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Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

A new Georgia law is preventing convicted “sex offenders” from participating in church activities. Anything from singing in the choir to preparing a meal in the kitchen is now off-limits to sex offenders in the state of Georgia.

ATLANTA — Five sex offenders filed a lawsuit Tuesday claiming that a tough new Georgia law that bans them from volunteering at churches also robs them of their right to participate in religious worship.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Rome, claims the Georgia law effectively “criminalizes fundamental religious activities” for sex offenders and bars them from serving as a choir member, secretary, accountant or any other role with a religious organization.

“Even helping a pastor with Bible study or preparing a meal in a church kitchen will subject (sex offenders) to prosecution and imprisonment,” the complaint said.

To begin with, when did it become legal for the government to begin telling the church how they could conduct religious activities, and who could participate? The Constitution clearly prevents the state from interfering with religious activities, so long as there is no harm being done by religious activities. The big question here is “does the government have the right to legislate who and who may not engage in either voluntary or paid religious activities?”

Secondly, how exactly are we defining “sex offender” here? Are we limiting the religious activities of somebody who thirty years ago as a twenty year old boy had sex with a seventeen year old girl? Or how about somebody who didn’t even commit a sexual crime, but under highly idiotic laws gets slapped onto the sex offender registry anyway?

“Certain people on the sex offender registry should not work with children in a church setting or elsewhere,” says Sarah Geraghty, an attorney with the center. “But criminalizing the practice of religion for all 15,000 people on the registry will do more harm than good.”

The group’s lawsuit centers on five sex offenders who fear the new provision, which goes into effect July 1, will ban them from participating in many religious functions.

Among them is Omar Howard, a 33-year-old who is on the registry after he was convicted of false imprisonment of a minor during a 1993 burglary.

He got involved in a Christian ministry during his 14 year prison sentence and he became an active volunteer at several churches after his release last year. Now he’s not sure whether the law will allow him to help prepare for revival meetings, serve on church committees or sing in the choir, which he feels is part of his calling.

“What really can I do? This law cripples me. All I can do is go to sermons and leave. Why am I a threat to exercise my faith?” he said.

Let’s take a look at the crimes of some of the volunteers who would no longer be allowed to work in the church under this law.

Andrew Norton: Andrew Norton, now 25, is on the registry for a crime that occurred at age 12. Mr. Norton, his wife, and two daughters are devoutly religious. Mr. Norton volunteers as part of a ministry to spread word about his church and to pass along the message of Jesus. He is not involved in any church activity that involves unsupervised contact with minors.

Lori Collins: Lori Collins is on the registry for statutory rape. She completed the Georgia Department of Corrections Faith and Character Program and is now an ordained minister. Since Ms. Collins’ release from prison, she has been active in prison ministry outreach and regularly attends Mt. Paran Church of God. None of Ms. Collins’ volunteer activities with the church involve being around minors. She only wants to continue to serve God by spreading his Word and being active in the life of the Church.

Angela Coffey is on the registry for having sex with a 17-year-old student in her class. Ms. Coffey went to prison for this offense, and was released this year. She is a churchgoer and would like her daughter to be raised in the church. Because of the extremely harsh penalties imposed by this statute, she is fearful of participating in activities that might be considered “volunteering” such as Bible study, serving on church committees and helping to prepare for church gatherings.

Here are the crimes of the plaintiffs in this case.

Omar Howard-Never convicted of a sexual crime. He was convicted of voluntary manslaughter, false imprisonment, armed robbery, and other crimes related to a burglary. Because one of the individuals who was falsely imprisoned was a minor, he is required to register as a sexual offender.

Andrew Norton-Committed an undisclosed crime at the age of 12. He is required to register as a sex offender. None of his volunteer activities involve him working with minors.

Lori Collins-Convicted of statutory rape with a 15 year old minor in 2002. She is now an ordained minister through her denomination, and volunteers in prison ministry. As of July 1, 2008 when this law goes into effect, she will no longer be able to work in the prison ministry. Nor will she be able to help prepare for prayer meetings, revival meetings, seminars, or other church activities.

Angela Coffey-Convicted of statutory rape of a 17 year old minor in 2007. Now attends church with her 13 month old daughter. She desires to be active in her church, but under the new law would be prevented from doing any volunteer work in her church.

And here is the declaration of Rev. Floyd Rose, who stated that in his opinion this law would prevent individuals from participating in their church fully as believers.

This law, according to the motion filed to put an injunction in place against it, would require someone who broke this law to spend a minimum of 10 years in prison, and a maximum of 30. And that’s only for volunteering in a church! Many sexual offenders get less jail time for raping or molesting their victims.

This law is clearly overstepping the bounds of the government, and is interfering with religious freedom. The church has a duty to protect it’s most vulnerable from predators, yes. However, the church also has the duty to help believers find their gifts and engage in ministry. The government has no right to intrude on the church in this manner. And certainly not without clarifying who the bill is meant for, and what they’re prohibited from doing.

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Phil Johnson recently posted a blog entry on the Pyromaniacs blog. If you aren’t a fan of Team Pyro, you really should check them out. Visit their blog, and do a read through. Of course, if you aren’t a fan of reading that’s a little heavy, you may not like the blog. Team Pyro consists of four bloggers, who visit topics concerning Christianity, particularly from a Reformed perspective. I’m a bit of a fan of these guys. But right now, we’re talking about the church and politics, so let’s get back on topic. Phil made a post that you can read here. Allow me to pull a quote out, from the beginning paragraph.

“If you are known for your political agenda more than for your commitment to Christ, your values are upside down. If you make the gospel subservient to a political strategy or a partisan agenda, you’re probably doing more harm than good.”

Think about that for a minute. How often do you hear a preacher, particularly a tv preacher, speak more about politics than about the Gospel? Pat Robertson and John Hagee(both heretics by the way) immediately come to mind. While they both may engage in some good things, they do have some major problems. These men seem to be more in line with Dominionists.

I do think that Phil missed something though, in his series. Of course, it probably isn’t his fault, because I’ve not heard of this much myself. Around two years ago, I visited a church here in the Memphis area. This was right around the time that Israel and Syria were trading rockets back and forth. Naturally, this was immediately picked up by the prophecy nuts. When the pastor of this church got up to preach, he made a statement that concerned me so much that I didn’t walk away from that church after the sermon, I ran. I’ve never dropped back in, and I won’t. He stated “I spent eight hours watching the news about Israel and Syria in preparation for this sermon. And over the coming weeks, we’ll be doing the same thing as we discuss this event and the prophecy of Revelation.” Could you imagine such a thing being done in your church? Could you imagine your pastor standing up and stating that he had spent eight hours preparing for his sermon by watching TV? How does a pastor admit to such nonsense?

Sermons in our churches should be based on Scripture, not on the news. This is one of the dangers of preaching primarily in a topical manner. Now I’m not saying that topical preaching is bad. I think it can be very good. I think covering issues such as the Lord’s Supper, Baptism, and Church Discipline for a few examples in a topical manner is tremendous, and can probably be covered better topically than when preaching in an expository manner only.

But I think this is indicative of a deeper problem, mainly that some Christians get so involved in current events and political events, that they read into Scripture what isn’t there. They get so excited about prophecy, that every event in the Middle East is major news to them.

And the dangerous and scary part is that the people in the congregations sit and listen to such nonsense, and do nothing about it, because they see no wrong. They either don’t care, or don’t know enough about the Bible to realize that this is wrong.

If you’re a pastor, a leader, a Sunday School teacher, or anyone teaching others in churches, it would probably be wise to heed Phil Johnson’s advice in the blog message. Allow me to take some of his advice, and paraphrase it to match what I’ve said here. If what happens in the news alters your preaching, then you’ve got your heart and head in the wrong place. Preach the Gospel, and not the News. Christians don’t need sermons relevant to current events. They need sermons that are spiritual, and Biblically sound.

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Republican Presidential Candidate Sen. John McCain has officially rejected the endorsement of controversial pastor John Hagee. John Hagee is a pastor who supports Israel heavily, and who frequently engages in anti-Catholic rhetoric. Hagee recently stepped away from comments he had made concerning the Catholic Church, including comments such as “the Catholic church is the Great Whore.”
Hagee, who has a large following among evangelical Christians, has become a source of contention among Christianity for his various heterodox beliefs. His recent comments stating that Christ did not come as Messiah, has been a cause for alarm for many conservative Christians.
Democrats have been searching for something controversial from the pastors who have declared support for McCain, in order to create a firestorm like that which has surrounded Obama and his “former pastor” Rev Wright. There is a difference however, Obama sat under Wright for nearly twenty years. Hagee has never been McCain’s pastor, so how is McCain supposed to know any of Hagee’s odd beliefs? Obama, if he is as smart as he wants us to believe, should have known of Wright’s controversial beliefs. The two are not comparable in this instance.
Nonetheless, McCain is right to distance himself from Hagee. Hagee has an assortment of odd beliefs that could possibly do damage to the McCain campaign if McCain were to retain his support. Hagee is hardly the poster boy for evangelical Christianity, or for Christianity in general.

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For several weeks now, the CPS in the state of Texas has been under scrutiny for their decision to take over four hundred children from their parents after a phone call from an alleged abuse victim on an FLDS ranch. The CPS decided to take all the children, based on the supposition that the FLDS are abusing the children on the ranch. A court in Texas recently ruled that the CPS had acted without warrant in seizing all the children from the ranch. Among the criticisms leveled at CPS by the court, was that authorities had failed to prove that all the children were being abused(there is evidence that only five of these children had been sexually abused as of yet), or that the abuse was imminent.
This case has raised concern among many across the United States, who fear that this case could provide a basis to seize children in other instances based on little or no evidence of wrong-doing. The recent court ruling is seen as a boon to proponents of religious freedom by many evangelical Christians.
The court ruling stated that the CPS was wrong to consider the danger of grooming boys to be sexual abusers and girls to be victims of sexual abuse as being “imminent or urgent.” It also stated that CPS was wrong to consider the ranch to be a single household, and to seize all the children as though they were all somehow related. This case however, is far more tangled than many believe. Survivors of abuse from the FLDS have cited many concerns about FLDS culture that make this case infinitely more difficult than that of a single evangelical church where there are many households.
Polygyny is the practice of having more than one wife. The FLDS doctrine of polygyny comes directly from the early LDS practice of polygyny, which was abandoned when Utah realized that in order to become a state in the Union they needed to ban the practice. Polygyny in FLDS culture is the same as it was in early LDS culture. It is a practice of older men taking a household of younger wives(see Inside Today’s Mormonism by Richard Abanes, chapter 9). In a polygynous culture, the age for women to get married tends to get younger, and men get married at an older age. It also is biased towards wealthier, more powerful men. Men who are wealthy and have a power status within the community are able to gather more wives to themselves, whereas men without as much wealth and power are relegated to having less wives, or being excommunicated from the community(PoliGazette). In early LDS culture, uncles and nieces were frequently married. Men who had more status in the church were regarded as being better candidates for marriage. It was a practice for church missionaries to go into the field, and bring back a selection of young women for wives as the communities would frequently run out of marriable women(Inside Today’s Mormonism, Richard Abanes, pp 232-233).
Within these polygynous communities, if a man falls out of favor with the church leaders, he can be excommunicated and have his family taken from him and given to another man. This is why many of the FLDS children have a difficult time telling who exactly their parents are. But not only are FLDS children and wives assigned to different fathers and husbands, children may be assigned to different mothers.(PoliGazette)
A major problem that many evangelical Christians have had with the CPS raid on the FLDS compound is that CPS workers have stated that they were concerned with the homeschooling on the program. But what evangelicals have failed to realize is that the homeschooling education within the FLDS community is extremely poor. “Survival skills like violence and control seem to take the place of formal education.  Most FLDs children are church- or homeschooled.

“No state is monitoring the non-education of these children,” says Moore-Emmett.  She describes a weak curriculum of basic math and spelling.  Literature other than holy scripture is forbidden.  History is restricted to the genealogy of the Mormon prophets.  Science is regarded as heresy, and other cultures are not  worth knowing about.  Teaching health would only encourage immodest discussions of the human body.”(PoliGazette) What we are looking at is not merely persecution against homeschoolers, but a concern about a severe problem of failing to educate children at all.

Many Evangelical Christians have taken up the cause of the FLDS, mistakenly believing that the FLDS are being persecuted because of a few isolated cases of abuse. But those who have studied the FLDS culture have arrived at a vastly different conclusion. There is evidence of systematic abuse occurring within the FLDS. They groom boys to be sexual predators, and girls to be victims of sexual abuse by being forced into marriages with much older women. They force women and children to separate from their husband and father to live with another man, and make children go to another mother to break up any bonding process. The FLDS are not some happy, little church on the prairie, but an abusive and predatorial community that should be broken up.

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