WEEKLY NEWS SUMMARY - APRIL 7, 2021
In this week's Intersect, read about:
W.Va. Implements Nation's 'Most Expansive' School Choice Program by Helping Pay for Private, Homeschool
“School choice advocates are praising West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice for enacting the “most expansive education savings account policy” in the country after he signed a bill into law giving parents money to help pay for private or homeschool education if they opt to take their children out of public school. Justice signed House Bill 2013 into law Saturday. The bill established the Hope Scholarship Program, which will “provide the option for a parent to better meet the individual education needs of his or her child.” Under the Hope Scholarship Program, which will go into effect on July 1, 2022, eligible recipients can receive funding that is “equal to 100 percent of the prior year’s statewide average net share aid allotted per pupil based on net enrollment adjusted for state purposes.” According to the Charleston Gazette-Mail, House Bill 2013 will enable “families who withdraw their children from public schools” to “receive a currently-estimated $4,600 per-student, per-year (scholarship) for private- and home-schooling expenses.” The publication reported that “Parents could use the vouchers for a nearly unlimited list of educational expenses, including online education programs, tutoring, books and private schooling, whether religious or secular.”” read more at the Christian Post
The Kentucky legislature also passed a school choice bill last week, overriding Democrat Governor Andy Beshear’s previous veto. The law gives tax credits to eligible families who can use that money for their child’s education expenses, which can include private school tuition in large counties. It also requires school districts to implement open enrollment policies so that children are not restricted to the school that is closest to their house but can attend whichever school their parents choose. Most states allocate funding to public school districts based on enrollment numbers, but due to the pandemic, enrollment has sharply declined. According to the New York Times, at the end of December in Texas, enrollment was down in nearly every district. Michigan, which normally loses an average of 13,000 students each year, lost 62,000 students last fall. This has caused concern that public schools will be underfunded, and the students who attend them, especially low-income students, or students with disabilities, will suffer as a result. School choice legislation can help these students by enabling them to afford educational options that are best for them and their families. This short video by the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, explains how school choice works. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, households using home-based education jumped from 5.4% in the spring of 2020 to 11.1% in the fall. Many parents are happy to have greater control over the content and methods of their child’s education. Mike Donnelly of the Homeschool Legal Defense Association reported that the organization is receiving positive feedback from many parents of the approximately 6 million homeschooled children in the United States. Legislation like West Virginia’s new law can provide this opportunity for families who ordinarily would not be able to afford to homeschool or send their child to a private school.
Heavenly Father, we know You value children, and Jesus demonstrated His love for them. We know the evil one seeks to turn them away from You, and many of our children are taught, implicitly or explicitly, a worldview in our schools that is not Biblical. Help parents to be able to provide education for their children that adheres to Your truth. Let us be diligent to train our children up in the way they should go, according to the principle of Proverbs 22:6. In Jesus’ name, amen.
According to EdChoice, a national nonprofit organization that promotes state-based educational choice programs, Education Savings Accounts are the most popular and flexible form of school choice, and more than 20 states introduced ESA bills this legislative session. You can use their interactive map to find out what provisions your state has for education choice.
State Dept. Disbands Trump-era Commission that Heightened Importance of Religious Freedom
“Secretary of State Antony Blinken has formally dismissed the controversial Trump-era Commission on Unalienable Rights, which sought to elevate the promotion of religious freedom worldwide. Blinken, who vowed to promote LGBT rights worldwide during his confirmation hearings, only briefly alluded to religious persecution in a press conference unveiling the 45th State Department country reports on human rights practices last Tuesday. The annual human rights reports comprehensively cover internationally recognized individual, civil, political, and worker rights outlined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international agreements in nearly 200 countries and territories. In his remarks during the press conference, Blinken referred indirectly to former Secretary Mike Pompeo’s Commission on Unalienable Rights and dismissed the Trump-era commission, which was a panel of experts formed in 2019 who argued in a report last July that religious freedom and the right to property were more important human rights.” read more at The Christian Post
Former Secretary Pompeo’s Commission on Unalienable Rights was unveiled last July and the report was part of a broader Trump administration effort to restore the primacy of the values of America’s Founding Fathers. Pompeo had promoted the report in the hope it would serve as a guide for future administrations. But now, nearly all references to the commission’s report and Pompeo’s advocacy of it have been removed from the State Department’s website. Blinken also reversed a Trump administration decision to remove sections on reproductive rights from the State Department’s annual human rights reports on foreign countries. “Women’s rights — including sexual and reproductive rights — are human rights,” he said. The Biden administration has already repealed several Trump administration human rights decisions. Those have included re-engaging with the controversial U.N. Human Rights Council and abandoning the Geneva Consensus and Mexico City rule that opposes abortion and special LGBTQ protections as a matter of administration policy. One atrocity that both the Trump and Biden administrations stand against is what is characterized as “genocide” against Uyghur Muslims and other minorities in China’s western Xinjiang region. On Saturday, China announced sanctions against top USCIRF officials, after the U.S. and several other countries last week leveled sanctions against regional officials in Xinjiang. “The Chinese government’s baseless sanctions on U.S. and foreign government officials who advocate for human rights and religious freedom in China are an attempt to silence growing international criticism and scrutiny of its genocidal policies against Uyghur and other Turkic Muslims in Xinjiang,” stated Gayle Manchin, chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF). USCIRF is a bipartisan federal commission tasked with promoting international religious freedom, advocating for the release of prisoners of conscience, and condemning religious persecution around the world. The commission has been outspoken that China’s actions against the Uyghurs and other minorities in China’s northwest region of Xinjiang constitute genocide. Up to 1.8 million Uyghurs and other ethnic and religious minorities in Xinjiang have been detained in a system of mass internment camps. Detainees have reportedly been subject to indoctrination, torture, forced sterilizations, and forced labor. Outside the camps, officials have set up mass surveillance and predictive policing systems, restricting the movement of residents and cracking down on religious and cultural practices in the largely Muslim region. Uyghur women have also been subjected to forced contraception, sterilization, and abortion to the scale of drastically reducing the region’s birth rates.
Lord, we are living in an upside-down world. Abortion is called a “human right”, millions are being persecuted and killed, sexual freedom is valued more than biblical truth. But You see all--You see man's plans to deceive, twist, subvert and control. None of this takes you by surprise. We pray that evil would not flourish. Father, we pray for the Uyghur people in China, for their salvation and for help in the suffering they are experiencing at the hands of the Chinese government.
Why is Religious Freedom so important? As the late Chuck Colson said in 2009, “Christians, in fact, are the greatest defenders of religious freedom and human liberty—not just for Christians, but for all people. Compare religious freedom in those countries with a Christian heritage to the state of religious freedom in Islamic nations, communist countries, and Buddhist and Hindu nations, and you will see my point. The reason that Christians place such a high value on human freedom is that freedom itself is part of the creation account in the Bible.” Read his clarion call for the Church in this country to stand up for religious freedomhere.
U.S. Companies Face Boycott Threats, Mounting Pressure to Take Sides in America’s Voting Rights Battle
“U.S. corporations face growing pressure and threats of boycotts to publicly oppose Republican-backed election legislation in Georgia and other states that critics say harm the voting rights of Black Americans. The opposition intensified on Friday when Major League Baseball announced it would no longer hold the 2021 All-Star Game in Atlanta this summer, with commissioner Robert Manfred saying the league ‘fundamentally supports voting rights for all Americans and opposes restrictions to the ballot box.’ GOP Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp last week signed an election overhaul bill into law that adds new identification requirements for absentee voting while giving the state legislature increased oversight on how elections are run. The legislation prohibits third-party groups from giving food or water to voters who are waiting in line and places strict guidelines on the availability and location of ballot drop boxes. It also mandates two Saturdays of early voting leading up to general elections. Only one day was previously required. Civil rights groups and activists have pressured some of Georgia’s biggest corporations, including Delta Air Lines and Coca-Cola, to oppose the law. Coke and Delta did not vocally oppose the legislation prior to its passage, but their CEOs have since condemned the law.” read more at CNBC
President Joe Biden took aim at Georgia’s Republican-backed election reform bill. He called it “un-American,” saying it would make it harder for people, minorities in particular, to vote. During an interview with ESPN, Biden stated he would support a boycott of the Peach State by Major League Baseball. The MLB moved forward with the boycott and eliminated the potential of $100 million in lost tourism revenue from Cobb County. The All-Star game will now be held in Denver, Colorado. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott tweeted, “I was looking forward to throwing out the first pitch at the Texas Rangers' home opening game until @MLB adopted what has turned out to be a false narrative about Georgia's election law reforms. It is shameful that America's pastime is being influenced by partisan politics.” Corporate America was quick to put their stake in the ground. Nearly 200 companies released a joint statement saying, “There are hundreds of bills threatening to make voting more difficult in dozens of states nationwide,” executives wrote in the statement, which also included signatures from the CEOs of Under Armour, Salesforce, and ViacomCBS. “We call on elected leaders in every state capitol and in Congress to work across the aisle and ensure that every eligible American has the freedom to easily cast their ballot and participate fully in our democracy,” the statement said. However, most of the corporate criticism of the Georgia law shows a level of hyperbole since it came after the legislation was passed, despite weeks of callouts and demonstrations leading up to Gov. Brian Kemp’s signature on March 25. Georgia’s new election law is the first major state-level election law to pass after a volatile 2020 election. You can read the 98-page legislation here. At the state level, the left-leaning Brennan Center for Justice has tracked 361 bills in 2021 that they say would “restrict access to voting” in 47 states and 843 bills that would expand access. It is important to look beyond how the bills are framed and instead focus on the facts. States remain in charge of state and federal elections, but Georgia’s law already faces several legal challenges by critics. But is everyone missing the mark? Nate Cohn of the New York times says research shows election laws do not impact voters as much as headlines and political fights suggest. Rather, inspired voters vote; uninspired voters do not. As he states, “There’s nothing unusual about exaggeration in politics. But when it comes to the debate over voting rights, something more than exaggeration is going on. There’s a real — and bipartisan — misunderstanding about whether making it easier or harder to vote, especially by mail, has a significant effect on turnout or electoral outcomes. The evidence suggests it does not.” If this is true, then the most pressing consideration is how secure your vote is, not how convenient it is to vote.
Pray for a positive path forward for America and our elections. Pray for integrity, honesty, and God’s wisdom. Pray for transparency, for vigilance and caution, that truth and fairness would prevail over emotion and agendas.
The House of Representatives passed the For the People Act; it is anything BUT for the people and it would drastically overhaul election laws across the country. As Christians and Americans, we must unite to demand the Senate reject this legislation. We have already created the message for you. Simply add your information and hit “Send Email.” This is all it takes to make an impact by joining thousands of other Christians who are urging their Senators to vote NO on this detrimental legislation.
Warnock Deletes Tweet Claiming People Can Save Themselves, Easter Transcends Jesus' Resurrection
“Rev. Raphael Warnock, a Democratic U.S. senator from Georgia and pastor of Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, has removed a controversial Easter tweet stating that even non-Christians can save themselves by doing good. ‘The meaning of Easter is more transcendent than the resurrection of Jesus Christ,’ Warnock wrote on Twitter Easter Sunday. ‘Whether you are Christian or not, through a commitment to helping others we are able to save ourselves.’ After backlash, the tweet was removed from Warnock’s social media page. The tweet caused some to accuse the 51-year-old reverend who won a Senate runoff election in January and propel Democrats to the Senate majority of heresy. ‘Warnock deleted his heretical tweet,’ President Donald Trump’s former lawyer Jenna Ellis responded by tweeting. ‘He should delete Reverend in front of his name too.’” read more at the Christian Post
The Senator did take down the tweet, but he did not refute the message. One outcome of Senator Warnock’s tweet is the attention it inadvertently placed on the true meaning of Easter. Warnock said the meaning transcends the resurrection of Jesus. Many Christians and conservatives countered this false statement. “For Christians, there is no reality that is more transcendent than the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. The resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ from the dead is indeed the ground of our hope and the ground of our confidence and our salvation,” Albert Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, stated. How could the pastor of a church get the Gospel so wrong? “Our beliefs come in bunches,” writes John Stonestreet, president of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview. “A shift in theology will inevitably lead to a shift in ethics. And a shift in ethics will inevitably lead to a shift in theology. In other words, worldview matters.” During his run for U.S. Senate, Warnock described himself as a “pro-choice pastor”, rejecting Biblical teaching on the sanctity of unborn human life. His church is affiliated with the Progressive National Baptist Convention, and one of the church’s stated purposes is to “evangelize those who have not accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Liberator.” Liberation Theology can often tend to overshadow the gospel with social justice. The second part of Warnock’s tweet stated, “Whether you are Christian or not, through a commitment to helping others we are able to save ourselves.” Darrell B. Harrison, a California-based pastor stated, “This is what the heresy of liberation theology does — reduces the significance of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, to self-salvific moralism and thereby making ourselves God.” Ephesians 2:8-9 clearly defines salvation as being totally based on God’s grace, which is applied to anyone who places their faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Verse 10 places good works in their proper context--they spring from God’s work within us after salvation, not as a means to achieve salvation: “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
Father, we thank You that you so loved the world that You gave your only begotten Son, Jesus, that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life! (John 3:16) Help us to faithfully tell this simple message to those You place in our lives. Give Your church discernment and boldness to recognize and call out false prophets, who proclaim Your name without knowing You. (Matthew 7:15-23)
Another Gospel - A Lifelong Christian Seeks Truth in Response to Progressive Christianity, is a book by Alisa Childers, who recalls how her faith was deeply shaken by her progressive pastor. This is a helpful book for anyone who is seeking to understand what progressive Christianity is.
Sean McDowell’s review states, “Through the lens of her personal journey, Alisa Childers compares and contrasts the historic Christian gospel with the progressive ‘gospel.’ Nothing is more important than accurately grasping the Good News of Christ and responding to challenges against it, which is why I am grateful for her courage and clarity.”
My Faith Votes—is a nonpartisan movement that motivates, equips and activates Christians in America to vote in every election, transforming our communities and influencing our nation with biblical truth. By partnering with national faith leaders, My Faith Votes provides resources to help Christians Pray, Think, and Act to create an America where God is honored in the public square.