NEW YORK – A nationally-recognized Christian legal organization has filed an appeal of a ruling that barred churches in New York City from meeting in public schools on Sundays. As previously reported, the case of Bronx Household of Faith v. Board of Education of the City of New York has been circling through the court system for the past 17 years. It began in 1995, when Bronx Household of Faith submitted an application to rent a public school building for its worship services, but was denied by the Board of Education. The matter then went to court, which turned into an emotional roller coaster, resulting in both temporary victories and losses to both sides. The Board of Education argued that allowing churches to use school facilities and to advertise their services amounted to a violation of the Establishment Clause in the United States Constitution. The Bronx Household of Faith, represented by the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), pointed to the fact that religious student groups already use school rooms after hours for Bible reading and prayer. The case went all the way up to the United Supreme Court, which declined to hear the matter. In 2012, however, U.S. District Court Judge Loretta Presha issued a permanent injunction, allowing the Bronx Household of Faith to continue to hold services in local public school buildings indefinitely.
She stated that denial of the use of the building equated to an infringement of the Free Exercise and Establishment Clauses of the U.S. Constitution. But the ruling was again appealed, and earlier this month, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 that the Board of Education’s regulation barring churches from meeting in schools while allowing secular activities doesn’t violate the Constitution “We conclude that the prohibition was consistent with its constitutional duties,” the panel wrote, referencing the separation of church and state. “The Free Exercise Clause … has never been understood to require government to finance a subject’s exercise of religion.” But this week, ADF appealed the decision to the full court of appeals, which automatically places the ruling on hold until the court decides whether or not to accept the request. More
1 Timothy 4:1-2 – 4 Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, 2 speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron.
ANN ARBOR, Mich. – A Vineyard minister in Michigan is claiming that he received a ‘strong nudge from Jesus’ a few years ago to announce his changing views on homosexuality—a topic that he is now discussing in a new book about embracing homosexuals in the Church. “It’s about welcoming previously excluded groups,” Ken Wilson Vineyard Church of Ann Arbor recently told the Detroit Free Press. “That’s what it means to be evangelical—to make the good news accessible to those who haven’t had access to it. That’s my task. That’s what a church is supposed to do.” Wilson, 62, states that he had opposed homosexuality for much of his life, including when he launched the church in the 1970′s. However, with the turn of the century, his views began to change as he discussed the matter with members whose family members were homosexual. Wilson claims that in 2011, God told him to write a letter to his congregation to explain that he was rethinking his position on homosexuality. “I got a strong nudge from Jesus,” he asserted. Last month, Wilson released A Letter to my Congregation:
An Evangelical Pastor’s Path to Embracing People who are Gay, Lesbian, and Transgender Into the Company of Jesus. He told the Detroit Free Pressthat while he ”take[s] the Bible very seriously,” he does not believe that it prohibits sexual relations between those of the same gender. “There’s no real indication monogamous, gay partnerships were the aim of the Biblical texts, but there were some very clearly examples of exploitative same-sex sexuality, like temple prostitution or slave sex, masters requiring slaves to perform sexual services as part of their ownership of them,” he stated. “The Sodom and Gomorrah story is about gang rape. It’s not about anything like loving monogamous relationships. To apply that to the issue of homosexuality is a gross misuse of Scripture.” More
We have an approach towards Syria that’s predicated on the assumption that the Assad government launched the sarin gas attacks when in fact there’s overwhelming evidence that it was in fact done by the rebels and not by Assad,” he added. “And that we have an attitude and an approach towards Ukraine that involves encircling Russia, but in fact the unrest in Ukraine was the result of Western powers putting five billion dollars into the country some by George Soros,” Fetzer noted. “And now we have a new article from Strategic Culture that the West is about to perpetrate false flag attacks in Ukraine in order to justify the intervention by the Pentagon,” he said. “In my opinion any attempt to encircle Russia is destined to failure. The future appears to be one in which Russia, China and Iran together emerge as a mighty power in the world, and where the US efforts to staunch the flow of history are misconceived…and will not make a significant difference to the way events are going to play out,” Fetzer emphasized. Press TV
The commentator’s remarks came after reports said that Washington plans to deploy troops to Poland and Estonia to conduct drills with its allies. The US is to send 150 troops to participate in nearly two weeks of military exercises. The planned exercises by the US are part of a broader NATO plan to expand its presence in East Europe. Over the past two months, the US has beefed up its presence in East Europe as Ukraine grapples with spiraling crisis. Tensions between the Western powers and Moscow heightened after Crimea declared independence from Ukraine and formally applied to become part of the Russian Federation following a referendum on March 16, in which nearly 97 percent of voters in Crimea said yes to reunion with Russia. Russia said on Saturday that NATO’s further enlargement will change European security structure, posing a serious threat to Moscow. Relations between Russia and NATO have been at their worst since Crimea’s reunification with Russia. Press TV
So far, the pro-Russian militants have shown little sign of budging from public buildings in the east, though there was some hope of progress after Kiev said it would not move against the separatists over Easter, and international mediators headed to eastern Ukraine to try to persuade them to disarm. But the shootings near Slaviansk – already a flashpoint for tensions between Ukraine’s rival camps – are likely to make that task even harder, hardening the view of the many Russian-speakers in eastern Ukraine that they cannot trust Kiev. ”The Easter truce has been violated,” the Russian foreign ministry said in a statement. “This provocation … testifies to the lack of will on the part of the Kiev authorities to rein in and disarm nationalists and extremists.” The town’s self-appointed pro-Russia mayor placed a curfew on the town and appealed directly to Russia’s Vladimir Putin to consider sending in peacekeeping troops – an outcome Ukraine tried to avoid by holding back its poorly resourced forces. Ukraine’s SBU security service accused Moscow agents of faking a “cynical provocation” at Slaviansk and the foreign ministry hit back, reproaching Russia for rushing to judgment and failing to meet its part of the deal struck in Geneva: ”The Russian side must be reminded about their obligations under the Geneva agreement to bring all necessary influence to bear on separatists to clear illegally held buildings, unblock roads, lay down arms and prevent any bloodshed,” it said. Right Sector spokesman Artem Skoropadsky said it was a “blasphemous provocation fromRussia: blasphemous because it took place on a holy night for Christians, on Easter night. This was clearly carried out by Russian special forces.” More
Displaying the first examples of animals with reversed genitals, researchers have discovered cave insects in which the females have penis-like genitals and the males have vagina-like organs. Scientists discovered the little-known cave insects from extremely dry caves in Brazil. Of the four species studied in the Neotrogla genus, the females possessed penislike genitals labeled gynosomes, and the males had vagina-like phallosomes – the first ever cases of extreme reversal of sex roles. “Neotrogla species constitute the first cases in nature in which genitalia are reversed,” study co-author Rodrigo Ferreira, a cave biologist at the Federal University of Lavras in Brazil, told Live Science. The penis-like organs present in the females are relatively large in comparison to the insects, about one-seventh the length of the insect as a whole. The insects were found to engage in intercourse between 40 and 70 hours, with the females inserting their gynosomes into the male organs. Published in the Massachusetts-based journal, Current Biology, the scientists findings show a “completely novel structure in evolution,” study author Kazunori Yoshizawa told Live Science. “Evolution of such novelties is exceptionally rare, maybe comparable with the origin of insect wings.” There is no biological structure known anywhere else among females in the animal kingdom analogous to the insects’ gynosome, Yoshizawa told Live Science. Due to excessive amounts of nutritious semen that the males produce, the resource-poor caves cause the females to copulate at much higher rates, and with greater intensity.
“It is very likely that female Neotrogla can coercively grasp and copulate with a reluctant male,” Yoshizawa told Live Science. “In animals, coercive mating is generally an exclusive feature of males.” The scientists are continuing to explore how males respond to coercive mating from the females, and the researchers note that dozens of new species are turning up in the Brazilian caves. “This indicates the huge potential that Brazil possesses regarding cave fauna,” Ferreira said. “Brazil might have more than 150,000 caves.” But study author Ferreira said that many of these caves and rare insects have become seriously endangered. “The Brazilian laws regarding cave protection have changed in recent years and now the caves, which used to be protected, are under risk,” Ferreira said. “Many new species, some of which could bring huge advances for science — biology, evolution or even some of biotechnological interest — are threatened. Many species are under the risk of extinction even before being discovered.” CBS Connecticut
A second alleged use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime occurred in the same area within days of the first attack, according to Syrian opposition sources, though the Israeli security source said he could not confirm the report. In one instance, according to the New York-based website Syria Deeply, which interviewed doctors on the ground, 25 fighters were wounded. Despite the assertion by the Israeli source that the chemical was nonlethal, some reports suggested that four people had died in the March 27 attack. Syria Deeply cited the Syrian American Medical Society, a group of Syrian-American doctors and surgeons who travel to Syria, as condemning what it described as a “poisonous gas attack” in Harasta. Syria has destroyed the majority of its chemical weapon production centers and is in the midst of transporting existing arms from storage sites to ships in Latakia to remove the substances and destroy them, according to Israeli security assessments. The disarmament efforts, which have been stepped up in recent weeks, are being managed by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. Prior to the disarmament program, Syria had amassed the world’s largest stockpile of VX nerve agents, Sarin and mustard gas. In August 2013, a chemical attack on a rebel-held area north of Damascus left 1,400 civilians dead. The massacre led to a Russian- brokered disarmament agreement that saw Assad agree to give up the unconventional arms in exchange for avoiding a US military strike.Jerusalem Post
The main synagogue in the Ukrainian city of Nikolayev reportedly was firebombed. The synagogue was empty of worshippers when it was firebombed early Saturday morning, according to the Chabad-affiliated Shturem.org website. Two Molotov cocktails were thrown at the door and window, the report said, citing Yisroel Gotlieb, son of the city’s chief rabbi, Sholom Gotlieb.A passer-by put out the fires with a fire extinguisher, according to the report. The attack was recorded by the synagogue’s closed circuit television security camera and uploaded to YouTube. Nikolayev, a Black Sea port city of approximately 500,000, is located in southeastern Ukraine about 70 miles from Odessa. The Giymat Rosa Synagogue in Zaporizhia, located 250 miles southeast of Kiev, in eastern Ukraine, was firebombed in late February. Last week in eastern Ukraine, fliers calling on Jews to register with pro-Russian separatists and pay special taxes were distributed in Donetsk.Times Of Israel
Appearing to side with the gay-rights plaintiffs, the judge writes that while SMUG is made up of groups “that advocate for the fair and equal treatment of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people,” Lively is an “American citizen residing in Springfield, Mass., who, according to the complaint, holds himself out to be an expert on what he terms the ‘gay movement.’” Posner goes on to cite “many authorities” who “implicitly support the principle that widespread, systematic persecution of individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity constitutes a crime against humanity.” Arguing that concluding Lively’s statements are protected under the First Amendment was “premature,” the judge further wrote: “Indeed, defendant, according to the amended complaint, is alleged to have maintained what amounts to a kind of ‘Homophobia Central” in Springfield. He has allegedly supported and actively participated in worldwide initiatives, with a substantial focus on Uganda, aimed at repressing free expression by LGBTI groups, destroying the organizations that support them, intimidating LGBTI individuals, and even criminalizing the very status of being lesbian or gay.” Lively sought to have the complaint dismissed when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled, in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum, that the Alien Tort Statute doesn’t apply to foreign territory and that the law cannot be used to challenge foreign conduct in courts in the United States. Mihet sums up the heart of the case against Lively as being the belief that First Amendment free speech protections should play second fiddle to an international consensus that criticism of homosexuality is criminal. More
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s decision to put troops there shows Japan’s concerns about the vulnerability of its thousands of islands and the perceived threat from China. The new base “should give Japan the ability to expand surveillance to near the Chinese mainland,” said Heigo Sato, a professor at Takushoku University and a former researcher at the Defense Ministry’s National Institute for Defense Studies. ”It will allow early warning of missiles and supplement the monitoring of Chinese military movements.” Japan does not specify an exact enemy when discussing its defense strategy but it makes no secret it perceives China generally as a threat as it becomes an Asian power that could one day rival Japan’s ally in the region, the United States. Japan, in its National Defense Programme Guidelines issued in December, expressed “great concern” over China’s military buildup and “attempts to change the status quo by coercion” in the sea and air. More
Harbaugh said officials asked the president or first lady to speak at graduation as a tie-in with the anniversary of the Brown decision, which outlawed school segregation. The district plans to place a priority on seating students and their families, and could broadcast the event to an overflow room at a hotel adjacent to the graduation arena for those unable to find a seat inside. That’s not good enough for Taylor Gifford, 18, who started an online petition on Thursday evening to urge the district to reconsider its plans. She and the more than 1,200 people who had signed it expressed concern that Obama’s visit would limit the seating options for family and friends. ’I really would like it to have a peaceful solution, but there is so much misinformation going on,’Gifford said. Gifford said her initial reaction to the news was excitement, saying she was ‘freaking out’ about the prospect of the first lady speaking at graduation. When rumors of limited tickets surfaced, Gifford felt like the focus was being shifted from the students to Obama. More
The chaos in Ukraine during recent months has seen groups both pro- and anti- Russia levelling accusations of fascism. During the fortnight before the Donetsk leaflets were distributed, anti-Jewish slogans and swastikas were daubed on houses and a Jewish cemetery in Odessa. Last night it emerged that Jewish families in eastern Ukraine had become so concerned they were seeking advice about repatriation to Israel. Alexander Ivanchenko, who runs Sohnut, an organisation helping people to move to Israel, said: “It is hard to talk about numbers now but there are more people who come for advice.” As the climate of fear grows, however, the authenticity of the pamphlets is being called into question. Denis Pushilin, leader of the breakaway pro-Russian People’s Republic, vehemently denied his organisation was behind the leaflets. “Look at this document, I have never called myself the people’s governor, my job is different,” he told the Sunday Express. “The stamp is bigger than it should be because it was Photoshopped from some real document.” Mr Pushilin, who claims to run the industrial region of Donetsk, added: “I am personally strongly against any declarations of this sort made against Jewish or any other people. This is a dirty trick by our foes. It is a forgery.” His militant supporters, who were yesterday still defying last week’s Geneva agreement to lay down arms and surrender control of government buildings, showed how Room 514 in the regional HQ, supposedly where Jewish people should register, was empty. They called on Ukraine’s police and secret services to find the real culprits, claiming the authors “tried to provoke a conflict”, and pin blame on the separatists. Dr Efraim Zuroff, of the respected Simon Wiesenthal Centre, agreed, suggesting the Donetsk flyers were “an attempt to paint the pro-Russian forces as anti-Semitic”.More
However, unless more is done to help cocoa production, the crisis will continue until it becomes unsustainable. Mondelez International – a multinational confectionery, food and beverage conglomerate – said it had pledged to invest more than $400 million to help ease the crisis. Over the next ten years, it is set to pump millions into Ghana, Ivory Coast, Indonesia, India and the Dominican Republic to help improve the productivity and life of cocoa farmers. Chris McGrath, head of the Cocoa Life programme at Mondelez, told The Times: ‘We realised that there was a long-term supply shortage. ‘Farmers are ageing and I don’t see the next generation behind them. We have to help transform the chain.’ The International Cocoa Organisation also said plans were in place to help cultivation in Indonesia. With investment in cocoa processing industries growing at a fast rate in the country, the Government is considering cancelling tax on cocoa bean imports as production levels have fallen short in fuelling the country’s domestic grinding requirements. MailOnline
A political analyst has warned of rising tensions between the US and Russia over Ukraine, saying the two countries seem to be gearing up for a war, Press TV reports. In an interview on Saturday, William Jones said Washington and Moscow are preparing for war by increasing troops on the borders of Ukraine as well as maintaining military presence in the country’s neighboring states. “We are preparing for war. The increase of [US] troops on the eastern border [of Ukraine with Russia], more troops, more planes to the Baltic States, to Romania, [and] to all of the countries bordering Russia at the same time that the Russians are maintaining their own defense capability [show that], we are really in something of a prewar situation,” he added.
“I think that you are looking at a situation which can very easily lead to war and that is a war between nuclear powers,” he added. The analyst noted that Washington is trying to impose more sanctions on Russia as part of an attempt “to find a scapegoat” for the turmoil in Ukraine. Tensions between the US and Russia heightened after Crimea declared independence from Ukraine and formally applied to become part of the Russian Federation following a referendum on March 16. Meanwhile, pro-Russia rallies have been a common scene across eastern Ukrainian cities over the past weeks with protesters demanding local referendums on either independence or integration into Russia. Press TV
A special flight to bring the flame to Moscow will leave from Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv, arriving in the Russian capital at 10:30 pm local time. This year marks the eleventh consecutive Easter that The Holy Fire, which symbolizes the miraculous light of the Resurrection, is being brought to Russia from Israel. This year it will be taken for the first time to Crimea, the former Ukrainian region that became part of Russia in March. The flame, described by Orthodox Christians as an annual miracle, was lit on Holy Saturday – the day preceding Orthodox Easter – after Patriarch Theophilos III of Jerusalem delivered his prayer. In the morning the room had been carefully checked for any possible sources of fire. After this, the room was sealed in the presence of Israeli police. The patriarch then passed the fire over to believers. Although the Holy Fire has been a major Eastern Orthodox ritual for so long, Western Catholic and Protestant churches do not recognize the practice. More
DAYS OF LOT – Great news for Spain’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community: the nation tops a list of 40 countries most accepting of homosexuality, according to aPew Research Center’s Global Views on Morality poll. Fifty-five percent of Spanish participants surveyed in the poll described homosexuality as “morally acceptable,” while 38 percent deemed it “not a moral issue.” Just six percent felt that homosexuality was “morally unacceptable.” The results were less optimistic in nations like Ghana and Russia, where 98 percent and 72 percent of participants deemed homosexuality “morally unacceptable,” respectively. In the United States, 35 percent felt that homosexuality was “not a moral issue,” while 37 percent described it as “morally unacceptable.” Twenty-three percent of Americans felt it was “morally acceptable,” according to the poll. The Global Views on Morality survey also examined national views on issues like extramarital affairs, abortion and alcohol consumption. You can read more about the survey here. More