WEEKLY NEWS SUMMARY - MARCH 11, 2020
In this week's Intersect, read about:
Virginia Bans Sexual Orientation Conversion Therapy for Youth with Unwanted Same-Sex Attraction
Virginia has become the latest state in the U.S. to ban sexual orientation conversion therapy for minors. Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam signed House Bill 386 into law on Tuesday, which bars healthcare providers and counselors from counseling youth to treat unwanted same-sex attraction. “Conversion therapy sends the harmful message that there is something wrong with who you are,” said Northam in a statement. “This discriminatory practice has been widely discredited in studies and can have lasting effects on our youth, putting them at a greater risk of depression and suicide.” Introduced by Democratic Delegate Patrick Hope in February, HB 386 passed the House of Delegates in a vote of 66 to 27 and then the Senate in a vote of 22 to 18. The Family Foundation of Virginia denounced HB 386 and its companion legislation, Senate Bill 245, as one of the “worst bills” being considered by the General Assembly. “HB 386 and SB 245 prohibit counselors to counsel a minor in a way that would encourage them toward their biological sex,” stated the foundation. “Referrals for ‘conversion therapy’ are also prohibited under state law and could affect state grants toward entities who refer. There is no religious exemption.” Also called sexual orientation change efforts therapy or "reparative therapy," the process involves counseling efforts to change a person's sexual orientation from homosexual to heterosexual. read more
Under this new bill, a teenager seeking conversion counseling from a therapist because they are experiencing unwanted same-sex attraction will be turned away. Why? Because despite the evidence that people’s attractions can and do change, the counselor would not be allowed to help that teenager overcome their same-sex attractions, even if that is the teenager’s desire. And since the Virginia bill does not provide a religious exemption, that means a Christian counselor who believes in God’s design for marriage and gender would be forced to violate their conscience by affirming the teenager’s same-sex attractions, or else decline to counsel them. The same would be true for a teenager who is uncomfortable with their biological sex. When the idea that “you are what you feel” becomes a law, it ends up wreaking havoc on the lives of countless children and teens, and muzzles those who would speak the truth to help them. In other news, a middle school in Minnesota has become a center of controversy for hanging the LGBT rainbow flag in the cafeteria alongside the U.S. flag and other international flags. A student petition opposing the flag’s display was denied by administrators, and the Thomas More Society is considering legal action against the school. On a more encouraging note, the Arizona State House passed a bill that would ban transgender athletes who are biological males from competing in women’s sports in schools. And a Georgia state legislator introduced a much-needed bill that would ban physicians from performing transgender surgeries on children, as well as administering hormones and puberty blockers.
As our culture celebrates a broken view of sexuality as “freedom”, pray that we as Christians would be filled with boldness and love to point people to the true freedom found in following Jesus, and His design for our bodies (Matthew 19:4-6).
Caleb Backholm, one of our contributors, has written an article explaining a dangerous sex-education bill recently passed in the Washington State legislature and expected to be signed by the Governor. It’s important for us to be alert to such bills in our own states, and to what is already being taught in our schools.
St. Paul, MN to Celebrate ‘Abortion Providers Appreciation Day’
The St. Paul City Council’s unanimous approval of a resolution to recognize March 10 as “Abortion Providers Appreciation Day” in the city has been described as “indicative of the moral decline occurring in Minnesota and across our country.” After the City Council approved the resolution on a 7-0 vote, Sen. Mark Johnson, from R-East Grand Forks, said he was “saddened.” “Movements like this are indicative of the moral decline occurring in Minnesota and across our country,” Johnson said, according to The Minnesota Sun. “As a father of three, I understand the sanctity of life and the joy that children bring to this world.” Johnson added that instead of celebrating abortion providers and “their destructive habits,” there’s a need to “celebrate life and our local organizations who are on the front lines protecting women’s and children’s health.” Abortion Providers Appreciation Day seeks to recognize abortion provider Dr. David Gunn, who was shot and killed on March 10, 1993, according to the resolution, which states, “To honor his memory, March 10 has since been established as a day to show appreciation for the high-quality care that abortion providers and clinic staff provide, and to celebrate their courage, compassion, and dedication to their work.” read more
St. Paul’s “Twin City,” Minneapolis, joined the proclamation. Romans 1:32, speaking about those who practice evil, including murder, says, “They not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.” What happened in St. Paul and Minneapolis is a heart-breaking example of this. Romans 1 also says that when people reject God’s truth, their thinking becomes futile. This is what enables them to call the murder of an innocent human life, “high-quality care”. What a great need there is for Christians to occupy public roles where they will “open their mouth for the speechless, in the cause of all who are appointed to die.” (Proverbs 31:8)! In other pro-life news at the city level, Spokane, Washington, passed an ordinance last week allowing police to cite pro-lifers for noise violations who regularly gather outside a Planned Parenthood facility to sing and pray. One such group is The Church at Planned Parenthood, which conducts a monthly church service outside the abortion facility which includes singing, and prayer for an end to abortion. You can read the My Faith Votes article on this church here. The city council asked that the pro-lifers keep the noise down “to a reasonable level”. However, one council member opposed the ordinance, arguing that noise is subjective. The ordinance also gives the abortion facility the right to sue the pro-lifers if it determines that they are too loud. Meanwhile in New Jersey, the Paterson City Council unanimously approved the first step in an ordinance to exempt Muslim mosques from receiving a noise summons for broadcasting the daily call to prayer over outside loudspeakers. The measure still has to go through two public hearings before being implemented. These stories remind us that elections have consequences - even at the city level. It’s easy to focus on national elections and forget that our vote matters at the local level and carries with it tremendous power to impact our communities.
Pray for the St. Paul city council members, that their consciences would be convicted, causing them to repent and receive the forgiveness offered through Jesus Christ. Pray for wisdom and boldness for pro-lifers who graciously continue to pray for women and their babies outside of abortion facilities.
In a 2016 study by Portland State University, researchers found that municipal election turnout in 10 of America’s 30 largest cities was lower than 15 percent of registered voters. The spiritual darkness in our culture extends all the way to the most local levels of government. If we are serious about being salt and light in every part of our culture, we must vote in our city council and school board elections, and encourage fellow believers to do the same. Visit Ballotpedia to see their helpful list of the 2020 municipal elections and dates for certain cities.
High School Football Coach Fired for Praying After Games Loses in Federal Court
A football coach from Washington state who was fired in 2015 for praying with players on the field has lost yet another court battle. Joe Kennedy, former head coach for the Bremerton High School football team, was suspended from his job several years ago after he refused to stop kneeling with some of his athletes for prayer sessions at the 50-yard line, a gesture he’d performed since 2008, according to a report from The Christian Post. Over the years, Kennedy has received quite a bit of support, including from people like well-known retired football coach Bobby Bowden. Nevertheless, on Thursday, Judge Ronald Leighton in Tacoma, Washington, awarded summary judgment to the Bremerton School District, preempting a legal campaign by Kennedy, who has argued he is the victim of religious discrimination. “We are disappointed in this decision, but we are undeterred in our mission to obtain justice for Coach Kennedy,” said Mike Berry, general counsel for First Liberty Institute, the organization defending the former high school coach. “For almost five long years, Joe has had to miss coaching the game he loves. Joe has fought — first as a U.S. Marine, then as a coach — to prove that every American has the right to engage in individual religious expression, including praying in public, without fear of getting fired. He knows this fight isn’t over.” read more
First Liberty Institute stated that they plan to appeal Coach Kennedy’s case to the Supreme Court. President Trump has also expressed support for the coach. Kennedy joined the President in the Oval Office in January as he announced new actions to protect religious freedom in the schools, particularly the right to pray. The U.S. Department of Education is sending letters to officials in all 50 states to ensure that the constitutional rights of students and teachers will be protected. Private prayer by a school employee is not the same thing as the government establishment of religion. Coach Kennedy’s prayers started out as silent prayers alone and later were voluntarily joined by several players, including members of the rival team. Kennedy would encourage them, and then briefly pray and give thanks for them. This video by The Daily Signal highlights the positive impact this had on the players, at a time when our students desperately need it. No matter what government decides regarding prayer, scripture should inform when and where Christians pray. We read in Daniel 6:10-28 that he prayed to God three times a day even after he heard about a decree that would punish prayer by being thrown into the lions’ den. We thank God that we live in a nation governed by the Constitution and that the First Amendment protects Americans’ religious freedom. It’s up to us to protect and defend that right by electing leaders who uphold the Constitution and appoint judges who do the same.
Pray for encouragement and endurance for Coach Joe Kennedy as he continues his long legal battle, and for wisdom for his legal team at First Liberty Institute.
Watch this brief video as Coach Kennedy’s lawyer explains the importance of his case for every Christian who is a public employee.
What is the 'Christian Response' to the Coronavirus? Pastors Urge Faith Over Fear
With fear of the coronavirus outbreak on a global scale, many are turning to faith leaders to see how they respond. Several megachurch pastors around the world tackled the new virus in their sermons and through services, encouraging washing of hands and disinfecting common areas while cutting back on communal contact during greetings, communion, and offering times. Joseph Prince, pastor of New Creation Church (NCC) in Singapore, told Fox News believers should respond to the new virus with "both faith and wisdom." Greg Laurie, pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship, which has congregations in multiple locations in California and in Hawaii, said, "In some ways the viral fear may be worse than the virus itself." He said Christians should be practical, prayerful, and proclaim Christ's peace in an atmosphere of fear. "Don't worry about it, pray about it," Laurie told his church in a clip posted on Instagram. "God is bigger than the coronavirus. Don't be afraid." From the Catholic Church in Rome to smaller churches throughout the United States, many congregations have gone online, swapped hugs and handshakes for other types of greetings, and stopped serving Communion and passing offering plates to prevent the spread of the virus. read more
On Monday, stock markets experienced one of the steepest hits since 2008, yet after President Trump’s address to the nation promising substantial economic relief for the areas of the economy most affected by the virus, the market rallied. The Dow Jones Industrial Average added over 1,167 points, the third-best gain on record. Businesses and state governments continue to respond to the virus. New York announced New Rochelle as a “containment zone.” For the next two weeks, all public gathering places such as schools and businesses will be closed while officials sanitize and attempt to contain the virus. So far, there have been 19 Coronavirus cases in the New Rochelle area. New York Governor Cuomo also ordered the National Guard to assist in the sanitation efforts. Pastor Greg Laurie encourages Christians to do three simple things: 1. Be Practical about hygiene habits, 2. Pray for God’s protection over the nation, and 3. Proclaim the Gospel. Laurie says, “Listen to the medical experts and take appropriate measures (Wash your hands, etc.) But we need to replace our fear with faith and pray for our nation, that God would protect us.” As Christians, we must remind ourselves of the hope we have in the Gospel. 1 Corinthians 15:55-57 reads, “‘O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Ask the Lord to give you opportunities to share God’s peace with people in the midst of the panic. And pray for your own faith to be strengthened so that you would be a bold ambassador of Christ’s love. Pray that our Father will redeem this present-day crisis for His eternal purposes and our eternal good.
Our friend Pastor Todd Wagner of Watermark Church wrote a very practical article on how Christians should approach the Coronavirus from a biblical perspective. We encourage you to take a few minutes to read this article here.
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.