called a suspect.

“I think it’s really gross and shocking,” Britni Smith said. “I don’t know what to say about it.”

Many Southeast Portland residents want to know the circumstances behind the man who has been captured doing his business outside a building near SE 58th and Powell.

“I find it interesting that he has toilet paper with him, it’s very pre-planned,” Catrina Salazar, who works nearby at Phix Hair Studio, told KOIN 6 News. “You just don’t really know what to expect around here. People, they like do their own thing, they kind of march to the beat of their own drum.”

[...]

Flyers and posters with his face have been posted around the neighborhood.

The man could face offensive littering charges.

So come on, Portlandians. If you see someone doing number two in your neighborhood, make it your number one priority to call the police.

The 7 Creepiest Serial Killers in American History

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock / Dave Newman

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Iraq Begins Documenting Christian Persecution

Wednesday, August 26th, 2015 - by Chris Queen

The Iraqi government has for the first time begun collecting and documenting statistics on Christian persecution in the country. Some of the figures include 7,000 violations against property belonging to Christians since 2003 and a decrease in the Christian population of Iraq of over a million during the same timeframe. One report in June claimed that in Baghdad alone, Islamists have seized 70% of Christians’ homes illegally.

Iraqi authorities have set up a committee to investigate claims of abuse and violence against Christians.

The committee was set up on the orders of Prime Minister Haydar al-Abadi, and aims to counter in particular the escalation of kidnappings and illegal expropriation of homes and land which in recent months Iraqi Christians have suffered. The heads of the Committee have already visited the headquarters of the Chaldean Patriarchate in Baghdad and spoke with Patriarch Louis Raphael I in order to start collecting data and information about the abuses suffered by Christians. In particular, the first step is to carry out a census of the real estate abusively taken from Christian families, collecting the title deeds and indicating the individual, groups and corporate bodies that now benefit of illegally expropriated properties. The parishes and Christian communities will be able to also provide information to the security committee regarding the cases of kidnapped Christians including clues to identify the perpetrators of kidnappings.

Government officials and church leaders have expressed their concerns that the country has not done enough to protect Christians.

A Christian member of Iraq’s parliament, Imad Youkhana, issued a statement on July 9 calling for greater protections for the country’s Christian population. He branded the kidnappings parts of an intimidation campaign bent on forcing Iraqi Christians out of the country, and warned that it was threatening Iraq’s unity.

The Iraqi Chaldean Church recently issued a statement of their own:

It is unfortunate that the security situation continues to deteriorate, and that some individuals and groups exploit it to carry out the kidnapping of innocent people in order to gain sums of money and to terrorize civilians. In less than two weeks, they kidnapped four Christians…

This is not the first time that Christians have been kidnapped since the fall of the regime.

There are also incidents where evil people are falsifying the documents of Christian homes and seizing them and their household goods.  They also send them threatening messages through their mobile phones ordering them to leave their jobs.  This outrageous behavior causes anguish and destroys the national mosaic of Iraqi society, weakening the prestige and authority of the state.

Christians are indigenous citizens, and everyone praises their morality, their patriotism, and their roots in this country.  For hundreds and hundreds of years they have contributed to its civilization and culture.

The government committee will also focus on the number of Christians who have been kidnapped in recent months. In June and July alone, terrorists have kidnapped four Christians, two of whom they killed.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock / MyImages – Micha

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North Carolinians Spot Cloaked Figure Roaming Their Town

Tuesday, August 25th, 2015 - by Chris Queen

It’s not unusual to see odd things happening in a small town, but what residents of one North Carolina town saw on Sunday has set them on edge. Several Bessemer City residents spotted a mysterious cloaked figure reportedly dropping raw meat onto a playground.

A picture of a cloaked person posted online sparked a Facebook frenzy Monday.

And the speculation followed.

Was she a witch performing a ritual, or was he a guy playing a prank?

Some joked that the person was a character from“Star Wars” or the TV show “Pretty Little Liars,” and at least one parody showed a white-cloaked person wielding a corn dog, reportedly in Bessemer City.

No one had the answer. Even police and property managers were scratching their heads.

“We don’t know if it’s one of our residents with an interesting way of presenting themselves, or if it’s a trespasser,” said Lance Calhoun, director of operations for Southwood Realty.

Two pictures popped up on the Facebook group One Man’s Junk Sunday night and Monday morning.

The photos are taken through a window with blinds in the foreground and a cloaked, pale person outside near some woods.

The social media chatter says the man or woman is in the Hudson Woods apartment complex off of Hudson Boulevard, but police say it hasn’t been confirmed.

“There’s no validation that it was Hudson Woods. It could have come from anywhere. We don’t know if this is some bogus prank somebody is playing,” said Donna Lahser, spokeswoman with the Gastonia Police Department.

Who exactly took the photos is unclear.

Another resident reported that someone left a bag of raw meat on his doorstep a couple of weeks prior to the sighting. Whether the two incidents are related is unclear, and authorities are reluctant to draw conclusions.

Townspeople have expressed obvious concern over the strange sighting.

Brooke Conard’s yard backs up to the woods that border the apartment complex.

If some shady character is lurking in the woods,Conard fears for her and her daughter’s safety.

“I see why it could be easy to make a joke out of it, but this is serious. We live in a world today where you don’t know what’s going on and you don’t know people,” she said.

Even if a person wore a cloak as a hoax, a child could be scarred by the encounter, she said.

The spokesperson for a local pagan group dismissed the stunt, stating that adherents to their beliefs do not practice their rituals in public places.

If it is a hoax, [Heather] Darnell said she finds the photos offensive.

“It looks like someone is deliberately trying to create havoc,” she said. “I think it’s pretty ugly and irresponsible if someone is just trying to get attention.”

Featured image courtesy of Gaston Gazette

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ISIS Threatens Sex Slavery For Kidnapped Assyrian Christian Women

Wednesday, August 19th, 2015 - by Chris Queen

Continuing their campaign of unspeakable horror against non-Muslims, ISIS has threatened sex slavery for a trio of Assyrian Christian women whom the group kidnapped in February.

These women could be among the large group ISIS kidnapped in February, when 220 Assyrian Christians disappeared from the province of Hassakeh in north-east Syria. A source from the Assyrian Federation of Sweden said, “the names resemble the family names of people in a nearby village…so it is possible that these women could be from Assyrian villages but we cannot confirm that.”

The Federation fears the women could be sold as sex slaves to ISIS fighters if a ransom is not paid, although no amount is specified.

Authorities believe that these three women are part of a group of at least 220 Assyrian Christians whom ISIS abducted last winter.

‘The names resemble the family names of people in a nearby village – Tel Jazire – so it is possible that these women could be from Assyrian villages but we cannot confirm that,’ a source at the Assyrian Federation of Sweden said.

MailOnline’s source, who is herself from the Assyrian village of Tel Shamiram, added: ‘These names are names you find in Assyrian villages.’

ISIS appears to have reversed its policy of protection of “People of the Book” – Christians and Jews – from rape and sex slavery.

Last year ISIS released a 34-page manual making it clear that sex with Christians and Jews “captured in battle” was allowed. These groups have previously received limited protections above other communities such as the Yazidis because they are viewed as ‘People of the Book.’ However even this appears to have been removed as ISIS continues to systematically rape women and girls who do not hold to the group’s radical Islamic theology.

An abducted 12-year-old girl was told by an ISIS fighter that because she wasn’t a Muslim, the Qu’ran not only permitted her rape, it condoned and encouraged it, according to a recent New York Times interview.

ISIS did release 22 of the hostages earlier this month. One British organization claims that someone paid a ransom for the freed Christians, 14 of which were women. However, fears remain that ISIS is tightening its grip on those in the region who don’t subscribe to its radical totalitarian agenda.

Only last week, ISIS kidnapped 230 Christians and Muslims in Syria, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights who feared they were destined for death and slavery.

At least 60 of them are thought to be Christian and although nearly half were later released, the fate of the others is unknown.

The terrorists seized the town of Qaryatain after suicide bombers targeted army checkpoints at the entrance.

At least 45 women and 19 children were among the kidnapped while hundreds of others are thought to be missing.

Christians make up around ten per cent of Syria’s pre-war population of 23 million people.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock / Steve Allen

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State Senator Takes On Iconic Atlanta Restaurant Over Confederate Symbolism

Tuesday, August 18th, 2015 - by Chris Queen

Last December, Atlanta’s famed OK Cafe suffered a devastating electrical fire. The restaurant’s owners vowed to rebuild, and the story served as an inspiring lesson in perseverance in the face of defeat.

Unfortunately the world has changed, and as OK Cafe prepares to reopen, the establishment now faces a foe that nobody would have seen coming months ago.

OK Café features a carving of a 1956 Georgia state flag, which includes the Confederate battle emblem. Owners have said the carving will return when the restaurant reopens in the fall.

Now, Sen. Vincent Fort (D-Atlanta) is calling upon OK Café co-owner Susan DeRose to keep the flag out of the building. Fort plans to attend Tuesday’s 8 a.m. Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau meeting, where he will try to persuade chairman Daryl Evans and president and CEO William Pate to consider the possible economic impact of the flag’s presence.

In a letter to Evans and Pate, Fort wrote that he hopes to “avert embarrassment and loss of revenue for the Atlanta convention business.” He said he believes the “Super Bowl and other major events would almost certainly” not come to Atlanta if the Confederate flag is allowed to return to the OK Café.

Fort’s letter says, in part:

I note that Ms. DeRose’s restaurants are prominently featured on the ACVB website, and I presume she and/or her restaurants are members of ACVB.

When a former patron brought the offensiveness of the display to the attention of Ms. DeRose and asked that it not be displayed when the OK Café reopens, she told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “It’s a part of my history, and my history has absolutely nothing to do with prejudice against anyone.”

[...]

Despite Ms. DeRose’s role as one of the most prominent restaurateurs in Atlanta, she is planning to continue to display the 1956 Georgia flag when the OK Café reopens. I would like to address the August 18 meeting of the Executive Committee of the ACVB to urge you to persuade Ms. DeRose to not display the 1956 Georgia flag when the OK Café reopens. Should the OK Café continue to display this divisive symbol, I would ask the ACVB to remove any reference to them from websites and publications. I will also ask that the ACVB take proactive steps to alert future conventions and their attendees to the embarrassment that they may face if they patronize Ms. DeRose’s restaurants.

On his radio show on Monday, Erick Erickson reminded his listeners that Fort’s attempt to bully DeRose could largely prove ineffective:

A state senator is going to harass a business that provides jobs to Georgians of all races – black, white, Hispanic… [Fort is] going to tell the state that you’re not allowed to talk about a business because of this flag. That’s just bullying.

 

But here’s the thing: the OK Cafe, I doubt is getting a flurry business from tourists to Buckhead. No. No, no, no, no, its business was local, as was its clientele, and it will resume, and it will fly that flag. And I’ll be sure to eat there regularly, just so they understand that some of us are willing to stand with them – whether we agree with them or not – against the bullying of a state legislator who wants the state to come after good private citizens employing other citizens.

Vincent Fort is bullying a private business… That’s too much power in the hands of one person.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock / Wasan Ritthawon

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Archaeologists Unearth Another Impressive Biblical Find

Thursday, August 6th, 2015 - by Chris Queen

Science continues to prove the Bible on a regular basis. This time, archaeologists from Bar-Ilan University in Israel have uncovered what appears to be the hometown of the giant Goliath.

The town, called Gath, was occupied until the ninth century B.C. In biblical accounts, the Philistines — the mortal enemies of the Israelites — ruled the city. The Old Testament also describes Gath as the home of Goliath, the giant warrior whom the Israelite King David felled with a slingshot.

The new findings reveal just how impressive the ancient Philistine city once was, said lead archaeologist of the current excavation, Aren Maeir, of Bar-Ilan University in Israel.

“We knew that Philistine Gath in the 10th to ninth century [B.C.] was a large city, perhaps the largest in the land at that time,” Maeir told Live Science in an email. “These monumental fortifications stress how large and mighty this city was.”

The gates were uncovered in Tell es-Safi, which was occupied almost continuously for nearly 5,000 years, until the Arab village at the site was left in 1948, Maeir said. Though archaeologists have been excavating at the site since 1899, it wasn’t until the past few decades that they realized how massive the Iron Age remains really were.

Both the impressive settlement size and mentions in biblical accounts suggest to scholars that the site is the historic city of Gath, which was ruled by the Philistines, who lived next to the Jewish kingdoms of Judah and Israel. Most scholars think that Gath was besieged and laid to waste by Hazael, King of Aram Damascus, in 830 B.C., Maeir said.

The book of 1 Samuel describes Goliath this way:

4 Then a champion stepped out from the camp of the Philistines, named Goliath, from Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span. [9 feet, 9 inches] 5 He had a bronze helmet on his head and a breastplate of scale armor; the weight of the bronze breastplate was 5,000 shekels. [125 pounds] 6 He also had bronze shin-guards on his legs and a bronze javelin slung between his shoulders. 7 The shaft of his spear was like a weaver’s beam, and the head of his spear weighed 600 shekels of iron,[15 pounds]; and his shield-bearer was marching ahead of him.

The find also demonstrates the nature of the relationship between the Israelites and their enemies the Philistines.

So far, only the top surface of the structures are visible, but based on the size and shape of the stones used to make them, the city walls must have been quite large. The mighty fortifications would have formed a rather imposing boundary that prevented the Kingdom of Judah from expanding westward, he added.

The team also found ironworks and a Philistine temple near the monumental gate, with some pottery and other finds typically associated with Philistine culture. Though the pottery represents a distinctive Philistine style, it also shows elements of Israelite technique, suggesting the cultures did influence each other in ways unrelated to war.

More Historical Proof of the Existence of Jesus

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock /  Irmhild B

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Historic Atlanta Church Becomes Target of Senseless Racism

Wednesday, August 5th, 2015 - by Chris Queen

In the midst of a continued focus on racism in this country — especially in light of the controversy surrounding the Confederate flag and other symbols — the Atlanta church where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. served as pastor has become the target of senseless racist attacks.

Last week, vandals placed Confederate flags in different areas around the church property.

Atlanta police said surveillance footage shows two men placing Confederate battle flags at two of Atlanta’s most notable landmarks early Thursday: Ebenezer Baptist Church and Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site.

[...]

Police later Thursday released several black and white videos from Ebenezer’s surveillance cameras showing images of two men walking and placing flags at various spots.

Around 6 a.m. Thursday, a maintenance man spotted the four flags and notified a federal park ranger who then called police. Local and federal investigators were dispatched to the Auburn Avenue sites, where the flags were removed and taken as evidence.

And yesterday, the church’s pastor Raphael Warnock and another staff member received racially charged emails at their church addresses.

The Atlanta Police Department said it is aware of a series of racially charged emails sent to Ebenezer Baptist Church in the wake of Confederate battle flags placed on the church’s grounds.

At least one email takes the church and its pastor, the Rev. Raphael Warnock, to task for focusing on the flag and not black crime.

A spokesman for the APD said detectives “are aware of the incident and are looking into it.”

[...]

Ebenezer office manager Marvel Leverett told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Tuesday that she had deleted the racially charged emails she received but gave printed copies to authorities at the National Park Service, which oversees the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site.

She said Warnock had also received similar emails.

One of the emails forwarded to the AJC defended the Confederate flag and said the church should be more concerned about violence by blacks toward whites.

“The Confederate flag will rise again, and you can’t prevent it,” the email said.

Both local and federal officials are looking into the incidents.

Regardless of where anyone stands on the Confederate flag, it’s hard not to see how incidents like these don’t serve to advance anyone’s cause. These actions will only created more division and foster more hatred from both sides of the debate. Unfortunately, some people will never learn.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock.com / L. Kragt Bakker

 

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Police Go Undercover to Nab Distracted Drivers

Wednesday, July 29th, 2015 - by Chris Queen

As distracted drivers become a greater threat to public safety, police on both coasts are resorting to unusual measures to catch drivers using their phones at the wrong times.

In San Bernadino, California, cops are posing as panhandlers – sort of — in order to go after distracted drivers.

…plain clothes officers stood on highway off-ramps earlier this week holding cardboard signs that read “I am NOT homeless. SB Police looking for seatbelt/cell phone violations.” Unassuming drivers likely didn’t take notice and kept on texting or playing Candy Crush.

“During this detail, our undercover officers walked up to the windows of many vehicles unnoticed
by the drivers that were either talking or texting on their cell phones,” Chief Jarrod Burguan wrote in a press release.

The department says 33 citations were issued for drivers using their phones. So next time you think the person outside your window is looking for a ride or panhandling, maybe check before you return a text.

Nearly 3,000 miles away, officers in Marietta, Georgia, have disguised themselves as construction workers to spot drivers texting, tweeting, and playing games.

Most drivers paid no attention to the road crew working at Cobb Parkway at Roswell Road, but the crew wasn’t radioing in survey readings — they were busting distracted drivers.

“What we’ve done here is we’re able to put officers in the roads so we’re able to get close enough almost inside their cars so we can look down and see exactly what they’re doing on their phones,” said Marietta police Officer Nick Serkedakis.

Police say making good distracted driving cases are tough because it is often challenging to figure out exactly what the driver is doing in the car. This way, their cases are much stronger.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re stopped at a light, if you’re on a public thoroughfare and facing the phone we’re going to have a conversation with you,” Serkedakis said.

Many pulled over couldn’t believe they were getting busted while sitting at a light, so police had to spend time explaining the law to some skeptics.

“Anytime you’re in the road, in the roadway, you’re in gear and in control of the roadway. Even reading it falls under the code section as well,” one officer told a driver.

How effective are unorthodox methods like these? Are they worth the risk and extra effort? Would they stand up to a court challenge? Time will tell.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock / Blazej Lyjak

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Men Arrested in String of Pizza Delivery Robberies

Wednesday, July 29th, 2015 - by Chris Queen

In DeKalb County, a suburban area east of Atlanta, at least ten pizza delivery drivers became robbery victims. Callers posing as customers would order pizzas, lure drivers to a fake address, and rob and beat them.

One of those drivers was Equeill Williams, who told his story to WSB-TV reporter Liz Artz.

“Four guys came around the corner. They had guns. They told me to drop to the ground,” Williams said. “I didn’t know what to think. I just laid there, I blacked out.”

Police say in all the cases the suspects took the pizza, cash, wallets and in several cases the delivery driver’s car.

Williams told Artz he thought he was going to die as he lie on the ground at the Marquis Chase Apartments.

“This is the end. I mean it was really scary,” Williams said.

According to Dekalb County Police Department Detective Chastity Cantrell, authorities have arrested four men in conjunction with the robberies, but one is still at large. Police are on the hunt for 33-year-old James Coley, who may have fled to Oakland, California, though some sources say he is still in Georgia.

Cantrell said it’s unusual to have one group commit so many similar type robberies.

“They do a couple, they stop, go to something else, one after the other after the other,” Cantrell said.

Williams told Artz he’s out of the delivery business. He was one of the first victim’s. Artz showed him a picture of victim No. 7, who we are not identifying. The man spent days in the hospital.

“I feel like compared to that, I feel like I’m blessed,” Williams said.

Police told Artz as for the driver’s safety, they should call before going to the door. If no one answers, don’t go to the door and if your gut tells you something is wrong, listen to it and leave.

DeKalb police said they reached out to all the business affected by the robberies and offered a safety seminar. Only one business has responded.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock / Yuriy Rudyy

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The Religion of Peace Forces Hundreds of Pakistani Girls to Convert Every Year

Tuesday, July 28th, 2015 - by Chris Queen

A new report from the Aurat Foundation shows that Muslims in Pakistan force as many as 700 Christian and 300 Hindu girls to convert to Islam every year. Most of these girls are also forced into Muslim marriages.

It quotes statistics from the Movement for Solidarity and Peace Pakistan (MSP), which says that an additional 1,791 forced conversions took place between 2000 and 2012. More than 600 of those converted were originally Christians.

Director of the Aurat Foundation, Mahnaz Rehman, explained that forced conversion and marriage is common in Pakistan, but is largely ignored by police and civil authorities.

Women face significant discrimination, particularly on a religious basis, she added. Those who are forced to marry are often threatened and pressurised by their husband and his family to declare that their conversion was voluntary, even if the case is taken to court.

When MSP first released its statistics last year, its investigation found that forced marriages usually follow a similar pattern: girls, often between the ages of 12 and 25, are abducted, made to convert to Islam, and then married to the abductor or an associate. If a complaint is filed, then “girls are held in custody by the abductors [until the hearing] and suffer all kinds of abuse and violence,” the Aurat Foundation states.

“These cases are never investigated seriously to shed light on the phenomenon and mechanism of the crime.”

Pakistan has begun to face international pressure to reconsider the way it handles forced marriages, forced conversions, and other abuses of girls and young women.

The US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) in May urged the Obama Administration to designate Pakistan a “country of particular concern” and blamed the Pakistani government for failing to provide adequate protection to targeted groups.

“Forced conversion of Christian and Hindu girls and young women into Islam and forced marriage remains a systemic problem,” its annual report said. Hundreds of Christians and Hindus are estimated to be victimised each year, it added.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock / Zurijeta

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Asia Bibi May Go Free After Her Stay of Execution

Friday, July 24th, 2015 - by Chris Queen

Asia Bibi, a  Christian woman sentenced to death in Pakistan for blasphemy against Islam, has had her execution stayed by the Supreme Court of Pakistan, and the court may even reverse the charges against her.

Officer for the British Pakistani Christian Association (BPCA), Naveed Aziz, said in an update from the courtroom in Islamabad:

“The Supreme Court of Pakistan has stayed execution of Asia Bibi on blasphemy charges. The full bench of Supreme Court ordered in today’s hearing issued orders to stop implementation of death sentence till next order. I am pleased at this decision. It is obvious that international pressure led to this amazing decision and I thank all people who have called for her freedom. Sister Asia will have to spend more time in jail, but her freedom is now a real possibility and only a matter of time.”

Found guilty of blasphemy in November 2010, Bibi has been imprisoned for five years and is currently on death row. She continues to deny accusations that she insulted the Prophet Muhammad – charges levelled at her by former colleagues.

Human rights groups have pointed out repeatedly that Pakistan’s blasphemy laws are vague enough that extremists can often misinterpret them easily. Christians in Pakistan are hoping that international pressure will allow Bibi to walk free.

Pakistan has long struggled with discrimination against religious minorities, and a report released in December last year said an “oppressive environment” was making it “increasingly difficult for many religious communities to live securely and free from danger in places where they have often spent the majority of their lives.”

The Minority Rights Group and International and Sustainable Development Policy Institute said that “violent attacks against religious minorities occur against a backdrop of legal and social discrimination in almost every aspect of their lives, including political participation, marriage and freedom of belief,” and called for increased protections for all citizens.

The US Commission on International Religious Freedom in May urged the Obama Administration to designate Pakistan a “country of particular concern”.

“The government failed to protect citizens, minority and majority alike, from sectarian and religiously-motivated violence, and Pakistani authorities have not consistently brought perpetrators to justice or taken action against societal actors who incite violence,” the Commission said in its annual report.

Christians throughout the world are praying that Asia Bibi will one day be as physically free as she is spiritually free.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock / patrice6000

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Police and Military Are Investigating a Threatening Note Left on a Service Member’s Vehicle

Thursday, July 23rd, 2015 - by Chris Queen

In the wake of last week’s act of terrorism in Chattanooga, police and military officials are looking into a threatening note left anonymously on the vehicle of a service member at a shopping center near Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Cobb County, just northwest of Atlanta.

Cobb County Police and the US military are investigating a report of “terroristic threats” after a letter was left on a vehicle at an office off of Powers Ferry Road.

It is believed to be the same letter posted to a Facebook page which, according to Cobb Police, included threats of harm, and referenced the person’s affiliation to his military service.

Cobb Police Officer Alicia Chilton said it is possible the victim was targeted due to having a license place which identified the person as being a service member.

A news organization founded by Marines posted the note on the Facebook page along with a warning to people at Dobbins Air Reserve Base, asking them to remain alert. The letter was addressed to an “American Soldier,” and along with threatening attacks, promised “no mercy.”

The note, which was printed and in all lowercase font with no punctuation, reads:

Untitled

dear american soldier,

death to you coward women child killer and all of the american military

mohammad will show no mercy on you

attacks will come full force

death is to come to you

This part of metro Atlanta is particularly sensitive to threats against members of the military since one of the Chattanooga shooting victims hailed from Cobb County. Marine Skip Wells will be laid to rest this weekend in his hometown of Woodstock, not far from Dobbins ARB.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock / Bennian

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More Calls for Changes to Stone Mountain Confederate Memorial

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2015 - by Chris Queen

In the continued controversy surrounding Confederate symbols in the South, more people are raising their voices in calls to make changes to the iconic carving on Stone Mountain, east of Atlanta, which features Confederate Generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson and Confederate President Jefferson Davis.

The NAACP has called to have the carving completely removed, and an Atlanta artist has suggested adding hip-hop duo Outkast to the side of the mountain. Now the Atlanta City Council has come forward suggesting more additions to the face of Stone Mountain.

Councilman Michael Julian Bond is behind a resolution asking Deal to form a committee to study possible changes to the famous state-owned memorial.

Bond, who described the relief of Confederate generals as “art,” said he doesn’t believe it should be sandblasted off the face of the mountain. Instead, state leaders should explore adding others to the carving who reflect Georgia’s broader history, he said, such as James Oglethorpe, President Jimmy Carter or Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

“That would make Stone Mountain, I think, an enlightened place that reflects all of Georgia’s history,” he said. “…Georgia’s history is much greater than the four years of the Confederacy; it’s much more diverse and rich than that period which has been highly romanticized, particularly in the last 50 to 60 years.”

The council voted 9-2 to approve the resolution. Alex Wan, one of council members who voted against the resolution, weighed in on the vote.

“I’d be supportive of an affirmative statement, just in general, about our position on symbols that could be perceived as racist, but I feel this is a bit of a stretch for the council to do at this time,” said Wan, who grew up in Stone Mountain.

The offices of both Governor Deal and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed chose not to comment.

A spokeswoman for Mayor Kasim Reed said Reed hasn’t yet reviewed the legislation and has no comment at this time.

A spokesman for the governor said they could not comment because they have not reviewed the proposal. In late June, the governor said he won’t rule out comprehensive changes to state laws that protect Confederate images, but urged against sweeping reactions to those symbols amid the recent uproar over the emblems, saying the state “cannot deny its heritage.”

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock / Joseph Sohm

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Nearly Seven out of Ten American Evangelicals Support Israel

Thursday, July 16th, 2015 - by Chris Queen

A new research study by LifeWay Research shows strong evangelical support for Israel, and it shows the divide between those who support the Jewish State in the Middle East and those who do not.

Evangelical Christians in the United States are among the strongest supporters of Israel and believe God has plans for the nation, both now and in the future.

[...]

Nearly seven in ten say the modern nation of Israel was formed in line with biblical prophecy. A similar number say God has a special relationship with the modern nation of Israel. Nearly three-quarters say events in Israel are forecast in the Book of Revelation.

The study shows less equivocal support for the state of Israel outside of evangelical circles.

Non-evangelicals are more cautious, however, and less than half believe the formation of modern Israel is a fulfilment of biblical prophecy. Just under half agree the Jewish people are God’s chosen people. About two-thirds of Americans say God had a “special relationship with ancient Israel” and nearly half say God has a special relationship with modern Israel. This compares to more than half of Americans who believe God has a special relationship with the United States.

Younger Americans, those 18-24, are less likely to see a tie between Israel and the Book of Revelation than those 45 and older.

People with graduate degrees are also much less likely to agree events in Israel are part of the prophecies in Revelation than those with a high school degree or less. However, higher levels of education do correlate to higher levels of support for Israeli statehood. Those with a graduate degree are most likely to be supporters at 61 per cent, followed by those with a bachelor’s degree and those with some college education. Less than a third of those with a high school diploma or less support Israeli statehood.

What do the folks at LifeWay make of this study?

Scott McConnell, vice president of LifeWay Research, said: “No piece of literature has had more impact on American culture than the Bible. No country is more intertwined with the ancient biblical narrative than Israel, and evangelical Americans see a contemporary connection with the nation.”

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock / StockStudio

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Atlanta Artist Proposes Unusual Addition to Stone Mountain Carving

Thursday, July 16th, 2015 - by Chris Queen

In the aftermath the NAACP suggesting the removal of the carving of Confederate Generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson and Confederate President Jefferson Davis from the side of Stone Mountain, just east of Atlanta, a Georgia-based artist has created a petition calling for a different solution.

Started by artist Mack Williams, it’s addressed to Georgia’s state house, state senate and Gov. Nathan Deal.

The goal?

To have Outkast’s Big Boi and Andre 3000, Atlanta’s most beloved hip-hop duo, carved alongside Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson.

As Williams’ petition puts it:

I believe it’s important to recognize the history and heritage of all Georgians. However, the carving of Davis, Lee, and Jackson on the side of Stone Mountain only represents a small, regrettable time in the history of the Peach State. It’s high time we added a bit more of our history and culture to this monument.

By no means do we wish to erase or destroy the current carving, which, regardless of its context, is an impressive and historic work of art. We simply wish to add new carvings, of Atlanta hip-hop duo Outkast, to the mountainside. There’s plenty of room.

[...]

Outkast are two of the greatest Georgians in the history of our state. It’s about time the Empire State of the South paid proper tribute to them, while also improving a great monument and tourist attraction.

As of Thursday morning, the petition has nearly 3,000 signers, and, while it’s unlikely that any changes will take place to the side of the popular tourist attraction, the idea has one influential backer. At least one half of Outkast has endorsed Williams’ effort to get up, get out and get something done. On Wednesday afternoon, Big Boi retweeted a link to a story about the petition — with a “thumbs up” emoji tacked on.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock / Joseph Sohm

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Georgia’s House Speaker Pushes Protection For Pastors (But Not For Others)

Tuesday, July 14th, 2015 - by Chris Queen

In light of the Supreme Court’s ruling legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide, Georgia’s House Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) has proposed legislation for next year’s term that would protect pastors from lawsuits if they refuse requests to marry same-sex couples. Ralston announced the idea at a caucus on the Georgia coast over the weekend.

[Ralston] said he would advocate for the plan when lawmakers return to session in January.

“While the speaker believes that the recent Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges should have been left to elected legislators, that opinion is now the law of the land and, as the governor and attorney general have said, will be followed in Georgia,” Ralston spokesman Kaleb McMichen said.

The policy, he said, would be “narrowly crafted to ensure that pastors, priests and other members of the clergy will never be required by government to perform any marriage not keeping with their religious doctrine.”

McMichen said the current working version of the bill says:

“No minister of the gospel or cleric or religious practitioner ordained or authorized to solemnize marriages according to the usages of the denomination, when acting in his or her official religious capacity, shall be required to solemnize any marriage in violation of his or her right to free exercise of religion.”

While Ralston’s proposal is a welcome step for many pastors and clergy, Erick Erickson pointed out on his radio show yesterday that the legislation only protects the last domino from falling, after many other dominoes, such as tax exemption for religious institutions and schools and protection for businesses on grounds of religious liberty and conscience, have tumbled.

Erickson also pointed out that Ralston led opposition in the State House earlier this year to a religious freedom bill that had already passed the Georgia Senate.

Down in Georgia, its Republican Speaker of the House, David Ralston, pushed through a transportation tax increase. But he is signaling he has no intention of protecting religious liberty in the state.

Bowing to the Chamber of Commerce and gay rights activists, David Ralston says religious liberty does not need to be protected because we have the first amendment. In fact, Ralston says the only way he would consider bringing up S.B. 129, the state’s religious liberty law that has already passed the state senate, is if Republicans in the State House of Representatives demand it.

[...]

Speaker of the House David Ralston does not believe Christians need their faith protected. He is willing to see Christians surrender their ability to live their faith outside of 11am to noon on Sunday.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock / DanielW

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It’s Time for Baby Boomer Politicians to Pass the Torch to Generation X

Thursday, July 9th, 2015 - by Chris Queen

This past weekend, my brother-in-law said goodbye to his grandfather for the last time. “Pop” served in World War II , worked hard for many years, and saw children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren grow up. We call people like “Pop” the Greatest Generation for obvious reasons. The World War II generation set a tremendous example of sacrifice, patriotism, and commitment that seems to be lost these days.

I think about the lessons my own grandfather taught me. A staunch conservative, he shaped me politically far more than my parents did, largely because he talked more openly about his views than my mom (his conservative daughter) and dad (a yellow dog Democrat until sometime around September 11, 2001) ever did. He modeled humble church leadership as an elder and volunteer in ways that I’m just now realizing as a church staff member myself. These valuable pearls of wisdom that I received from him won’t ever leave me.

Contrast the legacy of the Greatest Generation with that of their children, the Baby Boomers. Now, I love my parents and consider them the exception to the rule, but their peers have left our nation in a mess. The Baby Boomers started out giving us draft dodgers, the sexual revolution, and permissive parenting, and after rising to power, they’ve bequeathed us an increasingly unstable world, saddled us with enormous debt, and doubled down on the welfare state. The Baby Boomers took the mantle of power from the Greatest Generation and squandered it foolishly.

One blogger from New Zealand summed up what the children of the 1960s have left us:

The baby boomers are leaving a dismal legacy ‘half are too busy to notice, half too greedy to care’.  As the baby boomers are marching towards the grave they exercise their political muscle; they have money and they have power.

‘We saw’ says [author Francis] Beckett writing about the baby boomers, ‘the class barriers come down, and put them up again. If we meant any of the things we said in the sixties, about peace, about education, about freedom, we would have created a better world for our children to grow up in, and earned the comfortable retirement we are going to fight for. But we made a worse one.’ [emphasis in the original]

Now it’s time for the Baby Boom generation to pass the torch of power and step aside. The Boomers have put three presidents in power. The fact that their generation gave us Bill Clinton and Barack Obama should alone disqualify them from any future say in politics, and the legacy of George W. Bush is checkered at best.

Heading into the 2016 race, the Baby Boomers in the Democratic Party desperately want to hold onto power. Currently their field features five presidential candidates — Lincoln Chafee, Hillary Clinton, Martin O’Malley, Jim Webb, and Bernie Sanders — whose average age is 64.6 years and whose ideas sound like retreads from the Summer of Love.

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It’s Time for Southerners to Choose Their Battles

Wednesday, June 24th, 2015 - by Chris Queen

shutterstock_160761506

As I write this, I’m sitting on the balcony of a condo in Panama City Beach, an area affectionately known as the Redneck Riviera and, yes, one of the ten most overrated destinations in the South according to a post I wrote last year. I’m on vacation, so for the most part I’ve tried to disconnect from the rest of the world. But I can’t escape the Confederate flag.

Every cheap souvenir store we’ve visited sells shirts, magnets, and beach towels with the Stars and Bars on them. I saw a teenager at the pool wearing a hat emblazoned with the flag and the word REBEL embroidered on it. And all I can think when I see that flag is, “Not here. Not now.”

I’m keenly aware of what a lightning rod the Confederate flag has been for many years, as well as what it has become in the wake of the atrocity in Charleston last week. I know that pressure has come from all sides for the state of South Carolina to remove the Confederate flag from its capitol, and I know that Governor Nikki Haley has called for the state legislature to act to remove the flag.

One of the most prevalent arguments in favor of the Confederate flag is the “heritage, not hate” line. Plenty of well-meaning people without a racist bone in their body have made this claim over the years. I don’t doubt that I’ve employed that logic myself at some point. Heritage is an admirable thing to take pride in, but when an aspect of that heritage has been used to justify unspeakable acts of evil, then it’s time to let it go.

I understand the resistance to the groundswell to take down the Confederate flag. So many of the voices arguing for the removal of the flag come at us from outside the South. One of the hallmarks of our culture down here is a “leave us the hell alone” attitude toward outsiders – and Lord knows we’ve had plenty of Northerners and others telling us what to do. We Southerners are inclined to protect what belongs to us from those who seek to take it away, right or wrong.

Over at Commentary, we’ve heard from one of those outsiders. Max Boot, a writer whose work I normally cherish, actually wrote that generations of Southerners hold on to a “myth” of Southern greatness. He’s only partially right. The South has had a great, beautiful history; unfortunately the specters of slavery and further racism have marred that history.

The thing is, those ghosts have haunted the history of the entire nation, not just down here in Dixie. To remind Mr. Boot, slavery existed for nine decades under the flag of the United States – not to mention the awful acts we inflicted on the native people of this land – so to use his logic, we must consider any notion of American greatness in the 19th century to be mythical as well.

(Mr. Boot also calls for the renaming of any institutions which we’ve named after figures from the Confederacy. I don’t think we necessarily need to go that far. No one has laid the blame for acts of racism on the fact that a person’s hometown contains a street named for Robert E. Lee.)

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Missionary Claims More Muslims Are Turning To Christianity Than Ever Before

Wednesday, June 17th, 2015 - by Chris Queen

With the threat from radical Islamsists looming over the world, one missionary claims that more Muslims are turning to Christianity than ever before.

Missionary David Garrison’s book, A Wind in the House of Islam, charts this phenomenon, which he says demonstrates that “we are living in the midst of the greatest turning of Muslims to Christ in history”.

The book is the result of two and a half years of research and involved travelling more than 250,000 miles to conduct interviews with more than 1,000 people around the Muslim world. In the study, a ‘movement’ of believers is defined as a group of more than 1,000 baptised believers or 100 new churches within a Muslim community. In total he found 69 movements that had started in the first 12 years of the 21st century, in comparison with virtually no voluntary movements of converts to Christianity in the first 12 centuries of Islam.

Garrison, who has been a missionary pioneer with the the Southern Baptist International Mission Board for nearly 30 years, told Christian Today that he started out with a “healthy scepticism” about the number of new believers, imagining that the figures might be have been over-estimated. Instead, he found that numbers were often vastly under-reported.

“What is exciting is not just how big the movements are…but how many of these movements there are now and that they’re not limited to one corner of the world, but we’re seeing them from West Africa to Indonesia, and virtually everywhere in between,” he says.

Muslims who convert seem to be willing to face the persecution that awaits them. To what does Garrison attribute this phenomenon?

God has brought several elements together uniquely in our time,” he says. “Some of them are old elements – Muslim violence is not new, this is one of the least violent centuries in Muslim history – but what’s different is today when Muslims experience this violence, they can see an alternative… they can switch on their Internet, they can turn on their television and hear an evangelist speaking Farsi or Kazakh or Uzbek.”

It’s also the combination of Bible translation alongside the potential for multimedia evangelism and the growth of international travel that appears to have facilitated this change. “It’s a great day that God seems to be orchestrating for this to happen.”

Garrison also points out that Christians who wish to see their Muslim neighbors in the West come to faith in Jesus have their own hurdles.

Although “the tide is turning”, he points out that it’s happening “over there”. Another challenge for the Western Church, therefore, is to be a part of this change, both locally and globally – through reaching out to Muslim neighbours, and being prepared to take the gospel to unreached communities abroad.

In order for this to happen, he says Christians need to stop fearing Muslims. “This is not the day to fear, fight, hate or kill Muslims… This is their day of salvation. God loves them – if you want to be on God’s side in this day, be a part of what God’s doing.”

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock / Vibe Images

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Tennessee Pastor Teaches Congregation a Lesson in Forgiveness

Tuesday, June 16th, 2015 - by Chris Queen

In November 1986, Phillip Robinson was working in his father’s store while Wayne Robinson went to the bank. He had no idea that he would never see his father alive again.

Someone came in the store and said a shooting had taken place.

“I was so wrapped up in my own world … and figured nothing like that would affect me, so I continued to work,” Phillip Robinson recalled.

Then it struck him he’d better check out the scene. He walked out the door and saw his father on the ground.

A jury would later convict Ron Hammer and Steve Kyger in the murder of Wayne Robinson. Ten years later, Hammer found grace in admitting the truth about his crime.

“I was praying and asking God, ‘How come I can’t feel you?’ … I heard him speak and he said, ‘You haven’t told the Robinson family you’re sorry,’” said Hammer, who was paroled in April 2015 and now lives in Virginia. “Not only did I hear him whisper, but I felt his touch on my shoulder.

“My whole soul just felt like I had passed on to another world. Maybe it was the sins holding me down and they just left me.”

Hammer wrote a letter to the Robinsons. In it, Hammer confessed something he had never admitted in court. He was the trigger man.

What happened next is the most unlikely of scenarios.

Wayne Robinson’s son, Phillip, wrote back.

He’d forgiven his father’s killer already, he said.

Phillip Robinson is now a pastor at New Vision Baptist Church in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, and on June 14, he spoke with Hammer in front of his congregation as part of a message about forgiveness.

Robinson said it took more than a half-dozen years after his daughter’s birth before he could let go of the hatred he had for his father’s killers. On his daughter’s seventh birthday, he woke up and thought of her first.

Twenty-three years later, that same daughter gave birth to a daughter on that same day — Nov. 14, 2010.

“That’s how God told me he was redeeming the story,” Robinson said.

Last fall Robinson and his mother attended Hammer’s parole hearing to support him. Hammer was granted parole earlier this year.

“The forgiveness the Robinsons gave me changed my whole life. Even after I gave my life to God, I never forgave myself. … Forgiveness and love are so powerful,” Hammer said. “But I still live with Wayne Robinson every day I wake up.”

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock / James Becker

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Senator Johnny Isakson Reveals Parkinson’s Disease Diagnosis

Thursday, June 11th, 2015 - by Chris Queen

Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA) revealed on Wednesday that he has Parkinson’s Disease. He has known about his diagnosis for about two and a half years, but he has only recently told his family and staff.

Isakson’s office released a statement from his neurologist, Dr. Thomas M. Holmes, who made the diagnosis in August of 2013.

“I have concluded that Senator Isakson is in Stage 1.5 of 5 accepted stages of Parkinson’s disease,” the doctor said, addressing Isakson’s future directly.

“I believe he is fully capable of running for re-election and serving for another term,” Holmes said.

Isakson has stated that he will continue in the Senate and continue to run for reelection next year.

“I’m looking forward to re-election,” Isakson told us.

“I’m tanned, rested and ready as Richard Nixon used to say.”

On his radio program Wednesday evening, Erick Erickson remarked that when he and Isakson last met about a month ago, the senator looked frail and unhealthy, and others have asked questions about the legislator’s health for several months.

Reporter Jamie Dupree weighed in on Isakson’s health as well:

Isakson’s health was on my radar screen before today; I asked one of his top aides in late 2012 about his health, but was told he was suffering from back problems.

While his mind has been sharp as a tack, physically, it was obvious during 2013 and 2014 that something was wrong, but his staff – and the Senator – blamed it on his back; he underwent back surgery in October of last year, and that was said to be the root of the problem.

But in recent months, I had noted to colleagues that the Senator’s gait had clearly slowed down, as he would walk very slowly through the halls of Congress, grabbing on to the railing with his hand to support him as he went up and down stairs.

Featured image courtesy of WSB-TV

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ISIS Prepares To Turn Historic Mosul Church Into Mosque

Wednesday, June 10th, 2015 - by Chris Queen

ISIS fighters have announced that they will convert a historic church in Mosul into a mosque. And now, virtually no Christians remain in what was once Iraq’s hotbed of Christianity.

The church threatened with conversion is the Syrian Orthodox Church of St Ephraim, according to Fides, the Vatican’s news service. It was taken over by the militants a year ago and will be reopened as a “mosque of the mujahideen”. According to local Iraqi media reports, the church has been draped with Islamic State’s notorious black and white logo, with “There is no God but Allah” and “Prophet Mohammed” written on it.

The militants have also removed the cross from the church’s dome and emptied the building of all its furniture and Christian symbols.

Nuri Kino, founder and president of A Demand For Action, a group advocating the protection of ethno-religious minorities such as Assyrians and Yazidis in the Middle East, told Newsweek that the move was proof of Islamic State’s intentions regarding the Christian minority.

“A year ago they said ‘Convert, pay or die’ then it turned out to be a lie, that even if you pay you will not be able to stay,” he said.

“If they changed a church to a mosque it is further proof of their cleansing, something that many call a genocide. They destroy our artifacts, our churches and try to erase us in any way they can.”

Meanwhile, 18 months into ISIS gains in Iraq, many of the organizations charged with supplying aid continue to cry out for help, insisting that Iraq’s displaced citizens are falling through the cracks.

Altogether, in just 18 months, around 3 million people were displaced in Iraq. In total around 8 million Iraqis – a population the size of Switzerland – need “life-saving assistance”. That figure is set to rise to around 10 million by the end of the year.

Yet aid agencies say that their needs are being overlooked because of the continued focus on the fighting between Islamic State and the government forces trying desperately to halt their advance and bring back some sort of peaceful normality to the region.

[...]

While in the long term the Islamic State regime must fall, it is the here and now that troubles the aid agencies. Last week the United Nations launched a new appeal for funds after it revealed that resources were simply drying up. Its humanitarian co-ordinator for Iraq, Lise Grande, said: “We know that in the next couple of months the humanitarian situation is only going to get worse. Right now our biggest problem is financing: we’re running out of money.”

[...]

On Thursday, the UN announced a fresh appeal for funds. It wants $497 million to provide “shelter, food, water and other lifesaving services over the coming six months”, it says, with Grande asking: “Can we please rebalance international engagement to include international assistance?”

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock / Victor Maschek

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Suicidal Wrong-Way Driver Snarls Traffic, Injures Four

Tuesday, June 9th, 2015 - by Chris Queen

Drivers headed to church or Sunday brunch this weekend on the southbound lanes of Georgia 400, a busy stretch of highway just north of downtown Atlanta, found themselves in for a shock as a wrong-way driver careened in their direction. What they didn’t know was that the driver was heading the wrong way on purpose — in an attempt to end her own life.

In the police report the woman told her doctor at Grady Hospital that she did what she did in an attempt to commit suicide.

That information was given to the Atlanta police officer at the hospital by the woman’s doctor.

According to the report, two drivers, who were heading south on 400 told how they encountered the woman, driving in the emergency lane and going the wrong way.

The incident took place along Georgia 400 near the Lenox Road interchange, a busy area of restaurants and retail. Witnesses described a vehicle heading northbound in the southbound lanes and slamming into the median wall.

The witnesses told police how the wrong way driver hit the median wall, and then spun out, striking the other two vehicles.

In all four people were injured, including the wrong way driver.

While she was being treated at Grady the woman, reportedly, told her doctor that she had been going the wrong way in an attempt to commit suicide.

The doctor told police who then contacted the Fulton County District Attorney’s office.

The woman will not be charged with anything other than driving related crimes.  As of now she faces counts of reckless driving and driving the wrong way.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock / Luciano Mortula

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Is Nigeria Going Too Far in Rooting Out Boko Haram? Amnesty International Thinks So.

Thursday, June 4th, 2015 - by Chris Queen

Nigeria’s newly sworn-in president Muhammadu Buhari has sworn to crush Boko Haram, the terror group that has had a stranglehold on the African nation, and the country’s military has made great strides in rooting out some elements of Boko Haram. But human rights organization Amnesty International claims that the country has gone too far and slaughtered thousands of civilians, a claim Nigeria’s military denies.

More than 8,000 people have died while being detained by Nigeria’s armed forces during the campaign against militant Islamist group Boko Haram, Amnesty International said on Wednesday, allegations that the military denied.

The group said many of the prisoners were executed and others died due to starvation, overcrowding, torture and denial of medical assistance.

Boko Haram’s six-year insurgency has killed thousands and left 1.5 million people displaced. The group wants to establish an Islamic caliphate in the northeast of Nigeria, Africa’s biggest economy and top oil exporter.

Muhammadu Buhari, the new president, has vowed to defeat Boko Haram and was holding talks on Wednesday with his counterparts in neighboring Niger and Chad on how best to tackle the insurgency.

[...]

“These acts, committed in the context of a non-international armed conflict, constitute war crimes,” said Amnesty, adding that senior military commanders should be investigated for possible crimes against humanity.

Nigeria’s military dismisses the allegations, referring to Amnesty International’s report as “blackmail.”

Major General Chris Olukolade said the charity was trying to “blackmail” the country’s armed forces and no allegations had been proved against individuals who the report identified.

“The Nigerian military … rejects the biased and concocted report provided by Amnesty International,” he said in a statement. “The Nigerian military does not encourage or condone abuse of human rights, neither will any proven case be left unpunished.”

Both the United States and the United Kingdom have urged Nigeria to investigate the claims.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock / Filipe Frazao

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Officer Allows Murder Suspect to Escape During Search

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2015 - by Chris Queen

An officer with the Atlanta Police Department reportedly allowed a murder suspect to escape through a window at the same time that fugitive squad units searched for the wanted man.

On May 14, police were searching for Jabri Mathis in connection with an April shooting and murder. Officer Tommy Williams found Mathis at a home on James P. Brawley Drive in Atlanta and allowed the suspect to escape out a window in the house before other officers arrived.

“After the suspect was apprehended and relocated to the patrol car,” the incident report states, “the officers were discussing how it was possible for the suspect to escape out the window when it was covered and the suspect, Jabri Mathis, told the officers: ‘He let me go. I ran right past him.’ He even told the officers that he knew the officer and that his name was Officer Tommy Williams and he was like an uncle to him.”

The report also notes that Williams was given a lookout on Mathis during roll call at least a month before Mathis was arrested and was aware that he was wanted, but never mentioned knowing the suspect.

Mathis remains in the Fulton County Jail, charged with felony murder, assault with a deadly weapon and criminal attempt to commit robbery among other charges.

Police arrested Williams on May 21 and charged him with violation of oath of public office, obstruction of an officer and hindering apprehension of a criminal. He went home on a signature bond a day later and will appear before a judge at the end of the week.

Atlanta police Sgt. Greg Lyon said Tuesday that Williams, who joined the department in October 2012, “is relieved of duty and is scheduled for an emergency hearing with Chief [George] Turner.”

“The Atlanta Police Department takes these allegations very seriously,” Lyon said in an email. ”Chief Turner has always prioritized officer accountability and honesty, and will continue to take decisive action when necessary to hold his officers to the highest standard.”

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock / photokup

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Anglican Leaders Push for Female Language in Descriptions of God

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2015 - by Chris Queen

As the Church of England prepares to install its first female bishop this year, church leaders are growing bolder and louder in their call for the use of feminine language to describe God. Some of them are even going so far as to refer to Jesus, a historical figure — and a man — as “Jesa Christa.”

Many priests and bishops already substitute “she” for “he” in parish services around the country. At a recent Westminster Faith Debate on women bishops, a woman rabbi sang ‘The Lord’s My Shepherd’ with female instead of male pronouns.

Bishop of Buckingham Alan Wilson told Christian Today: “It strikes me that the whole point of ‘male and female created he them’ is that the God of the Hebrews is a quantum leap other than the strange gods of the Canaanites because unlike them or humans, s/he is beyond Gender.

[...]

Already, discussions have started, under the authority of the Transformations Steering Group which meets in Lambeth Palace, London HQ of the Archbishop of Canterbury. The group looks at the place and impact of women’s ministry in the Church and has urged bishops to embrace “expansive language and imagery about God”.

Hilary Cotton, chair of Women And The Church, said many churches up and down the country are already using more than the almost default male language about God.

Some Anglican worship has already embraced the feminine, such as Canticle 82, which likens Jesus to a mother, and Canticle 86, which speaks of God as “our mother in all things”.

[...]

Rev Lindsay Llewellyn-MacDuff, chaplain to the Bishop of Rochester, wrote on the Women and the Church website: “What difference would it make if we regularly – in our worship, our preaching, and our everyday conversation – talked about God as ‘she’? I don’t mean all the time, but often – perhaps even 50 per cent of the time. What would it mean if we could talk about God as ‘her’ without sniggering or stropping, but as evenly as we talk about God as ‘him’. What would it do to the way we approach God, or each other?”

In other news, the percentage of British adults who identify as Anglican continues to fall, while other faiths, including other Christian denominations and Islam, along with those who consider themselves non-religious, are either holding steady or are on the rise.

The proportion of British adults who said they are Anglican has fallen from 40 per cent in 1983 to 17 per cent in 2014. However the decline was steepest over the past decade when the proportion fell by two fifths in ten years, down from 29 per cent of the population in 2004.

Perhaps the British are realizing that the squishy, oddball declarations of the Church of England are worth running from in droves.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock / chrisdorney

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Are India’s Religious Minorities Better Off a Year in to the Modi Administration?

Thursday, May 28th, 2015 - by Chris Queen

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been in office now for a year, and despite his promises of protection of India’s religious minorities, those minorities have seen continued attacks at the hands of militant Hindu groups.

Modi’s landslide victory in May 2014 drew statements of hope from representatives of India’s religious minorities, while others expressed concerns at the efforts by Hindu nationalist groups to help bring Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to power. Modi has made promises to protect minorities, but religious leaders have remained skeptical.

However, the All Indian Christian Council expressed reservations. National coordinator Kumar Swamy told Christian Today at the time that extremist Hindu groups had helped to “inflame” the BJP and increase its popularity, and warned that persecution would increase under its rule. “I’m sure there will be increased sporadic, localised attacks in the Christian community,” Swamy said. “Modi’s background is that he is sold out for Hindu ideology; he was a member of a right wing Hindu group and we as the Christian community in India are sitting, fingers crossed, wondering, waiting and watching what is going to happen.”

One year on from Swamy’s predictions, and it looks like his concerns were warranted. Speaking anonymously to Christian Today, a country expert for Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) said that the climate for religious minorities has become “more and more uncertain in the last year”.

“Since the BJP took office in parliament, there has been greater impunity in the way that extremist groups have been behaving in civil society, so more and more we hear from the ground that minorities in the country are feeling a sense of fear and concern for their future,” the source said.

Earlier this month, several attacks on Christians in the country have renewed the skepticism of leaders.

Three Protestant churches were attacked in Indore, in Madhya Pradesh, on May 12, according to AsiaNews. The attackers threw stones at one church and vandalised numerous pieces of church property at St Paul’s Anglican Church.

The militants also tried to set fire to one of the churches by throwing burning rags inside the building. The police responded quickly and extinguished the flames before the fire spread.

Some have speculated that the violent Hindu group Sanskritik Jagran Manch was behind the attack.

In the early hours of May 13 a centre for disabled children run by Augustinian nuns in the same region was attacked by unknown criminals who threw bricks on the roof which fell in the room where the nuns were sleeping, AsiaNews reports. The nuns were unharmed in the incident, and none of the children were at centre on the night it was attacked.

Modi has not remained silent on these attacks, but his administration has not taken any concrete steps to remedy the violence.

A year in to his administration, Narendra Modi has proven to be all talk and no action when it comes to protecting India’s religious minorities.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock / GongTo

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Police Officer Assists World War II Veteran in Honoring His Fallen Comrades on Memorial Day

Wednesday, May 27th, 2015 - by Chris Queen

It seems like lately all we hear about are complaints against police officers, but most officers go about their day without incident. For one officer in metro Atlanta, Memorial Day gave him an experience he will never forget.

In Dunwoody, a suburb of Atlanta, Sergeant Robert Parsons noticed an elderly man who had pulled off the road. He stopped to help 92-year-old Ernest Jett.

“He looked a little lost,” says Parsons. “Then he approached my car and saluted, while wearing that hat.”

The hat said World War Veteran.

“I was shocked,” Parsons tells WSB.  “I was speechless.”

It turns out Jett wasn’t just any veteran.

“He was one of the men who landed on the beaches of Normandy on D-Day,” says Parsons.  “He told me how the bullets were whizzing just over his head.”

Jett told Parsons he was looking for some Memorial Day ceremony, but the Sergeant knew most had already finished.  So he escorted the 92 year old to Brook Run Park and the War Memorial there.

“At that point I was not going just leave,” says Parsons.   “I wanted to just listen to his stories and honor the man for his service.”

Parsons led Jett to the park and to the memorial.

“I wanted to walk him along every path and every part of the park,” says Parsons.  “To introduce him to every child and adult who was there and let them know who this man is.”

At the Memorial Day event, Jett saluted the flags and, as a crowd began to gather, the veteran shared tales of his experiences in World War II with everyone who would listen.

“All I kept thinking was why wasn’t his man the center of some event somewhere,” says Parsons.  “He should have been speaking at one of the events.”

Jett expressed his gratefulness to everyone at Brook Run Park and told Parsons that the city had treated him like a king. Parsons admitted that the experienced meant something to him as well.

World War II veterans are passing away at the rate of 462 per day, taking with them the living history of that war and their sacrifice.

It’s something Parsons is very aware of and, in a quiet moment, Jett spoke about.

“He said that he was getting older and that he didn’t know how many more of these Memorial Days he had left.”

Featured image courtesy of Dunwoody Police Department

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Touching Reunion Between Teen and the Soldier Who Saved Her Life

Tuesday, May 26th, 2015 - by Chris Queen

Once in a while among the horror stories of war, we hear stories that touch the heart. One of those occurred last week in a suburb of Atlanta when a former soldier reunited with the infant he rescued from Iraq in 1996.

Awaz Barwari found her name on Saddam Hussein’s kill list in 1996. The United States allowed her to escape the country, but her infant daughter Lava was not on the list. Baby Lava would have had to stay behind had soldier Greg Peppin not intervened.

Peppin “renamed” the baby after himself and smuggled her out of Iraq. He and the Barwaris had not seen each other since — until last week, when Baby Lava graduated from high school.

“I said, ‘My name is Greg, so if the baby’s name is Greg it’s got to be a relative and that means she can go,’” Peppin said.

Mom and baby ultimately made it to the Atlanta suburbs where Lava would rise through the Gwinnett County school system.

Peppin went on to become Vice President of Boeing International.

The families never saw each other again, but as Lava planned her graduation, she decided she had to track Peppin down.

“It was the first story I ever heard. She’s always told me about the man who saved my life,” Lava told WSB-TV’s Tony Thomas.

“The day I got Lava’s email was one of those signature days that kind of make your life worthwhile,” Peppin said.

And a reunion 18 years in the making finally happened Thursday between Peppin and “Baby Lava.”

“I’m happy you tracked me down. I wouldn’t miss this for the world,” Peppin told Lava.

At Lava’s graduation Thursday night, that man who saved her life planned to be there, too.

“It was worth it… it was! Absolutely,” Peppin said.

Featured image courtesy of WSB-TV

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Would-Be Carjacking Victim Turns the Tables on His Assailant

Friday, May 22nd, 2015 - by Chris Queen

An Atlanta man turned the tables on his would-be carjacker, holding him at gunpoint until police arrived to arrest the assailant.

Hashim Fannin, the car owner, says the attempted carjacking occurred just after he had pulled into a parking spot at the Family Dollar on Marietta Boulevard in northwest Atlanta earlier this month.

Fannin says the man slipped into the passenger’s seat when his doors automatically unlocked.

“He told me, ‘You know what this is,’” Fannin said.  That is when Fannin says he pulled his gun out.

“I asked him to get out the car, probably not in those exact words,” Fannin said.

“I told him no, there’s no leaving, leaving was before you hopped into my car … at this point there is not leaving,” Fannin said.

Fannin kept the 61-year-old carjacker, Edgar Horn, face down in the store parking lot, berating him until authorities arrived.

“You were not trying to rob me,” Fannin said to the man on cellphone video of the incident.  “Do you just get into random people’s cars … you thought I was your friend …  you thought I was your friend … so you woke up stupid this morning?”

When police arrived, you can see Fannin wave them over, and put his gun down.  The police officer shakes his hand, before putting the suspect in handcuffs.

“Honestly, I look at it like this. That is one less guy I got to worry about bothering my mom when she’s out grocery shopping,” Fannin said.

Horn went to jail on charges of attempted robbery and entering a vehicle.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock / Brad Sauter

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Alternet Freaks Out Over Church Planting

Thursday, May 21st, 2015 - by Chris Queen

Since the inception of the Christian church, after Jesus had ascended into heaven and His apostles began spreading His message beyond Judea and Samaria, preachers and pastors have set up new congregations in neighborhoods and areas where people need to hear the message of Christianity. In our modern parlance we call it “church planting,” but the idea is as old as Christianity itself.

In recent years, church planting has also involved partnering with public schools to provide temporary space on Sundays for churches until they can afford to build a building. The church where I work has partnered with a high school in our community to help launch our first multisite venture.

Now the Left has discovered the tactic, and they’re apoplectic. This week Alternet published an article relating how churches are attempting to reach out to left-leaning cities like Boston and Portland by establishing church plants in schools. The piece starts out straightforwardly enough:

Church planting is happening across the country, and it is organized on a national scale. Its presence in Boston is evidence of its efficiency even in the toughest markets. It has been enabled by pivotal shifts in the interpretation of constitutional law. And it is driven by a subtle yet profound transformation in evangelical culture in America—a transformation in both the religion itself and in its organizations forms.

But look past the first few paragraphs, and the article strikes an ominous tone.

While embracing many of the tools of modernity such as social media, rock bands, and hip graphics, they have become more aggressive in their outreach, taking hard-right positions on culture-war issues such as same-sex marriage, reproductive freedom, and prayer in public schools.

[...]

What are the core beliefs of the national religious groups planting churches in Boston and beyond? Many describe themselves as “nondenominational” or “interdenominational.” To the uninitiated, that may sound moderate, even interfaith, but evangelicals of a generally conservative type overwhelmingly dominate the leadership of this new field.

In many instances, church leadership promotes a Christian Nationalist version of American history that denies the Enlightenment roots of American democracy. The concept of “male headship,” found in the theological position papers of many of the religious organizations and sometimes referred to as a “complementarian” understanding of gender, underwrites a view of gender as Biblically based and hierarchical.

Most churches aren’t trying to set up new bastions of conservatism in these communities — they’re merely trying to save souls. But this breathless freaking out on the part of sites like Alternet demonstrate that, for all their carping about the decline of Christianity, the Left is scared of Judeo-Christian influences in “their” cities.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock / Paul Matthew Photography

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Teacher Fired for Helping Teens Plan Tryst in School Closet

Tuesday, May 19th, 2015 - by Chris Queen

When parents check their kids’ cell phones, they don’t expect to see what one suburban Atlanta mother discovered when she looked at her 14 year-old son’s phone. The mom, who chose to remain anonymous, found a series of texts between her son and his teacher, helping the boy plan to have sex with a girl in a storage room at the school.

The school system has fired 25-year-old Quinton Wright, who taught at Champion Theme Middle School in Stone Mountain, east of Atlanta. Wright also faces charges, but he hasn’t turned himself in.

WSB-TV’s Tom Regan spoke with the parent, who said she couldn’t believe what was happening.
“I was in a state of disbelief when I read all these messages,” the mother said, asking to remain anonymous.

[...]

“Basically he’s allowing the students to have sex in a storage room of his classroom,” the mother said.
“He told my son you can have it from 7:30 to like 8:30,” the mother said reading some of the messages. “’Did you tell the girl what’s going to happen? That she cannot tell anybody?’ basically don’t tell anyone I’m allowing you to use my room.”

The mother said the teacher also sent her son a calendar showing teachers’ schedules and a text saying he did not have condoms.

The school system removed Wright from the classroom after the mother discovered the messages, but that was not enough for the distressed parent.

“It’s very sickening and disheartening, because we trust administrators and educators when we drop our kids off at school,” the mother said.

The mother told Regan she pulled her eighth-grader from school Friday and contacted the school’s principal and police.  She said she also filed a complaint.

[...]

The student’s mother told Regan she was suspicious of the teacher from earlier behavior.

“He called me when the kids are at their eighth-grade prom and asked if he could come over and take pictures with the boys before the prom, and I said no,” the mother said.

Featured image courtesy of WSB Radio

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Church Planters in Pakistan Facing Death Threats

Friday, May 15th, 2015 - by Chris Queen

Christians working to plant churches in Pakistan have faced recent death threats, while experts warn that conditions for Christians and other religious minorities may only get worse.

Javed David has been building churches in poor communities for the past two years, but says he is becoming increasingly afraid of the consequences, particularly in the wake of the double suicide bomb attacks on churches in Lahore, where he lives, in March.

“After the tragedy in Youhanabad [a Christian majority suburb of Lahore], circumstances have changed and now there is more fear,” David told Asia News. He has personally received two threats on his life since February. Once, a motorcyclist threw a piece of paper though his car window, reading: “This is an Islamic nation. We cannot allow church building. Either you convert to Islam or you leave this country! Stop building churches or you’ll pay the consequences!”

In a second incident on April 4, another motorcyclist told him: “We know what you are doing here. Stop building churches. Convert to Islam, which is the true religion. Otherwise we will make a horrible example of you.”

One of David’s colleagues, Ata-ur-Rehman, has also received threats. He said that though there has been some resistance from members of the local Muslim community, Christians and Muslims largely live in peace together. He did, however, express concern about “rising religious intolerance.”

Recent reports on human rights in Pakistan have highlighted the problems that Christians and other religious minorities face, and other experts have noted that persecution against religious minorities is on the rise.

The Minority Rights Group and International and Sustainable Development Policy Institute said that “violent attacks against religious minorities occur against a backdrop of legal and social discrimination in almost every aspect of their lives, including political participation, marriage and freedom of belief,” and called for increased protections for all citizens.

[...]

Religious freedoms granted by the government “are only confined in words,” [spokesperson for the British Pakistani Christian Association Mewhish] Bhatti said. “That’s not the real story that we’re facing”. Forced marriages are very common, she added, noting that many girls are abandoned or even killed by their Muslim husbands if they refuse to submit to Islamic teaching.

Bhatti also said that any government protections given in the wake of incidents such as the church bombings in Youhanabad are short lived. “Our lives are in danger. The government send higher-level security for one or two weeks, just for media coverage, but [there are] no long term measures.”

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock / Asianet-Pakistan

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Christians in Yemen Face ‘Terrible’ Conditions

Thursday, May 14th, 2015 - by Chris Queen

Since tensions flared up in Yemen this spring, Christians in the city of Aden have faced what the Anglican bishop of Cyprus and the Gulf has referred to as “terrible” conditions, even as tensions appear to have died down.

More than 600 people have been killed in the city and 3,000 wounded, while 22,000 residents had been displaced since the Iran-backed Houthi rebels first pushed into the city on March 25.

Fighting in the city has seen damage to the city’s Christ Church and its associated clinic, Ras Morbat.

Rt Rev Michael Lewis wrote in a prayer letter that the buildings’ windows had been blown out as a result of blast waves from sustained shelling. However, he added, “we are told that all our staff are safe so far, and for that we thank God”.

He said: “The general state of Aden is terrible: lack of fuel means lack of electricity, and telecommunications and even basic movement around the large city have become hugely difficult. Food is limited, and money to buy it even more so.

“Our administrator is very thankful for the many prayers that he knows have been made for him, for all who work at Ras Morbat, and for the people of Aden and the Yemen as a whole, a country sorely abused by those with the power, if they chose to use, to promote the common good to the glory of God.”

A coalition of Middle East nations have bombed Houthi army units and other rebel strongholds, while Sunni-led Saudi Arabia believes that Shi’ite Iran is behind the rebels, who have taken control of much of the country since late March. The coalition seeks to restore Yemen’s President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

A five-day cease fire, which began earlier this week, appears to be holding steady, though locals do not expect it to lead to a lasting peace.

Aid agencies said the five-day break in fighting to allow fuel, medicine, food and aid workers to enter Yemen could be a “lifeline” for civilians trapped in conflict zones.

The United Nations believes 828 civilians, including 182 children, have been killed across Yemen since March 26.

Aden locals expressed doubts that the ceasefire would last.

“Aden needs a humanitarian truce so badly, given the lack of food, fuel and everything else. But we question the intentions of the Houthis and believe they will take advantage of the truce to take more areas,” said Hassan al-Jamal, a resident of Aden.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock / patrice6000

 

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High School Soccer Player Punches Referee Over Call in Final Game

Wednesday, May 13th, 2015 - by Chris Queen

High school sports can be as competitive as professional sports — especially in the South. Just ask the soccer team at Chattahoochee High School north of Atlanta. At their April 29 game, the last of the season, senior Andrew Gray disagreed with a call from the referee, so Gray responded with a sucker punch.

From WSB-TV:

A police report obtained by Channel 2’s Mike Petchenik said the referee, Christopher Heintzman, told police the incident happened after Chattahoochee lost a playoff game to Milton High School on April 29.

“That student walked over to him and acted as if he wanted to shake hands but instead that student sucker-punched him on the right side of the face,” the report stated.

When police questioned Gray, the report said he began to cry and said that Heintzman’s penalty call against him near the end of the game messed up his career.

“He wanted to apologize to the official,” the report said, but Heintzman told police the next time he wanted to see the student was in front of a judge.

The school system would not comment on the specifics of the case, but athletics director Steven Craft said that the system would take measures to ensure that incidents like the one involving Grey do not happen again.

“When they put on that jersey they’re representing themselves, their family, the school and the community and we want them to understand that,” Craft told Petchenik.  “We have an expectation of what we expect our student athletes to act like.  They’re going to be respectful, they’re going to compete hard…but we’re going to do it the right way.”

Craft said he will require the Chattahoochee High School soccer team and its coaches to undergo sportsmanship training to ensure this does not happen again.

“It is an isolated incident, but it gives us the great opportunity to make sure we’re sending the right message to everybody,” he said.

Gray is due in court later this week to answer to the charges against him. When local media contacted his attorney, the attorney had no comment on the matter.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock / Gines Romero

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