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Court allows Ky. church’s drive-in services, says ban has ‘potential hallmarks of discrimination’

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A federal court on Saturday allowed Maryville Baptist Church and its pastor, Dr. Jack Roberts, in Kentucky to hold drive-in services, prohibiting the enforcement of the state’s COVID-19 orders.

While the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit declined to extend the injunction to in-person services, it noted that Gov. Andy Beshear’s ban on faith-based mass gatherings has “several potential hallmarks of discrimination” as it provides exceptions to certain secular activities such as laundromats and liquor stores but not faith groups.

“Assuming all of the same precautions are taken, why is it safe to wait in a car for a liquor store to open but dangerous to wait in a car to hear morning prayers?” the court posed. “The Governor has offered no good reason so far for refusing to trust the congregants who promise to use care in worship in just the same way it trusts accountants, lawyers, and laundromat workers to do the same.”

The conservative Christian legal nonprofit Liberty Counsel celebrated the partial emergency injunction from a unanimous three-judge panel.

Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron had filed an amicus brief in support of the church, stating that the “Court should enter an injunction pending appeal ‘to prevent irreparable harm.’”

The court also stated in its ruling that the church is likely to succeed on the merits of the First Amendment Free Exercise Clause and the Kentucky Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Through an executive order in March, Beshear banned faith-based mass gatherings while providing exemptions for secular organizations and activities, including typical office environments, factories, and retail or grocery stores, Cameron’s office noted.

The order said even though permitted secular activities involved the presence of groups of people, they could continue as long as individuals “maintain appropriate social distancing.” Faith-based gatherings were allowed no such exemption.

“Sure, the Church might use Zoom services or the like … But who is to say that every member of the congregation has access to the necessary technology to make that work?” the court asked. “Or to say that every member of the congregation must see it as an adequate substitute for what it means when ‘two or three gather in my Name.’ Matthew 18:20.”

It added, “The breadth of the ban on religious services, together with a haven for numerous secular exceptions, should give pause to anyone who prizes religious freedom. But it’s not always easy to decide what is Caesar’s and what is God’s—and that’s assuredly true in the context of a pandemic.”

At a press conference on Wednesday, Beshear said retail stores and houses of worship can resume operations on May 20, according to WPSD Local.

“Where they will be able to do in-person services again at a reduced capacity. We’re working on that. It’s likely to be a percentage of the occupancy that is allowed,” Beshear said. “All of this is contingent on being able to keep social distancing, on the type of cleaning that needs to occur.

“And what our hope is, is that on the 20th, what it will allow is just the worship service itself. And then, we’re going to be working with faith leaders. We’ve already been talking with them and encouraging. But working with them to see a gradual schedule where we can go from the one experience to some of the other pieces that typically happen, like Sunday school for instance. But that right now would create very different context. And so let’s start here, and then, let’s have a good dialogue where we can work with those that were on our houses of worship to get a plan to be able to do more as we go.”

On Easter Sunday, Kentucky State Police descended on the service of Maryville Baptist Church and posted notices of criminal violation on all cars in the parking lot, even while the church attendees were listening in their cars to the church’s “drive-in” service, according to Liberty Counsel.

The notices advised congregants they were subject to mandatory, household-wide quarantine because they attended a church service. Gov. Beshear also sent letters to the owners and occupants of the vehicles, demanding quarantine with more threats of sanctions for not complying with government supervision.

Last month, Beshear also issued executive orders restricting travel into and out of the state, except under certain limited circumstances, to help manage the spread of the coronavirus. Anyone entering or returning from out of state was told to self-quarantine for 14 days.

AG Cameron filed a motion in federal court last week, challenging the travel ban as unconstitutional. He also urged the governor to stop targeting faith-based gatherings during the coronavirus pandemic and allow congregants to start gathering in person at church again.

Sources: Christian Post

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Pastor of Jacob Blake’s mother launches 40 days of humility, prayer, fasting for racial healing

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Insight Church Pastor James E. Ward Jr. says he is on a mission to bring racial healing to the nation and “God’s blessing to black America” through 40 Days of Humility, Prayer, and Fasting. And he’s hoping America will join him.

The Skokie, Illinois, preacher recently catapulted to the national stage through his connection to Julia Jackson, one of his most devout parishioners and mother of 29-year-old Wisconsin father Jacob S. Blake, who was shot multiple times by a police officer in Kenosha on Aug. 23. Blake is currently “in a spinal injury rehabilitation center in Chicago.”

His shooting was one of several primarily deadly encounters between black men and local law enforcement that sparked civil unrest over racial justice and inequality since the killing of George Floyd in the custody of Minneapolis Police Department officers in May.

“The issue that we see in society surrounding race, the protest, the rioting, those things communicate to us that there is a serious problem in our nation and unfortunately in most cases we are not … equipped to solve the problem that we know needs to be solved,” Ward told The Christian Post in an interview Friday.

He is convinced that when it comes to race, America is wrestling with a deep-rooted spiritual problem that must be addressed with a spiritual response. And that’s why he launched the national spiritual prayer movement on Sept. 25 that will culminate with a livestreamed prayer for the nation on Nov. 2 from Washington, D.C.

“40 Days asks all Americans to fervently pray and fast before God for racial harmony and healing in America prior to the national presidential election,” the movement said in a statement to CP.

The group has also launched an initiative called the Zero Victim Community Development Corporation, which was “prayerfully designed to restore and strengthen black lives and families across our country.”

“Part of the expression of our prayer is prayer with action and this new Zero Victim Development Corporation is us engaging to act on behalf of what we believe, and really beginning to target how to bring God’s blessing to black America,” Ward said.

Even in a socially disruptive election year when Christians remain deeply divided on issues of race and politics, Ward is convinced that if people are able to humble themselves in prayer, America can fix its race problem.

“I’m very much aware of the disparity of folks looking at what I call a singular issue through multiple lenses. And that’s basically what you see happening in society where it’s individuals looking at the same bottle. One person is looking at the logo on the front side and the other person is looking at the nutrition label on the backside,” explained Ward.

“The exact reason we are calling ourselves to 40 days of humility, prayer and fasting, not just prayer and fasting, 40 days of humility, prayer and fasting, [is] because there’s a brokenness that we have to have. We have to check our opinions, our own sentiments, self-serving ideologies, identifying selfishness in our own life. It begins with humility and when I start with humility it means I’m willing to give up and enter into surrendering into something deeper through the avenue of prayer and fasting.”

Blake was shot seven times in the back by officer Rusten Sheskey on Aug. 23. The Wisconsin Department of Justice said that a woman called 911 to report that her boyfriend was present and was not supposed to be at the residence. According to audio dispatch obtained by Madison365, Blake had taken the woman’s keys and refused to leave.

When officers arrived at the scene, they encountered Blake, who resisted arrest. They unsuccessfully tried to subdue him with a Taser and Blake then walked around to his vehicle at the scene with armed police officers pointing their guns at his back, according to video posted on social media. Blake opened the driver’s side door of his vehicle and leaned forward. While holding onto Blake’s shirt, the Wisconsin DOJ said Sheskey fired his service weapon.

Blake’s family said the shooting has left him paralyzed from the waist down.

Wisconsin DOJ officials said Blake “admitted that he had a knife in his possession.” It was recovered on the floorboard of the driver’s side of the vehicle.

Brendan Matthews, the attorney representing Sheskey, told CNN that the officer fired the shots because he believed Blake was trying to kidnap a child as he heard a woman say, “He’s got my kid. He’s got my keys.”

There were three children in the back of the car at the time of the shooting.

In an op-ed for The New York Times Thursday, Jacob Blake’s uncle, Rick Blake, described the invisible toll of the shooting on his family, including his brother Jacob Blake Sr., affectionately called “Big Jake.”

“Our story is different from those of many families whose lives have been devastated by police brutality — our Li’l Jake survived. But in mostly every other way, the experience is similar. When the cameras stop rolling, the lights fade and public attention turns away, we’re left with our pain and we return to the battle against racism and for justice and reform,” Rick Blake wrote.

Rick Blake described how his brother, who suffers from diabetes, heart disease and chronic neuropathy, was forced to venture out during the pandemic from his home to support his son in the hospital and how he paid dearly for it with his health.

“The toll on my brother has gone largely unnoticed — except, of course, by members of our family. One night, he sat in the dark on a rock next to the hotel where he was staying, so sick and tired he couldn’t move, his hand swollen to the size of a catcher’s mitt from gout. By chance, the director of the hospital where Li’l Jake was being treated found him and he was taken to the emergency room for treatment,” he explained.

When asked about the Blake family’s revelation, Ward replied: “I think for those of us who have never been through something like this, there is no way to imagine what it feels like.”

Julia Jackson has been leaning on her faith while continuing to support her son’s recovery.

“I know it has to be one of the hardest things that Julia has every dealt with and she’s constantly in need, and I would say Jacob too, of prayer and I think that’s one of the roles that her church family plays for her. Having a church family, having a prayer team that she’s a part of, she has a core group of people around her that are there to encourage her spiritually, emotionally and mentally,” Ward said.

He argued that when shootings like Blake’s occur, people can sometime lose sight of the human toll they bring when they are criticized and politicized in the court of public opinion.

“There are so many negatives things spoken around these situations and publicly I don’t think we always give families the space that they need to grieve,” Ward said.

And it’s one of the reasons he believes a new prayer movement is needed now more than ever.

“It’s the people of America that need to change and when the people of America change, America will change and that’s the beginning of what we are calling for right now,” he said.
Sources: Christian Post

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കാനഡ മലയാളി പെന്തക്കോസ്ത് പ്രാര്‍ത്ഥന സംഗമം നവംബര്‍ 7 ന്

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ടൊറോന്റോ: കാനഡയിലെ മലയാളി പെന്തക്കോസ്ത് സഭകളുടെ ആഭിമുഖ്യത്തില്‍ ഈ രാജ്യത്തിനുവേണ്ടിയും സഭകളുടെ ആത്മീയ മുന്നേറ്റത്തിനും ആനുഗ്രഹത്തിനുമായി നവംബര്‍ 7 ന് വൈകിട്ട് 7 മണിക്ക് നടത്തപ്പെടുന്ന ആത്മീയ സമ്മേളനത്തിന്റെ ഒരുക്കങ്ങള്‍ പുരോഗമിച്ചു വരുന്നു.

കൊവിഡ് എന്ന മഹാമാരിയുടെ നടുവില്‍ കൂടി ലോകം കടന്നു പോകുമ്പോള്‍ കാനഡയ്ക്ക് വേണ്ടി പ്രാര്‍ത്ഥിക്കുവാന്‍ മലയാളി പെന്തക്കോസ്ത് സഭകള്‍ 7 പ്രൊവിന്‍സുകളില്‍ നിന്നും ആവേശത്തോടെ ജൂലൈ മാസം 25 ന് പ്രാര്‍ത്ഥനയായി സൂംമില്‍ കൂടി നടത്തപ്പെടുകയുണ്ടായി. കാനഡയിലെ മലയാളി പെന്തക്കോസ്ത് സഭകളുടെ ചരിത്രത്തിലെ ഒരു പുതിയ അദ്ധ്യായമായി അത് മാറുകയുണ്ടായി. #്തിന്റെ തുടര്‍ച്ചയായി നവംബര്‍ മാസം 7 ന് രണ്ടാമത് മീറ്റിംഗ് നടത്തുവാന്‍ തീരുമാനിച്ചിരിക്കുന്നു.

ഈ മീറ്റിംഗിന് നേതൃത്വം കൊടുക്കുന്നത് കാനഡ മലയാളി പാസ്റ്റേഴ്‌സ് ഫെലോഷിപ്പ് ആണ്. പാസ്റ്റര്‍മാരായ ഫിന്നി സാമുവല്‍,വില്‍സണ്‍ കടവില്‍, ജോണ്‍ തോമസ്, മാത്യൂ കോശി വന്‍കോവര്‍ എന്നിവര്‍ പ്രവര്‍ത്തിക്കുന്നു.

ഈ മീറ്റിംഗിന്റെ പ്രോഗ്രാം കോ ഓര്‍ഡിനേറ്റര്‍സ് ആയി പാസ്റ്റര്‍മാരായ ബാബു ജോര്‍ജ്, സോണി മാമന്‍, വി ടി റെജിമോന്‍ എന്നിവര്‍ വിവിധ കമ്മറ്റികള്‍ക്ക് നേതൃത്വം കൊടുക്കുന്നു. ഈ പ്രാര്‍ത്ഥന സംഗമത്തിന് ഏവരേയും ഹാര്‍ദ്ദവമായി സ്വാഗതം ചെയ്യുന്നു.

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