Was Michael Hastings the Last American Journalist?

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Bill of Rights, United States Constitution

Was Michael Hastings the last American journalist?

Given the all-in-for-the-government way the press has approached the “security breach” that allowed American citizens to know that their government had them — almost all of them — under surveillance, I think that is a fair question.

Thomas Jefferson said, “Our liberty depends on freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost.”

A J Liebling said, “Freedom of the press belongs to the man who owns one.”

Has the corporate-owned press ceased to be free? Is it just a mouthpiece for various interests and ideologies? Why would the free press be so completely in support of putting millions of innocent Americans who have committed no crime and have not been accused of committing a crime under government surveillance?

Are they stupid? Do they not see the parallels between this kind of draconian government surveillance of its citizens and every police state nightmare of both history and fiction?

Why are they taking the government line like a bunch of trained chimps instead of asking questions and digging for facts like reporters? Do they ever leave their studios and go out and find the news, or do they just wait for the news to come to them and then “report” (read) it as it comes in? Getting together with a few, carefully selected, “experts” to comment on the latest press release that you just read on the air is not reporting.

The CSPAN interview below gives a glimpse of Michael Hastings and the kind of work he did. It makes no difference what conclusions you draw from the information Mr Hastings gave you. The point is that he gave you the information. That’s a journalist’s job. Deciding what to do with the information is your part of the free press equation.

All this leads me to ask again: Was Michael Hastings the last American journalist?

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Media Bias, Lost Souls and Inconvenient Truths

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Frank Weathers, who blogs at Why I am Catholic, wrote a post that echoes one I published a few days ago discussing a Pew Research study that indicated media bias in the reporting of gay marriage.

It seems that Pew Research is not alone in its assessment that there is a media bias in favor of gay marriage. As I’ve said in the past, the media is not so much “biased” in favor of gay marriage, it is hard-selling it.

The post about the Pew study engendered a plethora of irate comments on this blog. It appears that at least some people who favor gay marriage do not want to hear anything that even tangentially disagrees with it. That seems to include statistical studies by reputable research firms that simply state what is obvious to almost everyone: The media is biased in favor of gay marriage.

The comments on that particular post rolled downhill until we had people from atheist blogs jumping over here to inform us that God is genocidal and Christians are … some of the usual Christian-bashing things they call us. I deleted quite a few comments, particularly those that said ugly things about either homosexuals or Christians. I also deleted the nasty slams at me, my family, faith and heritage because I had deleted the insulter’s previous comments, as well as the suggestions that I perform anatomically impossible sex acts.

All these angry comments came because I put up a post talking about a Pew Research study saying the press coverage of the Supreme Court hearings on gay marriage was biased.

Now Frank Weathers has jumped into the fray with one of his excellent posts. Frank, unlike me, does not suffer fools. He only allows comments that advance the Kingdom. I’ve been wondering if perhaps he’s not on to something. After all, the purpose of Public Catholic is to do exactly that: Advance the Kingdom.

So why do I continue tolerating these invidious comments? I do it in the hope that there will be an educational component in letting the Christians who read this blog — and from what I can tell, my readership tilts decidedly toward the Christian — see a bit of what’s out there.

I encounter Christians all the time who are living in a fool’s paradise about what the world is like vis a vis their faith. They live inside a circle of Oklahoma protection where they seldom encounter a flat-out Christ hater. I, on the other hand, get pummeled and attacked on my job for my faith on a regular basis. I am not exaggerating one bit when I say that I almost never hear a nasty comment, lie, or name applied to me that I haven’t already heard countless times before.

I want to open the door on this reality for other Christians just a bit because I think it’s important for them to learn about it and understand it.  We are in danger of losing our freedoms and being pushed into a Christian ghetto where our thoughts, ideas and values are not allowed in open discussion. A big part of the reason why is that we are so passive about our faith.

That’s what these attacks are about. They are designed to force people of faith into silence, and then to push us all into the corners of life. Jesus specifically told us to refuse to allow that:

“Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the father, the son and the holy spirit,” He told the Apostles and through them, all of us.

“He who denies me before men, I will deny before the holy angels.”

“If anyone is ashamed of me and my message, I will be ashamed of them when I come in the glory of the Father and the holy angels.”

Christians do not have the luxury of going along to get along. We must, on peril of our souls, stand for Christ. Hiding in our safe little bubbles of faith-filled people only encourages and strengthens those who attack our Lord. One thing I hope these comments show you when you read them is the sad lostness of these angry people and the totally unoriginal quality of their thinking. There is nothing to fear from their thinking, which is probably why they work so hard to overawe us with their nastiness.

I allow a good bit of the repetitive nonsense Christians bashers say onto this blog. I do it for teaching purposes, in the hope that being exposed to it here will both motivate and educate my Christian readers.

We need to know what these lost people are saying. We need to understand how their thinking works. We also need to pray for them, for they are truly and terribly lost. That perhaps is the worst of reading these comments for me. It is reading the comments of lost souls; like witnessing a terrible car wreck and seeing people trapped inside who will not let you help them get out.

Here is Frank Weathers’ take on the media bias concerning gay marriage. As usual, he says it all with wit and charm.

The Miraculous Incident of Balanced Media Coverage On Same-Sex Marriage…

This is the week when the Supreme Court will spill the beans on what will become of same-sex marriage in California, and perhaps in the entire country. Lots of folks are on pins and needles waiting for the decision that will be handed down.

Over at Get Religion, Terry Mattingly notes the stunning fact that at least one mainstream media outlet stood up recently to give voice to gay folks who are not in the camp as being for same-sex marriage.

And you thought unicorns were rare!

Would it shock you that this particular news outlet isn’t based stateside? I’ll let Terry explain, (Read the rest here.)

Why are the Bishops Doing This?

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In honor of the Fortnight for Freedom, I am going to limit today’s quick picks on Christian persecution to the United States.

The list below comes from the website of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. None of these examples involves burning down churches or mass murders of Christians. They do, however, show a huge change in the way that religious liberty is viewed by the government from just a few years ago.

I believe that this change has come about primarily through the almost non-stop Christian bashing that takes place in our media, academia and on websites. Christian bashing has become so popular that those who practice it as a profession, such as certain authors, speakers and bloggers, are not only able to continue their practice of Christian bashing without facing objections, they make an excellent living at it.

The rise of professional Christian bashers and the aggressive way that they ply their trade has certainly contributed to a cultural situation in which Christians must constantly be on the defensive. I think it has also fueled the attitudes which have led to the discriminatory practices listed below.

I’ve said a number of times that discrimination is a continuum. People do not move to violent persecution in one step. They work themselves into it by moving along a progression of prejudice and hatred. I believe that America is, as a nation, moving rather rapidly along that progression where Christians are concerned.

From the USCCB:

Current Threats To Religious Liberty

An Overview of Specific Examples

Pope Benedict XVI spoke last year about his worry that religious liberty in the United States is being weakened.  He called religious liberty the “most cherished of American freedoms.”  However, unfortunately, our most cherished freedom is under threat.  Consider the following:

  • HHS mandate for contraception, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs.  The mandate of the Department of Health and Human Services forces religious institutions to facilitate and fund a product contrary to their own moral teaching.  Further, the federal government tries to define which religious institutions are “religious enough” to merit protection of their religious liberty. 

  • Catholic foster care and adoption services.  Boston, San Francisco, the District of Columbia, and the State of Illinois have driven local Catholic Charities out of the business of providing adoption or foster care services—by revoking their licenses, by ending their government contracts, or both—because those Charities refused to place children with same-sex couples or unmarried opposite-sex couples who cohabit. 

  • State immigration laws.  Several states have recently passed laws that forbid what they deem as “harboring” of undocumented immigrants—and what the Church deems Christian charity and pastoral care to these immigrants.

  • Discrimination against small church congregations.  New York City adopted a policy that barred the Bronx Household of Faith and other churches from renting public schools on weekends for worship services, even though non-religious groups could rent the same schools for many other uses.  Litigation in this case continues. 

  • Discrimination against Catholic humanitarian services.  After years of excellent performance by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Migration and Refugee Services (MRS) in administering contract services for victims of human trafficking, the federal government changed its contract specifications to require MRS to provide or refer for contraceptive and abortion services in violation of Catholic teaching. 

  • Christian students on campus.  In its over-100-year history, the University of California Hastings College of Law has denied student organization status to only one group, the Christian Legal Society, because it required its leaders to be Christian and to abstain from sexual activity outside of marriage.

  • Forcing religious groups to host same-sex “marriage” or civil union ceremonies.  A New Jersey judge recently found that a Methodist ministry violated state law when the ministry declined to allow two women to hold a “civil union” ceremony on its private property.  Further, a civil rights complaint has been filed against the Catholic Church in Hawaii by a person requesting to use a chapel to hold a same-sex “marriage” ceremony.

Is our most cherished freedom truly under threat?  Yes, Pope Benedict XVI recognized just last year that various attempts to limit the freedom of religion in the U.S. are particularly concerning.  The threat to religious freedom is larger than any single case or issue and has its roots in secularism in our culture.  The Holy Father has asked for the laity to have courage to counter secularism that would “delegitimize the Church’s participation in public debate about the issues which are determining the future of American society.”

Fortnight for Freedom 2013: Meatless Fridays and Prayer for our First Freedom

Today is the first day of Fortnight for Freedom 2013.

The American bishops have asked Catholics to refrain from eating meat on Fridays during the fortnight as a fast for religious freedom.

I would suggest that we also pray the Rosary for the intention of religious freedom on Fridays during the fortnight.

You can sign up for text alerts on religious freedom from the USCCB here.

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Pope Francis Calls for Christian Unity During General Audience

“We Catholics should pray together,” Pope Francis said in his Wednesday audience, “but we should also pray together with other Christians.”

This is a message every Christian should take to heart. We don’t have to give up our doctrinal differences to know that Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth and Life. The most important thing is that we put Him at the center. When we do that, the differences we think are so important fade into the background where they belong.

We live in a world that is increasingly hostile to Christians. That makes it all the more important for Christians to support and stand by one another.

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Pew Research: Media Coverage Biased 5 to 1 in Favor of Gay Marriage

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It’s official. A new Pew Research study indicates that media coverage of the gay marriage debate is strongly biased in favor of gay marriage.

That’s in case you were wondering.

Was anybody wondering?

Personally, I think this falls into the “new study indicates that nuts roll downhill” kind of news. The study is based on coverage of the period a few weeks ago when the Supreme Court was hearing arguments on the issue of gay marriage. It turns out that news coverage, including that from Fox News, was 5 to 1 in favor of gay marriage.

Of course, the study is somewhat misrepresentative of the actual media bias in favor of gay marriage, since the media typically tries to paint a gloss of balance on their social-issue propaganda when they’re reporting big stories like Supreme Court hearings. I think day to day reporting is probably much worse.

Also, when you consider the total sell job that we get from outlets such as HBO — which also hard-sells euthanasia, abortion and polygamy, among other other things — it begins to look like 5 to 1 is actually a low number.

The people of this country, indeed, the people of the world, are being pushed, propagandized and often bullied into accepting destructive social changes. Gay marriage is one of those changes. At the same time, there is an almost equal attack on faith, particularly Christian faith.

From the National Catholic Register:

Daily News

Pew Reports Media Bias on Marriage Debate (1913)

As the U.S. Supreme Court weighed DOMA and Proposition 8, news stories favored same-sex ‘marriage’ 5-1.

 06/17/2013 Comment

WASHINGTON — The Pew Research Center released a report on June 17 that confirmed overwhelming media bias in favor of same-sex “marriage.”

Researchers evaluated news and opinion coverage of oral arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court and related stories dealing with two landmark marriage cases and found that all mainstream media outlets favored “marriage equality,” including Fox News.

Pew reported that stories “with more statements supporting same-sex marriage outweighed those with more statements opposing it by a margin of roughly 5-to-1.”

This skewed treatment, researchers concluded, conveyed “a strong sense of momentum towards legalizing same-sex ‘marriage.’”

Now, as the nation awaits the high court’s rulings on the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and Proposition 8, which are expected by the end of June, the unbalanced news coverage will likely prompt intense scrutiny and debate on the media’s role in affecting the outcome of those cases.

Some constitutional scholars have predicted that the justices, mindful of the ongoing debate over Roe v. Wade, would be cautious about legalizing a social practice that lacked broad public support.

But if news stories indeed conveyed a sense of “momentum,” the high court’s deliberations might accommodate that shift.

“I have to think the justices — and especially the chief — are very cognizant of the shifting public opinion,” Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond, told The Hill in mid-May, during the period that Pew researchers charted the flow of coverage favoring one side of the issue.

 

Read more: http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/pew-reports-media-bias-on-marriage-debate?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+NCRegisterDailyBlog+National+Catholic+Register#When:2013-06-18%2002:11:01#ixzz2Was206vD

 

Sued by Government for Refusing to Provide Flowers for Gay Wedding, Elderly Florist Files Countersuit

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Arlene’s Flower and Gifts.  Is it the only place to buy flower in Washington? 

Bob Ferguson, Washington state’s attorney general, probably thought he was picking an easy fight when he took on 68 year old Barronelle Stutzman. After all, she not only had gray hair, she was a small business owner with very few resources to defend herself against the government. 

It probably looked like an easy way to earn kudos from the my-way-or-the-highway crowd that seems to be running parts of our government these days. Ms Stutzman, who has a history of employing self-identified homosexuals, as well as serving them, evidently draws the line when it comes to providing flowers for gay weddings.

I think I see where she’s coming from. Selling flowers to gay customers or employing gay people are both well within Christian behavior. In fact, treating gay people like people is pretty much a requirement of following Jesus. Providing flowers for a gay wedding, on the other hand, would have put Ms Stutzman in the position of actively participating in something that just about all traditional Christians regard as sinful. It is a violation of what Jesus intended for marriage to be, and, many people believe, will do great harm to the already damaged institution of marriage. 

To use an analogy, if someone who was getting ready to rob bank came into your store and wanted to buy a carton of milk for their lunch, selling them the milk would not make you part of their bank robbing. However, if they asked you to sell them a bag for the money, and they told you it would be used in a bank robbery, you would be part of the crime. 

I am not equating bank robbery with gay marriage. They are entirely different. I just used that as an illustration. 

The point here is that to compel someone to participate in an action that they regard as sinful is a violation of their human dignity and their right as human beings and American citizens to decide these things for themselves. Even if bank robbery was legal, if a store owner still believes that theft is a sin, they should have the right to refuse to sell the erstwhile robber the bag for the loot.

Ms Stutzman’s problems began on March 1, when Robert Ingersoll, who had known Ms Stutzman for 10 years, asked her to sell him flowers for his “wedding” to Curt Freed. Here’s Ms Stutzman’s description of what happened:

“He said he decided to get married, and before he got through I grabbed his hand and said, ‘I am sorry. I can’t do your wedding because of my relationship with Jesus Christ,’” Stutzman said. “He thanked me and said he respected my opinion. We talked and gave each other a hug and he left.” She said it was the only wedding she had declined in 37 years.

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Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson

Attorney General Ferguson must not have too many serious crimes to deal with up there in Washington State because he immediately saddled up his white horse and rode out to hammer down on Ms Stutzman. He is using a consumer protection act to seek a $2,000 fine against Ms Stutzman, along with a permanent injunction which would force her to either sell flowers for gay weddings or to stop selling flowers for wedding ceremonies altogether. I do not know what jurisdiction passed the act the AG is using. 

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Barronelle Stutzman

The only legitimate reason I can see for the chief law enforcement officer in Washington state to take such an extreme interest in this incident is that Ms Stutzman’s shop, Arlene’s Flower and Gifts, must be the only place in Washington state where those poor people who live there can buy flowers. That’s kind of sad, when you think about it.

However, Ms Stutzman hasn’t rolled over. She has filed a countersuit through the Alliance Defending Freedom. Her lawsuit is based on federal constitutional protections of religious freedom and protections in the Washington State Constitution.  

According to American’s Defending Freedom:

ADF explains that the state’s lawsuit “is attempting to force Stutzman to act contrary to her religious convictions in violation of her constitutional freedoms.”

“In America, the government is supposed to protect freedom, not use its intolerance for certain viewpoints to intimidate citizens into acting contrary to their faith convictions,” said ADF senior legal counsel Dale Schowengerdt. “Family business owners are constitutionally guaranteed the freedom to live and work according to their beliefs.”

He added, “It is this very freedom that gives America its cherished diversity and protects citizens from state-mandated conformity.”

In additional to federal constitutional protections, the Washington State Constitution also protects “freedom of conscience in all matters of religious sentiment, belief, and worship,” as stated in Article 1, Section 11.

Stutzman has set up a fund for her defense. Donations can be sent to:

Key Bank
1275 Lee Blvd
Richland, WA 99352
509-392-4638
Attn: Lindsey

Christian Persecution: 6 Quick Picks

This week’s 6 Quick Picks on Christian persecution deal with atrocities that have occurred in Indonesia, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Tanzania.

All of them involve violent mob action from members of other religious groups. None of them would have occurred without the compliance of the police. Most of the time, the police arrest the Christians who have been attacked rather than their attackers. This, of course, is police corruption, as well as mob violence.

Most of these crimes occurred in countries which have legal guarantees of freedom of religion. Our Constitutional guarantee that the government may not interfere with “the free exercise” of religious faith is a precious freedom that Americans have had for so long that we take it for granted.

But freedoms can never be taken for granted if they are to be preserved. There are always those who will try to limit other people’s freedoms.

Here are this week’s 6 Quick Picks.

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1. Islamic Hard-liners, Police Raid Christian-Muslim Interfaith Conference in Indonesia

By Amir Tedjo on 4:52 pm June 12, 2013.

Surabaya. A small group of religious hard-liners, backed up by police, disrupted a Christian-Muslim Interfaith dialogue on Tuesday night, claiming that the event was conducted without a permit.

They forced the organizers to go to the Surabaya Police station to be questioned.

“The weird thing is that the police officers who were present stayed quiet, regardless of what the group did,” Ahmad Zaimul Hamdi, a committee member and activist with the Anti-Violence Society Network, said on Wednesday.

“The police even provided a vehicle to bring the organizers to the police station.”

Ahmad said that the event was part of an academic discussion that analyzed the Koran and the Bible from both Islamic and Christian perspectives. Hundreds of people attended the event, and the discussion was going smoothly until the small group of hard-liners arrived on the scene.

From Jakarta Globe http://www.thejakartaglobe.com/news/hard-liners-police-interfere-with-interfaith-dialogue/

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2. Mob of “Hundreds of Muslims” Attack Christians in Bangladesh

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Perpetrators Operate With Impunity as Government Fails to Protect Religious Minorities

6/14/2013 Washington, D.C. (ICC)-International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that a group of radical Islamists have targeted and attacked Christians in Bangladesh. Two incidents in the last week have left priests and seminary students among those severely beaten. In both incidents the attackers have operated with impunity.

On June 5, Muslim extremists went to the Tumilia mission, a Catholic compound, and physically harmed Fr. Abel when he came out of his room.

On June 6, another attack by the same group of radical Islamists an attack on the entire village.

Two of the Christians fled and sought shelter at the Catholic Church’s mission compound in Dinajpur, in Northern Bangladesh. However, a mob of Muslims numbering over a hundred stormed in armed with local weapons. “They broke the main gate, destroyed the barb wire fence and entered the compound. They beat up Fr. Uzzal, and seminarians and destroyed parts of the buildings…vandalized and looted everything,” says an ICC source.

“The police arrested some of the Christians and took them to the police station but did not take any action against the Muslims who were trespassing on the Catholic Compound,” the ICC source continued. “The Muslims wait for any excuse to attack the religious minorities.”

Not one perpetrator has been arrested in either of these cases.

“The priests are afraid to do anything against the perpetrators,” says an ICC source. “Most of the time the Muslim extremists are protected by the [Muslim] ruling party. This is Bangladesh, where we [Christians] live without any security and protection from the government or law enforcing agencies,” the source continued.

Corey Bailey, ICC’s Regional Manager for Bangladesh says, “According to their Constitution, there is Religious Freedom in Bangladesh, but that exists only on paper. Muslims attack religious minorities with impunity. This is outrageous and must end.

I urge those interested in religious freedom to contact the Embassy of Bangladesh and demand better protection for religious minorities, as well as justice in these cases.”

Ambassador: H.E. Akramul Qader    202-244-2745   or 202-244-0183 (PABX)

For interviews, contact Corey Bailey: RM-Asia@persecution.org

You are free to disseminate this news story. We request that you reference ICC (International Christian Concern) and include our web address, www.persecution.org. ICC is a Washington-DC based human rights organization that exists to help persecuted Christians worldwide. ICC provides Awareness, Advocacy, and Assistance to the worldwide persecuted Church.   For additional information or for an interview, contact ICC at 800-422-5441.

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3. Hindu Militants Attack Christian Pastors in India

By BosNewsLife Asia Service

NEW DELHI, INDIA (BosNewsLife)– Twenty Baptist pastors have been attacked by suspected Hindu militants in southeastern India and several church leaders required hospital treatment for severe injuries, representatives said Friday, June 7.

The All India Christian Council (AICC), which represents churches and mission groups, said the victims were from the Telugu Baptist Church who gathered for their monthly prayer meeting Tuesday, June 4, in the town of Maheshwaram Mandal, in the Indian state of Hyderabad.

About 50 followers of Hindu group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh or ‘National Volunteer Organization’ (RSS) stormed the gathering and “brutally attacked” the pastors “with sticks and rods causing dreadful injuries” and verbally abused them, AICC added in a statement seen by BosNewsLife.

Seven of the pastors, identified only as Thimothy, Kumar, Krupaiah, Roberts, Rosaiah, Lazarus and Thinothy, were rushed to hospital for serious injuries, according to AICC officials.

The attack is part of a wider crackdown on devoted Christians in the heavily Hindu nation, said John Dayal, AICC secretary general.

“We are deeply concerned that anti-Christian attacks are taking place in the state. After Karnataka [state] such violence against Christians has started in Andhra Pradesh,” Dayal added.

He said police had been asked to investigate the case. About 1,000 local Christians were also planning a peaceful rally to protest against the attack and demand justice, according to AICC investigators.

From BosNewsLife http://www.bosnewslife.com/28646-india-militants-attack-baptist-pastors-several-injured

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4. Third Christian Community in 50 Days Attacked by Muslims in Pakistan

Country/Region: South and East Asia, Pakistan

Christians in a village in Punjab, Pakistan were forced to evacuate their homes after they were attacked by armed Muslims who threatened to destroy their property; theirs is the third Christian community to come under attack in less than two months.

A mob of around 50-60 armed Muslims attacked Christians in Eassa Pur village, Khanewal district, on 26 April. The furious assailants opened fire on the believers after beating them and throwing stones at their houses, which they also threatened to torch.

Christian communities in nearby villages were also forced to flee their homes after receiving threats against their property.

Police have registered against a case against five Christians following the violence, but they have not pursued legal action against the Muslims who instigated it.

Muslims in the village had also threatened to burn down Christian property during a previous attack on 6 April. A group of Muslims beat local Christians severely when a dispute broke out because two Christian men were sitting on mats that were not facing towards Mecca.

Some local Christians believe that Muslims are using any excuse to create hostilities in order to take over Christian property.

Outbreaks of violence against entire Christian communities in response to personal disputes are becoming disturbingly frequent; this attack is the third of its kind in recent months.

In Joseph Colony, Lahore, a Muslim mob torched 178 Christian homes on 9 March after a local Christian was accused of blasphemy following an exchange with a Muslim friend.

Then, on 3 April, Muslim extremists attacked a Christian neighbourhood in Francis Colony, Gujranwala, following a minor dispute between Muslim and Christian youths. A church building was ransacked and dozens of shops and vehicles vandalised after Muslims were incited over mosque loudspeakers to “teach the Christians a lesson”.

http://barnabasfund.org/UK/News/Archives/Third-Christian-community-in-50-days-attacked-by-Muslims-in-Pakistan.html

From Barnabas Fund http://barnabasfund.org/UK/News/Archives/Third-Christian-community-in-50-days-attacked-by-Muslims-in-Pakistan.html

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5. Churches Closed and Pastors Threatened by Buddhist Monks in Sri Lanka 

Country/Region: Sri Lanka, South and East Asia

Buddhist monks have forced the closure of 18 churches in southern Sri Lanka, threatening pastors with death if they continue their activities.

Churches in Hambanthota have been under pressure for some time, but tensions have ratcheted up this month.

On 10 May, the district secretary of Hambanthota called a meeting of local officials, senior police officers and Buddhist and Christian leaders to discuss the situation. The legality of the local churches was questioned, and various accusations were levelled at the pastors by the Buddhist monks.

The Christian leaders were effectively told that they had to provide proof of the legality of their churches or else they would be closed down.

A follow-up meeting was held on 17 May at which the Buddhist monks said they had already closed down a number of churches – later confirmed as 18 by local pastors – and demanded that those still functioning also be shut.

The church leaders explained that, under Sri Lankan law, they have the right to practise their religion anywhere and that church registration is not required.

The authorities decided not to take any action against the churches at this stage, but a further meeting will take place in three months’ time.

The National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka said that the situation in the south remains tense. Local pastors told Barnabas Fund that the Buddhist monks have threatened them: “If you don’t stop your activities your destiny will be like Lional Jayasinghe”, a pastor who was martyred in Hambanthota in the 1990s.

BUDDHIST PROTEST

Meanwhile, Buddhist monk Bowatte Indarathana set himself on fire as a protest against the conversion of Buddhists by Christians and other minority groups, and also the slaughter of cattle, in Sri Lanka. The incident happened on Friday (24 May); he succumbed to his injuries the following day.

Supporters of Sinhala Ravaya, a Buddhist Sinhalese extremist group, praised Indarathana’s “heroic act” in defence of the nation’s values, while Udaya Gammanpila, a member of the Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) party, promised to “transform his demands into reality” through a new law.

Christians in Sri Lanka are under pressure from the Sinhalese Buddhist lobby, which campaigns for laws to control religious conversions.

The government claims to uphold religious freedom but affords Buddhism the “foremost place”; around 70% of the population is Buddhist. The Religious Affairs Ministry recently announced that it intends to introduce legislation enabling the authorities to take action against religious groups that are deemed cults. This could threaten the country’s Evangelical churches, which are not recognised by the Religious Affairs Ministry.

From Barnabas Fund 

http://barnabasfund.org/UK/News/News-analysis/Churches-closed-and-pastors-threatened-by-Buddhist-monks-in-Sri-Lanka.html

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6. More Attacks on Pastors in Tanzania

VOM_MediaDev

June 13, 2013

Earlier this week, we shared a video report from Gary Lane in Tanzania that included the story of Pastor Mathayo Kachili, who was killed because of his faith in Christ. Pastor Kachili’s story is also included in VOM’s June newsletter.

The persecution of Christians in Tanzania continues. On the night of Sunday, June 2, the home of Pastor Robert Ngai in Geita town, northeastern Tanzania, was attacked by a large group of radical Muslims. The attackers broke into the home and attacked Pastor Ngai with machetes. The pastor received serious cuts on his hands and arms when he raised his arms to protect his head from the blows. Doctors at the local hospital said the injuries were beyond their ability to treat, and urged that he be rushed to a hospital in a nearby, larger city for treatment. Ngai is the pastor of the Evangelical Assemblies of God Church. At last word from VOM contacts, he was still in ICU.

Two nights before the attack on Pastor Ngai, the home of Pastor Daudi Nzumbi in Geita also came under attack. Pastor Nzumbi leads the Free Pentecostal Church of Tanzania (FPCT) congregation in Geita. Thankfully, the attackers fled after they were confronted by Pastor Nzumbi’s large, barking dogs.

When Pastor Nzumbi heard his dogs barking, he looked out the window and saw the attackers. He called the police, but the officer in charge told him, “I cannot protect every pastor!”

VOM contacts are working to get more details on these attacks, and to offer encouragement and assistance to these two pastors and other Christians in Tanzania affected by violent Islamic attacks. Please continue to pray for Christians in Tanzania as well as for their persecutors.

From Persecution Blog

http://www.persecutionblog.com/2013/06/more-attacks-on-pastors-in-tanzania.html

Iran: Trying to Stifle the Holy Spirit with Persecution

This story of Christian persecution has a twist.

Iranian government officials raided the Central Assemblies of God Church in Tehran May 21. They arrested the pastor, Rev Robert Aserian and seized his books, documents and equipment, including his computer.

Iran pastor 4X3

Rev Robert Aserian, Barnabas Aid Photo

The charge? Pastor Aserian had been conducting services in Farsi, which is the language that people speak in Iran.

This is akin to arresting someone in America for making speeches in English.

Why would they do this?

My guess is that the reason for trying to force the pastor and his church to conduct services in some other language than Farsi is precisely because people could understand Farsi. I think the Holy Spirit was working in that church and Iranian people were converting to Christianity. The fact that the church has discipleship classes on Saturdays for new Christians seems to indicate that there are a good number of converts.

The Assemblies of God Church in Iran began in 1955 with a single house church. Now there are congregations across the country. That sounds like people are converting, and they are doing it in significant numbers.

This has resulted in persecution of church members, especially the church leaders. For instance, Pastor Farhad Sabokrouh, who leads an Assemblies of God church in Ahwaz, Iran, along with his wife Shahaz Jeizan were recently sentence to one-year prison sentences. 

Iranian christian beaten for her faith

Iranian Christian, beaten by police. Photo by Barnabas Aid

Hundreds of Christian converts have been arrested and detained throughout Iran in the past few years. They have been subjected to intense interrogation and verbal and physical abuse. Some were prosecuted, while others have been forced to pay exorbitant sums for bail.

Several members of the Central Assemblies of God Church in Tehran have been killed, and, as a local source told Barnabas Aid:

The pressure has become unbearable. They constantly threaten the church leaders and their families with imprisonment, unexplained accidents, kidnapping and even with execution. We cannot go on like this.

The twist in this story is that it’s not about a shrinking population of Christians who are barely hanging on. It’s about a thriving and growing Christian ministry that is built on conversions. Will the Iranian government be able to stifle the Holy Spirit with persecution?

There are probably more of these stories than we know. These people need our prayers and any support we can give them.

Is an IRS that Targets Religious Groups for Unjust Discrimination Unfit to Make HHS Mandate Decisions?

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Suppose you were an IRS agent.

  1. Suppose you had been tasked with singling out a group of religiously-based non-profit agencies for audits because they express their religious beliefs about controversial issues in public. They do this on issues that put them at loggerheads with the President of the United States.
  2. Suppose you had also been tasked with ordering those tax payers to cease expressing their religious beliefs about these issues or face the loss of their tax exempt status. 
  3. Suppose that you were also tasked with enforcing a government agency rule that gave you the power to arbitrarily fine the same tax exempt agencies you’d been selectively auditing because of their beliefs. Suppose these fines would put those agencies out of business.

What would you think you were supposed to do in this situation? 

Ashley McGuire of The Catholic Association CNA US Catholic News 5 23 12

Ashley McGuire, photo from  CNA

That is the question raised by Ashley McGuire. Ms McGuire is a senior fellow at the Catholic Association and editor of AltCatholicah, a Catholic women’s web magazine.

“The HHs mandate hinges on what constitutes a religious entity,” she told CNA in a May 10 interview. 

The IRS has “authority in determining what a religious entity is” for purposes of deciding while employers fall under the mandate’s requirements. 

The IRS has now publicly admitted that non-profit organizations have been audited and otherwise harassed by the agency based on whether or not their names indicated they might be opposed to gay marriage, be pro life, or otherwise traditionally Christian. Some of the groups that were subjected to this unfair governmental discrimination and harassment were: Christian Voices for Life, Family Talk Action, National Organization for Marriage and Samaritan’s Purse.

The IRS forced some of these groups to discloses lists of their donors, the contents of their publications and what prayers they said at events. 

Read more at CNA

“So the very enforcers at the IRS, whose own inspector general admits they systematically targeted conservative and religious groups, will now get to decide who is entitled to ladle soup into a bowl for a homeless person without violating his or her conscience,” McGuire wrote in the Weekly Standard.

In the midst of the scandal in which “religious values were indeed scrutinized by bureaucrats,” the IRS will “gain new authority to determine what constitutes religious activity and which religious employers are entitled to conscience rights,” she continued.

“If the case for repealing this unjust intrusion on the free exercise of religion was always strong, in recent weeks it’s gotten stronger still,” she added.

McGuire told CNA that the only way to ensure that the sort of political targeting that has occurred already by the IRS does not result in an infringement on religious freedoms via the contraception mandate is to either “completely repeal the mandate” or give a religious exemption to “anyone who asks for an exemption.”

 


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