A Christian pastor in the United Kingdom was told by the local police that if he offends the LGBT community with a social media comment he could be breaking the law, even though a pro-LGBT mob threatened to burn down his church.
Christian Concern, a UK persecution watchdog, reports Pastor Josh Williamson of Newquay Baptist Church, was warned by police to keep his views in a “safe environment” after being targeted by a wave of anti-Christian abuse, including threats of violence and calls for his church to be burnt down.
Last month, Williamson, 34, replied to a post on a local news outlet’s Facebook page that reported this year’s Cornwall pride event would be canceled. Williamson simply wrote, “Wonderful news!” under the post.
When he was questioned about his comment by another user, he replied, “because I don’t think sin should be celebrated.”
Answering more questions from other users, Williamson quoted what the New Testament says regarding homosexuality from the books of John, James, and 1 Corinthians 6:9-11.
Then on his personal Facebook page, he shared the news article and wrote, “Hallelujah!! We prayed at our prayer meeting on Tuesday night that this event would be canceled. We also prayed that the Lord would save the organizers. One prayer answered, now we wait for the second prayer to be answered.”
Cornwall Pride organizers saw Williamson’s personal page, took a screenshot of the post, and then tagged Newquay Baptist Church and posted it along with negative comments made by other users about gay pride. They then blocked out the names on each comment, making it appear that all of the comments were posted by the pastor.
The pastor’s wife also received online threats and his head was superimposed onto an image of homosexual pornography, which was then shared online.
The LGBT group then called on their supporters to report the pastor to the police for a hate speech/crime. Activists also made several threats, including protesting at the Newquay church’s Sunday services, having the church’s charity status revoked by the government, as well as threatening to have Williamson deported back to his native Australia.
Following the threats, Williamson was invited to a meeting with two members of the Cornwall pride group, which he accepted to share his beliefs. During the meeting, he shared his Christian beliefs and welcomed members of the LGBT community to attend his church. Before leaving the meeting, he asked permission to leave a leaflet with the pair on what the Bible says about homosexuality.
Images of the leaflet were later shared widely throughout the local LGBT community, creating the illusion the pastor was distributing the leaflet. This resulted in further calls for police to investigate the pastor for a “hate crime.”
A post for one LGBT group called for Newquay Baptist Church, which often houses families, to be burnt down. Another user agreed, responding: “LETS BURN A CHURCH! LETS BURN A CHURCH.”
Another user also threatened to perform a mass sexual orgy at the church, calling on the group to assault anyone who handed them the leaflet.
Williamson reported the threats to the Devon and Cornwall Police, who have been sponsors of the gay organization in the past. He was told that the situation was “complex” and that they did not believe anyone with the group would act on their threats.
The police said that they were working with both sides to pacify the situation, but also told Williamson that he should make sure not to offend anyone in the LGBT community in the future to avoid breaking the law, according to Christian Concern.
The pastor said he and the members of his congregation will not remain silent.
“My family and I, and our church community, have been very concerned by the level of anti-Christian abuse and threats of violence that we have been targeted with over the past few weeks,” Williamson said in a statement. “The police have not formally spoken to me about any hate crime or sought a witness statement to look at the various online comments which have included threats to burn down our church.”
“As Christians, we seek to speak the truth in love and would readily welcome all people to our services. The Bible, however, proclaims a message of repentance which calls on all people to turn from their sin and to trust in Christ. It would be unloving for us to remain silent about what God’s Word says in relation to human sin, including all forms of sexual sin. We, therefore, must proclaim the truth that homosexuality is a sin, but that God loves sinners and Jesus can forgive all our sins.”
“Newquay Baptist Church is made up of sinners who have been forgiven by a wonderful Saviour; since this is the case, we would invite all people, including the LGBT community, to come to our services. Our desire is that all would come to know and love Jesus,” the statement concluded.
Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre which is representing Pastor Williamson, said such threats against Christians who speak out against the LGBT community are becoming all to common in the UK.
“It’s becoming worryingly common in the UK to see threats and calls for violence against Christians for voicing their simple opposition to LGBT Pride. Police forces should show Christians they take this seriously by protecting their free speech against mob threats rather than by seeking to keep Christians quiet,” Williams said.
“Christians are called to repay evil with good – I have no doubt that Pastor Williamson will continue to share the reality of sin and the good news of Jesus Christ with the people of Newquay,” she added.
U.S. Supreme Court Rules Against New York’s Restrictions On Religious Gatherings
The U.S. Supreme Court has temporarily barred New York from enforcing strict attendance limits on places of worship in areas designated coronavirus hot spots, in a decision released just before midnight on Wednesday.
The decision marked a major shift for the court, in essence at least a partial reversal of previous rulings, as well as a clear indication of the court’s dramatic move to the right with the addition of new Justice Amy Coney Barrett in place of the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Earlier this year, while Ginsburg was still on the court, it was Chief Justice John Roberts who cast the critical fifth vote to uphold a similar order from governors in California and Nevada.
This time, Roberts was in the minority, noting that the New York rules at issue in the case had already been eased.
The newly constituted majority, however, rejected Roberts’ deferential approach, noting that New York could impose the strict orders again at any time.
“The restrictions at issue here, by effectively barring many from attending religious services, strike at the very heart of the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious liberty,” the unsigned majority decision said. “Even in a pandemic, the constitution cannot be put away and forgotten.”
The New York rules imposed by Governor Andrew Cuomo restricted attendance at religious services in areas classified as “red” or “orange” zones. In red zones, no more than 10 people were permitted to attend each service, and in orange zones, attendance was capped at 25.
Those rules, which the court majority found to be “severe” and “inflexible,” did not apply to retail stores in the same neighborhoods, the decision said. In an “orange” zone, where secular businesses are subject to no attendance cap at all, the discrimination was “even starker,” the court said.
The justices in the majority, in addition to Barrett, were Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch.
Gorsuch filed an unusually acerbic concurring opinion, blasting not only Governor Cuomo but also Chief Justice Roberts for his earlier opinion in the California and Nevada cases.
Referring to the more lax rules for New York retailers, Gorsuch opined that “at least according to Governor Cuomo, it may be unsafe to go to church, but it is always fine to pick up another bottle of wine, shop for a new bike, or spend the afternoon exploring your distal points and meridians,” a reference to acupuncture being unregulated.
And when it came to Roberts, Gorsuch spent several pages accusing him of “rewriting history” in his dissenting opinion on Wednesday and his earlier opinions in the California and Nevada cases.
“In the end,” said Gorsuch, while Roberts and the other dissenters may wish to “stay out of the way” and let state officials and experts deal with the crisis of a pandemic, “we may not shelter in place where the Constitution is under attack.” There is, he wrote, “no world in which the Constitution tolerates color-coded executive edicts that reopen liquor stores and bike shops but shutter churches, synagogues, and mosques.”
Roberts replied with a slap-down of his own. Quoting from Gorsuch’s acid dismissal of the dissenters’ views, the Chief Justice said he did not regard his dissenting colleagues with such venom: “They simply view the matter differently after careful study and reflecting their best efforts to fulfill their responsibility under the Constitution.”
As to Gorsuch’s concurrence, which, as Roberts put it, “takes aim at my [earlier] concurring opinion,” Gorsuch had engaged in such overkill that he spent “three pages” criticizing one sentence.
And “what did that sentence say?” asked Roberts. “Only that our Constitution principally entrusts the safety and health of the people to the politically accountable officials of the states to guard and protect.”
Those words, said Roberts, “should be uncontroversial, and the Gorsuch concurrence must reach beyond the words themselves to find the target it is looking for.”
That earlier opinion involved rules that were not as strict as the New York rules. The California church limited attendance to 100 people. In buildings with a capacity of 400 or fewer people, capacity was limited to 25%. In Nevada, churches were limited to 50 people.
On Nov. 12, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn and Agudath Israel of America asked the court for temporary injunctions against the New York governor’s executive order.
The synagogues said Cuomo’s order “singled out a particular religion for blame and retribution” for the uptick in coronavirus cases.
The court granted the temporary injunctive relief until the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in December — and then the Supreme Court as appropriate — can more fully consider the merits of the case. But the majority said that challengers, as of now, have a good chance of prevailing if they get to the Supreme Court again.
It’s unclear how the case will proceed. New York’s Solicitor General Barbara D. Underwood recently informed the court that recent changes to the policies in question meant none of the diocese’s churches or the area’s synagogues would any longer be subject to the restrictions.
Cuomo described Wednesday’s decision as a political statement. In his daily coronavirus briefing Thursday, he said, “Look, I’m a former altar boy, Catholic, Catholic grammar school, Catholic high school, Jesuits at college. So I fully respect religion and if there’s a time in life when we need it, the time is now. But we want to make sure we keep people safe at the same time, and that’s the balance we’re trying to hit, especially in this holiday season.”
Indonesian Terrorist Burns Down Church and Christian Homes, Killing Four
International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that on November 27, an alleged terrorist attacked the Salvation Army’s service post in central Sulawesi, before burning six houses of church members. Four Christians were murdered, with three being butchered.
Around 8 a.m., the Lewonu Lembantongoa Service Post, located in Sigi Regency, Central Sulawesi, set up as an outreach effort by the Salvation Army in Indonesia (Bala Keselamatan), was attacked by the alleged terrorist.
He set the church on fire, before attacking Captain Arnianto, Mrs. Mpapa, Lieutenant Abram Kako and his wife and burning down six houses of the church members. Out of the four victims, three were hacked to death, while the other was burned.
In the video seen by ICC, the charred victim was pulled from a pile of ruins, with smoke still rising in the background. The fowler position of the body suggests the agony and pain endured by the victim before death.
Lemban Tongoa is located in the forest, where access of information and transportation is limited. ICC will continue to follow up to learn more about the details of the attack. The Salvation Army is asking for prayers “for the family of the victims, for the church, and for the peace of the region.”
Gina Goh, ICC’s Regional Manager for Southeast Asia, said, “ICC mourns the death of the Indonesian brothers and sisters who were brutally murdered by the alleged terrorist. We urge the Indonesian government to take necessary measures to hold him accountable and put him to justice. Such senseless act cannot be tolerated in the country that boasts ‘Pancasila,’ the state ideology which promotes religious harmony and tolerance.”
U.S. Supreme Court Rules Against New York’s Restrictions On Religious Gatherings
The U.S. Supreme Court has temporarily barred New York from enforcing strict attendance limits on places of worship in areas...
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