WEEKLY NEWS SUMMARY - APRIL 22, 2020
In this week's Intersect, read about:
Transgender Activist Refuses to Give Up Quest to Destroy Christian Baker Jack Phillips
Christian baker Jack Phillips endured years of legal battles and finally won his First Amendment case against the Colorado Civil Rights Commission in the US Supreme Court back in 2018. One would have thought after all that his legal troubles were over. However, the same Colorado government agency decided to pursue Phillips a second time because he declined to design a custom cake celebrating a gender transition just a few weeks after the court's decision. Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of Phillips against the state, and in 2019, the state dismissed most of the charges against him. Now, he's just been sued in state court because Autumn Scardina, who requested the gender-transition cake (and who also happens to be an attorney), wasn't satisfied. Many of the claims are similar to those raised in the case that Colorado has already dismissed. Scardina opted not to appeal the Commission's dismissal, but instead filed a lawsuit that seeks more than $100,000 in damages, fines, and attorney's fees. Scardina's request for a custom cake was made on the same day that the US Supreme Court announced that it would hear Phillips' first case. The shop declined the request because the message of the cake contradicts Phillips' religious belief that God creates us either male or female. Then a few months later, Scardina also made another request of the cakeshop. This request was for a custom cake featuring Satan smoking marijuana. Maureen Collins, web writer for the ADF, says no American should be punished and threatened with financial ruin for living and working in a way that is consistent with their beliefs. read more
Collins also made a good point about the real goal of the LGBT activists: “For some, it will never be enough to politely agree to disagree about important issues like the meaning of marriage or whether to celebrate a gender transition. For some, it won't be enough until Masterpiece Cakeshop closes its doors and Jack Phillips is in financial ruin...all because he wants to live according to his faith.” Our society used to believe that each person had the God-given freedom to live according to their consequence. And if the government interfered without a compelling interest, they would be placing themselves in the position of God. As George Washington said, "While we are contending for our own liberty, we should be very cautious not to violate the conscience of others, ever considering that God alone is the judge of the hearts of men, and to Him only in this case are they answerable." Yet many elected officials and persons in authority today do not hold this opinion. According to a report published by Religion in Public, atheists are the most politically active group in America. Is it any wonder, then, that our culture’s opinion on religious liberty has shifted? As Christians, there are several opportunities we can take to preserve this fundamental liberty: we must know our Constitutional rights, support those who are fighting to defend their rights, like Jack Phillips, and vote for elected officials who are committed to protecting religious liberty. President Trump and the Republican-controlled Senate have reached historic levels of appointing and confirming federal judges who will rule in favor of religious freedom. Our votes this November will decide whether that will continue or not.
Pray for endurance and peace for Jack Phillips and ADF as they face this battle yet again, and pray Autumn Scardina, who filed the lawsuit against him, would come to know the Lord. Pray that Christians would turn out to vote in greater numbers than ever before for the November elections.
The Colson Center has created a helpful, short video tackling the moral issue of a Christian declining to bake a cake which celebrates something that violates his or her conscience. You can watch it here.
Planned Parenthood closes more than 5,000 facilities worldwide during COVID-19
The International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) has announced the closing of 5,633 member clinics due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and 23 others have reported a reduced ability to commit abortions. In 2018, IPPF committed nearly 1.4 million abortions around the world with just over half being done by way of a chemical abortion (the abortion pill). The organization also lists 122,820 treatments for incomplete abortions, which could account for any chemical abortions that failed and had to be followed up with surgical abortions. IPPF also claims it is struggling with accessing “key commodities and supplies,” which is quite possible given the fact that personal protective equipment (PPE) is supposed to be going to frontline health care workers battling COVID-19. Throughout the United States, elective surgeries — including abortions in some states — have been postponed in order to divert PPE to COVID-19 health care workers. And yet, in states where a special exception has been carved out for abortion, Planned Parenthood abortion businesses have suspended actual health care services in favor of an ‘abortion only’ protocol. “Without access to personal protective equipment (PPE) and a secure supply of vital commodities like contraceptives, members will not be able to reopen lost service points, and more will close,” IPPF said in a news release. It added that an emergency fund has been established to ensure its facilities that are still open receive PPE, because to IPPF, abortion services are vital to their bottom line. PPE would primarily be needed to commit abortions. read more
While fewer surgical abortions are being performed, IPPF is working on expanding access to telemedicine so that women can perform their own chemical abortions at home via the abortion pill. Their news release states that “the ability to take medicines in their own homes, such as medical abortion medication, already have a strong evidence base and should become standard.” However, a study published in 2009 of roughly 42,000 women who had abortions showed that chemical abortions have four times the risk of surgical abortions. Complications from the abortion pill could require a trip to the emergency room, requiring more PPE equipment and potentially increasing the woman’s exposure to COVID-19. Increased access to chemical abortions are not in the best interest of the women Planned Parenthood claims to serve, yet that is what many abortion advocates are calling for during this pandemic. A medical officer for the World Health Organization recently declared that access to abortion must be protected “to the full extent of the law” and must be seen as essential, even during a pandemic. President Trump has halted U.S. funding of WHO, which is usually between $400 million and $500 million annually. Meanwhile, over 130 congressmen signed a letter to President Trump thanking him for his “decisive actions to protect human life and human dignity on every front”, and urging him to maintain his ban on funding research using fetal tissue from aborted babies. The battle to protect life is fiercer than ever. In our recent interview with Abby Johnson, she said she has never seen the abortion lobby in such a frenzy to protect abortion. We must be just as committed to protecting life (Proverbs 31:8-9).
Pray that women will seek help from pro-life pregnancy resource centers who will speak a message of hope and life to them. Pray that such centers will have all the necessary funding and supplies to care for women and families during this pandemic.
Live Action has a video series on the abortion pill and its risks for women, as well as the potential for reversal. We encourage you to watch and share them with your friends so they can know the truth. Our friends at Heartbeat International have a dedicated abortion pill rescue network in place that has seen a tremendous rise in the need but also a hopeful success rate of women being able to have a second chance at choosing life.
California County Bans Churches from Singing in Online Services to Fight Coronavirus
A California county has banned churches from featuring singing and the use of wind instruments in their online services during the COVID-19 pandemic unless the performance is done at the individual’s residence. Mendocino County in Northern California released the order April 10, saying the referenced rules run through at least May 10 and apply to churches, concert halls, auditoriums, temples and playhouses. Any recording or live-streamed event must be limited to four individuals at the venue, with all social distancing rules being practiced. The county’s order targets churches with multiple people on stage singing and playing instruments. “No singing or use of wind instruments, harmonicas, or other instruments that could spread COVID-19 through projected droplets shall be permitted unless the recording of the event is done at one’s residence, and involving only the members of one’s household or living unit, because of the increased risk of transmission of COVID-19,” the order says. Seminary president Albert Mohler criticized the order in a column Monday. “[T]o be clear, authorities can and should require that churches respect and maintain physical distancing between all the very limited participants in a streamed worship service,” wrote Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. “The worship leader, the other musicians, and the pastor should comply with the local, state, and federal guidelines that are in place to help stop the spread of COVID-19. “It is an entirely different matter, however, to tell Christians that they cannot sing in praise and honor of God. Indeed, these orders came out just days before Resurrection Sunday – orders saying that Christians, on the day where they celebrate the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, are prohibited from signing.” read more
In his column, Albert Mohler goes on to say that “Governmental authorities cannot intrude upon the integrity of Christian worship, which is exactly what these orders violate…Government should never be in the position to derail any religious ministry and deem it nonessential. That is, on its face, completely unconstitutional.” He makes the point that our constitutional rights are not granted by government, but by God, and it is the government’s duty to protect them. To arbitrarily deem those rights “non-essential” sets a bad precedent going forward after this pandemic. It is possible that in the future certain fundamental Christian functions or services could be ruled “non-essential” in the name of the common good. In the wake of numerous instances of governmental overreach at the state and local level, many citizens gathered to protest what they consider to be unnecessary and unconstitutional restrictions. The protests started in Michigan, which has some of the most restrictive stay-at-home orders, and spread to many other states. Our duty as Christians is to obey the government but also hold it accountable to stay within the boundaries God has assigned it. As we do so, let us remember to “trust in the LORD, and do good” (Psalm 37:3), and not allow frustration to devolve into
Pray for religious freedom to be protected amid the new rules and policies due to the coronavirus. As people are suddenly aware how fragile life is, how fragile culture, stability and things like jobs, healthcare and retirement accounts are, pray for this unique moment as millions are searching for solid ground. Pray for an outpouring of the revelation of Jesus in the world. Pray that we don’t miss this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to bring the hope of Christ to those who desperately need Him.
Our friends at iVoterGuide have created an opportunity for you to receive a regular reminder to pray for your specific elected officials by name. We encourage you to sign up here and pray faithfully for your elected officials.
Governors Cautiously Shape Plans to Reopen States after Trump Unveils New Guidelines for Coronavirus
Governors edged Friday toward relaxing restrictions to combat coronavirus after President Donald Trump released new national guidelines, but they cautioned that testing shortages and other hurdles could hinder progress to revive the economy. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced Friday plans to reopen state parks Monday, to ease limits on surgeries Wednesday and to reopen retail businesses for pickup, delivery and mail orders April 24. “We have demonstrated that we can corral the coronavirus,” Abbott said. But New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, whose state has faced the biggest outbreak with more than 200,000 cases and 12,000 deaths, said the only quick fix would be a vaccine or better antiviral treatment, which could be months or more than a year away. Until then, reopening the economy will be incremental, to avoid flaming another outbreak. “You’re not going to hear any day soon, it’s over, the nightmare ends and we wake up,” Cuomo said Friday during his daily news conference. “It’s going to be incremental and we have to be smart.” read more
President Trump’s new guidelines outline three phases of reopening the economy, and each stage will require a 14-day “downward trajectory” for coronavirus cases. And while President Trump has laid out a national plan, he has made clear that the decision to reopen ultimately is up to the states and the governors. And just as governors have handled the virus very differently thus far, we will continue to see very different plans to reopen the economy. This week New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said on CNN, “Our behavior has stopped the spread of the virus. God did not stop the spread of the virus. And what we do, how we act, will dictate how that virus spreads.” His comments drew criticism from many, including Franklin Graham, who wrote, “We continue to see answered prayer in our field hospital. Gov. Cuomo, I urge you — don’t dismiss the power of prayer and the ability of God to work in this crisis and in the ones we will face in the future. He is our hope, and we continue to pray for His mercy on our nation.” While some governors, like Gov. Cuomo, dismiss God, others such as Gov. Kim Reynolds of Iowa and Gov. Kristi Noem of South Dakota have called for prayer. The tension across the country is intensifying as leaders try to make decisions to protect the health of individuals while also limiting the damage to businesses. A recent report by JP Morgan found the average small business has only a cash buffer of 27 days, and the average for a restaurant is even less at just 16 days. While some local officials are beginning to loosen restrictions, New York City Mayor, Bill de Blaiso, is tightening up by urging New Yorkers to report anyone who is not following strict social distancing guidelines. The city has set up a hotline for people to report to the police any gatherings that don’t comply with social distancing guidelines. In the midst of all the guidelines, as believers we must remember to be set apart and show Christ’s love and grace to others as we all navigate these dramatic changes to our way of life. Colossians 3:12 says, “Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.”
Pray daily for your Governor, by name. Pray for your Governor to seek the Lord for wisdom as he or she makes decisions that will significantly impact you and your community (1 Timothy 2).
Governors and local officials are also making decisions regarding postponing elections. We are keeping up with all of those changes for you. Check out our latest list of state election updates here to see if your primary election is postponed.
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