California church and its bishop filed an emergency appeal Sunday with the Supreme Court in an attempt to force California Governor Gavin Newsom to allow churches to reopen amid the pandemic.
South Bay United Pentecostal Church and Bishop Arthur Hodges lost to an appeals court last week over their lawsuit against the Democratic state leader and his ban of in-person religious services, prompting the emergency request for the country’s top court to weigh in. A current shelter-in-place order prohibits churches from congregating.
As regions of the country are swiftly rolling back their social distancing measures to reopen businesses, President Donald Trump has sought to speed up the process by declaring churches “essential” and threatening to “override the governors” who refuse to immediately reopen them. The president does not have the constitutional authority to do so, and the White House has not provided the legal basis for such an argument.
However, in their request for the Supreme Court to hear the case by next Sunday, attorneys for the Southern California church and its bishop cited in their filing Trump’s threat and a warning from the Justice Department telling Newsom that his restrictions were discriminatory against religion. The justices’ guidance is “needed to avert a constitutional crisis,” the lawyers contended, because “thousands of churches across the country and in California plan to reopen by May 31…in defiance of any state executive orders, leading to widespread civil unrest.”
The appeal to the nation’s most powerful justices further escalates the debate at the crossroads of public health and religious freedom. Trump argued Friday that America needs “more prayer, not less” just before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in California ruled against South Bay United Pentecostal Church and Hodges.
Amid the intense public pressure, Newsom tweeted Monday that counties can reopen houses of worship for some in-person services. However, there are strict constraints that will come with the religious institutions’ gradual reopenings authorized under new guidelines Newsom unveiled.
With the thumbs up for county public health officials, churches in the Golden State may resume operations with 25 percent capacity or 100 people, whichever is fewer. These provisions would last for three weeks as state officials monitor for any potential spike in coronavirus cases linked to the religious gatherings.
The guidelines place the power of allowing churches to return to in-person sessions in the hands of local leaders, potentially leading to county-by-county policies that could vary widely. It remains unclear whether the Supreme Court will weigh in on the complex matter in an emergency fashion, as has been requested.
Two of the three appeals court judges who sided with Newsom’s shelter-in-place order noted in their ruling Friday that the virus produces a “highly contagious and often fatal disease.”
“In the words of Justice Robert Jackson, if a ‘Court does not temper its doctrinaire logic with a little practical wisdom, it will convert the constitutional Bill of Rights into a suicide pact,'” the judges wrote.
Newsom’s office did not respond to Newsweek’s request for comment.
An attorney for Hodges and the church, Charles LiMandri, told Newsweek Monday afternoon that he planned to file a supplemental letter brief with the Supreme Court Tuesday morning outlining several points. Among the arguments LiMandri will make will be his stated position that he still considers the new guidelines “both arbitrary and unconstitutional” because it limits Hodges’ church to 100 congregants and is “still interfering with their right to free exercise of religion.” The church can hold 600 people, LiMandri said.
Newsom’s policy is also unfair, LiMandri added, because it is applied to religious institutions but not other facilities or businesses.
“Our client has always said that he is willing to limit church attendance to one-third to one-half capacity, which is 200 to 300 people, which will still allow for mote than six feet between families,” LiMandri said. “This is further unconstitutional because the State is not placing similar onerous restrictions on secular facilities, such as office work spaces (no capacity limits), manufacturing (no capacity limits), and shopping centers (50% maximum capacity limit).”
LiMandri will further contend in his filing that the Supreme Court needs to rule because there is a split among circuit courts on when it comes to statewide directives shuttering churches.
“Otherwise, various government officials can keep setting arbitrary and unconstitutional restrictions,” he said, citing Illinois limiting churches to just 10 congregants and Chicago using law enforcement to enforce such restrictions.
Do Christians Really Donate More? Bible’s Stunning Impact on Charitable Giving Revealed in Fascinating New Study
As the debate over the impact of Christianity on charitable behavior forges on, a new study reveals Scripturally-engaged Americans are “far more likely than others to donate to charity.”
In fact, the majority of these individuals — people who interact consistently with Scripture and allow it to shape their lives and relationships — report giving to such causes, according to the eighth chapter of “The State of the Bible” report.
“Americans who are engaged with the Bible gave $145 billion to charitable causes in 2021,” a statement from the American Bible Society read. “And … Practicing Christians, those who are actively living out their faith, are much more likely to give.”
The results are pretty stunning when comparing people engaged in the Bible with those who are disengaged as well as the so-called Moveable Middle, a group falling between those dynamics.
Bible-engaged Americans gave a total of $145 billion to charities in 2021, amounting to about $2,907 per household. The same figure for the Bible disengaged was just $924.
To underscore the monumental nature of that giving, consider that Scripturally engaged Americans account for just 19% of adults yet give 44% of every dollar donated.
The finer details point to the fascinating nature of this group’s generosity.
“People who are Scripture-engaged gave six-times as much to churches as those in the Movable Middle and 13-times as much as those who are Bible-disengaged,” a statement explained. “When it comes to non-church giving, Scripture-engaged Americans gave 9% more than the Bible-disengaged and 165% more than the Movable Middle.”
Giving among active believers is, thus, much higher than for other cohorts.
Dr. John Farquhar Plake, director of ministry intelligence for the American Bible Society, said his organization’s research continues to show “a strong correlation between charitable giving and human flourishing.” This is particularly relevant among Christians surveyed in the annual report.
“Engaging with the Bible and actively living out our faith doesn’t simply mean reading the words in the pages of Scripture — rather, it is a transformation of the heart that inspires us to love and live well,” Plake said.
The results for this chapter of the “State of the Bible” were collected from 2,598 phone and online responses from American adults in January 2022.
Atheists will often decry the Bible and its contents, yet study after study shows the strong benefits faith offers individuals and, in turn, the culture at large.
As Faithwire reported, an earlier chapter from the “State of the Bible” report showed “Americans who consistently read and apply the Bible report greater levels of hope and resilience.” Read more about the Bible’s significant impact on the faithful here.
PASTOR JACOB MATHEW – 57 MEMORIAL SERVICE 12/02/2022
For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel,and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.
To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. We walk by faith, and not by sight! Pastor Jacob Mathew (57 ) has been promoted to his eternal home and went to be with Jesus on 11/24/2022 . He served as the assistant Pastor of the Mizpah Church of God. Pullad. He lived a life that exampled Jesus Christ, a life of servitude,faith,and love. He will be missed by his family, his wife Shiney,daughter Jesna Jacob and son Joel Jacob.
We kindly request for prayers at this time for the family. He is Survived by his mother, Thankamma Mathew, sister Mary Mathew, and brother Paul Mathew and family.
Christian Organization Wins Legal Battle, Will Be Allowed to Hire Christians
Just two months after the Wyoming Rescue Mission filed its federal lawsuit against state and federal agencies for threatening to punish the Christian nonprofit for hiring employees who share the ministry’s religious beliefs, attorneys with Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) announced they reached a favorable settlement in the case.
As part of the settlement, state officials acknowledged that the rescue mission, as a religious organization, is free to hire like-minded employees who share the ministry’s religious beliefs and mission to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ through its homeless shelter, clothing voucher service, faith-based recovery programs, and life-rebuilding assistance to Casper residents.
“The First Amendment protects Wyoming Rescue Mission’s freedom to hire those who share its beliefs without being threatened and investigated by the government,” said ADF Legal Counsel Jacob Reed. “We’re pleased to favorably settle this case for the rescue mission so it can continue its critical work of serving some of Casper’s most vulnerable citizens and spreading the Gospel.”
On behalf of the faith-based organization, ADF attorneys filed the lawsuit, Wyoming Rescue Mission v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, in the US District Court for the District of Wyoming.
According to court documents, the mission requires all employees to agree with its religious beliefs. Before being forced to remove it, the mission’s “Career Opportunities” webpage explicitly stated that “Employees are expected to commit to the precepts in our Statement of Faith, and to help the Mission fulfill its mission statement, vision statement, and ends statement.”
And the Mission’s employment application says: “The Mission considers every position one of ministry and a vital and valued part of our team. Therefore, it is essential that all employees of the Mission have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and subscribe to our Statement of Faith and Ministry Principles. Employees must be willing to lead and/or participate in Bible study, prayer, devotions, and sharing the Gospel.”
As CBN News reported, in 2020, the mission decided not to hire a self-proclaimed non-Christian for one of its Rescued Treasures Thrift Store associate positions. Included with this job is the responsibility of teaching the mission’s Discipleship Recovery Program guests how to spread the gospel and model Jesus Christ.
The lawsuit explains that the mission advised the applicant during the pre-screen interview that it is a Christian ministry and that all employees must agree with the Mission’s statement of faith and demonstrate Christian principles in their life and work as a condition of employment. The applicant responded that she did not have any faith.
The non-Christian applicant then filed a discrimination charge against the mission with Wyoming’s Department of Workforce Services and the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), according to Decision Magazine.
State officials conducted a 16-month-long investigation to determine if the mission engaged in discrimination as prohibited by law.
The officials determined the mission likely violated the Wyoming Fair Employment Practices Act of 1965 and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 for refusing to hire the non-Christian applicant, ignoring the fact that neither of those laws applies to faith-based organizations’ religiously based employment decisions.
After ADF attorneys filed suit, the government capitulated and agreed the mission can hire only “those individuals who agree with and live out the mission’s religious beliefs and practices.”
“Like-minded employees who share the mission’s purpose to spread the Gospel and uplift the Casper community by providing free meals, shelter, recovery programs, and job training are essential for the Wyoming Rescue Mission to continue its important work,” said ADF Senior Counsel Ryan Tucker, director of the ADF Center for Christian Ministries. “Wyoming officials have rightly recognized that both state and federal laws protect religious organizations’ ability to hire those who share their beliefs.”
As part of the settlement in Wyoming Rescue Mission v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) agreed to pay the rescue mission’s attorneys’ fees. In light of the settlement, the court dismissed the EEOC from the case and signed a consent decree settling the case with the state.
A press release from the ADF revealed that in 2021, the mission served 60,862 free meals to the public; provided 41,037 beds for men, women, and children; enrolled 92 Discipleship Recovery Program participants; offered 5,597 case management sessions, and gave 1,208 thrift store vouchers worth $39,649.92 that provided free clothing and essentials to families and guests in need.
John G. Knepper, one of more than 4,600 attorneys in the ADF Attorney Network, served as local counsel for the Wyoming Rescue Mission.
Sources:BREAKING CHRISTIAN NEWS
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