Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Wash. made news last week when it was revealed that the mega-church paid more than $200K to a marketing company get a book written by Pastor Mark Driscoll on numerous bestseller lists.
Now, college professor Warren Throckmorton reports on Patheos.com that Mars Hill Church requires its employees to sign to non-disclosure agreements, which they must obey or face losing their health insurance and severance pay when they leave their church jobs.
According to WORLD Magazine, Mars Hill Church's non-disclosure agreement threatens legal action if the employee has “any intentional or unintentional violation,” which includes saying anything disparaging about the church. This also includes the employee's spouse.
Former Mars Hill Church elder Dave Kraft, who refused to sign the agreement, told WORLD magazine that it "amounts to a gag order."
Throckmorton notes on Patheos.com that former Mars Hill Church leader Jeff Bettger has spoken out on Facebook in support of Kraft and claims Mars Hill Church members are "experiencing a form of Stockholm syndrome."
In Jan., The Charlotte Observer reported that another mega-church, the Elevation Church in Charlotte, N.C., requires employees and volunteers to sign a "confidentiality agreement" which also threatens legal action, if violated.
Three pastors in Ohio, Akron recently staged fake arrests at their churches with real police to show their congregations how Christians are persecuted in the U.S.
According to the Associated Press, deputies handcuffed pastors while they preached and placed them in police cars while cameras rolled on Sunday (video below).
However, the church congregations fell for the ruse and were not told it was part of a marketing plan until after their pastors were cuffed and taken out of their churches.
The "arrested" pastors include: Rev. Melford Elliott, Rev. Robert Golson, and the Rev. Vincent Peterson, reports The Akron Beacon Journal.
When a video of the arrests was posted online, residents criticized Summit County Sheriff Steve Barry.
In response, Sheriff Barry issued a press release that stated:
I want to clarify that none of the arrests were real. It was all part of a skit that went along with the pastors’ sermons that day.
I knew it was being filmed, but I thought it was only going to be shown to the congregation. Once it got out there on the Web, people were commenting about how disgusting we were to interrupt church services to effect an arrest.
The fake arrests were part of the pastors'
“Defending the Faith” sermons and will continue at taxpayer expense until March 22 when the churches stage a production at a local theater.
None of the pastors responded to media inquiries for comment.
A woman whose son died in a traffic accident was forced to remove the crosses from his roadside memorial in Southern California after local atheists complained that the symbols violated the constitution.
The American Humanist Association of Riverside County, an atheist group, contended that crosses were a “serious constitutional violation” in a letter to the local city council, reports NBC4. The council conceded that the large, handmade plywood crosses violated the separation of church and state.
"The city's selective enforcement of its signage ordinance and its display of the Christian cross on government property violates the state and federal Constitutions, and must therefore be removed immediately," the letter states. The crosses would have to be removed by mid-March, the council told the resident who complained.
Anthony Devaney was killed at the age of 19 by a teen driving an SUV as he was crossing the street near a freeway.
His mother, Ann Marie Devaney, tearfully removed the crosses white crosses she had placed near the spot where he was struck after the decision came Thursday.
"It's like I'm losing my son again, pretty much," Devaney said. "It hurts when you lose a child."
"It's so petty and sad that they have to complain over removing a cross," she said. "It's his personal preference that he was Christian. What's wrong with having a cross up?"
But the dispute may not have come to an end. Immediately after she removed them, another group came and replaced the crosses with six more.
"It just really got to me," said Emily Johnson. "I have kids. I just can't believe how insensitive people are."
The mother of the driver who struck Devaney said she thinks the crosses should stay.
"That's their memorial, that's where they go to grieve," said Laurie Howanec.
But the atheist group maintains that the crosses cannot legally be allowed to stay up on city property.
“It should be taken down now because they’ve had it up for a long time and ever since it was put up, it really has been unconstitutional,” said Monica Miller, an attorney at the American Humanist Association’s Washington, D.C., headquarters.
A High Court judge ruled that a pair of Jehovah’s Witnesses must allow their infant son to undergo a blood transfusion to save his life, despite their objections.
When Mr. Justice Keehan heard from a specialist that the baby had no ''long-term prospect of survival” if he didn’t undergo heart surgery, he ruled that the parents would have to consent to the procedure. The parents did not object to the surgery itself, but to the necessary blood transfusion that would accompany it—an “understandable objection,” the justice said.
''Their objection is on the basis of their religious beliefs as Jehovah's Witnesses and they cannot consent to (their son) receiving blood products during or subsequent to the surgery. I entirely understand and sympathize with the stance of these parents,'' Mr Justice Keehan wrote in his ruling from the Family Division of the High Court in London, as reported by the Telegraph.
However, he continued, ''Standing back and looking at (the baby's) welfare best interests, I am in no doubt whatsoever that it is in his best interests to undergo the surgery that is proposed."
The tenets of Jehovah’s Witnesses dictate that followers do not receive blood.
"God views blood as representing life. So we avoid taking blood not only in obedience to God but also out of respect for him as the Giver of life,” their website says.
The Shropshire Star reports that a 63-year-old Jehovah’s Witness died two weeks ago when a different High Court judge allowed doctors to consent to her wishes not to receive a blood transfusion. The women, who was “gravely ill” and had a history of mental illness, subsequently died.
Justice Keehan recently ruled that a man fighting for custody of his child, whose mother died, was a caring parent but not fit to take care of the child.
“He may love her, as he did frequently say he loves her. Sadly, in life that is not enough,” the judge wrote in that ruling.
Four daughters of Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar have written a new book to inspire young people across America.
Growing Up Duggar was written by Jana, 24, Jill, 22, Jessa, 21, and Jinger, 20, notes EOnline.com.
The young Christian women have starred with their 15 siblings and parents on the TLC reality TV series "19 Kids and Counting."
Part of their new book includes their rules on dating.
According to the Daily Mail, the girls advise, "It's easy to put yourself into physical and moral danger and give into those emotions or sensual thoughts that promise pleasant, but only temporary, fulfillment."
"By censoring our thoughts through the filter of God's word, we will be able to recant any wrong thoughts or temptations that try to sneak in," add the Duggar daughters.
The young women also say they avoid men to ensure they don't sin, but "have a natural physical desire toward men" and "thank God for making us ‘normal.'"
The daughters also mention their struggles with weight as teens, their mother's battle with the eating disorder bulimia and their father's temper, reports Radar Online.
Former Arkansas governor and current Fox News host Mike Huckabee told the audience at the Conservative Political Action Conference today that God created the United States and that most Americans agree.
Huckabee did not cite any verses from the Bible or any other evidence that God created America during his speech (video below).
"I know there's a God, and I know that this nation would not exist had He not been the midwife of its birth," Huckabee said, according to RightWingWatch.org. "If this nation forgets our God, then God will have every right to forget us."
Huckabee then recalled a false prediction made by Ruth Bell Graham, the Rev. Billy Graham's late wife, in the 1960s that God would strike down the United States over the sexual revolution, which did not happen.
"There is no other way to explain our history other than by His hand of providence," said Huckabee. "In the hearts of most Americans, deep down, we know it to be true."
According to Politico.com, Huckabee also attacked Hillary Clinton over the 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, by misquoting her (video below).
“With all due respect to Hillary Clinton, it does make a difference why [Americans in Benghazi] died and who did it,” stated Huckabee.
However, Clinton never said that it doesn't make a difference why Americans died or who did it, but was instead referring to the personal motivation of the terrorists, which is only known to the terrorists themselves.
Politfact.com notes that on May 8, 2013, Clinton had enough of Sen. Ron Johnson's, R-Wis., claims that the Obama White House lied about the Benghazi attack and said, "With all due respect, the fact is we had four dead Americans. Was it because of a protest or was it because of guys out for a walk one night who decided that they'd they go kill some Americans? What difference at this point does it make? It is our job to figure out what happened and do everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again, Senator."
Rev. John Koletas, of the Grace Baptist Church in Troy, N.Y., plans to raffle off an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle during a church service on March 23.
The AR-15, which can fire hundreds of rounds per minute, was used by Sandy Hook school shooter Adam Lanza and Aurora, Colo. theater shooter James Holmes.
“We’re honoring gun owners and hunters,” Rev. Koletas told the New York Daily News. “And we’re being a blessing and a help to people who have been attacked, viciously attacked, by socialists and anti-Christian people, the politicians and the media.”
Rev. Koletas did not provide evidence of these vicious attacks upon gun owners and hunters.
While Rev. Koletas supports the Second Amendment, he doesn't want others exercising their First Amendment right to voice opposition.
"If someone doesn't want to own a gun, that's their right," Rev. Koletas told the Times Union of Albany. "At the same time, I don't think we should be critical of legal gun owners who gave us our freedom."
Rev. Koletas' flyer for the gun giveaway shows an image of a AR-15 modified to meet New York's new gun-control law and includes the words of Jesus, "My peace I give unto you."
However, that Bible verse does not refer to guns, weapons or anything of this world.
Jesus says in John 14:27, "Peace I leave with you. My peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid."
After mangling the Bible verse, Rev. Koletas claimed it was those who oppose him who don't read the Good Book.
“[The giveaway] may be foreign to most city dwellers," stated Rev. Koletas. "It may seem controversial to people who don’t read their Bibles.”
Several area pastors do oppose the gun giveaway.
“I think it’s sending the wrong message entirely,” said the Rev. Willie Bacote, a pastor of Missing Link AME Zion Church.
“We promulgate the gospel as peacemakers," added Rev. Bacote. "We’re not people who give away guns. Even the Bible teaches us to turn the other cheek.”
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, Republican, recently vetoed a bill that would have allowed business owners the right to deny service to people (including homosexuals) based on religious beliefs.
The bill was opposed by large employers in Arizona, Republican senators John McCain and Jeff Flake, and some of the state lawmakers who voted for it, noted The New Yorker.
While the bill didn't mention gay people in its wording, supporters admitted it was in response to a Christian photographer in New Mexico who refused to shoot a gay couple's wedding and lost a court battle.
Focus on the Family's legal arm, CitizenLink, claimed today that the bill was grossly misrepresented in the media.
CitizenLink head Stuart Shepard lamented how since 1999, gay people have demanded domestic partnerships but then wanted civil union and later insisted on gay marriage (video below).
However, in reality, gay people have been asking for same-sex marriage rights in the United States since 1970.
"Now, the message is, 'If you will not celebrate a same-sex ceremony, then you will be punished,'" claimed Shepard.
However, Christians have not been asked to "celebrate" same-sex marriages, but rather to provide gay people with the same services that they would provide straight people, including wedding cakes and photography.
"[Gay people] know that they're feeling pain, they hurt," Shepard later added, according to RightWingWatch.org. "They sincerely believe that it can't be because of anything they're doing because, 'I was born this way, this is how I was created, therefore.' So that pain they're feeling must be coming from you, the Christian, anyone who speaks out against what it is that they're arguing for in culture. So the goal of this is to get every Christian to stop talking about it, to use the force of law to change what is taught in schools."
Shepard, a former television weatherman, offered no proof of his theories.
A Legoland theme park in the U.K. was supposed to host a "Muslim family fun day" for 1,000 Muslim families this weekend, but has cancelled the event because right wing extremists made threats.
The Muslim Research and Development Foundation had scheduled the private event at Legoland, but the Windsor, England amusement park received abusive and threatening messages on its Facebook page, noted The Guardian.
According to AFP, before the Muslim fun day was cancelled, a member of the right-wing British National Party said Legoland should be "ashamed of themselves for bowing to these Muslims."
"The Legoland Windsor resort has had to close the hotel on Saturday 8 and Sunday 9 March 2014 after threats from right-wing groups," a Legoland spokeswoman said in a statement. "The safety and security of our guests and our members of staff has to be our number one priority, which is why we've made the difficult decision to close the hotel."
The right-wing English Defence League applauded the decision on its website:
"We are pleased to hear that Legoland Windsor Resort has listened to the complaints of the EDL, its members and concerned members of the public and decided to cancel this event," the website reads.
In response to the cancellation, the Muslim Research and Development Foundation posted on its website:
"Together with these threats, publication of several articles in the national press helped fuel further hatred and resentment towards the event, resulting in further negative impact on the security of the event," the response reads. "It was evident from these hate articles and threats that this was not an attack on MRDF alone but was an outright attack on Islam and Muslims in the UK."
The Department of Justice has launched a federal lawsuit against the School District of Philadelphia claiming that the district discriminated against an employee when it would not allow him to keep his untrimmed beard, which he wore for religious reasons.
Filed Wednesday, the complaint alleges that the school district’s 2010 grooming policy, which states that police and security officers cannot have beards more than a quarter of an inch thick, is discriminatory against people whose long facial hair is part of their religions.
Siddiq Abu-Bakr, a 27-year employee, kept his beard uncut for his entire tenure as a school police officer, due to his Muslim beliefs.
When he said he couldn’t comply with the new grooming policy, he was given a written reprimand and was threatened with “further disciplinary action,” according to the complaint. The DOJ alleges the school district failed to consider accommodating Abu-Bakr’s request and did not show that doing so would cause “undue hardship,” instead responding that the “integrity of the policy” outweighed Abu-Bakr’s request.
Originally, Abu-Bakr filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The EEOC's Philadelphia office referred the case to the DOJ after investigating.
"No employee should be forced to violate his religious beliefs in order to earn a living," said Spencer H. Lewis Jr., district director of EEOC Philadelphia.
“Modifying a dress or grooming code is a reasonable accommodation that enables employees to keep working without posing an undue hardship on the employer.”