Christian families who were unable to flee Raqqa when the terrorist group ISIS overran the city and made it their base are being subjected to violence and excessive “protection taxes”.
Fides News Agency reports that the 23 families have been routinely harassed and beaten by the terrorists. They have been told that unless they pay “jizya”, or tax, they will be forced out of their homes on Sunday.
The tax amounts to $535 American dollars and Fides reports the families will be unable to pay because of the restrictions upon them by ISIS.
“In my opinion this is a very grave situation. No western leader is moving to stop such a tragedy but they offer only empty words with no actions,” Munir S. Kakish, chairman of the Council of Local Evangelical Churches in the Holy Land, told The Christian Post.
The churches within the city have been converted to offices for terrorist officials and Bibles and Christian materials are routinely burned by the terrorists.
A lawsuit brought by anti-Christianists against a South Carolina school who held an elementary graduation event inside a Christian chapel will be reheard after an appeals court remanded a district court ruling that sided with the school district.
The anti-Christian American Humanist Association filed a lawsuit in 2013 to stop the Mountain View Elementary School from holding 5th grade graduation at a local Baptist university’s chapel auditorium.
The anti-Christianists claimed that by holding the event in the building, the school was automatically endorsing Christianity.
U.S. District Judge G. Ross Anderson, Jr. denied the anti-Christianist’s request for an injunction but the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the judgment saying the lower court did not provide analysis in the ruling.
The AHA claims that an unnamed atheist student was uncomfortable when one of the other students at the event gave a prayer and other students bowed their heads to pray. Despite the fact the school did not order the student to pray and that the student and those who bowed to pray were just exercising their religious rights, the anti-Christianists say it’s illegal for the Christians to exercise their faith in a way that a non-Christian might see them.
The school claims they were using the facility because they needed a location that could handle the growing attendance for the event.
“Christians should not cower to the new intolerance.”
These were the words of Mary Eberstadt, senior fellow for the Ethics and Public Policy Center, as she addressed a Washington, D.C. audience.
Eberstadt said that the new intolerance “is not an intellectual or philosophical force. In fact, it’s hardly about ideas at all. It is instead something very specific, taken from playbooks that nobody should be proud of studying. It’s about using intimidation, humiliation, censorship, and self-censorship to punish those who think differently.”
Eberstadt said the new intolerance is a serious threat to the church and is already causing divisions because it focuses on the desire to be loved and also to avoid being criticized for the choices made in life.
The end goal of the new intolerance is to get Christians to self-censor, Eberstadt said. This keeps Christians from speaking the truth of Christ’s teachings because someone might feel badly and “not loved” if they choose to do something that opposes Christ.
A virulent anti-Christian organization that found a liberal judge to back them in an attempt to strip pastors of a tax exemption for housing has lost at the appeals level.
The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago reversed the decision of liberal Judge Barbara Crabb who had backed the efforts of the anti-Christian Freedom From Religion Foundation. The court ruled that the FFRF had no standing to bring the case and that Judge Crabb had no basis for her ruling.
“The plaintiffs were never denied the parsonage exemption because they never asked for it, ” the three-judge panel stated. “Without a request, there can be no denial. And absent any personal denial of a benefit, the plaintiff s’ claim amounts to nothing more than a generalized grievance about §107(2)’s unconstitutionality, which does not support standing.”
The Alliance Defending Freedom, which filed a friend of the court brief on behalf of 600 churches, applauded the court making the Constitutionally sound ruling.
“The atheists who filed this suit may have an axe to grind against religion, but as the 7th Circuit found, that doesn’t give them sufficient standing to challenge a tax benefit for which it has never applied and that has been provided to pastors for decades,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Erik Stanley. “The allowance many churches provide to pastors is church money, not government money. It is constitutional and should continue to be respected and protected.”
Officials in Sierra Leone say that churches may be the last Ebola free zones in the country.
Infection rates in Sierra Leone are continuing to rise despite the efforts of western agencies such as Doctors Without Borders and the United Nations.
“We will overcome Ebola through the blood of Christ, with His help, and with prayer,” Pastor Olatunji Oseni told his congregation at a church in Freetown according ot the Christian Post.
Sierra Leone has forbidden most public gatherings such as soccer matches, concerts, schools or movies but the faithful have been continuing to flood into churches despite the concerns over the killer virus.
A deacon at Winner’s Chapel told the Christian Post that some measures have ben taken to safeguard against Ebola such as elimination of shaking hands and hugging.
Meanwhile, the United Nations is reporting that their latest survey estimates 50 percent of the Ebola cases in Sierra Leone were not reported to officials and most of the patients who did not seek medical attention died from the virus.
A former church is being transformed into the first synagogue in the German state of Brandenburg since 1938.
The former “castle church” in Cottbus, Germany was handed from Christian leader Ulrike Menzel to the Jewish Association of the State of Brandenburg. The facility will be renovated and then dedicated for use on January 27, 2015, Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Menzel said during the transfer event that he was pleased to see the house of worship return to its intended use. The church that had met in the building had disbanded and the facility was used for social events during the last few years.
The synagogue in Cottbus was destroyed on Kristallnacht when Germans nationwide took Jewish property and synagogues. The site of that former synagogue in Cottbus is now the location of a department store.
The Jewish community formally reestablished in the city in 1998 and lists 350 members who are all former Soviet Union residents that fled for freedom to worship.
Noted evangelist John Piper says that pastors who are bullying and using fear to control congregations need to be rebuked for their sinful actions.
Piper addressed a question from a listener on his podcast about abusive leaders within the church.
While Piper said the words “bully” and “bullying” are not in the Bible, the application of what the Bible calls “bad shepherds” applies in the cases of what we today would call bullying.
“Does the pastor get down and live alongside his people, giving examples to them or is he always pompously pronouncing with a domineering sense of I’m a big shot in this church and you guys ought to toe the line,” Piper said. If it was the big shot mentality, Piper stated, “That’s bullying and that’s the opposite of what God calls his shepherds to be.”
Piper also said that in some cases what is called bullying is really pastors exercising the authority given to them by God to rebuke and correct those under their teaching to guide people to be more like Christ.
Piper added if someone is unsure about their pastor’s actions, to “go to the Bible, especially the New Testament, use all of it to form a well-rounded picture of what biblical leadership and biblical shepherding is and then measure your pastor by that.”
The Seattle area megachurch founded by Mark Driscoll is disbanding at the end of the year.
The announcement last Friday sent shockwaves through the church’s multiple locations as they have only a few weeks to decide if they want to become an independent church, merge with another congregation or simply disappear.
The “Mars Hill” ministry itself will also cease to exist. They will fire all of their existing staff.
The church has been struggling through transition after the resignation of founding pastor Mark Driscoll.
Several former Mars Hill leaders expressed optimism that this news could end up bringing benefit to the Seattle area.
“God makes good out of bad: New local ‘Mars Hill’ churches: Redemption Church, Redeemer Church, A Seattle Church, Downtown Cornerstone, Reach; all these seeds have fallen from the dying Mars Hill tree. God is very much alive in Seattle,” former Mars Hill deacon Mike O’Neil wrote.
The Chinese religious freedom group China Aid has released documents showing the Chinese government is increasing their crackdown on churches and Christians.
The government destroyed churches in Wenzhou and Hangzhou on Friday. Christians in the area reported to China Aid that only one cross remains standing in the Wenzhou area where most of the government persecution has taken place.
“On [Friday], the cross of [Kaiyang Church] of Wuniu pastoral region in Yongjia County, Wenzhou was taken down,” a worshipper from Pingyang County, Wenzhou said. “[The cross on] a church in Ouhai District, Wenzhou was also taken down. Now, in Pingyang County, only the cross of Zengzhan Church has not been taken down.”
Security agents reportedly descended in the middle of the night to remove the crosses and witnesses say that at 3:30 a.m. local time the security agents left after destroying the cross.
“The authorities in Zhejiang have never stopped taking down the crosses,” Pastor Zhang Mingxuan, also known as Pastor “Bike,” said. “They have been obstructing the entry of Christian culture into China. This is religious persecution. In taking down these crosses, they resort to violence.”
The Green family of Hobby Lobby has purchased a 14 ½ acre property in the Chicago area and then donated it to Fellowship Baptist Church to build a center for the needy of their community.
Pastor Charles Jenkins said their Legacy Project is aimed at “building people, building communities.”
“As we looked at expanding (church), we didn’t just look within but we looked without. As we talk about those who are returning home from prison, we looked at the desolation, the destitution, the healthcare disparities. We looked at the unemployment rate in the neighborhood where we serve; it’s almost 70 percent. And there’s so many challenges, and that’s when we started to look at the idea to not just share the Gospel, but show the Gospel in a broader more dynamic way,” explained Jenkins to Christian Post.
Pastor Jenkins said that he was connected to the Green family through Pastor James McDonald. He told Jenkins that the Green family was all about spreading the Gospel through acts of service.
“Bless God for people like that who engage. My wife does remind me that 11 cents of every dollar spent at Hobby Lobby does go to Christian ministries, so I’m blessed when she shops there,” said Jim Liske, moderator of the panel where the donation was discussed.