WEEKLY NEWS SUMMARY - JUNE 17, 2020
In this week's Intersect, read about:
Authorities Rule Atlanta Police Shooting a Homicide as More Footage Emerges
Riots broke out in Atlanta after an initially peaceful encounter turned deadly when police were called on a man who had passed out in his car at a Wendy’s drive-through in Atlanta, Georgia. Police interacted peacefully and cordially with 27-year-old Rayshard Brooks until the arresting officers attempted to put Brooks into handcuffs after he failed a series of sobriety tests. Brooks resisted, ultimately wrestling free from Officers Garrett Rolfe and Devin Brosnan. Brooks grabbed one of the officer’s taser guns and attempted to fire it at the officers as he was fleeing the scene. The death has been ruled a homicide after dramatic video showed the lead-up to the shooting as well as the shooting itself. Rolfe, who shot Brooks, has been fired. Brosnan was taken out of the field and put on administrative duty. Brooks’ wife Tomika Miller said he wasn’t dangerous. “I didn’t know I was going to wake up and my husband never coming home,” she explained. Protestors set fire to the Wendy’s and Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields resigned in the wake of the shooting. read more
The mayor of Atlanta, Keisha Lance Bottoms, has stated that she does not believe this was a justified use of deadly force. Interim Police Chief Rodney Bryant said in a statement, “I have faith in the mayor, and it is time for the city to move forward and build trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve." President Trump just signed an executive order on Tuesday geared toward encouraging better standards for police departments regarding the use of force and tactics for de-escalating a situation. In a roundtable discussion with faith leaders and law enforcement officials at Gateway Church in Dallas, TX last Thursday, the President stated, "We'll not be defunding police; if anything we are going the other route. We are going to make sure that our police are well trained, perfectly trained, they'll have the best equipment." He also stated, "Unfortunately, there are some trying to stoke division and to push an extreme agenda, which we won't go for, that will produce only more poverty, more crime, more suffering.” Ja-Ron Smith, a deputy assistant to President Trump, said that the order would also encourage creating more police-community relationships. Senate Republicans are also working on a police reform bill which emphasizes better training for officers and includes tracking potential police misconduct through a national database. Additionally, Senator Rand Paul has introduced a bill that would end no-knock warrants. Their use by police in Louisville, Kentucky, resulted in the death of Breonna Taylor in March. Senator Paul’s bill, called the Justice for Breonna Taylor Act, prohibits officers from searching a home without announcing their authority or purpose.
While there is debate over whether the Atlanta police officer was justified in shooting Rayshard Brooks, as Christians, we pray for comfort for his widow and children, and pray that they will be drawn to the Lord. In this fallen world, we also pray that the judges will administer impartial justice without being swayed by the emotions of the culture. (Deuteronomy 1:17) Please keep our Congress in your prayers as well. Pray that both parties would be able to come to an agreement to pass an appropriate reform bill.
Five important discussion points were brought up at the roundtable in Dallas with President Trump. We encourage you to read about them and consider what Christians in both the church and the government can do.
Supreme Court Redefines Sex in Federal Law
On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court unilaterally redefined “sex” in federal law to mean “sexual orientation” and “gender identity.” In Bostock v. Clayton County (2020), a 6-3 majority ruled that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity violates Title VII’s prohibition on sex discrimination. While a technical error has made the ruling inaccessible, the ruling represents an utter rejection of the original meaning of the term “sex” in federal law, twisting it to mean something Congress cannot have intended in 1964. Justice Neil Gorsuch, long considered an originalist, wrote the Court’s opinion, with which left-leaning Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan, and Sonia Sotomayor joined. Chief Justice John Roberts also joined Gorsuch’s opinion, while Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, and Brett Kavanaugh dissented. The following quote may be attributed to Alliance Defending Freedom Vice President of Appellate Advocacy John Bursch regarding the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling Monday in R.G.& G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission: “Civil rights laws that use the word ‘sex’ were put in place to protect equal opportunities for women. Allowing a court or government bureaucrats to redefine a term with such a clear and important meaning undermines those very opportunities—the ones the law was designed to protect.” Carrie Severino, President of the Judicial Crisis Network, also condemned the ruling. “Justice Scalia would be disappointed that his successor has bungled textualism so badly today, for the sake of appealing to college campuses and editorial boards. This was not judging, this was legislating—a brute force attack on our constitutional system,” she tweeted. read more
Robert Gagnon, a theology professor at Houston Baptist University, said this of the ruling: "Make no mistake about it. This is a hard SCOTUS body blow to the abdomen of the Church, with many further blows to come. Today's decision by SCOTUS defining ‘sex’ in Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act as including ‘sexual orientation’ and ‘gender identity’ is the gravest threat to the civil liberties of faithful Christians in the history of the Republic, overshadowing even Obergefell. The true Church will be tested by the State as never before. The State Inquisitor will bear down hard on us in every facet of our existence: Our education, our employment, our Christian institutions, our free speech, our free exercise, our privacy rights in public venues, and public accommodations for private spaces, and even our families. Many false believers will be exposed in the process." For additional background about this case, read the My Faith Votes SCOTUS Watch summary on R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes, Inc. v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. It’s safe to say conservatives and Christians across the nation are in shock over this ruling. As Justices Alito, Kavanaugh, and Thomas all communicated with their dissenting votes and opinions, six justices on the bench acted as lawmakers rather than judges. Justice Kavanaugh wrote, “We are judges, not members of Congress.” He continued, "Instead of a hard-earned victory won through the democratic process, today’s victory is brought about by judicial dictate – judges latching on to a novel form of living literalism to rewrite ordinary meaning and remake American law," he wrote. "Under the Constitution and laws of the United States, this court is the wrong body to change American law in that way." Justice Alito wrote, "The question in these cases is not whether discrimination because of sexual orientation or gender identity should be outlawed," Alito said. "The question is whether Congress did that in 1964. It indisputably did not." You can read the entire ruling here. This decision reminds Christians once again, that religious freedom is under attack, and now, more than ever before, Christians must be engaged. While we stand for God’s truth in the public square, we must also remember Hebrews 10:23, “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.” Despite the disappointing news from the Supreme Court, we are thankful for the Trump administration’s recent announcement to do away with Obama’s federal regulation requiring healthcare providers and insurers to perform gender-transition procedures and abortions against their medical judgment or religious convictions.
Pray for religious liberty law groups such as Alliance Defending Freedom, who fought this case at the Supreme Court, and others including First Liberty Institute, Liberty Counsel, ACLJ and Pacific Justice Institute working tirelessly to defend constitutional freedoms and protect against encroachments on religious liberty in America. Pray for God to give them renewed focus and wisdom. And pray for Christians and church leaders across the country to hold firm to the immovable, never-changing Word of God. Pray that we would not be swayed by culture, but instead would be transformed every day more into the likeness of our Lord Jesus Christ.
We encourage you to read this informative and important article, SCOTUS Routs Conservatives, Again, to better understand this ruling and how it impacts employment by religious organizations, schools and colleges, women’s sports, housing, healthcare, and so much more.
'Clear Bias': Despite Massive NYC Protests, Police Hand-Pick 2 Pro-Lifers to Arrest Near Planned Parenthood
The irony apparently was lost on authorities when two days into the massive protests in New York City against the police killing of George Floyd, they took into custody two lone black women protesting abortion in front of the Margaret Sanger Planned Parenthood facility in Manhattan. The women say they were standing - legally - on a public sidewalk, and not blocking entrance to the abortion clinic, a fact confirmed by video showing employees entering the building. But pro-life advocates Bevelyn Beatty and Edmee Chavannes, co-founders of At the Well Ministries, were handcuffed and taken away in a police cruiser, even as they prayed and sought to engage with people entering the building. According to Live Action News, police told Beatty and Chavannes that they had to leave because they were violating COVID-19 social distancing guidelines, in place through executive orders from New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. "This is a clear statement of their bias now. It's blatant now," Beatty told Fox News, noting the thousands crowded together during Floyd protests. "It's really truly biased against Christians, against pro-life abolitionists." Beatty expressed her concern to Live Action News that while she is being arrested for standing up for the lives of babies and women, looters are currently getting away with stealing. Even as Christians across the country have marched with protesters and stood in solidarity against the murder of George Floyd, she believes there is an opportunity right now for the Church to "wake up" and realize that abortion is "a biblical issue," and the Church needs to take a stand for life in the womb as well. read more
Bevelyn and Edmee were later released. In her interview, Bevelyn went on to say that even though they are black women, they do not support the BLM movement because they are in league with Planned Parenthood. "They're fraudulent hypocrites... and I believe all lives matter because God created them. There are thousands of George Floyds that die every day in their mother's womb and it's just as injust as when he died at the hands of that police officer." Ryan Bomberger, the founder of the Radiance Foundation, a pro-life advocacy group, holds the same view. In his bold article entitled, Top Ten Reasons I’ll Never Support The #BlackLivesMatter Movement, he lists the organization’s support for abortion as reason number ten. Today, 28% of all black pregnancies end in induced abortion and it has long been known that Planned Parenthood targets the black community. Right now, it’s culturally acceptable to speak out against racial injustice, but not against abortion. As Christians, we must be consistent and always stand for what is right, even when the culture does not approve. Let us keep in mind the command the Lord gave to Isaiah in a time of national distress for Israel: “Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread. But the LORD of hosts, him you shall honor as holy.” (Isaiah 8:12-13) As we expose the “fruitless deeds of darkness” (Ephesians 5:11), let’s continue to point to Jesus as the only one who can save us from our sin (including racism and murder) because he died the death we deserve. In the same spot where George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis, great ministry is happening, and once-desperate people are turning to Jesus. You can read an encouraging account about three lives transformed by the gospel here.
Pray that women who are considering aborting their babies would instead place their hope in Jesus and choose life during these tumultuous times, where we have seen so much death. Pray that pro-life ministries and pregnancy resource centers would be able to reach out to many women in need of support.
We encourage you to visit the Radiance Foundation and see the transformative work they are doing. Also, consider checking out their new podcast, Life Has Purpose, which tackles relevant issues from a Biblical perspective.
Megachurch Given the Boot by City, Just Because Pastor ‘Liked’ Some Conservative Tweets
The ministry of a Birmingham, Alabama megachurch has been brought to a screeching halt in parts of the city after one complaint. It all started when one woman complained about Pastor Chris Hodges “liking” conservative tweets, including one that featured President Donald Trump. She said it was “culturally insensitive” and “troubling.” “I’m not saying he’s a racist. I’m saying he likes someone who posts things that do not seem culturally sensitive to me,” local English teacher Jasmine Faith Clisby told the media. One of the posts she found offensive was a meme with a photo with Donald Trump standing alongside Muhammad Ali and Rosa Parks back in the 1980’s. The meme questioned those who accuse Trump of racism. Then Clisby shared her concerns with the press. Now the Church of the Highlands, a multi-racial church of 60,000 people, has been blocked from holding church services at two local high schools. City leaders revoked Church of the Highland’s lease of school property and even canceled the church’s volunteer work in the community which included a health clinic, mentoring, tutoring and more. read more
Pastor Chris Hodges apologized for his twitter likes but that was not enough for the city. One tweet caused the city to disregard all the humanitarian work the church does in the community, even disregarding the fact that at least a third of the congregation at Highlands are black and Hispanic. Unfortunately, Birmingham, Alabama, is not the only city that appears to be making very irrational decisions. In New York City, Mayor de Blasio continues to target gatherings of Jews while protecting black lives matter protesters. He has welded shut parks in predominantly Jewish neighborhoods while ordering contact tracers in New York not to question protesters. In Boston, Massachusetts, the mayor is considering removing a statue of Abraham Lincoln and a freed slave. The statue depicts Lincoln standing with his hand above an unshackled free black man with the inscription “a race set free.” Many people believe the statue is intended to be a tribute to Lincoln’s policies, and the fight for blacks' freedom. However, some believe the statue is derogatory because Lincoln is standing above the slave. Also in Boston, the Shaw Memorial, a monument honoring the first black all-volunteer regiment of the Union Army in the Civil War was defaced by rioters. And the current “cancel culture” seems to be leaving no stone unturned, even targeting LEGO, cartoons, movies, and more. Proverbs 18:2 says, “A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.” There is no doubt about it, we should fight injustice, but we are also to walk in kindness and humility. As Micah 6:8 says, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”
Pray for Pastor Chris Hodges and his church. Pray that God would continue to give him wisdom as he leads his congregation. And pray for God to provide new meeting locations for them and open doors to continue serving the community despite the city’s decision. Pray for Christians across the country to heed the words of James 1, being quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry and not merely listening to the word but doing what it says.
This has been a very difficult time for churches, and particularly church leaders. Consider writing a note of encouragement to your pastor or church leaders. Encourage them to remain strong in the Lord and thank them for their faithful leadership in your church and community.
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.