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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.
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It’s Time for Southerners to Choose Their Battles

Wednesday, June 24th, 2015 - by Chris Queen

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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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Horrific Plane Crash on Atlanta Interstate Shuts Traffic Down for Hours

Friday, May 8th, 2015 - by Chris Queen

Drivers on Interstate 285, the perimeter running around Atlanta, didn’t expect to see what they saw on Friday afternoon. A small plane taking off from Peachtree-Dekalb Airport east of Atlanta crashed onto the highway shortly after 10:00 a.m., killing four and creating hours of traffic snarls.

Traffic reopened on westbound lanes three hours later, but eastbound lanes remain closed Friday afternoon.

DeKalb County police’s Dr. Cedric Alexander said there were 3 men, a woman and a pet onboard the plane.

Local reporters gathered accounts from witnesses describing the horrific scene.

Witnesses say they felt the impact of the plane crash on the interstate, but somehow the pilot avoided hitting any vehicles.

“The impact was large, like a bomb being dropped,” said witness Don McGee.

Another witness, Blake Green, says the plane propeller flew off on impact. He said the impact sounded like a bomb.

The FAA tells Channel 2 Action News it was a Piper PA-32 aircraft that went down after departing from Runway 3 Left. It was flying to Oxford, Mississippi.

A spokesman with the NTSB said he will reconstruct the entire aircraft which will take about two weeks. A final crash report will take six months to a year.

Even though authorities reopened some lanes of Interstate 285, traffic backed up for miles in either direction, and traffic will likely be a mess in the area for at least the rest of the day.

Triple Team Traffic’s Mark Arum says sources tell him the interstate may be closed for at least 8 hours.

Traffic is being impacted across metro Atlanta on I-285, I-85 and Ga. 400.

All inner loop traffic on I-285 is being diverted on to Ga. 400.

Featured image courtesy of WSB Radio

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More Questions Than Answers Remain in the Bizarre Case of Victor Hill

Wednesday, May 6th, 2015 - by Chris Queen

One of metro Atlanta’s strangest incidents in a long time isn’t getting any clearer. After Clayton County Sheriff Victor Hill allegedly shot a woman 43 miles away from his jurisdiction over the weekend, he has minimally cooperated with authorities while Gwinnett County authorities seek to speak with him about the case.

Gwinnett officials said Hill called 911 Sunday night, saying he accidentally shot his friend, realtor Gwenevere McCord in her office as they “practiced police tactics.”

Porter said not everything said in the call matches the evidence gathered, specifically the locations of the victim and the weapons.

Officials also want to question Hill about who he called and when.

“A number of members of his command staff were there. We are interested in interviewing them to try and determine who did he call first, what was said in those calls,” Porter said.

While Porter said Hill’s refusal to talk won’t hinder the investigation, he said it could affect what charges might be filed.

“He did to a certain extent cooperate with the investigation,” Porter told WSB’s Sandra Parrish.  “He just didn’t give a statement. I would qualify it as cooperative or uncooperative, it’s just the way it is.”

Meanwhile, Hill finally released a statement that referred to the incident as an accident and did not address the investigation.

“As reported, on May 3, 2015, I was involved in a tragic and heartbreaking accident,” Hill said in a statement just before 12:40 p.m Tuesday. “Gwenevere McCord, who is very dear to me, was critically injured in this accident. Please understand that for the past 48 hours, I have been entirely focused on Gwenevere and her family. I will continue to pray unceasingly for her recovery. I ask you all to please pray for Gwenevere and her family throughout this most difficult time.”

Featured image courtesy of Kent D. Johnson/AJC

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Controversial Georgia Sheriff Shoots Woman, Initially Refuses To Cooperate In Investigation

Tuesday, May 5th, 2015 - by Chris Queen

Victor Hill, the sheriff of Clayton County, just south of Atlanta, is no stranger to controversy. In 2013, he faced 25 charges of corruption amid allegations that he used his office for personal gain between 2004 and 2008, but a jury acquitted him of all charges.

Last weekend, the popular sheriff stepped into another controversy when he shot a woman at a model home in an area of metro Atlanta over 40 miles away from Hill’s jurisdiction.

Clayton County Sheriff Victor Hill shot and critically injured a woman inside a model home Sunday night, according to police. But when officers arrived at the Gwinnett County subdivision, Hill declined to provide any information on what happened and was allowed to leave.

“He refused to cooperate and give any statement,” Sgt. Brian Doan with Gwinnett police said.

The woman, a Paran Realty agent who worked inside the 3,800-square-foot, Lawrenceville-area model home, was shot in the abdomen and taken to Gwinnett Medical Center, according to police. Her name was not released late Sunday, but she and Hill were acquaintances, police said.

Though Hill initially refused to cooperate with investigators, he did turn in his gun and the clothing he was wearing at the time of the shooting to the Gwinnett County district attorney’s office the next day.

“I asked the police department not to take him into custody at that point, to make sure we didn’t mess it up at the beginning,” District Attorney Danny Porter said. “He had already asserted the right to remain silent.”

Though Hill called 911 at 5:39 p.m. Sunday, his attorney told investigators that the sheriff was “too shaken to give a statement,” Porter said. The sheriff turned over his clothing and two guns, but still had not talked to investigators late Monday afternoon.

Gwinnett County Police Department Corporal Deon Washington did not know the nature of the relationship between Hill and the victim, 43-year-old Gwenevere McCord, but said that they were acquainted. McCord’s office was at the model home, and it appears that Hill had visited her there before, Porter said.

For his part, Hill has maintained that the shooting was accidental and that the gun discharged while he was “practicing police tactics,” according to a statement from District Attorney Porter.

“It’s pretty clear it didn’t just discharge in a holster,” Porter said. “It’s pretty clear he had a gun out.”

[...]

“You have to ask yourself, ‘Why did he have a gun out on Sunday afternoon in a model home where the public can come in?’” Porter said.

While the investigation is ongoing, the Clayton County Commission has sought to reassure citizens that public safety is paramount while the sheriff is mired in controversy.

Featured image courtesy of WSB Radio

 

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Nigeria Has Rescued Nearly 300 Girls And Women From Boko Haram

Wednesday, April 29th, 2015 - by Chris Queen

Nigerian military officials have rescued 200 girls and 94 women from Boko Haram this week, but the rescued hostages are not the same ones who had been kidnapped from Chibok last year and were the subject of the infamous #BringBackOurGirls hashtag.

“Troops have captured & destroyed three camps of terrorists inside the Sambisa forest & rescued 200 girls & 93 women,” defence spokesman Chris Olukolade said in a text message, referring to the area in northeast Borno state where the Islamists have bases.

Following news of the rescue, Colonel Sani Usman sought to clarify that the rescued hostages were not the same group of girls whose plight unchained the #BringBackOurGirls global campaign.

“They were not, however, from Chibok, the village from which more than 200 girls were abducted in April 2014,” he told Reuters in a text message.

Boko Haram claimed the abduction of 276 girls from a secondary school in Chibok, also in Borno, on April 14 last year. Fifty-seven girls escaped within hours of the attack but 219 remained in captivity. At the anniversary of their abduction, Nigeria’s president-elect Muhammadu Buhari admitted it may never be possible to find the group.

One source says that officials will conduct screenings with the freed hostages to determine where they are from and whether they have been married to Boko Haram men or made slaves to the group.

“Now they are excited about their freedom,” he said. “Tomorrow there will be screenings to determine whether they are Boko Haram wives, whether they are from Chibok, how long they have been in the camps, and if they have children.”

Some of the girls were injured, and some of the militants killed, he said without giving more details.

The group was rescued from camps “discovered near or on the way to Sambisa,” one army official said.

Nigerian forces backed by warplanes invaded the vast former colonial game reserve late last week as part of a push to win back territory from Boko Haram.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock / Miro Novak

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Georgia Teacher Forced to Retire for Telling Students That Obama Is Not a Christian

Tuesday, April 28th, 2015 - by Chris Queen

Dublin, Georgia, middle school teacher Nancy Perry will retire at the end of this school year, and chances are she won’t receive a gold watch. Dublin City Schools voted to force Perry to retire because she allegedly told her students that President Obama is not a Christian, and neither is anyone who voted for him.

Dublin City Schools Superintendent Dr. Chuck Ledbetter announced the retirement of Nancy Perry early Tuesday morning, while simultaneously apologizing to students and parents for Perry’s actions.

“It is not the place of teachers to attempt to persuade students about religious or political beliefs,” Ledbetter said. “In doing so, the teacher was wrong and that has been communicated to her… Just as importantly, we are communicating this message to all staff of the school district.”

In March, Perry a veteran teacher at Dublin Middle School, told her students that the president is not a Christian — and that anyone who voted for him was not a Christian. Parents protested and the NAACP called for sanctions against Perry.

[...]

Immediately after parents complained to Nancy Perry about her comments, a meeting was set up to address them.

Although Perry has said that she never made the comments, at the meeting, according to the NAACP, she “presented to the parents a packet of several pages from a website that expressed her views on religion and politics. … The parents’ concern was exacerbated by the teacher’s unwillingness to even consider the possibility that her classroom conduct was not conducive to a healthy learning environment.”

Added to the accusations leveled against Perry was that she allowed her husband to be in on meetings between her and parents. Perry’s husband Bill is a member of the local board of education, as well as a former local talk radio host.

Parents saw that as a form of intimidation…

Ledbetter has ordered all school principals to call his office immediately when a school board member tries to get involved in day-to-day school activities. NAACP officials had threatened to involve the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, an accrediting agency, arguing that Bill Perry was “micromanaging” the schools.

“An individual board member should not participate in a parent/teacher or parent/principal conference nor should an individual board member in any way attempt to involve himself in a parental concern or a personnel matter at the school level,” Ledbetter said.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock / Valerii Ivashchenko

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Why Would the United Methodist Church Want to Remove a Popular Pastor?

Monday, April 27th, 2015 - by Chris Queen

Still Waters United Methodist Church occupies an idyllic location in a beautiful neighborhood in Atlanta. The church has been in existence for about 15 years and has had one pastor leading the congregation — Dr. Carole Hulslander. The members of Still Waters have built the church literally with their own hands, giving both money and sweat equity to the congregation they love.

Dr. Hulslander and her husband love and care for their parishioners, and the pastor preaches the Bible to this multicultural congregation. The church members would have no reason to believe that their beloved leader’s position would be in jeopardy. But all of that changed one Sunday this past March.

Two weeks before Easter, the District Superintendent showed up with a new pastor. When the Chair of the Pastor-Parish Relations Committee refused to allow a service that Sunday morning, because the District had violated the church’s Book of Church Discipline, the congregation retreated to their fellowship hall to sing and pray. The new pastor came in and began berating one of the members of the congregation. The new pastor demanded keys be handed over. When others intervened to calm the situation, the new pastor told the congregation to ‘f*ck off’.” The lion that would separate the sheep from their shepherd now paces around the walls of this church.

What would be the reason for such drastic measures? Dr. Hulslander’s outspoken support for traditional marriage is to blame, according to the pastor.

But after Dr. Hulslander signed a “Unity and Integrity” statement calling on the United Methodist Church to maintain its standards of Biblical integrity with regard to marriage, the North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church sought to remove her.

The culture war has arrived at the door of Still Waters United Methodist Church.

The congregation has dug in their heels, unwavering in their support for Dr. Hulslander. As a result, Still Waters may lose its building and property. But the physical building is a small price to pay to these people as they stand firm in their convictions and their attempts to be the church that Jesus Christ called them to be. The church has started a GoFundMe account to help them in their fight. Share this story to help get the word out.

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Obama Administration Refuses to Recognize Armenian Genocide

Thursday, April 23rd, 2015 - by Chris Queen

As the world commemorates the 100th anniversary of the slaughter of nearly 2 million Armenians at the hands of the Ottoman Empire, President Obama and his administration are refusing to refer to the massacre as a genocide – the term most historians use to describe the event, as well as the same language Obama used before taking on the office of president.

“President Obama’s surrender to Turkey represents a national disgrace. It is, very simply, a betrayal of truth, a betrayal of trust,” Ken Hachikian, the chairman of the Armenian National Committee of America, said.

Officials decided against calling the massacre a genocide after some opposition from the State Department and Pentagon.

“We know and respect that there are some who are hoping to hear different language this year,” CNN quoted an administration official.

“We understand their perspective, even as we believe that the approach we have taken in previous years remains the right one — both for acknowledging the past and for our ability to work with regional partners to save lives in the present,” the official said.

On April 24, 1915, the Ottoman Empire set out to expel the Armenians from their region. Armenians had lived in what is now Turkey for 3,000 years, but by the early 1920s, a million and a half of them were dead, with many more expelled from the country. In 2010, a Congressional committee voted to recognize the massacre as a genocide, but the Obama administration still has not done so.

This move by the White House may not have stirred up so much passion had then-Senator Obama not made a campaign promise to call the incident a genocide. Critics suggest that Obama has performed his about-face as an act of loyalty toward Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan.

CNN reports that even California Rep. Adam Schiff, the Democratic leader of the House Intelligence Committee, expressed disappointment with the White House decision.

“How long must the victims and their families wait before our nation has the courage to confront Turkey with the truth about the murderous past of the Ottoman Empire?” Schiff wrote in a statement.

“If not this president, who spoke so eloquently and passionately about recognition in the past, whom? If not after 100 years, when?” he asked.

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Colorado Man Cited for Shooting His Computer

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2015 - by Chris Queen

Any IT technician will tell you that it’s not wise to take matters into your own hands. Most computer users should leave it to the professionals. Lucas Hinch, 37 of Colorado Springs, didn’t believe that advice, so he riddled his computer with bullets and walked away from the experience with a citation for discharging a weapon in public. The police language is priceless.

According to the Colorado Springs Police Department, officers responding last night to a 911 call about shots fired discovered that a “fed up” Lucas Hinch took his computer into a back alley and “fired 8 shots into the computer with a handgun, effectively disabling it.”

Hinch, 38, was cited for discharging a firearm within city limits, according to a police blotter entry that includes the summary description “Man Kills His Computer.”

When asked about the shooting, Hinch [said], “I just had it,” adding that he tired of the balky computer’s “blue screen of death.” Hinch said that he whacked the computer with a 9mm Hi-Point pistol recently purchased from a Craigslist seller. The gun was seized by police, who left the computer behind.

The late Dell XPS 410 model, seen in the above police evidence photo, is survived by a monitor and a keyboard.

The ponytailed Hinch operates a homeopathic herb store out of the apartment he shares with his girlfriend. He massacred the computer in the alley behind the house. If only he’d had some kind of all-natural remedy to help him relax.

The lesson here, kids, is simple: leave your IT problems to the professionals. Chances are the bill from a technician or shop will be cheaper than a fine and court costs.

Photo courtesy of The Smoking Gun

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African Christians Vow to Move On in the Face of Persecution

Tuesday, April 21st, 2015 - by Chris Queen

Three months after a brutal attack at the hands of a Muslim mob, Christians in the west African nation of Niger have vowed to rebuild and move on.

Ten people lost their lives and hundreds were injured when Muslim mobs went on the deadly rampage in early January.

[...]

It happened January 17, just 10 days after two Muslim terrorists stormed the offices of French magazine Charlie Hebdo, executing 12 people for publishing satirical images of the Islam’s Prophet Mohammed.

About 3,600 miles away in Niger, Muslims, angered by the cartoons, attacked the country’s Christians in revenge.

“We spent years building the church,” [Pastor Musa] Issa told CBN News while standing in the ruins of his church. “Within minutes it was all gone!”

And it wasn’t just Pastor Issa’s church. Mobs also destroyed Boureima Kimso’s church.

“Sixty-nine churches and 11 homes were destroyed. That’s a total of 80 Christian buildings within a few hours,” Kimso said.

In one town, a single Christian church remains standing, and the militants ransacked a Christian school. Officials have yet to arrest or prosecute a single person for the attacks.

Local Muslim officials deny any wrongdoing and have even claimed that Christians orchestrated the attacks, even though the militants wrote pro-Islamic messages on walls and blackboards in the school.

“Islam is a religion of tolerance and peace,” Boubacar Seydou, of the Islamic Association of Niger, said. “In Islam, we are not familiar with such acts of violence!”

[...]

“Muslims did not take part in these attacks. Sure, there were many Muslims protesting the cartoons, but no one pushed them to attack churches. I’m sure if we arrested some of those involved in the church burnings you’d discover that in fact Christians were among those taking part in the violence!” Seydou said.

Pastor Zakaria Jadi, whose church and home were among those destroyed, says it is ludicrous to claim Christians were involved.

“The mob kept chanting over and over in Arabic ‘God is great!’ God is great’ as they robbed and burned my home. I’ve lived with Muslims all my life. I know a Muslim when he stands in front of me!” Jadi said.

The government of Niger is working with these churches to help them figure out how to rebuild, and the pastors are preaching a message of forgiveness and preparing for revival.

“The Lord is training us; He’s building us. There cannot be increase without hardships. If you want to go to the next level you have to go through hardship,” Jadi said.

Image courtesy of Fox News

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Heart Transplant Recipient Dies Trying to Elude Police in High-Speed Chase

Wednesday, April 1st, 2015 - by Chris Queen

In 2013, the eyes of Atlanta fell on 15-year old Anthony Stokes when Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta refused to put him on a heart transplant list due to his prior behavior. Less than two years later, Stokes would die, not from heart problems, but from a car crash while attempting to evade police after an attempted burglary.

Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta informed Stokes’ family in an August 2013 letter that they would not place him on their heart transplant list.

The family of Anthony Stokes on Sunday released to the media an Aug. 7 letter that states, in part, “the decision was made that Anthony is currently not a transplant candidate due to having a history of non-compliance, which is one of our center’s contraindications to listing for heart transplant.”

“As we discussed today with Anthony’s mother, we will not place Anthony on the heart transplant waiting list at this time due to this decision,” the letter continues.

Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta released a statement to Channel 2 Action News on Sunday that read, “The well-being of our patients is always our first priority. We are continuing to work with this family and looking at all options regarding this patient’s health care. We follow very specific criteria in determining eligibility for a transplant of any kind.”

Family members told Channel 2 that doctors are afraid that Anthony, who has been diagnosed with an enlarged heart, wouldn’t follow the strict regimen of medications and follow-up treatments necessary for a transplant to be successful.

Public outpouring led the hospital to change its mind, according to an August 13, 2013 report in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

“We met with hospital officials about 30 minutes ago,” family spokesman Mark Bell said this afternoon. “After reviewing the situation, they said Anthony would be placed on the list for a heart transplant and that he would be first in line, due to his weakened heart condition.”

After his surgery and recovery, Stokes continued to live the life of a troubled teen. And this week, he committed the crime that would end his life.

Police say a burglary suspect being chased by police struck a pedestrian and then crashed his car.

Police say the man kicked in the door of a home and then shot at a woman during an attempted burglary on Alpine Drive in Roswell Tuesday afternoon.

They said the driver died Tuesday night.

[...]

They said the pedestrian who was struck is Clementina Hernandez, 33, of Roswell.

[...]

Hernandez was taken to North Fulton Hospital. She is stable in good condition.

Crews had to cut Stokes from his car, which was nearly cut in half by the pole. He was taken to a nearby hospital, where he died.

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Indiana’s Governor Seeks Clarification on Religious Freedom Legislation

Wednesday, April 1st, 2015 - by Chris Queen

In the face of criticism from many areas of society, Indiana’s governor Mike Pence is seeking clarification on a religious freedom bill he signed into law last week.

Pence made the announcement Tuesday, acknowledging his state has a “perception problem” over the law designed to protect religious liberty.

Since Pence signed the bill into law last week, critics have hit the streets and social media saying it discriminates against gays and lesbians. The objections to the law stretch from the White House to Hollywood.

The governor has since been meeting with lawmakers to address those concerns. Pence is still defending the bill.

“I don’t believe for a minute that it was the intent of the General Assembly to create a license to discriminate. It certainly wasn’t my intent,” he said.

“I can appreciate that that’s become the perception, not just here in Indiana but all across the country. We need to confront that,” Pence added.

The law has drawn the ire of companies like Apple, and others have called for a boycott of the state. University of Connecticut basketball coach Kevin Ollie has said he will not attend the Final Four this weekend in Indianapolis over the law, despite the fact that his team is the reigning champion going into the tournament.

It has been customary for the winning coach from the previous season to appear at the Final Four, as well as the annual convention of the National Association of Basketball Coaches that coincides with the crowning of a new champion. Ollie had been scheduled to attend the coaching summit, which organizers said is expected to draw 3,500 people to Indiana’s capital city.

Nineteen other states have enacted similar laws, which echo a bipartisan bill signed into law by President Bill Clinton in the 1990s. Pence and other Republicans are quick to state that the intent of the law is not to discriminate, but to protect people of faith.

In Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal, Pence penned an op-ed saying the law is not a license to discriminate. Republican lawmakers in Indiana echoed that sentiment.

“What we hoped for with the bill was the message of inclusion — inclusion of all religious beliefs. What has come out was the message of exclusion and that was not the intent and hopefully not the effect,” state House Speaker Brian Bosma said.

Bosma said lawmakers are looking to clarify through legislation that the law does not discriminate.

Advocates for religious freedom have expressed concern that people of faith are vulnerable to attacks from the government. A similar measure has passed in Arkansas, while an initiative in Georgia looks not to pass this year.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock / PromesaArtStudio

 

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Supreme Court Refuses to Hear Case Involving Worship in NYC Public Schools

Tuesday, March 31st, 2015 - by Chris Queen

On March 30, the Supreme Court declined to review a case involving which groups can meet after hours in New York City’s public schools. The Bronx Household of Faith, a small congregation, sued the city over its policy.

The city permits groups to rent school facilities for extended periods of time for “social, civic and recreational meetings and entertainment, and other uses pertaining to the welfare of the community.” There are few limitations on extended use, but one prohibits using school buildings for “religious worship services” or as a “house of worship.”

[...]

Lawyers for the Alliance Defending Freedom argued that excluding worship services from “a broadly available public forum” discriminates against religion. The church, which has outgrown its own building, needs more space for special occasions and the nearby public school is the only place large enough that they can afford.

The appeals court, however, said the reason the space is affordable is because of taxpayer subsidies, and the school board is taking reasonable precaution against liability for appearing to unconstitutionally advance a particular religion.

“The Free Exercise Clause does not entitle Bronx Household to a grant from the board of a subsidized place to hold religious worship services,” the appellate court ruled. Further, the court found no evidence the rule was “motivated by hostility to religion.”

Naturally, opponents of the policy have expressed their disdain, and they are appealing to an unlikely ally to assist them in their fight.

Fernando Cabrera, a council member and pastor leading opposition to the policy said he was “profoundly disappointed” that the Supreme Court won’t be hearing the case.

“We cannot ignore the immense contribution to society that religious organizations and institutions have made throughout our nation’s history and continue to make across the U.S. today,” he said in a statement.

“Churches meeting in New York City public schools for worship services have fed the poor and needy, assisted in rehabilitating drug addicts and gang members, helped rebuild marriages and families and provided for the disabled.”

The Alliance Defending Freedom called on New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to use his power to revoke the policy. De Blasio said last year he opposes the policy and believes “that a faith organization playing by the same rules as any community nonprofit deserves access.”

What’s next for the Bronx Household of Faith and other churches? That of course remains to be seen, but if De Blasio intervenes, he may create an interesting alliance.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock / VICTOR TORRES

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ISIS Reportedly Claims Town Where George Lucas Filmed Part of Star Wars

Wednesday, March 25th, 2015 - by Chris Queen

We know that ISIS will stop at nothing to take as much land as they can and claim it for Islam. Now the Tunisian town of Tataouine, where George Lucas filmed part of Star Wars (and for which he named the film’s planet Tatooine), has reportedly fallen under ISIS control.

This struggling town on the fringes of the Sahara still draws a few fans of the movie but now finds itself part of a real conflict, as a way-station for jihadists crossing the Libyan border 60 miles to the east.

Earlier this month, before the gun attack on the Bardo Museum in Tunis, three young men were arrested here as they allegedly made plans to cross into Libya to join a terrorist network. A local official told CNN they had since been taken to Tunis for questioning.

Two arms caches have also been found in the region this month, one of which included rocket-propelled grenade launchers and more than 20,000 rounds of ammunition, thought to have been removed from a Libyan armory in the aftermath of Moammar Gadhafi’s ouster in 2011.

Tunisians worry about the frail state of neighbor Libya and the presence of ISIS all over North Africa. The country recently celebrated the anniversary of its independence from France, but now the mood among residents is less than celebratory.

The mood among many Tunisians seems much harder and more pragmatic than it was four years ago. A shopkeeper in a small village between Tataouine and Remada said there needs to be a security crackdown. He said people in the area led simple lives — but they knew each other and noticed strangers.

Bassim, a taxi driver on the island of Djerba, some 60 miles to the north of Tataouine, was of a similar view.

“The people need to be the third eye of the security forces” he said. “And we need to think of the safety of visitors like we think of the safety of our families.”

[...]

Tunisians say their country is at a crossroads as it tries to fend off the jihadist contagion seeping across North Africa. Their democracy is young and vulnerable.

“We want to be the hope of the Arab world,” said Bassim, “like we were four years ago.”

“We still have hope, but now we have fear too.”

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock / Adisa

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Georgia Senate Passes Medical Marijuana Legislation

Wednesday, March 25th, 2015 - by Chris Queen

Dozens of “medical refugees” from Georgia could make their way back home soon as the state Senate passed a bill allowing cannabis oil for certain medical conditions on Tuesday. The only hurdle between the bill and the desk of Governor Nathan Deal is a vote in the House, which may come this week.

Senate supporters have handed over legislation likely to make that happen — especially since it is already supported by the bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon.

The compromise was made last week, after Senate Health and Human Services Chairwoman Renee Unterman, R-Buford, rewrote HB 1 as a way to merge a restrictive medical marijuana measure already approved in the Senate and a much broader effort already approved by the House.

The new version would allow cannabis oil to be used to treat eight of the nine disorders sought by the House in that chamber’s own medical marijuana proposal: cancer, Crohn’s disease, Lou Gehrig’s disease (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), mitochondrial disease, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, seizure disorders and sickle cell disease.

[...]

And it would set a higher bar for what type of oil would be allowed: The oil could contain no more than 5 percent THC — the high-inducing chemical associated with recreational marijuana use — and must include at least a matching amount of cannabidiol to ensure better purity and quality of the drug.

The initial Senate version of the bill restricted usage to children under 18, which the bill’s supporters found unacceptable. Deal also faced considerable pressure from proponents of the measure before finally agreeing to sign a bill when it passed. This news obviously comes as welcome relief for the families who sought hope for their children but had to leave home to do so.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock / urbans

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How Is America Truly Exceptional?

Tuesday, March 24th, 2015 - by Chris Queen

The idea of American exceptionalism has become a topic of debate in the Obama years. Both sides in this often heated debate dig their heels in and stand firm in their convictions. But regardless of one’s political convictions, it’s hard to argue against the idea that the United States is unique among nations. In the 19th century, French historian and political scientist Alexis de Tocqueville recognized this and was among the first to recognize that America was an exceptional nation.

A recent Pew Research survey demonstrates that, nearly two centuries after de Tocqueville, the United States stands out from other nations in some surprising ways.

One area where Americans rank well above citizens of other countries is in the notion of individualism.

When Pew Research Center surveyed people in 44 countries last spring, 57% of Americans disagreed with the statement “Success in life is pretty much determined by forces outside our control,” a higher percentage than most other nations and far above the global median of 38%.

The American work ethic stands far above that of other nations as well.

True to the stereotype, surveys showed that Americans are more likely to believe that hard work pays off. When asked, on a scale of 0 to 10, about how important working hard is to getting ahead in life, 73% of Americans said it is was a “10” or “very important,” compared with a global median of 50% among the 44 nations.

Americans are exceptional among wealthy developed nations as a people of faith who place their moral convictions within the context of religious belief.

In general, people in richer nations are less likely than those in poorer nations to say religion plays a very important role in their lives. But Americans are more likely than their counterparts in economically advanced nations to deem religion very important. More than half (54%) of Americans said religion was very important in their lives, much higher than the share of people in Canada (24%), Australia (21%) and Germany (21%), the next three wealthiest economies we surveyed from 2011 through 2013.

People in richer nations tend to place less emphasis on the need to believe in God in order to be moral and have good values than people in poorer countries do. While the share of Americans holding that view is far lower than in poorer nations like Indonesia and Ghana (each 99%), the U.S. stands out when compared with people in other economically advanced nations. In the U.S., 53% say belief in God is a prerequisite for being moral and having good values, much higher than the 23% in Australia and 15% in France, according to our study of 39 nations between 2011 and 2013.

Finally, Americans tend to be far more optimistic than their counterparts in wealthier nations — a fact researchers discovered almost by accident.

Americans are also more upbeat than people in other wealthy nations when asked how their day is going. While we ask this question to help respondents get more comfortable with the interviewer, it provides a glimpse into people’s moods and reveals a slightly negative correlation between those saying the day is a good one and per capita gross domestic product. About four-in-ten Americans (41%) described their day as a “particularly good day,” a much higher share than those in Germany (21%), the UK (27%) and Japan (8%).

These findings ought to lead some politicians to rethink their conceptions of American exceptionalism. The statistics prove that the United States is truly unique among its peers.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock / Rawpixel

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Greek Organizations at the University of Georgia Ban Hoop Skirts

Thursday, March 19th, 2015 - by Chris Queen

For years when I’ve heard of ridiculous political correctness run amok in American academia, I’ve breathed a sigh of relief that it hasn’t happened at my alma mater, the University of Georgia. Until now.

Sororities and fraternities at UGA have banned the use of hoop skirts at events over concerns of the appearance of racism.

Victor Wilson, UGA’s vice president for student affairs, explained that the ban was due to concerns over what kind of “message” the skirt might send, and compared it to a previous ban on Confederate uniforms, according to an article in the Athens Banner-Herald.

In other words: The fact that people wore hoop skirts during the era of slavery in the U.S. makes them symbols of racism.  “The student leadership, staff and advisors agree that Antebellum hoop skirts are not appropriate in the context of some events,” read an e-mail sent out Tuesday by Ashley Merkel, president of UGA’s Panhellenic Council, and Alex Bosse, president of the Interfraternity Council.

Students had previously worn them to events such as the “Magnolia Ball.”

The Banner-Herald elaborated on the ban, which comes on the heels of racial controversy involving fraternities at other schools.

The hoop skirt ban came after UGA Student Affairs administrators met Monday with some UGA fraternity and sorority leaders, including representatives of the UGA chapters of Sigma Alpha Epsilon and Kappa Alpha fraternities, both of which have deep roots in the South.

The ban comes a week after the University of Oklahoma expelled two SAE fraternity members and shut down the university’s SAE chapter because of a racist video made by members. In the video, SAE members chant about lynching, and using a racial slur, vow that there will never be a black member of the fraternity. The video went viral on the Internet and soon found its way to University of Oklahoma administrators. Talk during Monday’s UGA meeting at UGA was about presenting the university and Greek organizations in a good light, and not inviting negative attention, said Victor Wilson, UGA’s vice president for student affairs.

Part of the talk was about dress at such events as KA’s “Old South Week” and SAE’s “Magnolia Ball.” The discussion included hoop skirts, and the messages conveyed by such dresses or other articles of clothing, Wilson said.

“The discussion was about more than dress, but about how you present yourself, and dress was part of that,” he explained.

The university does not make the call on bans like this one — rather, the decision comes from the Greek organizations themselves. Earlier bans at UGA include prohibitions on Confederate uniforms and other symbols and insignia.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock / Sean Pavone

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Police Nab Dozens In Atlanta Area Gambling Bust

Wednesday, March 18th, 2015 - by Chris Queen

This time of year, thousands of people make their brackets for the NCAA college basketball tournament, but not many of them go to jail for it. In the suburb of Alpharetta, Georgia, just north of Atlanta, police from four jurisdictions detained over five dozen people at a private party at a bar and grill who were gambling on March Madness games.

Law enforcement from Alpharetta, Milton, Johns Creek, and Roswell all took part in the raid at Pepperoni’s Tavern on Old Milton Parkway. Police say 65 people were inside the restaurant, including employees and the owner.  A large amount of cash and a few handguns were confiscated.

A total of 23 were arrested and hauled off to jail. They’ll likely face illegal gambling and possible weapons charges. We’re told more arrests could be made later.

Investigators originally said the operation centered around the upcoming NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, with bets being made on games. Alpharetta Police maintain the so-called “private party” was less about basketball and actually more about organized gambling.

Alpharetta Police Detective George Gordon gave more details to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

“Alpharetta authorities had previously gathered intelligence regarding the planned operation of a large gambling event,” Gordon said in an email.

“Tonight, authorities moved against the gambling operation and detained approximately 65 people,” Gordon said, adding that police found “a large gambling operation in progress based upon the NCAA basketball tournament.”

Gordon said 23 of those detained were charged with illegal gambling, and the others were interviewed and released, but could face future charges.

He said police confiscated several handguns and an undisclosed amount of cash.

Pepperoni’s Tavern advertises March Madness contests on their website offering free food and drinks to winners. Many of the defendants claimed that they weren’t doing anything worse than the countless people who bet on March Madness games in office pools and other contests.

In an update from the Alpharetta Police Department, nine were charged with gambling, six were charged with commercial gambling and keeping a gambling place, and one was charged with disorderly conduct. Authorities interviewed several others, and they may face charges later on.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock / SAJE

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