GuideStar Backs Off, Church Buildings Proclaim Gospel, Religious Liberty and SCOTUS, Transgenderism in the Military

SIGNS AND WONDERS

Guiding GuideStar. GuideStar is one of the largest sources of financial information about nonprofit organizations on the Internet. I use it often in my reporting about Christian ministries. That’s why it was troubling when Guidestar started labeling nonprofit organizations as “hate groups” based solely on what Family Research Council called the “defamatory labels” of the Southern Poverty Law Center. That’s why FRC and 41 other organizations sent a letter to GuideStar “to express our strong disagreement with GuideStar’s newly implemented policy that labels 46 American organizations as ‘hate groups.'” The letter seemed to work. GuideStar said it would remove the “hate group” label—for now. In a statement, GuideStar wrote: “We acknowledge there is a deep, nuanced conversation to be had with Americans of all political, cultural, and religious backgrounds regarding how we address—and identify—hate groups.”

The Stones Cry Out. Paul Simon’s autobiographical 1986 hit “You Can Call Me Al” describes “angels in the architecture.” When the troubled, middle-aged man in the song sees them, he cries “Amen” and “Hallelujah.” Paul Simon is apparently not alone in seeing theology carved into the designs of buildings. A new survey of British youth says more of them are Christians than previously realized, and many of them were inspired to follow Christ by the meaning-laden architecture of the churches and cathedrals of the country. The survey says that about 21 percent of British youth claim to be active followers of Christ, a level much higher than previous surveys suggested. More of the youth cited visiting a church building as more important than programs or special events in initiating their walk with Christ. John Inge, the Bishop of Worcester, told The Telegraph, “This shows the power of church buildings—they are powerful for all sorts of reasons. They give a sense of stability, and also the sense that the Christian faith has inspired people to build these extraordinary buildings.”

Religious Liberty Landmarks. The Supreme Court made a couple of decisions this week that could affect the religious liberty landscape. In a 7-2 decision, the court ruled that Trinity Lutheran Church could, in fact, accept material provided by the state for its playground. Lower court rulings had said that supporting the church in this way was preferential treatment of the church and amounted to the “establishment” of one religion over another. The High Court said Trinity Lutheran received no benefit not available to all other nonprofit organizations, and it should not be excluded merely because it was a religious organization. In a second decision, SCOTUS agreed to hear the case of cakemaker Jack Phillips. Phillips refused to bake a cake for two gay men who wanted to use the cake in a same-sex marriage ceremony. The two men filed an anti-discrimination complaint against him, and the case has been winding its way through the legal process for the past couple of years. To read an excerpt of a 2014 interview I did with Jack Phillips, click here.

Reality Bites. The Obama administration told military leaders they had to accommodate transgender service personnel, and they had until July 1 to make the needed changes in policy. However, fighting nature and nature’s God has proven to be difficult. Military leaders are requesting from Defense Secretary Jim Mattis a six-month delay in the implementation of the new rules. And six months night not be enough. According to WORLD, “The Army and Air Force reportedly wanted a two-year wait, but the chiefs feared that request would generate too much opposition on Capitol Hill.”

Image courtesy of rabbit75_ist at iStock by Getty Images.

Warren Cole Smith is an investigative journalist and author as well as the Colson Center vice president for mission advancement.


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  • Phoenix1977

    ” In a second decision, SCOTUS agreed to hear the case of cakemaker Jack Phillips. Phillips refused to bake a cake for two gay men who wanted to use the cake in a same-sex marriage ceremony. The two men filed an anti-discrimination complaint against him, and the case has been winding its way through the legal process for the past couple of years.”
    The LGBT community is very happy with SCOTUS taking this case. If SCOTUS decides Jack Philips is in the wrong this will sett all cases in all 50 states, including the 18 states that don’t have anti-discrimination laws. Add in the mix Neil Gorsuch is a wild card in LGBT cases and the majority in favor of LGBT rights is still intact. Religious people may hope SCOTUS will rule in favor of religious liberty but SCOTUS has not ruled against LGBTs once in the past 20 years. Even with Gorsuch ruling against LGBT rights the majority of 5 Justices who ruled in favor in Obergefell vs. Hodges is still intact.

    • Jean Clink

      It is not against ‘LGBT rights’ that we want a vote, but we want a vote in favor of the rights of the bakers, the banks, the gun shop owners, as Joel Stucki pointed out above, to serve the public according to their moral standards.

      • Phoenix1977

        Banks and gun shop owners in one sentence with morals? I think you and me have quite different concepts of morals, than.

  • Joel Stucki

    I don’t understand why it’s so hard for people to see the difference between baking a cake for a person who happens to be gay and baking a cake for a gay wedding. There is a massive difference between those two things. In one case, I am simply making a product for a customer. In the other case, I am participating in, supporting, and affirming a relationship and a ceremony which is contrary to my faith. It’s not “a new Jim Crow,” as so many people want to say it is. I would never refuse to serve a gay customer simply for being gay. But why should they be able to force me to violate my beliefs? Participating in a gay wedding supports homosexuality ITSELF, going beyond simply affirming the humanity of the couple. I cannot do that. I wouldn’t make a cake for a divorce party (if there is such a thing), I wouldn’t make a cake for a “shout your abortion” party, I wouldn’t make a cake for someone who wants to celebrate ANYTHING which I find morally wrong. No one should be able to force me to do so.

    If I owned a gun shop, and someone told me they wanted to buy a gun so that they could go rob a convenience store, I would refuse the sale.

    If I owned a cell phone store, and someone told me they wanted a phone to hide from their spouse for the express purpose of cheating on them, I would refuse the sale.

    If I were a banker, and someone wanted to open an account which they intended to use for the commission of crimes, I would refuse to open the account.

    The principles are the same. There is a huge difference between simply serving a customer like any other, and serving a customer when you KNOW that your service will be used to commit or promote something immoral.

    • Zarm

      I would agree that declining to take a contract to create a special order for an event or belief you disagree with is miles of difference form ‘refusing service to a customer’ (who is still free to purchase anything in the store); I would think any business which orders custom creations should have the moral right of refusal to create a custom order in any situation; a person should not have to leave their conscience by the wayside the moment they start selling something, and the creation of custom-orders should be recognized as entirely separate from the sale of goods (which is, and ought to be, absolutely equally available to everyone).

      Apparently, there are those who see things differently. Hopefully, the law will ultimately not be one of them.

  • Paul McCosby

    “We acknowledge there is a deep, nuanced conversation to be had with Americans of all political, cultural, and religious backgrounds regarding how we address—and identify—hate groups.”

    I would tend to think that the problem has more to do with the sheer defamatory nature of the term “hate group.” I am not sure that this is a term which it is advisable to use at all.

  • Jean Clink

    ”The Obama administration told military leaders they had to accommodate
    transgender service personnel, and they had until July 1 to make the
    needed changes in policy.”

    If a baker gains the right to act according to his conscience, should not the military have the same right?

    It will be interesting to see how this all goes.