WEEKLY NEWS SUMMARY - MARCH 31, 2021
In this week's Intersect, read about:
The Biden Administration is Developing a National Coronavirus 'Vaccine-Passport' Program for Americans
“The Biden administration is working on a vaccine-passport program that would allow people to prove they have received a coronavirus vaccination before entering venues that have been closed during the pandemic, such as offices or movie theatres, The Washington Post and CNN reported. Five officials, who spoke anonymously, told The Post that the White House is pushing efforts by federal agencies and private companies to develop the program. Vaccine passports have been widely touted around the world as a way for commerce to start returning to normal while reducing the risk of COVID-19 outbreaks. They could be required for entry to sports arenas, music venues, or restaurants, or to travel internationally. The passports will likely take the form of a scannable code displayed on smartphones, private developers told The Post, while users without smartphones will be able to print codes onto paper.” read more at Business Insider
New York state became the first state in the nation to roll out a vaccine passport last week. Called the “Excelsior Pass,” the technology, developed with IBM, will be used at entrances to stadiums, arenas, and businesses as digital proof the holder has received a COVID-19 vaccine or has negative test results. Officials compared the application to a mobile airline boarding pass. Around the world, Israel, Denmark, the EU, and others are already implementing such “passports.” But what is the line between public safety and personal privacy? In the past, vaccination records have been largely kept private with your doctor, with only some states keeping immunization registries. Given the sensitive health-related data at play, launching any digital service raises questions around privacy and data protection as well as what it could lead to for future requirements. In a recent article entitled “The Health Passport — A Green Light for Tyranny?”, the author notes how a digital health passport is already being used in China where citizens also have a “social credit status” based on their purchase habits, financial record, and social behavior. Good behavior earns points and bad behavior knocks points off. In 2018, millions of people in China were denied airline and train tickets due to low social credit scores. Employers may deny jobs based on low scores as well. Former Clinton adviser Naomi Wolf said that a mandatory COVID-19 vaccine passport would be the “end of human liberty in the West if this plan unfolds as planned.” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis vowed to take executive action this week banning “vaccine passports.” He stated, “It’s completely unacceptable for either the government or the private sector to impose upon you the requirement that you show proof of vaccine to just simply participate in normal society.” DeSantis said he believes people “have certain freedoms and individual liberties” to decide whether to get the vaccine and conveyed concerns about privacy if such a program was launched. “You’re going to do this and what, give all this information to some big corporation?” the governor said. “You want the fox to guard the henhouse? I mean give me a break,” he continued. Whether the government pushes for mandatory passports, others are making their own requirements. Rutgers University in New Jersey has announced it will require all its 71,000 students to get a COVID-19 vaccination before returning to the school's campus this fall. Interestingly, Rutgers, so far, will not require staff and faculty to be vaccinated. It is the first university in the country to require vaccinations, but others have stated they are on the verge of similar decisions.
Lord God, we look to You for wisdom and guidance about the COVID-19 vaccines. Help us make decisions based on the leading of the Holy Spirit and not fear. Guide our elected officials to make wise decisions, keeping on the forefront of their minds to work to restrain evil and to protect and promote the good.
One of the debates regarding the COVID-19 vaccines is the potential use of abortion-derived cell lines. The Charlotte Lozier Institute (CLI) has published a comprehensive chart on the COVID-19 vaccine candidates so you can be more informed of which vaccines do or do not use the cell lines.
Sweeping Changes to Georgia Elections Signed into Law
“Gov. Brian Kemp quickly signed a vast rewrite of Georgia’s election rules into law Thursday, imposing voter ID requirements, limiting drop boxes, and allowing state takeovers of local elections after last year’s close presidential race. Kemp finalized the bill just over an hour after it cleared the General Assembly, leaving no doubt about its fate amid public pressure against voting restrictions. Republican lawmakers pushed the legislation through both the House and Senate over the objections of Democratic lawmakers. The legislation passed along party lines in both chambers, with votes of 34-20 in the Senate and 100-75 in the House. Protesters outside the Capitol said the bill will disenfranchise voters, calling it ‘Jim Crow 2.0.’ State Rep. Park Cannon, D-Atlanta, was arrested by state troopers after knocking on Kemp’s office door to try to witness the bill signing. The governor briefly interrupted his prepared remarks as Cannon was forcibly removed from the building by officers. Supporters of the measure, Senate Bill 202, said it will protect election integrity. ‘Significant reforms to our state elections were needed. There’s no doubt there were many alarming issues with how the election was handled, and those problems, understandably, led to a crisis of confidence in the ballot box here in Georgia,” Kemp said after signing the bill.’” read more at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
“Disenfranchising”, “Jim Crow”, “unjustifiable burdens”. These are the main ways this law, and similar proposed election integrity laws around the country, are being framed. The National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC) has even called for the PGA Tour to remove the Masters golf tournament from Augusta, GA in protest of the election law. Such terms intentionally stir an emotional response, but a discerning person must always ask “What is the truth?” Let’s examine some provisions of this law in light of opposing interpretations. The law requires absentee voters to provide a driver’s license or other ID number to confirm their identity. Previously, voters were required to sign their ballot envelope before mailing it, and an election official would decide whether the signature on the ballot matched the signature on file for that voter. Now they will simply have to match the ID numbers. LaTosha Brown, co-founder of Black Voters Matter, claims the ID requirement makes it harder for poor people to vote. However, voters without a driver’s license can obtain a free voting ID or submit another form of identification, such as a copy of their bank statement or utility bill. It is worthwhile to note that a recent Rasmussen Reports national telephone and online survey found that 75% of likely U.S. voters believe photo identification should be required before being allowed to vote. The majority of respondents from both political parties and minority voters supported photo ID requirements. The law also reduces the time of a runoff election to four weeks after the general election, instead of nine weeks. In light of this, weekend voting will be expanded. Distributing food or drink to voters in line is also prohibited. This would eliminate a potential avenue for bribing voters. However, in a recent news interview, MSNBC host Joy Reid claimed such measures “make it impossible or torture for you to vote in line.” Voter fraud disenfranchises people. When a person’s vote is changed, or someone else votes in place of another person, that is a form of voter suppression. Additionally, every time voter fraud occurs, the ninth commandment is broken (Exodus 20:16), and someone loses their voice. We encourage measures that provide an opportunity for every eligible person to vote, while effectively protecting their vote. Thirty-three states have introduced, pre-filed, or carried over 165 election-related bills since January of this year.
Heavenly Father, we know you desire honesty, justice, and mercy. Help your people to have discerning minds that see beyond inflammatory rhetoric, wherever it comes from. Help us to be people who desire to know the truth and defend the rights of everyone, regardless of how we may be portrayed.
The House recently passed the For the People Act; it is anything BUT for the people and jeopardizes the integrity of our elections. As Christians and Americans, we must unite to demand the Senate reject this legislation. We have already created the message for you. Just add your information and hit “Send Email.” This is all it takes to make a difference by joining thousands of other Christians who are demanding the Senate vote NO.
6th Circuit Sides with Christian Prof. Who Refused to Call Trans Student by Preferred Pronoun
“A three-judge federal appeals court panel has ruled in favor of an evangelical professor who was punished by Shawnee State University in Ohio for refusing to address a transgender student by the preferred pronoun. Reversing a district court’s dismissal of his lawsuit against university officials, the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the allegations made by philosophy professor Nicholas Meriwether suggest the university may have violated the professor’s First Amendment rights. The case has been remanded back to the lower court for ‘further proceedings consistent with this opinion.’ The district court had dismissed Meriwether’s claims related to free speech and religious protections, ruling that his way of addressing the student was not protected under the First Amendment. ‘Traditionally, American universities have been beacons of intellectual diversity and academic freedom,’ the 6th Circuit opinion written by Trump appointee Judge Amul Thapar states. ‘They have prided themselves on being forums where controversial ideas are discussed and debated. And they have tried not to stifle debate by picking sides. But Shawnee State chose a different route: It punished a professor for his speech on a hotly contested issue. And it did so despite the constitutional protections afforded by the First Amendment. The district court dismissed the professor’s free-speech and free-exercise claims. We see things differently and reverse.’” Read more at the Christian Post
The university initially offered Professor Meriwether two choices: he must refer to all students by their preferred pronouns, or else he must refrain from all references to gender whenever speaking with students--as he put it, “To speak the English language as it has never been spoken in the history of Western civilization.” In an op-ed for The Hill, Andrew Koppelman, a law professor at Northwestern University, implied that by refusing these options, Professor Meriwether was “spoiling for a fight,” and did not wish to peacefully coexist with LGBT people. Here is part of Meriwether’s response: “So why not simply call students what they wish to be called? I was willing to do so with this student and with any student who asks me to. His chosen name, though not his birth name, is feminine, and I was willing to call him this, since using a person’s proper name doesn’t imply anything about what one believes or what is true. What I cannot do, however, is to speak in such a way that implies that a man is a woman or a woman a man. In other words, to refer to a student in such a way that I imply something that is not true, that I know to be false, to effectively lie, and so violate my conscience as a philosopher and as a Christian.” Are you prepared for the day when speaking the truth (or even refusing to affirm a lie), will be viewed as creating “a hostile environment”? 1 Peter 2:20-23 calls us to follow Christ’s example: “If when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth...but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.”
Lord Jesus, thank you for your suffering on our behalf and for the example you have left for us. Help us all to have the courage to speak the truth in love and trust you with the outcome. Thank you for this encouraging court victory; may your light shine through Professor Meriwether to the students and faculty in his university.
This 5-minute instructional video by the Colson Center explores how gender expression, gender identity, and sexuality are often explained by transgender activists. This may be a helpful resource in understanding some common arguments made today.
Gallup: Fewer Than Half of Americans Belong to a Church
“Coupled with the rise of religious nones, even people of faith are less likely to join a house of worship. Ask Americans if they believe in God and most will say yes. But a growing number have lost faith in organized religion. For the first time since the late 1930s, fewer than half of Americans say they belong to a church, synagogue, or mosque, according to a new report from Gallup. Forty-seven percent of Americans now say they belong to a house of worship, down from 70 percent in the mid-1990s and 50 percent in 2019. The decline is part of a continued drop in membership over the past 20 years, according to Gallup data. The polling giant has been measuring church membership since 1937 when nearly three-quarters of the population (73%) reported membership in a house of worship. For much of that time, membership remained at about 70 percent but began to decline after 1999. By the late 2000s, membership had dropped to about 62 percent and has continued to fall.” read more at Christianity Today
In every one of its 115 appearances in the New Testament, the Greek word for church, ekklesia, refers to an assembly, a gathering of God’s people. Authentic Christianity can't be separated from ecclesiology, from active involvement with Christ's people in a local church, and the New Testament knows only of existence as Christians within the life of an assembly or gathering. Meeting together is an important part of the Christian church tradition because we gather for koinonia: communion, fellowship, prayer, worship, and edification. Even in times of extreme persecution, believers have always tried to meet secretly despite the danger. This survey from Gallup offers a bracing reminder of the challenges Christians face in the world today. Churches tend to think of their community as made up of people who are basically either churched or about to be churched somewhere, when in reality, the majority of Americans are not connected with a church in any sense. Even as most Americans will say they have some kind of religious affiliation, there is nothing tangible to show for it. The sobering statistics are further evidence of the secularization of the United States and a fundamental change in our society. The biggest issue for a society is the loss of a binding understanding of God that means that we are bound to His laws, bound to His word, bound to truth because He is the author of truth, which is cultivated and affirmed in the company of fellow believers. However, there are cracks even within the church. Central to the church’s mission is the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20) but 51% of churchgoers in the US say they are unfamiliar with the term “the Great Commission” and another 25% say they’ve heard of it but can’t recall what it means. In the late 1800s, Evangelist William Booth warned, “The chief danger that confronts the coming century will be religion without the Holy Ghost, Christianity without Christ, forgiveness without repentance, salvation without regeneration, politics without God, heaven without hell.” The Great Commission is not “the great suggestion.” Jesus has commanded every believer to “go into all the world and preach the gospel,” and make disciples who observe everything He has commanded us. If He has changed your life, shouldn’t this be your ultimate mission in life? What are you doing to fulfill this all-important command?
Pray that as we approach Easter Sunday, the day we celebrate the Resurrection of Christ, that more would come to know God’s love for the world through the sacrifice of His son. Pray for an awakening and a revival. For those of us who do know Him, let us take time to thank Him for His willingness to die for our sins, to recommit our lives to serve Him every day, to gather with fellow believers, and to rejoice that He is Risen!
We’ve been following the incredible journey of our friends at The Chosen, the first-ever, multi-season, crowd-funded TV show about the life of Jesus. Season one has already been viewed nearly 100 million times in over 120 countries! Season two premiers this Easter Sunday. Dallas Jenkins, the show’s creator, and director said of the mission behind the show, “I believe if you can see Jesus through the eyes of those who actually met him, you can be changed in the same way they were.” Learn more and watch 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.