Tuesday, December 19, 2017


The Chinese Communist Party has ordered Christians residing in Yugan county of Jiangxi province to remove all pictures of Jesus Christ from their homes and replace them with pictures of China's leader, President Xi Jinping. The Communists claim that people in this region are relying too much on Jesus to solve their problems and not trusting the government. This is just more evidence that China is cracking down on Christians and followers of other religions. In the past couple of years, Christian churches have been forced to remove crosses from their buildings. Recently, a Chinese pastor, her daughter, and three year old grandson were arrested for singing worship songs in a park. They stand accused of violating new religious laws restricting all religious expression to government approved locations. Earlier this year, China expelled South Korean missionaries. Even when the Church wins a victory from the Chinese legal system, that victory can prove costly. When pastor Li Jiangong and his wife Ding Cuimei tried to stop bulldozers from destroying their church because a business claimed the land, they were shoved into a ditch and buried. Pastor Li managed to dig himself out, but his wife suffocated before he could rescue her. After this, the government ruled the church had clear title to the land. All links to these articles are from Christianity Today. Here is a story from the Daily Beast concerning the recent crackdown on Chinese churches.

North Korea released a Korean pastor from Canada who had been sentenced to life in prison on charges of attempting to establish a religious state. Hyeon Soo-Lim had visited North Korea many times in connection with an orphanage and a nursing home his church founded. He spent two and a half years in prison and his health deteriorated during that time. Most other foreign nationals detained in North Korea in recent years are connected with his church. One surprise from this story is that while North Korea prevents most outsiders from entering the country, some who engage in humanitarian work can gain entry. Let's pray that this policy allows Christians to spread the Gospel so that the current government falls without the U.S. taking military action against it. HT: Christianity Today.

Persecution of Christians in Iran is increasing. Read this post by Daniel Hart at the Family Research Council blog. For background on Iran's 1 to 2 million Christians, see this post from Christianity Today.

The new President of India is a cause of concern for India's 25 to 60 million Christians. The new President, Ram Nath Kovind, is from one of India's lower castes, the Dalits. Dalit's make up a majority of India's Christians. But Christians fear that Kovind may be more loyal to Hindu Nationalists who want to use the government to persecute Christians and Muslims. Hindu Nationalists are pushing legislation outlawing Christians from converting others to Christ. HT: Christianity Today, article by Kate Shellnutt

Thursday, December 14, 2017


The Supreme Court conducted oral arguments in the case concerning the owner of a Colorado bakery who claims his Christian faith forbids him from using his business to celebrate same-sex weddings. The Colorado Civil Rights Commission fined the baker, Jack Phillips, and  “ordered Jack and his staff to design cakes for same-sex wedding celebrations, go through a ‘re-education’ program, implement new policies to comply with the commission’s order, and file quarterly ‘compliance’ reports for two years to show that Jack has completely eliminated his religious beliefs from his business.” Jack Phillips should have a sympathetic hearing from President Trump's nominee, Neil Gorsuch. What justice Phillips can expect from Justice Anthony Kennedy is anyone's guess. While Kennedy has ruled in favor of religious institutions recently, he has voted against Christian principles concerning same-sex marriage.  HT: BreakPoint  Some conservatives were encouraged by Kennedy's questions during oral arguments. At least one conservative writer, Peter Sprigg, of the Family Research Council (FRC), was pleasantly surprised by a line of questioning by Justice Elena Kagin. Here are the four main points made by Jack Phillip's lawyers to the Justices of the Supreme Court. His lawyers are affiliated with Alliance Defending Freedom.

Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) successfully defended a client in a case similar to Jack Phillips'. Amy Lawson is a photographer living in Wisconsin, providing photographic and video services for individuals and organizations. Amy is a Christian. The stated purpose for her business is to “capture and convey beautiful, pure, and true moments in ways that help us stop, see, and savor the light God has given us.”  Many of her projects celebrate the biblical view of marriage as well as the right to life for those yet to be born. Her website stated that she would not photograph same-sex marriages. She removed the statement for fear of being sued for violating the law. But it was too late. Someone brought suit against her based on laws forbidding discrimination in public accommodations, even though her business doesn't have a physical location. Had she lost, she would have faced severe penalties from both the city of Madison and the state.  "If Amy violates the Madison law, she can be punished with an injunction, out of pocket expenses, economic and noneconomic damages, costs, attorney’s fees, and a civil fine up to $500 per day...If Amy violates the Wisconsin law, she can be punished with out-of-pocket expenses, costs, attorney fees, cease and desist orders, re-education training, revocation of her business license, and a fine up to $1000 for first time violators, and up to $10,000 for repeat violators. Also, if she violates the Wisconsin law, anyone can sue her and obtain injunctive relief, damages (including punitive damages), costs, and attorney’s fees." (ADF post) However, justice was done in her case. A state court sided with her. ADF's senior counsel commented on the decision: “The court’s announcement has important implications for everyone in Wisconsin who values artistic freedom. It means that government officials must allow creative professionals without storefronts anywhere in the city and state the freedom to make their own decisions about which ideas they will use their artistic expression to promote. The court found—and the city and state have now agreed—that such professionals cannot be punished under public accommodation laws for exercising their artistic freedom because those laws simply don’t apply to them. No one should be threatened with punishment for having views that the government doesn’t favor.” (ADF)

Let's pray that Barronelle Stutzman is as successful as Amy Lawson in defending her right to conduct her business according to her Christian beliefs. Barronelle is a floral designer in Washington state who informed a long time customer that she couldn't contribute her services to his same-sex wedding. The State Attorney General heard about it on social media and brought suit against her. The Attorney General admits that her services fall under the umbrella of free speech. Yet he claims that the state has the power to compel her to proclaim a message she doesn't believe in. Her case will be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court. If she loses there, her four year legal battle will claim everything she has since she is being sued not only in her professional capacity, but also in her personal capacity. ADF is defending her as well. Be sure to see the short video about her at the first link in this paragraph.

ADF is also defending a Wyoming judge who because of her Christian beliefs will not perform same-sex marriages. The judge is charged with violating the Wyoming Code of Judicial Conduct. (HT: Religion Clause blog)

Last October, the Trump administration issued a memo highlighting its policies on Church/State issues. Here is a Christianity Today article clarifying what these policies are. Christian conservatives can be optimistic about some Trump policies concerning religious freedom. But as this article demonstrates, not all the President's policies are in line with theirs. Here is another article from Peter Sprigg, this one on the administration's exemption of religious employers from the Obamacare mandate requiring employers to provide free birth control to their employees.