February 2018 Front Lines

ATLANTA

A federal district court in December held that the rules cited by the city of Atlanta when it fired former fire chief Kelvin Cochran in 2015 were unconstitutional. However, the court said that his freedom of speech and free exercise of religion were not violated—a setback for evangelicals, from a religious liberty perspective.

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed relieved Cochran of his duties as fire chief in 2015 for writing about his Biblically based beliefs pertaining to marriage and sexuality in a men’s devotional book that was composed on his personal time.

The court determined that Atlanta can’t require employees to get permission before doing outside work such as writing a book.

 

BOLIVIA

Bolivia Moves to Legalize Abortion for Teen Mothers

The Legislative Assembly in the traditionally pro-life South American country of Bolivia has voted to allow abortions by teen mothers. LifeSite Newsreported that Bolivian politicians voted in December to allow “students, adolescents or girls to abort through eight weeks gestation.”

Bolivian president Evo Morales said he would sign the bill into law. Christians held organized protests against the decision, and national pro-life leader Luis Aruquipa said the bill “encourages genocide.”

Protesters held signs that said, “A pregnant woman needs support, not abortion.”

Prior to the vote, abortion in Bolivia was allowed only in cases of rape, incest or to save the mother’s life. However, South American and Central American countries have faced increasing pressure to legalize abortion.

 

UNITED STATES

FEMA Ends Discrimination of Churches

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced a new policy in January to end its discrimination against churches, synagogues and houses of worship.

A group of churches had sued FEMA, alleging that they don’t receive access to federal disaster aid and grants comparable to other non-profits.

Daniel Blomberg, an attorney for Becket Law, said FEMA was finally ceasing to treat churches with “second-class status.”

 

INDIA

Hindi Radicals Attack Christians

Hindu radicals in India launched at least 23 attacks on Christians during the Christmas season, including attacks on carolers and open threats against Christian celebrations, according to the International Christian Concern (ICC) advocacy group.

William Stark, ICC’s regional manager, told the organization’s website that radicals tried to “shut down an entire holiday for a country of Christians. This has been one of the most violent Christmas seasons in recent memory for India’s Christians.”

 

CANADA

Alberta Declines Christian Couple’s Adoption Attempts

An evangelical Christian couple is citing the provincial government of Alberta, Canada, with discrimination because their application to adopt a child was turned down due to their Biblically based views on marriage and sexuality.

The Edmonton couple said they passed a course for prospective adoptive parents in 2016 as part of the application process, but complications arose when they expressed their disagreement with homosexuality during follow-up questions from government officials last year.

The couple, who aren’t named in court documents, wrote to a social worker, according to a court affidavit: “Biblical principles are the foundation of our home. As such, we believe that homosexuality is wrong. Gender and sexuality are determined at birth, and God has given parameters for people to enjoy the gift of sex—within the confines of marriage between a man and a woman,” adding that they would love any child unconditionally and “with grace and mercy.”

The couple said in the affidavit: “The casework supervisor explained that our religious beliefs regarding sexuality were incompatible with the adoption process. … The casework supervisor said this stance was the ‘official position of the Alberta government.’”

 

EUROPE

Teacher Sues School Over Suspension for ‘Misgendering’ Student

A math teacher in Oxfordshire, England, was suspended after saying “well done, girls,” to a group of female students in which one student identifies as a boy.

Joshua Sutcliffe, who is also an associate pastor at Christ Revelation Church, immediately apologized to the student for what he said, but the student’s mother complained that he had “misgendered” her child. “This is the second time that this parent made a complaint about me,” said Sutcliffe,  according to an article on LifeSite News. “The first time was for handing out Christian leaflets at the gay pride march.” Other than this one parent, no complaints have been made against him.

The school upholds a strict pro-transgender policy, which Sutcliffe has respected by referring to all students by name to avoid the use of gender-specific pronouns. However, what Sutcliffe described as a “slip of the tongue” ended in suspension.

“As a Christian, I do not share your belief in the ideology of transgenderism,” wrote Sutcliffe in a letter to the school headmaster. “I do not believe that young children should be encouraged to self-select a ‘gender’ which may be different from their biological sex; or that everyone at school should adjust their behavior to accommodate such a ‘transition’; or that people should be punished for lack of enthusiasm about it.”

With strong Christian beliefs that all are created in God’s image, male and female, the 27-year-old is suing the school by taking them to an employment tribunal.

 

UNITED STATES

Prayer Prohibited at Game Between Christian Schools

School officials at Cambridge Christian School (CCS) were prohibited by the Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) from a pre-kickoff prayer over the loudspeaker before the state high school football championship.

Though both teams are private Christian schools, the FHSAA “argued the prayer might be viewed as an endorsement of religion since the students would be praying on government property,” said First Liberty, which represents CCS.

As of press time, the case has been appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.

 

WORLD

Wycliffe to Create Sign Language Bible Translations

Wycliffe Bible Translators’ latest goal is to make a complete Bible translation for the deaf by working with the Deaf Bible Society.

According to CBN, “Deaf Bible Society estimates there are 70 million deaf people worldwide, and less than 2 percent have interacted with the Bible in a language that they can understand.”

The heart language of most deaf people is sign language, not the written language of their country.

Wycliffe is hoping to create complete Bible translations for the deaf since there isn’t a single complete Bible translation for any of the more than 350 sign languages in the world.