Read about a few things God and His people are doing around the globe for the sake of the Gospel:
Toronto Christian Arts Festival Fights Venue Ban
An organization that showcases Christian arts and music will learn this month if it can continue having its annual festival at a high-profile downtown Toronto location.
The nonprofit Voices of the Nations has held a Christian festival at Yonge-Dundas Square since 2010. Last fall, however, the square’s management board banned the festival scheduled for next August because it “proselytizes” through worship songs—something forbidden under the square’s Performance and Display Policy.
In particular, a board representative pointed to songs such as Days of Elijah, which has been performed at past festivals at Yonge-Dundas Square, and claimed that lyrics such as There’s no god like Jehovah are proselytizing.
“They’re telling us that … we can’t say [God’s] name from the stage,” said Voices of the Nations director Peter Ruparelia.
The ban caught the attention of BGEA president Franklin Graham, who posted the news on his Facebook page in November, calling on Canadian Christians to take a stand.
Since then, Voices of the Nations delivered two petitions totaling 40,000 names to Toronto Mayor John Tory, asking that the Yonge-Dundas Square Management Board rescind its festival ban.
Lawyer John Carpay, president of the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms and a supporter of Voices of the Nations, wrote in a Toronto Sun newspaper column: “The policy against proselytizing thrusts a cold dagger into the heart of free expression, allowing bureaucrats to nitpick and hair-split, according to their own personal preferences.” In December, the management board held an appeal hearing, announcing afterward that it would make a final decision this month.
Oregon Bakers Pay More Than $135,000 for Taking Marriage Stand
The cost of honoring biblical values about marriage has been steep for the owners of an Oregon bakery who, in following their Christian beliefs, declined to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple in 2013.
Aaron and Melissa Klein, co-owners of Sweet Cakes by Melissa, paid court-ordered damages of more than $135,000 in January, according to the state’s Bureau of Labor and Industries. The payment was ordered to compensate emotional suffering the court determined was due the same-sex couple.
The Kleins continue their appeal to reverse court rulings that they violated the civil rights of the same-sex couple, claiming instead that their own religious liberties were infringed upon.
Pastor Saeed Released by Iran
American pastor Saeed Abedini, imprisoned in Iran since 2012 for practicing his Christian faith, was released on Jan. 16 along with four other Americans held by the Iranians.
“May God bless you for everything you did,” Abedini said to supporters in a message relayed through the American Center for Law and Justice, which has championed his case.
The freed prisoners were immediately taken to a U.S. military hospital in Germany for physical and psychological care.
Abedini, who is married with two children, now faces the task of reacquainting himself with his family and Western culture.
Franklin Graham, who has befriended and publicly advocated for the Abedini family, announced Saeed’s release on his Facebook page.
“I praise God for answered prayer and thank all of you who have prayed faithfully for his release!” Franklin said.
New Kentucky Governor Sides with Kim Davis
Two weeks after taking office in December, the new Kentucky governor, Matt Bevin, signed an executive order effectively vindicating county clerk Kim Davis, who was jailed for five days in September for standing firm on her Christian beliefs about marriage.
Bevin cited Kentucky’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act in granting Davis’ request to have the names of county clerks removed from marriage licenses, and allowing clerks to designate a third party to sign the licenses. Prior Gov. Steve Beshear steadfastly denied Davis’ request for such action.