WEEKLY NEWS SUMMARY - FEBRUARY 10, 2021
In this week's Intersect, read about:
Supreme Court Strikes Down California Indoor Worship Ban
“A divided Supreme Court late Friday set aside California’s COVID-19 restrictions banning indoor worship in most of the state. The decision brought to an end a rule that closed churches but allowed retail stores, hair salons, nail salons, and Hollywood studios to open. In a pair of late-evening orders in the cases of two Southern California churches—South Bay United Pentecostal in the San Diego area and Harvest Rock in Pasadena—the court’s six conservative justices united in striking down the ban on indoor meetings but allowed California to impose a 25 percent capacity restriction on places of worship. The justices declined to overrule California’s bar on singing and chanting in services. But they indicated the churches involved could present new evidence that the state was not applying the remaining restrictions in a fair manner. Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch said they would have gone further and completely nixed the limits on indoor worship, singing, and chanting.” read more at World News Group
Why wasn’t the ban on singing overruled? Justice Amy Barrett explained that the churches who brought the lawsuit did not clearly show whether or not California was applying that ban to worship services only, and thus unfairly discriminating against churches. She states, “Of course, if a chorister can sing in a Hollywood studio but not in her church, California’s regulations cannot be viewed as neutral. But the record is uncertain.” Since the justices left the door open for churches to bring another lawsuit demonstrating the state’s discrimination, however, it is possible that the ban on singing could be overturned in the future. Justice Neil Gorsuch stated, “Regulations like these violate the First Amendment unless the State can show they are the least restrictive means of achieving a compelling government interest…In my view, the State must do more to tailor the requirements of public health to the rights of its people.” In Denmark, the parliament is considering a disturbing law that would require all houses of worship to translate their sermons into Danish and submit them to the government for review. The proposed law was aimed at determining whether any of the numerous mosques in the country, which mostly preach their sermons in Arabic, are advocating radical Islamic extremism. However, the law would apply to churches as well. This is another example of a government using a compelling interest (public safety) to justify infringing upon the freedom of speech and religion in an unnecessarily intrusive way.” In a democratic society, I would hope the government would strive for better cooperation with religious organizations than hastily resorting to legislation interfering with their freedoms...my real concern is that if the Danes do it other countries may copy. That would be a very worrying development indeed,” wrote Robert Innes, Bishop of the Church of England. What is so concerning about the government knowing what churches are preaching? After all, Christians have nothing to hide. It might be helpful to look at Victoria, a state in Australia, which just passed what is called “the biggest attack on religious freedom” in the country’s history. According to the Australian Christian Lobby, the law effectively criminalizes sermons that teach the Bible’s view of gender and sexuality, since they may induce a person to “change or suppress their sexual orientation or gender identity.” How would the government know what is being preached in any given church? Going back to the proposed Denmark bill, if churches are required to submit their sermon transcripts, the government would have access to every teaching. What if, in the future, they decide that biblical teachings they don’t agree with constitute a public safety threat? Whether in California, Denmark, or Australia, the government has decided it has good reason to control religious activity. However, God is still sovereign, and He will not be thwarted in His purposes. As an encouraging example, Wycliffe Associates, a Bible translation organization, reported that more Bible translations were completed by them in 2020 than in any previous year! The New Testament was translated into 141 languages, and the Old Testament into eight. Despite all opposition, more people will be able to read God’s Word in their heart language. Tim Neu, Interim President and CEO of Wycliffe Associates, reflected: "I've been humbled to see how believers in difficult areas, some in places of intense persecution and real danger, have been absolutely unwavering in their dedication to the cause." May we also be dedicated to the cause God has placed before us, despite all opposition.
“Sovereign Lord, who made the heavens and the earth and the sea and everything in them, who through the mouth of our father David, your servant, said by the Holy Spirit, ‘Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers were gathered together, against the Lord and against his Anointed’...Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” (Acts 4:24-30)
Martin Iles of the Australian Christian Lobby has sound advice for Christians facing attacks on their freedom to speak the truth. We encourage you to take 11 minutes and watch his video on Facebook. Then share it with a friend who could also use some encouragement to ‘Dare to be a Daniel.’
House Dems Revive 'For The People Act' Aimed at 'Voter Suppression,' 'Dark Money,' and Gerrymandering
“House Democrats are engaged in a new push to pass comprehensive legislation this month they say is aimed at strengthening voting rights, fighting voter suppression and gerrymandering, and restricting the use of ‘dark money’ in federal politics. Republicans, however, have said during previous attempts to bring the legislation to a vote that it would give the federal government even more power in deciding the people's representation. House Resolution 1, or the ‘For The People Act’, is sponsored by Rep. John Sarbanes, D-Md., and co-sponsored by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif.” read more at Fox News
Voter turnout in 2020 was the highest in a presidential election in more than 120 years with 66.2% of eligible voters casting a vote. Yet legitimate concerns exist about the fairness and accuracy of our elections. Called the “For the People Act,” the legislation may only make things worse. It would create a federal takeover of elections and force changes to election laws that could allow for greater fraud and election tampering. A top legislative priority for House Speaker Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Schumer, House version (H.R.1), which is more than 800 pages long, and the Senate version (S.1) would supersede state legislatures’ constitutional right to set election procedures. If passed, the “For the People Act” would require states to automatically register voters and offer same-day voter registration, even on Election Day, it would require states to offer early voting at least 15 days prior to the election, it would expand mail-in voting, eliminate rules requiring witness signatures and signature verification on mail-in ballots, require states to offer online voter registration, prevent states from “cleaning” voter rolls, prohibit prosecution of ineligible voters for being “mistakenly registered,” and allow felons to vote. The legislation would also require nonprofits to disclose to the federal government the names of financial donors – which would then make the names available to the public and searchable on government websites, and the donors themselves potential targets of intimidation. H.R. 1 was introduced in 2019 as the first big piece of policy put forward by the then-new Democratic majority. For the most part, the bill is today what it was two years ago. The Heritage Foundation has a helpful analysis here. The sweeping bill is supported by a broad coalition of over 170 progressive groups under the banner of the Declaration for American Democracy which states, “The For the People Act is the boldest democracy reform since Watergate. It’s a massive overhaul of voting, money-in-politics, and ethics laws — all to make our democracy more inclusive.” But even their language brings up the democracy vs. constitutional republic debate. There is a difference and the difference is profound. The Founding Fathers went to great lengths to ensure that we were a republic and not a democracy. As citizens, we must be aware, concerned, and engaged in our political process and active in understanding what our representatives are working to legislate on our behalf.
Lord, even though it seems like our political situation is getting worse, help us to be the men and women of valor that stand out on faith, and continue to pray even in the midst of a storm. I pray for an awakening of Your people and that You grant us wisdom and discernment to see how to play our part in our government and to be engaged and informed. Holy Spirit, move across this land and may we turn back to You.
The American Family Association has created a way for you to reach out to your Representatives and Senators and send them a message regarding the “For the People Act” that will be voted on soon. Send them a message
Texas has now Officially Defunded Planned Parenthood Entirely
“After a five-year legal battle between Texas and Planned Parenthood, the state's November court victory allowing it to cease funding the abortion giant through Medicaid went into effect on Wednesday. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the state after the Texas Office of the Inspector General (OIG) learned that Planned Parenthood violated federal regulations when it altered abortion procedures to harvest baby body parts. Planned Parenthood facilities in Texas received about $3.1 million in taxpayer funding from Medicaid annually, and the abortion organization argued that eliminating the funding would hurt Texas women seeking basic health care. Abortion remains a billion-dollar industry for Planned Parenthood nationwide.” read more at DISRN
According to Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, “Undercover video plainly showed Planned Parenthood admitting to morally bankrupt and unlawful conduct, including violations of federal law by manipulating the timing and methods of abortions to obtain fetal tissue for their own research. Planned Parenthood is not a ‘qualified’ provider under the Medicaid Act, and it should not receive public funding through the Medicaid program.” This is an encouraging development in the state-level fight for the sanctity of life. On the federal level, 48 Republican Senators signed a letter to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, pledging their commitment to block any radical, pro-abortion bills. “We are united in our resolve to guard against any changes to Federal law that would unsettle nearly half a century of bipartisan consensus against taxpayer funding for abortion on demand, or otherwise threaten the lives of unborn children,” the letter states. It also pledges to support the Hyde Amendment, which is an amendment added to the annual budget that prohibits federal funding of abortion. It has recently come under attack as President Biden has promised to support its repeal. Last Thursday, a budget amendment requiring equal protection and care for babies who survive an abortion attempt failed to gain the necessary votes to be included in the bill. Senator Ben Sasse (R, NE), who introduced the amendment, stated, “Protecting newborns ought to be the easiest thing in the world. Every baby deserves care. This isn’t about abortion, it’s about human rights.” Speaking of human rights, the Biden administration announced its decision to put the U.S. back on the UN Human Rights Council. The United States withdrew from the Council under President Trump in 2018, when former Ambassador Nikki Haley called it “a protector of human rights abusers, and a cesspool of political bias.” Despite its name, the Council has previously criticized Ireland’s pro-life laws, and advocated for abortion under the guise of “sexual and reproductive health rights.” It apparently does not view protecting the unborn to be a matter of human rights. Such hypocrisy was sadly mirrored here last week at the National Prayer Breakfast. In his remarks during the virtual event, President Biden said that faith “shows the way forward as one nation in a common purpose. To respect one another, to care for one another, to leave no one behind.” It can be startling to see an administration which attacks the rights of the unborn speak positively about matters of faith. But 1 Corinthians 10:12 warns us: “Therefore let the one who thinks he stands watch out that he does not fall.” It is easy to point out the hypocrisy in others, but are we walking consistently with the faith we preach?
Lord, we grieve at the fact that many who claim to follow You do not stand for the right to life that You have given to every human being, born and unborn. Search our hearts, Lord, and reveal any areas of hypocrisy in our own lives that could bring dishonor to your name. Help us to be faithful to Your command to care for the vulnerable among us, which includes unborn babies and their mothers. Let our words and actions reflect the self-sacrificial love You have shown us.
We recently had the opportunity to talk with Seth Gruber, a compelling and passionate voice for the unborn, who is focused on equipping Christians and pro-life advocates to make a gracious, winsome, and persuasive case of their pro-life beliefs in the public square. Buckle up for a jam-packed conversation. It will inform as well as challenge you to do all you can to stand for the lives of the unborn, especially in a secular culture where surrender cannot be an option. You can watch this video on our website.
US Senate Approves Amendment to Keep Embassy in Jerusalem
“The United States Senate voted 97-3 to support an amendment to the COVID-19 budget resolution that affirmed the country’s intention to keep its embassy in Jerusalem. It was put forward by Republican Senators Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma and Bill Hagerty of Tennessee. Inhofe tweeted that the amendment “would make the US Embassy in Jerusalem permanent, effectively preventing it from being downgraded or moved. It’s an important message that we acknowledge Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.” On the Senate floor Inhofe, said that the “amendment should not be controversial to anyone. It has been our position in the US for 25 years. Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and we should have our embassy in Jerusalem.” He referenced past Senate votes to place the US Embassy in Jerusalem: “In 1995 the same amendment was 93-5. In 2017 it was 90-0.” Hagerty said that Jerusalem was “the eternal and indivisible capital of the Jewish state of Israel.” He added that, ‘establishing this embassy is paving the way for peace across the region and should be preserved. Now our allies there know we will stand with them.’” read more at The Jerusalem Post
In his book Well Versed--Biblical Answers to Today’s Tough Issues, Jim Garlow observes the uniqueness of Jerusalem in God’s plan for history. “Israel is where the Messiah came. To Israel is where He will return. In Israel is where He will set up His Kingdom, not in New York City, London, or Paris; it will be in Jerusalem.” How will the new administration relate to Israel? New Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, has expressed agreement with many of Trump’s foreign policy initiatives such as the Abraham Accords, the normalization of relations between Israel and several Muslim countries. Blinken is Jewish and is the stepson of a Holocaust survivor. You can learn more about the new Secretary of State and how he will relate to Israel and the Middle East. Regarding President Biden, the fact that he has not called Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yet is not indicative of a rupture in the US-Israel relationship, Netanyahu said on Monday. Biden is “calling according to the order that he sees fit…He hasn’t reached the Middle East yet,” the prime minister added Netanyahu said he has “no doubt our alliance is strong. It doesn’t mean we agree on everything, but the alliance is strong and so is our friendship of almost 40 years.” Biden has spoken to eight leaders of countries around the world since his January 20 inauguration, none of which are in the Middle East. We are thankful for the Senate’s vote on the US Embassy in Jerusalem amid a busy and historic week. Last night, the Senate voted 56-44 to move ahead with the unprecedented impeachment trial of former President Trump after listening to nearly four hours of arguments on whether it is constitutional to try a president who is already out of office. The six Republicans who joined with the Democrats on voting to continue the trial were Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Mitt Romney of Utah, Ben Sasse of Nebraska, and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania. The trial begins today.
Father, we stand firm on Your promises and ask You to bless and flourish any progress made in favor of Your people in Israel. Block any efforts to undo what You have blessed. We pray You protect and strengthen the bonds between Israel and the United States. Father may Your sovereignty and power be on display during the impeachment trial. May truth prevail over emotion.
The Joshua Fund is an organization established to mobilize Christians to “bless Israel and her neighbors in the name of Jesus,” according to Genesis 12:1-3. Founded by Joel Rosenberg (bestselling author & Middle East expert) and his wife, Lynn, learn more about the four specific areas you can be involved through learning, praying, giving, and going. Watch for our upcoming interview with Joel in March.
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.