National Shorts

Senate Blocks Bill to Defund Planned Parenthood


(WNS)–Democratic senators blocked a measure aimed at defunding Planned Parenthood despite a growing controversy over how the nation’s largest abortion provider harvests the body parts of unborn children for medical research.  The procedural vote this evening fell short of the 60 votes need to move the bill forward. The final tally was 53-46. But the battle likely isn’t over. Some GOP lawmakers in the House and Senate have indicated they might attempt to block any spending bill that includes money for Planned Parenthood this fall. Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-S.C., has said he expects several dozen GOP lawmakers to object to spending bills with funding for the group. Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Rand Paul, R-Ky., have raised similar possibilities during their presidential campaigns.


Judge’s Impartiality Questioned in Abortion Video Case


(WNS)–A judge’s decision in a case about investigative videos by the pro-life Center for Medical Progress (CMP) has raised questions of ethics because of his political background and family connections. CMP has so far released 7 videos showing employees of abortion provider Planned Parenthood negotiating prices for aborted babies’ body parts. The center is getting strong pushback not only from Planned Parenthood, but also from tissue suppliers and from abortion-provider membership groups.  One such group, the National Abortion Federation, sued to prevent the release of footage shot at its national convention. Judge William Orrick, an appointee of President Barack Obama, granted a temporary injunction barring the videos’ release. More legal proceedings will follow to determine whether the injunction will be permanent.  Orrick raised more than $200,000 for Obama during his 2008 campaign for president. He also donated $30,000 to various Obama committees. Orrick’s wife is an avid abortion-rights advocate.


CCCU Loses Union University


(WNS)–Union University has informed the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU) that it will withdraw from the coalition in the wake of two member schools changing their hiring policies to include same-sex couples.  CCCU president Shirley Hoogstra and board chairman Charles Pollard, who also serves as president of John Brown University, received a letter from Union president Dub Oliver on Monday, almost four weeks after Eastern Mennonite University (EMU) and Goshen College announced they would begin hiring non-celibate homosexual staff and faculty.  “It grieves us to make this decision as we have been members of the CCCU since 1991,” Oliver wrote in the letter. He said Union benefited from the council’s programs, professional development, and advocacy, but “our faithfulness to the authority of Scripture takes precedence … marriage is at the heart of the Gospel.”  Union, founded in 1823 and located in Jackson, Tenn., is the oldest Southern Baptist–affiliated University in the country and could serve as a bellwether for other schools. The university will now look to the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission and the Family Research Council to provide its representation in Washington, D.C.


Whom Do Evangelical Insiders Favor In 2016?


(WNS)–Good news for Marco Rubio, Scott Walker, and Carly Fiorina. Mixed news for Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz. Bad news for Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum, and Ben Carson. And if anyone thought Donald Trump or Chris Christie were picking up support from evangelical leaders, pop that bubble.  Those are the findings from a survey of nearly 100 evangelical leaders and insiders. Numerous 2016 GOP candidates have identified evangelicals as a key part of their road to the White House, so WORLD, the leading evangelical news magazine, recently asked 103 evangelical leaders and insiders to see whom they prefer. Ninety-four responded.  WORLD’s first snapshot shows 39 percent of respondents naming Rubio as either their first or second choice. Bush ranked second as the first or second option for 32 percent of respondents. Walker came in third at 28 percent. But when asked to choose their favorite from among the top four GOP candidates in current polls (Trump, Bush, Walker, and Rubio) Rubio at 40 percent and Walker at 33 percent were the clear leaders.


Boy Scouts to Allow Homosexual Leaders


(WNS)–The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) ended its ban on homosexual leaders. The 45-12 vote came during BSA’s National Executive Board meeting in Irving, Texas, in July. The outcome was not a surprise. BSA President Robert Gates has said banning homosexuals from serving as leaders was “no longer legally defensible.”  A statement issued earlier this month noted, “the BSA’s commitment to duty to God and the rights of religious chartered organizations to select their leaders is unwavering.”  John Stemberger, chairman of the Christian youth outdoor program Trail Life USA, disputed that claim. He said the churches that stand for biblical values will find it increasingly difficult to operate in the structure of the Boy Scouts since so many activities are cooperative in nature. “Camporees, jamborees, and high adventure programs such as Philmont all expose Scouts to leaders from outside one’s chartered unit,” Stemberger said. He said churches that charter Scout units can no longer be confident other leaders will share their beliefs, values, and behavioral standards.


Sweet Cakes Raises Almost Triple State Fine on Faith-Based Funding Site


(WNS)–Christians looking to raise funds for religious liberty causes have a new crowdfunding option that won’t kick them off the site for defending their faith.  In April, popular crowdfunding site GoFundMe halted a campaign raising money for Aaron and Melissa Klein, owners of Sweet Cakes by Melissa. Oregon’s labor commissioner found the couple guilty of violating state anti-discrimination laws when they refused to bake a cake for a same-sex commitment ceremony and ordered them to pay $135,000 in damages to the lesbian couple. Activists brought the fundraiser to the attention of GoFundMe staff, who declared it in violation of the site’s terms of agreement. Company policy says the site cannot be used “in defense of formal charges of heinous crimes, including violent, hateful, or sexual acts.”  But friends opened a new campaign in August using Continue to Give (CTG), a faith-based giving platform, with the goal of raising $150,000. In just two weeks, the campaign has raised $390,000 and boasts more than 20,000 social media “shares” and 8,400 comments from well-wishers.


CDC: More Teenagers Turning to Plan B


(WNS)–Teen pregnancy has declined by 51 percent since peaking in the early 1990s, but new government data show more young girls are relying on the morning-after pill. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 22 percent of sexually active teenagers used the Plan B pill at least once. A decade ago, less than one in 12 girls had used emergency contraception. The popularity of emergency contraceptives is likely due to increased availability. Since 2006, girls 18 and older can buy the morning-after pill without a prescription. But the increasing use of emergency contraceptives also shows the impact of narrowly focused sex education, according to Valerie Huber, president and CEO of the National Abstinence Education Association.


Two Supermarkets To Cover Up Racy Magazine Covers


(WNS)–Rite Aid and Food Lion announced they will start placing Cosmopolitan magazines behind blinders to hide the magazine’s inappropriate covers and content.  The National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCSE) and Victoria Hearst, granddaughter of Hearst Corporation founder William Randolph Hearst, ran a campaign called “Cosmo Harms Minors” that inspired the move. NCSE began its battle for Cosmopolitan, to be placed in wrappers and not sold to minors in 2013.   “This is a pretty significant victory and a step forward,” NCSE executive director Dawn Hawkins said. “With the leadership of Rite Aid and Food Lion, we hope other retailers would follow suit.”


Colorado Appeals Court Upholds Ruling Against Christian Baker


(WNS)–The Colorado Court of Appeals upheld a ruling on Aug. 13 that a Christian baker must make wedding cakes for same-sex couples or pay fines.  In December 2013, a judge with Colorado’s Civil Rights Commission said Jack Phillips, the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, Colo., discriminated against a gay couple who tried to order a wedding cake in July 2012. Phillips said he could make other baked goods for the couple, but not a wedding cake because it violated his religious belief that marriage is between a man and a woman.  The couple filed a civil rights complaint, and Judge Robert N. Spencer ordered Phillips to “cease and desist from discriminating” or face fines ranging from $50 to $500 per person per incident. Six months later, the Civil Rights Commission ordered Phillips and his employees to undergo “comprehensive staff training” on the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act, to file “quarterly compliance reports” for two years, and to document the number of customers denied any type of product or services, citing the reason for the denial.


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