The California Supreme Court Thursday declared that the approximately 4,000 gay marriages conducted in San Francisco earlier this year were invallid and that the City Hall had overstepped its authority in granting marriage licenses to the couples. The ruling means that the marriages and licenses have no legal validity and cannot be the basis for any legal rights or actions. This means both that the involved same sex couples do not enjoy the rights of marriage (such as community property rights) but also are not enjoined by the legal responsibilities of marriage (such as needing to obtain a legal divorce to dissolve the union). While opponents of same sex marriage hailed the decision, supporters of same sex marriage say they will not let the matter rest but will continue fighting for the legal right of same sex couples to marry.
The 5-2 decision carefully emphasized that the decision was limited to the power of a local official to overturn state laws, not the broader question of whether California's state ban on same sex marriages is constitutional or not.
Several lawsuits have been consolidated into one in San Francisco Superior Court to test the constitutionality of the California state law. The case has been filed by the city of San Francisco, various civil rights groups, and same sex couples.
Now that the unions have been nullified, Mayor Gavin Newsom, a strong advocate of same sex unions, and who started the furor by authorizing the city clerk to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples, says he will continue to use his position to encourage the legalization of same sex marriages. Newsom said he and City Attorney Dennis Herrera were preparing to move forward with the combined suit in September. Saying he had no regrets over his now thwarted decision, Newsom added, "We decided to challenge the law. We decided more importantly to put a human face on discrimination."
Supreme Court justices Joyce Kennard and Kathryn Mickie Werdegar cast the dissenting votes. They said they would have left the licenses alone and assumed valid while the larger constitutional issues were settled, even though that might be a multi-year process.
Although public policy and state and federal laws make it clear that public institutions cannot discriminate against groups simply because they are religious, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-CH) seems to have a persistent problem recognizing that responsibility, standing accused now of twice discriminating against a Christian group while similar, non-Christian groups continue to receive favors and funding. According to information from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), the Christian fraternity Alpha Iota Omega (AIO) had all of its rights, accounts, funding, and UNC website access suspended by the UNC-CH when the fraternity refused to sign an agreement which would have prohibited the use of religious affiliation as a criterion for membership -- something hardly possible for a fraternity established as a Christian fraternity.
Because UNC-CH h as refused to recognize AIO this semester, the fraternity has no official rights at UNC including the ability to reserve space on campus, apply for funding from mandatory student fees, and to take advantage of a variety of other rights and privileges that all recognized groups enjoy.
Numerous laws, civil cases, and government suits across the country have established that any publicly funded educational organization may not discriminate against any individual group among a collection of organizations if the only thing distinguishing that group from the others is its religious orientation. For example, if non-profit community groups are allowed to use a local elementary school campus for meetings without charge, a religious non-profit community group cannot be banned from such use merely because it is religious. FIRE is arguing on behalf of AIO that it is just like every other fraternity on the UNC-CH campus except for its religious orientation. FIRE president David French explained, "A Christian group has a right to be Christian, a Muslim group has a right to be Muslim, and a Jewish group has a right to be Jewish. It seems absurd that anyone in a free society would have to make this argument, but time and time again FIRE has had to fight for this constitutional right at universities."
What is especially unusual about this case is that UNC-CH made a similar attempt at religious discrimination in 2002 and backed down when confronted by FIRE. In December 2002 UNC-CH administrators attempted to force the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship to remove from its constitution a requirement that its campus chapter officers be Christian. UNC-CH reversed its decision after FIRE instigated public pressure on the university.
UNC-CH has yet to respond privately or publicly to FIRE's charges on behalf of AIO. FIRE's French remarked, "For more than 20 years, it has been the law that public universities must provide equal access to religious student organizations. These universities cannot condition that access on the adoption of nondiscrimination regulations that strike at the heart of the religious character of the group."
"More Christian students are dedicating their lives to the intellectual side of faith – apologetics and philosophy – than we’ve seen in many years,” observed Answers In Action co-founder and director Gretchen Passantino. “Think of the marvelous academic programs through Biola University, Southern Evangelical Seminary, etc. And yet, most of these students are shocked when they graduate and try to find a paying job where they can devote themselves to what they’ve been educated for: defending and explaining the Christian faith from a rigorous intellectual platform.”
As part of the solution, Passantino announced today that Answers In Action, one of the oldest and most respected American evangelical apologetics ministries, is launching a paid intern scholarship program in memory of her late husband, Bob Passantino, co-founder of Answers In Action, who died November 17 of last year. “The Bob Passantino Memorial Apologetics Intern Scholarship Program will enable college and seminary students and others who are preparing for such ministry the opportunity to work in the field for a concentrated period so that they actually experience the hardships and rewards of such work,” explained Passantino, who has spent over 30 years as a Christian apologist and teacher.
“The students who are awarded the scholarship will spend 2 months during the summer working full-time for Answers In Action, experiencing apologetics ministry first hand – with all their travel and living expenses paid, and a salary in addition.” Passantino smiled, “The only thing ‘unrealistic’ about the experience is that, unlike most full-time Christian workers, these deserving students won’t have to worry about finances for 2 months. We want them to focus entirely on what it is like to work with people on a daily basis who are challenging or questioning the Christian faith.”
Accredited upper division undergraduate credit or graduate credit is also available to interns through cooperation with Faith Evangelical Lutheran Seminary in Tacoma, Washington. Both Passantinos earned graduate degrees from Faith Seminary and Gretchen teaches and directs the Orange County Extension of Faith Seminary. Dean Dr. Michael Adams remarked, “We’re proud to be associated with this internship program. We have a strong commitment to encouraging individuals who are called to active ministry, defend God’s Word, and use what they learn for God’s glory.”
Passantino said academics, books, and classrooms can only go so far in preparation. “Those who want to dedicate their lives to the thinking side of Christianity need to understand that it can’t be divorced from what people are experiencing and feeling, from the everyday world around them that often entices, challenges, and distracts them from seriously considering the factuality and reasonableness of Christianity.” Passantino explained, “often budding apologists and philosophers have spent nearly all of their time in classroom settings and with those who are like-minded. They need to spend time with the realities of apologetics ministry life, too – atheists who seem more angry than reasonable, Christians who seem proud to believe without reason, and government functionaries who think their duty is to squash religious expression, instead of protect it.”
The late Bob Passantino, whose 53rd birthday would have been today, was known worldwide for his innovate approaches to philosophy and Christian apologetics, including his Argument from Reason, a libertarian free form of the transcendental argument, and his Golden Rule Apologetic, a principle of intellectual interchange that brought ethics into the marketplace of ideas. Along with research, writing, speaking, debating, and teaching together with his wife, Gretchen, Bob Passantino mentored many young Christians over the years who were or became leading Christian apologists.
Among those who credit the Passantinos with fundamentally forming or improving their techniques of promoting and defending Christianity are Lee Strobel (author of the bestselling The Case for Christ, The Case for Faith, and The Case for the Creator and host of the upcoming PAX television series Faith Under Fire), Hank Hanegraaff (president and director of the largest international apologetics ministry, the Christian Research Institute and host of the nationally syndicated daily radio talk show, the Bible Answer Man), and Dr. Norman L. Geisler (founder and president of Southern Evangelical Seminary and author of more than 50 books and textbooks on Christianity, philosophy, and apologetics). Among others influenced by the Passantinos are Josh McDowell, Mark Mittelberg, Elliot Miller, Douglas Groothius, Francis J. Beckwith, H. Wayne House, Douglas Geivett, Chad Meister, Greg Koukl, Richard Abanes, Scott Klusendorf, John Warwick Montgomery, and J. P. Moreland.
The Bob Passantino Memorial Apologetics Intern Scholarship Program will begin receiving inquiries from interested applicants and donations from those who would like to help fund the program immediately and will announce the first scholarship winner at the end of this year. The first intern program will be held July and August 2005. The scholarship will include all travel and living expenses for the students as well as working wages for the two month term of the intern program. Answers In Action is in Costa Mesa, California, in Southern California’s mild coastal region, approximately 45 miles south of Los Angeles and 90 miles north of San Diego.
The late Bob Passantino’s adult children are involved in the memorial program as well. Daughter Mary (26) oversees publicity and public relations, daughter Karen (24) oversees travel and accommodation arrangements, and son Paul (20) oversees applicant screening. Speaking for the family, Paul noted, “My dad was the most brilliant person I ever met, but he never made anyone feel stupid and his heart was as big as his mind. He would be proud to sponsor a program that taught people to think, talk, and engage others about Christianity in a practical, heartfelt way.”
Answers In Action Board of Directors member Richard Pratt, who has been involved in the Passantinos’ ministry for more than 20 years, is excited about the potential for the Bob Passantino Memorial Apologetics Intern Scholarship Program. He observed, “One of the weaknesses in apologetics is that, since it attracts people who are good thinkers and natural arguers, it tends to be too cerebral and not relational enough. Answers In Action has the opportunity to affect new generations of apologetics with a balanced approach that marries the raw power of logic and fact to essential Christian qualities of caring and encouraging.” Pratt continued, “If you talk to people who loved Bob Passantino, they will tell you that his enthusiasm and genuine caring about people were at least as important to their conversion or growth as Christians as was his knowledge and argumentation. That’s the kind of well-rounded apologetics we hope to model and reproduce through this exciting program.”
Those who are interested in applying to, supporting, or learning more about the Bob Passantino Memorial Apologetics Intern Scholarship Program are asked to contact Answers In Action at Passantinos@answers.org, 949.646.9042, or P.O. Box 2067, Costa Mesa, CA 92628-2067.
According to a story in USA Today, evangelical Protestant fathers score higher in parenting involvement and skills than others. The newspaper noted, "Though they favor a patriarchal family structure, evangelical Protestant men who attend church regularly scored higher on several national surveys that evaluated levels of family involvement and affection than did men from other religious groups and men who consider themselves religiously unaffiliated."
Three surveys conducted betwee 1972 and 1999 examined parenting characteristics among men with Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Muslim, and other faith or no faith backgrounds. Evangelical Protestant men ranked higher in family involvement and lower in domestic violence. The article added that "58% of evangelical Protestant men, compared with 37% of those who said they were unaffiliated with a religion, believe that men should focus on breadwinning while women focus on homemaking."
The traditional family values group, Repent America, is planning peaceful protests before the game outside the park, handing out gospel literature and displaying 2 banners, one reading "Homosexuality is sin. Christ could set you free" and the other, "The Phillies Support Homosexuality. Stop Gay Day."
According to new information provided by the Barna Group, the most respected pollling group on American faith and religion, the four major ethnic groups in the United States also have distinctive faith profiles. Based on nationwide surveys of 2600 adults, the study examined faith attitudes among African-Americans, Asians, Hispanic, and whites. The study showed that the African-American group is the most religious, the most involved in church, and the group whose views of God and faith are the most in line with biblical teachings. However, among the African-Americans who described themselves as born-again (47%), they were only half as likely as whites to describe themselves as evangelicals (9% for white who call themselves born-again as opposed to 4% of African-Americans).
The survey also showed that the white category is the largest ethnic demographic (68%), but also the most slowly growing. Hispanics (24%) and Asians (4%) are the fastest growing, while African-Americans (13%) show moderate growth rates.
Asians were the least likely to be involved in Christian-oriented behaviors such as reading the Bible, praying, telling others about their faith, and attending church. Fully 20% of Asians claimed to be either atheist or agnostic, and 45% claimed to be aligned with a non-Christian faith group (more than 4 times the national norm). The distributions for particular beliefs were interesting as well. For example, when asked to agree or disagree with the statement "Jesus Christ sinned while on earth," only 22% of Asians strongly disagreed (or affirmed he did not sin), while whites and Hispanics were similar (37% and 35% strongly disagreed), and 49% of African-Americans strongly disagreed that Jesus sinned.
Christian seniors in a Forida reitrement community have filed complaints with the federal Housing and Urban Development (HUD) department, claiming that the Board of the Savanna Club Home Owners Association in Port St. Lucie, FL violated state law and the Federal Fair Housing Act because they banned a group of seniors from meeting for worship in the common areas of the community.
Although for several years members met for services, last month the board of the homeowners association voted to ban any religious services from common areas.
The disgruntled homeowners, of whom 85-95 have filed complaints with HUD, are now being represented by the Christian Law Association (CLA), a "ministry of legal helps," which is arguing on behalf of the homeowners that "this group is being discriminated against," said CLA attorney Barbara Weller. She continued that the Christian members of the Savanna Club Home Owners Association "need to be treated like everyone else, not only in being able to obtrain housing in the retirement community, but also, once they're residents there, [being] able to use all of the community facilities on the same basis as everyone else."
HUD is investigating the complaints and actions of the Savanna Club's board.
A Virginia school district is being sued after charging a fee to a Christian club using the facility but not other clubs. Last year a local Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF) representative applied to use a classroom in a Louisa County School District (Charlottesville, VA) elementary school for a "Good News Club." Although other clubs like the 4-H, Girl Scouts, and Boy Scouts used the facilities for free, the district told the Good News Club that it would have to pay an hourly rental fee.
The US Supreme Court and the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, which serves Virginia, have previously ruled that it is unconstitutionally and unlawfully discriminatory to charge a fee only because a club is religious, but in all other ways identical, to other groups. Nevertheless, says attorney Mat Staver, "some of these school facilities are . . . saying they will charge you a fee for use, whereas the other secular groups are not being charged a discriminatory fee." Staver is president of Liberty Counsel, a non-profit litigation, education, and policy organization that is representing CEF in its suit against the school district. "Whether it's prohibiting access to a public facility because of your religious viewpoint or placing a discriminatory financial barrier in your path, both are unconstitutional," explained Staver, summarizing, "Equal access means equal treatment." Staver's organization is asking not only that the policy be overturned and CEF given equal access, but also for a temporary injunction against the school district pending the trial so that CEF will be able to meet without paying fees when school begins in a few weeks.
Former presidential hopeful and conservative Catholic public servant Alan Keyes will probably run for the U.S. Senate from Illinois against Democrat Brack Obama. If so, the Illinois Senate race will be the first statewide contest in the nation in which each major party fielded a black candidate. Current Illinois Senator Peter Fitzgerald (R) is retiring. Keyes is the leader of the conservative Renew America organization.
Members of the Illinois Republican State Central Committee need to find a replacement for Jack Ryan, who withdrew from the race amid charges that he had forced his ex-wife to attend sex clubs with him. In behind-the-scenes negotiations, the Committee members wanted to be sure that Keyes would accept the nomination before they voted him so that they would not have another embarrassment if they chose him and he declined to run. According to GOP sources and hints from Keyes' camp as well, Keyes agreed to accept if nominated before the votes, but wanted to keep his official acceptance on hold until he could announce it in public at a "campaign-style rally" that will be held at the Wellington Restaurant in Arlington Heights, Illinois on Sunday. The Chicago Sun Times quoted a committee member explaining, "We've made such a mess of this over the past 5 1/2 weeks that, God forbid, we offer it to him and he turns it down." After the quick negotiations, Keyes received 2/3 of the votes from the committee members, an overwhelming endorsement.
State Senator Dave Syverson, a committee member who brought Keyes to the group, would not affirm that the deal was completed, saying that Keyes wanted to talk first to US House Speaker Dennis Hastert, retiring Sen. Fizgerald, and Virigina Senator George Allen, the head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. The Sun quoted Syverson, "Oh, I think he'll do it. I think he said he felt pretty confident, but said he would not make any final decisions until he talked to those leaders."
Keyes has a long history in public service. He was with the US State Department for 11 years, served in the US Foreign Service and on the staff of the National Security Council, and then was appointed by President Ronald Reagan as ambassador to the United Nations Economic and Social Council (1983-1985). In 1985 he was appointed Assistant Secretary of State for the International Organizations (1985-1988).
Keyes is a past president of Citizen's Against Government Waste and founder of the National Taxpayers' Action Day. He was a two-time Republican nominee for the US Senate from Maryland. In both the 1996 and 2000 Republican presidential campaigns, Keyes ensured that the Republican Party (GOP) took seriously issues of pro-life, family, fiscal conservatism, and moral conservatism. He has a Ph.D. in government from Harvard University, has hosted his own syndicated radio talk show and a television commentary show and has authored two books. He is married and has 3 children.
When John Kerry and the Democratic National Committee said religion and faith were important to them, some observers were dubious. The skepticism rose when the DNC appointed as its senior religion advisor the Rev. Brenda Bartella Peterson, whose most recent public support has been in favor of the suit by atheist Michael Newdow to remove "under God" from the Pledge of Allegience. As a result of too much negative publicity, Peterson has stepped down, stating that "it was no longer possible for me to do my job effectively."
Peterson was the DNC's first director to specifically reach out to faith groups. Her appointment was seen as a replacement for Mara Vanderslice, who had been chosen by the Kerry campaign to serve as Kerry's Religious Outreach Director. Kerry quietly removed her from his team when the Catholic League and other conservatives criticized Vanderslice's previous activities, including her involvement in the Marxist-Leninist Earlham Socialist Alliance, best known for its support of convicted cop killer Mumia Abu-Jamal. Vanderslice also spoke for the radical homosexual rights organization ACT-UP, which is best known for its disruptive antics at faith events, including disrupting mass at Catholic churches -- such as when ACT-UP spit the Eucharist on the floor in the middle of a mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City. She is also a veteran of civil disobedience events, including participation in the anti- World Trade Organization (WTO) demonstrations in Seattle in 2000 and in similar demonstrations in 2002 against the IMF and the World Bank in Washington D.C.
Peterson's appointment to the DNC post was at first seen as an improvement over Vanderslice, until the Catholic League and other conservatives exposed her background as well. Peterson is an ordained minister in the liberal Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), and pastored a congregation in Georgetown, Kentucky. She came to the DNC post from the Clergy Leadership Network (CLN), an national interfaith movement that describes is members as "religious progressives," committed to social justice, ecumenicism, and to countering the efforts of such conservative organizations as Focus on the Familyand the Family Research Council. Peterson was the former director for the scant year the organization has been operating. She is married to John Lynner Peterson, communications director for the Interfaith Alliance. This week the Interfaith Alliance issued a statement urging both the Kerry and the Bush campaigns to pledge to eliminate the federal Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, formed by President Bush to encourage private organizations to shoulder responsibility for community and social needs.
Peterson, in her role as director of CLN, send a "friend of the court" brief to the United States Supreme Court earlier this year as they heard arguments from atheist Michael Newdow for removing the phrase "under God" from the Pledge of Allegience. Peterson's brief was supporting Newdow's suit (which was later dismissed by the court).
The Lord's Servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will give them a change of heart leading to a knowledge of the truth
II Timothy 2:24-26