Anti-Religion Group Rains on Court's Parade of Forgiveness
October 04, 2019
Earlier this week, the nation watched a remarkable series of events unfold in a Dallas courtroom. After a closely watched trial, former police officer Amber Guyger was found guilty of murdering Botham Jean, a twenty-six-year-old African American accountant who was eating ice cream when she shot and killed him. The off-duty police officer believed she had entered her own apartment and that Jean was a burglar.
On Wednesday, the victim's 18-year-old younger brother, Brandt Jean, stunned those in the courtroom by publicly forgiving his brother's killer and pleading with her to give her life to Christ. Fighting back tears, Brandt said, "I know if you go to God and ask him, he will forgive you." He continued, "I want the best for you, because I know that's exactly what Botham would want you to do. And the best would be to give your life to Christ."
In an extraordinary moment that has since been viewed by millions, Brandt then asked the judge, "I don't know if this is possible, but can I give her a hug, please?" Receiving permission, Brandt embraced Guyger, who began sobbing, for over a minute. The powerful moment even touched Judge Tammy Kemp who can be seen wiping away tears in the background.
In fact, Kemp was so moved by the younger brother's actions that after official proceedings had ended, she stepped off the bench and retrieved her personal Bible from her chambers. Handing the Bible to Guyger, Kemp said, "You haven't done so much that you can't be forgiven." She then read John 3:16, and said, "You haven't done as much as you think you have, and you can be forgiven. You did something bad in one moment in time. What you do now matters."
It was another remarkable moment in a truly remarkable day. On a day justice when was served, the hope of forgiveness and reconciliation brought together a devastated family and a divided community.
Dallas Police Chief U. Reneé Hall spoke for many after the trial when she said, "Botham Jean's brother's request to hug Amber Guyger and Judge Kemp's gift of her Bible to Amber represents a spirit of forgiveness, faith and trust. In this same spirit, we want to move forward in a positive direction with the community."
But not everyone was happy about the compassion and mercy demonstrated in the courtroom.
On Thursday, the Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF), poured cold water on the judge's display of kindness by filing a formal complaint with the Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct, alleging Judge Kemp "overstepped" her judicial authority by giving Guyer a Bible. According to the atheist group, by reading the Bible with the newly convicted defendant, Judge Kemp engaged in "inappropriate" and "unconstitutional" behavior.
At a time when our nation is fractured, aren't such moments of grace and reconciliation exactly what we need more of? Judge Kemp's act of compassion in presenting the defendant a Bible injected the normally sterile court proceedings with a human touch and was in line with how the family of the slain man has treated Guyger.
Speaking to reporters after the trial, Bertram Jean, Botham's father, also forgave his son's convicted killer. "I felt the same way as Brandt," Jean said. "That's what Christ would want us to do... If you will not forgive, neither will your Father forgive you. I don't want to see her rot in hell. I don't want to see her rot in prison...So, I wish her well and I will pray for her family and pray for her as well."
In similar situations over the last few years, the interplay of race and police authority have triggered protests and riots and threatened to destroy the social fabric of many communities. However, because of the courageous and gracious response of the Jean family and Judge Kemp, the community in Dallas has begun to heal.
In fact, through their faithful testimony, the world was able to see a beautiful display of Christ-centered compassion and forgiveness. Unfortunately, FFRF is trying to drown out this life-giving, positive message. Thankfully, there are millions more who were inspired and deeply moved by the words and actions of the Jean family and Judge Kemp this week.
Worldwide, Freedom Has Consequences
October 04, 2019
By Arielle Del Turco
The countries of Eastern Europe are familiar with the high cost of the failure to respect religious freedom. It's in this setting that FRC's President, and current U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) Chair, Tony Perkins, delivered a speech in Poland on Thursday. As a part of the annual Warsaw Dialogue for Democracy, the Polish government put religious freedom on the agenda, acknowledging just how central it is to the flourishing of free societies.
We live in a global context which is increasingly hostile to religious freedom. Religious believers of all faiths find themselves in the midst of crises—Rohingya Muslims are forced to flee their homeland of Burma, North Korean Christians are sent to prison camps, and Yazidis are still prevented from returning home for fear of violence in Iraq. The global threats to religious freedom are more diverse and the solutions are more complex than ever before.
Atheistic regimes such as China find any religious beliefs a threat to the political ideology of the ruling Chinese Community Party and to the very authority of state. As a consequence, they heavily restrict religion by banning minors from entering churches, providing directives that sermons praise the state, tearing down crosses and replacing them with Chinese flags, and even detaining over a million mostly-Muslim Uyghurs because their culture is different from that of the dominate Han Chinese.
Elsewhere, non-state actors, including violent mobs and terrorist groups, harass and kill people for their faith. In Nigeria, the Islamist terrorist group Boko Haram and Muslim Fulani herdsmen regularly attack Christian farming villages and kidnaped and kill Christians. Boko Haram proudly posted a video on their website this week showing their execution of two Christian aid workers. These types of human rights violations due to religion cannot go unnoticed by the world. And the Nigerian government should not tolerate this within their borders.
While the denial of religious freedom is a global concern, the flourish of religious freedom has regional and global benefits. In his speech, Tony referenced the "growing body of empirical evidence, which shows that countries that honor and protect freedom of religion generally have more vibrant democracies, rising economic and social wellbeing, and diminished conflict and violence." The economic advances and regional security that correlates with religious freedom protections isn't something that should be brushed aside. If countries that struggle with poverty and violence want to progress, they need to make religious freedom policies a priority.
Furthermore, instability created by religious oppression is not bound by borders. It often has regional, and even global, consequences. This is why countries like the United States have an interest in promoting religious freedom abroad.
The benefits of religious freedom should motivate foreign leaders to prioritize religious freedom as a policy. Governments which deny their citizens the full expression of religious freedom should amend their laws to do so. Governments that tolerate religious freedom violations by non-state actors should immediately invest in protecting their religious minority communities and places of worship.
The suppression of religious freedom is an international issue and combatting it should be an international effort. It's encouraging to see countries like Poland embrace religious freedom as a foreign policy priority. The Polish government was instrumental in U.N.'s decision this year to declare August 22 the International Day Commemorating the Victims of Acts of Violence Based on Religion or Belief. Initiatives like this are an important step in drawing the world's attention to horrors of religious oppression. Religious freedom is important not just for the sake those who wish to freely live out their faith (which is reason enough), but also because religious freedom is essential for developing and sustaining peace and economic growth.
Seeking Shelter from Political Correctness
October 04, 2019
On a January evening last year, an inebriated man tried to enter the Downtown Hope Center, an Anchorage, Alaska faith-based shelter that helps women seeking to escape domestic violence. In a display of compassion and prudence, the shelter arranged and paid for him to go to a hospital for care rather than allowing him to stay in a large room with women who had sought refuge from abusers. For that, city officials in Anchorage took the ministry to court. But what rational logic puts battered women in a single, big, shared room with biological men?
Thankfully, that question was answered with common sense in a court win this week by Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys. Raped and abused women seeking shelter will not be forced to sleep next to men, including men who identify as women.
ADF reported: "In the federal case, The Downtown Soup Kitchen dba Downtown Hope Center v. Municipality of Anchorage, the U.S. District Court for the District of Alaska issued an order saying Anchorage's public accommodation law does not apply to the center's women's shelter... Shortly after that order, the commission dropped its pursuit of the original discrimination complaint and on Monday filed documents jointly with ADF attorneys to make the preliminary order protecting the center permanent and end the case, subject to the court's approval."
ADF Senior Counsel Ryan Tucker argued the case for the shelter and noted on Thursday's Washington Watch that if the Hope Center had lost the case, drastic changes were required.
"If the city of Anchorage had won their suit, a man who identified as a woman would also have been able to share not only the big open room, but showers and changing areas reserved for women. Is that right?" asked Washington Watch guest host Sarah Perry.
"That's right," he responded. "But practically speaking, the Hope Center would have had to shut down. They would have followed through on their ... values that you described, and they would not have been able to operate."
While this case ended in a win, another case before the Supreme Court right now has implications on conflicts involving gender identity, transgender status, and gender expression. And ADF is again taking the lead to protect religious liberty.
In Michigan, Tom Rost owns the Harris Funeral Homes, operated by his family for more than a hundred years. He will be before the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday because of a complaint filed by a male employee who in 2013 said that he would no longer follow the company dress code of wearing sex-specific clothes for work. This led to a complaint from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
The Harris case rests on reimaging the definition of "sex" in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.
Redefining words is being used as a "battering ram" to go after faith-based people and businesses in recent years.
"All Americans should be able to rely on what the law says," said Tucker. "And we've seen countless examples of the government overstepping its bounds, trying to read into work, expand laws as written ... But we're very, very hopeful that the court in the Harris case will grant a victory, just like we were able to get a victory in Anchorage recently."
With all that's at stake in our nation, please pray for ADF and their team as on Tuesday they prepare to argue for the freedom to believe and live according to those beliefs.