National News Shorts

“Net Neutrality” or Government Meddling?

(WNS)–President Barack Obama issued a strong statement Nov. 10 calling for increased regulation of the internet. The move is ostensibly meant to protect the ability of average Americans to access any website without interference from internet service providers.  This equal-access approach, known as “net neutrality,” would prevent companies like Verizon and AT&T from giving priority bandwidth speeds to favored websites and services (Netflix, for example) and leaving other websites on a slower tier. Supporters of net neutrality say it keeps the internet fair. But opponents—including many conservatives—say the push to enforce net neutrality is another example of overreach by the federal government.  “No service should be stuck in a ‘slow lane’ because it does not pay a fee,” Obama said in a White House statement. “That kind of gatekeeping would undermine the level playing field essential to the internet’s growth.”  Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, tweeted in response: “‘Net Neutrality’ is Obamacare for the internet; the internet should not operate at the speed of government.”


Gay Couple Files Complaint Against Denomination, With Pastor’s Approval

(WNS)–Two homosexuals who attend a United Methodist Church (UMC) in Winston-Salem, N.C., have lodged a complaint with Methodist officials against their pastor for not marrying them. Although same-sex marriage became legal in North Carolina last month, the UMC, like most Christian denominations, does not permit clergy to perform same-sex weddings or ceremonies. Green Street United Methodist Church announced the complaint against its senior pastor, Kelly Carpenter, during a press conference Nov. 12. The couple, Kenny Barner and Scott Chappell, say that by refusing to marry them, Carpenter is violating the UMC Book of Discipline’s requirement for pastors to “perform the work of the ministry” and refrain from “gender discrimination.”
Gay-Rights Campaign Invokes Religion in the South

(WNS)–The nation’s largest gay advocacy group launched a faith-based campaign in Mississippi in mid-November. The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) says the initiative, called “All God’s Children,” plans to use ads, face-to-face conversations, and mailings to bolster gay rights support and same-sex marriage legislation in Mississippi, the most religious state in the U.S., according to Gallup.  The messaging targets Christians, references the Bible, and highlights the Golden Rule. “We are all God’s children. It is only for God to judge, not us. We need to treat everyone with respect,” says the campaign website.  The campaign is part of HRC’s Project One America, an initiative announced this spring to win support for the LGBT agenda in Alabama, Arkansas, and Mississippi. HRC is spending $8.5 million on the project and says All God’s Children will cost an initial $310,000. A study commissioned by HRC and cited in their campaign fact sheet concluded “a faith-driven, Christian values-focused message is the most effective way to boost support for LGBT equality in the South.”


Poll: Americans don’t trust scientists

(WNS)–Americans view scientists as highly competent but do not trust them, researchers at Princeton University concluded after conducting an online poll of adults.  Americans are particularly suspicious of researchers seeking grant funding or pushing particular agendas. “Rather than persuading, scientists may better serve citizens by discussing, teaching and sharing information to convey trustworthy intentions,” lead author and psychology professor Susan Fiske said.  Participants in the study rated the most common American jobs according to public perceptions of competence and warmth, which was used as a measure of trustworthiness. Helping professionals such as teachers, doctors, and nurses rated high on both warmth/trust and competence. Prostitution rated low on both measures. Secretaries, writers, law enforcement officers, and bus drivers were among the professionals deemed neutral on both measures. Engineers, accountants, and attorneys joined scientists in ratings of high competence but low warmth/trust.


Surgeons Heal a Paralyzed Man with Nose Cells

(WNS)–Four years ago, 38 year-old Darek Fidyka was stabbed repeatedly in a brutal attack that severed his spinal chord and left him paralyzed from the chest down. Today he is walking with support, driving, and hunting with friends, thanks to a medical breakthrough in which a surgeon in Poland transplanted olfactory ensheathing cells (OECs) from his nose to his spinal cord.  Fidyka is the first human in the world to undergo the novel surgical procedure.  Geoff Raisman, a professor at University College of London’s Institute of Neurology and a member of the research team, called it an historic step in medicine.  “To me, this is more impressive than the man walking on the moon,” he told CBS News.


Majority of Teens Who Date Experience Abuse

(WNS)–Teen dating violence is on the rise, according to a nationwide study published in October. Experts say the latest numbers reveal a startling culture of relational abuse, especially emotional abuse, with much of it happening online. The National Survey on Teen Relationships and Intimate Violence found nearly 20 percent of dating teens, both boys and girls, reported they had been victims of physical or sexual abuse, and more than 60 percent reported being both victims and perpetrators of psychological abuse, meaning that dating abuse if often mutual and cyclical.  The study, conducted by the University of Chicago and sponsored by the National Institute of Justice, surveyed more than 650 teenagers who had dated in the past year. The study considered everything from threats and humiliation to shoving and sexual pressure as abuse. It also included online abuse—cyber stalking, incessant texting, or shaming social media posts.


Will Puerto Rico Take Marriage to the Supreme Court?

(WNS)–A federal judge in Puerto Rico affirmed in late October an existing marriage law after dozens of others have gone the opposite way in the past year. Puerto Rico is part of the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, seated in Boston. U.S. District Judge Juan M. Pérez-Giménez, an appointee of President Jimmy Carter, wrote a 21-page opinion that relied on basic principles and legal precedent, points other courts have rejected.  He looked to a 1972 U.S. Supreme Court ruling called Baker v. Nelson. The Baker case involved a gay couple’s attempt to get a marriage license from the state of Minnesota. The state Supreme Court upheld marriage as between a man and a woman. The couple appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, but the court dismissed the case, saying did not raise a substantial federal question. That case is precedent and still stands. It wasn’t reversed by the Supreme Court’s U.S. v. Windsor decision last summer, and the 1st Circuit upheld it as controlling precedent just two years ago.


Mars Hill Church to Dissolve

(WNS)–Mars Hill Church, which as recently as January had more than 14,000 people attending Sunday morning worship services, will cease to exist organizationally by the end of the year. In a letter to the congregation that’s posted on the Seattle-based megachurch’s website, teaching pastor Dave Bruskas says the multi-site church organization will dissolve by Jan. 1, 2015, though some of the sites that are viable as local congregations will continue to operate. But several of these locations have already shut down, and others are likely to do so in the months ahead. “All of Mars Hill’s existing church properties will either be sold, or the loans on the individual properties will be assumed by the independent churches, subject to approval by the lender,” Bruskas writes.


Federal Judge Overturns Marriage Law in South Carolina

(WNS)–A federal judge has declared South Carolina’s marriage laws unconstitutional, overturning a constitutional amendment adopted by voters in 2006.   U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel stayed his ruling until Nov. 20, giving state Attorney General Alan Wilson time to appeal the ruling. But any appeal likely will fail. South Carolina is part of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which has upheld similar rulings in other states. South Carolina was the last state within the circuit to recognize marriage as only between one man and one woman.  Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal from Virginia of the 4th Circuit opinion that overturned its marriage laws, paving the way for gay marriage to become legal in all states within the circuit.


6th Circuit Upholds Marriage Laws in Four States

(WNS)–A federal appeals court ruled in favor of laws protecting marriage between one man and one woman in four states, the first in the country to do so. The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed lower court rulings that overturned marriage laws in Michigan and Kentucky and required Ohio and Tennessee to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states. The ruling in Tennessee applied only to a few cases. The cases before the 6th Circuit also included questions about whether gay couples should be allowed to adopt children and whether same-sex partners should be included on death certificates.  A three-judge panel concluded states have a right to set their own rules on marriage. Judge Jeffrey Sutton, who wrote the opinion, appeared to be the swing vote during oral arguments in August. He seemed skeptical of trying to force the issue through the courts.  “I would have thought the best way to get respect and dignity is through the democratic process,” Sutton said then. “Nothing happens as quickly as we’d like it.”


Brittany Maynard commits suicide despite pleas she reconsider

(WNS)- Brittany Maynard fulfilled her promise to end her own life Nov. 1 by taking a physician-prescribed drug, which is legal under Oregon’s assisted suicide laws. She would have turned 30 on Nov. 19. Maynard’s decision to take her life drew national attention as she used her terminal cancer diagnosis to advocate for the legalization of assisted suicide nationwide. Maynard hoped her choice to die would become available to more people who face suffering like her own. Doctors diagnosed Maynard with brain cancer Jan. 1. In four months, her life expectancy withered to 6 months when the tumor returned more aggressively after initial surgery to remove it. Maynard decided against radiation treatment, choosing instead to preserve as much quality of life as she could in her remaining months.


Oklahoma Pro-Life Laws on Hold Pending Court Challenges

(WNS)–Oklahoma’s Supreme Court blocked two pro-life laws Nov. 4 while lawsuits challenging their constitutionality make their way through lower courts.  Both laws took effect Nov. 1. One required adherence to Food and Drug Administration guidelines when administering the abortifacient RU-486. A district court in Oklahoma had recently decided to allow the law to take effect. The other law required that abortionists obtain admitting privileges at a local hospital. The Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) filed suit in October against both laws. CRR’s president, Nancy Northrup, called the decision a “crucial victory” for protecting constitutional rights and safe abortions.   But the court’s decision is out of step with the state’s voters, said Tony Lauinger, president of Oklahomans for Life. “We are disappointed in yet another example of arbitrariness by the Oklahoma Supreme Court,” he said. “The Supreme Court is the last bastion of pro-abortion liberalism in Oklahoma. And our state Supreme Court does not reflect the values of the people of Oklahoma.”


Christian Publisher Splits Conservative, Progressive Imprints

(WNS)–A major Christian publisher announced changes to its organizational structure designed to satisfy criticisms it had not remained true to biblical teaching.  The Crown Publishing Group announced in early November it would separate the staff and operations of WaterBrook Multnomah, which publishes books by evangelical authors, and Convergent, an imprint that allows for more liberal theology. This past spring, Convergent published God and the Gay Christian by Matthew Vines, which argues against the sinfulness of homosexuality. The book cost Waterbrook Multnomah the trust of many in Christian publishing and membership in the National Religious Broadcasters (NRB).


Supreme Court Allows Same-Sex Marriages in Kansas

(WNS)–The Supreme Court has ruled same-sex marriages can begin in Kansas while a lower court considers a case against existing state law.  In early November, federal district Judge Daniel Crabtree issued a preliminary injunction against the Kansas constitutional amendment that defines marriage as between one man and one woman. A full suit on the case is pending, but Crabtree’s ruling means same-sex couples can receive marriage licenses in the meantime.

Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt appealed the ruling and requested an emergency stay from the Supreme Court. Justice Sonia Sotomayor put Crabtree’s ruling on hold while the high court reviewed the case. It issued only a brief order announcing its decision, with Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas dissenting.



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