Congress proposes Johnson Amendment overhaul

 
Members of Congress have introduced legislation to enable churches and other non-profit organizations to endorse candidates or otherwise participate in political campaigns without fear of penalties from the Internal Revenue Service. The Free Speech Fairness Act—introduced Feb. 1, the day before President Trump reiterated his intent to eliminate the so-called Johnson Amendment—would free pastors, churches and other tax-exempt entities to intervene on behalf of or against candidates in an election campaign. The measure would still prohibit financial ...

Congress remains majority Christian, but less Protestant

 
Congress has remained majority Christian and Protestant for as long as the Pew Research Center has been tracking data, but the number of Protestants has declined by nearly 20 percentage points. Since Pew began tracking religion in 1961 during the 87th Congress, the body has declined from 95 percent to 91 percent Christian. Protestants, while still maintaining a majority, have declined from 75 percent in 1961 to 56 percent today, Pew announced. Of the 485 Christians in the 535-member Congress, 299 are Protestant, according to Pew's analysis of the 115...

Letter from evangelical leaders calls Pruitt 'well qualified' for EPA

 
A group of 48 evangelical leaders, the vast majority of them Southern Baptists, has sent a letter to President-elect Donald Trump in support of Scott Pruitt, Trump's choice to head the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Among the signatories are 12 former Southern Baptist Convention presidents; current SBC President Steve Gaines; 14 current and former SBC entity heads, including all six current SBC seminary presidents; and 17 state Baptist convention executive directors, including Florida's Tommy Green. Pruitt, Oklahoma's attorney general, is a deacon at ...

Brunson: To pledge allegiance to the flag is not dishonoring to Christ

 
Here’s the last excerpt from my conversation with Dr. Mac Brunson, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, ahead of the story scheduled to publish in our January 2017 print edition. During our interview, I made this statement about war and how it is waged differently today. “For your generation war was a total country sacrifice,” I said to Dr. Brunson during a wide-ranging interview in his office in late November. “If your dad wasn&...

Brunson on Trump: No president is without character flaws

 
As evangelicals try to regain some unity following the presidential election, I met with Dr. Mac Brunson, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, in his office for a wide-ranging interview. An edited version of the conversation will appear in our January 2017 print edition as the debut of a feature we are calling Behind the Pulpit, which will talk with some of the most influential pastors and Florida Baptist leaders on the hot-button topics of the day. Here is ...

Jerry Falwell Jr. declined Donald Trump's education secretary offer

 
Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. reportedly declined to serve as education secretary under President-elect Donald Trump. Trump offered the post to Falwell during a meeting in New York days before Thanksgiving, Falwell told The Associated Press Nov. 26. Fallwell reportedly declined the post because he was not able to commit to serve four to six years as Trump desired. Instead, Falwell was only prepared to serve two years at most, he told AP. Trump has made no indication of the ...

Restroom law likely safe despite undecided N.C. governor's race

 
Regardless of who emerges victorious in North Carolina's still undecided governor's race, some of the state's Baptists believe a controversial law limiting transgender restroom access will remain in force. Incumbent Gov. Pat McCrory, a Republican who has defended the law known as House Bill 2, trails Attorney General Roy Cooper, a Democrat and staunch H.B. 2 critic, by some 5,000 votes with more than 58,000 provisional ballots to be adjudicated and potentially counted, the Raleigh News & Observer reported. A smaller number of ...

Southern Baptists unanimously win re-election to Congress

 
All Southern Baptist members of Congress participating in the Nov. 8 election successfully defended their seats. Three senators and 26 representatives—all members of Southern Baptist churches—won re-election. With three other senators who were not up for re-election, Southern Baptists will count at least 32 of their own in the Senate and House of Representatives when the next Congress convenes in January. Some Southern Baptists whom Baptist Press is unaware of may have been elected for the first time. Five ...

Anti-Trump protests at FBC Dallas draw spotlight

 
Protesters picketing First Baptist Church in Dallas will have no effect, pastor Robert Jeffress said Nov. 15 on national TV. "Look, these people, these protesters, aren't opposing me or our church," Jeffress said of the 50 or so protesters who picketed the church for a second night Nov. 14 because of the pastor's apparent public support of Trump during the contentious presidential campaign. "When I see these protesters, it kind of reminds me of a flea striking its hind leg against Mount Everest, ...

Donald Trump rebukes alleged racism among supporters

 
In his first major interview since Election Day, President-elect Donald Trump said he is "saddened" by reported incidents of racial harassment committed in his name and urged perpetrators to "stop it." Trump also commented on potential Supreme Court nominees, abortion and same-sex marriage among other social issues. When interviewer Lesley Stahl of CBS's "60 Minutes" asked Trump about reports of African-Americans, Latinos and homosexuals being harassed in his name, Trump replied he was unaware of such episodes occurring on a large ...

Election sparks hope for liberty & life causes

 
Republican Party electoral victories for the White House and Congress have given social conservatives hope for progress on religious freedom and pro-life issues. Donald Trump's upset of Hillary Clinton for the presidency -- paired with the GOP's preservation of its majorities in the Senate and House of Representatives -- has suddenly encouraged conservative evangelical Christians and their allies to think they will be able to roll back some harmful policies and to advance some helpful ones. The president-elect, who will ...

Presidential transition prompts calls for prayer

 
Prayer for a smooth presidential transition and thankfulness for the American tradition of peaceful leadership transfer are among Southern Baptists' prescriptions for the 73 days between Election Day and Donald Trump's inauguration as America's 45th president. "Through history, transitioning political power has usually been bloody [and] involved great social upheaval, destruction of property and personal uncertainty," said Daniel Heimbach, a Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary professor who served in the George H.W. Bush administration. "And those who lose power have usually ...

President-elect Trump carries Florida; Medical marijuana amendment passes

 
In what proved to be one of the most stunning upsets in U.S. political history, Donald J. Trump won more than the 270 electoral votes needed on Nov. 8 to become the 45th president of the United States. Although votes are still being counted in a handful of states, Trump’s lead in key races have him winning an overall projected 310 electoral votes to Clinton’s 228, according to electoral-vote.com. While Clinton did not make a ...

Florida pastors encourage reconciliation, unity following brutal 2016 presidential election

 
Did you find yourself thrown into a “basket of deplorables” this election season for the views you held? Or, were you more often than not voicing concerns about the temperamental fitness of the other candidate? Regardless of your political persuasion, perhaps the one thing upon which we can all agree as followers of Jesus Christ is that political discourse hit new lows during the 2016 election season. While an “us vs. them” mentality is not uncommon during ...

Election Day: God's leadership in voting considered

 
God can and does lead believers to vote for particular candidates. But that doesn't mean Spirit-filled believers all will vote for the same candidate. That's the Election Day conclusion of several pastors who have devoted themselves to prayer and seeking spiritual awakening through the years. "Christians have to really decide: In this election, do I really believe God can give me wisdom?" Arkansas pastor Bill Elliff told Baptist Press. "He says in James 1, 'If you lack wisdom' -- we could ...

Swing-state pastors offer election counsel

 
When Florida pastor Ken Whitten started to address the 2016 presidential election in a sermon, "it got real quiet" because the congregation "knows I do not do that" typically, Whitten said. But he spoke out because he is among Southern Baptist pastors in key swing states who, without endorsing a candidate, have felt compelled to offer spiritual counsel to their congregations in the home stretch of an at-times rancorous presidential campaign. Their concerns include harsh social media posts by Christians, the ...

Marijuana legalization on 9 state ballots, including Florida

 
Nine states will vote Nov. 8 on marijuana legalization, reflecting its advocates' continued nationwide push at the ballot box. Voters in five states—Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada—will cast ballots on Election Day for or against initiatives that will legalize the recreational use of marijuana, or cannabis as it is sometimes known. Another four states—Arkansas, Florida, Montana and North Dakota—will vote on measures to legalize medical use of marijuana. The latest decisions will ...

Supreme Court accepts transgender bathroom case

 
The question of transgender rights will receive a hearing soon from the country's highest court. The Supreme Court announced Oct. 28 it will review a lower court opinion regarding the right of a student to use the public school restroom that matches her gender identity rather than her biological sex. Oral arguments in the case likely will take place in early 2017, and an opinion is expected before the court adjourns next summer. The order from the justices is the latest action ...

Analysis: Will you vote based on personalities or issues?

 
In this time of massive uncertainty just days before the Nov. 8 election, there is ONE area of absolute certainty: In American Christendom, the current presidential campaign’s two major binary candidates have proven to be the most morally controversial characters ever! Both are extremely flawed candidates when measured against a biblically principled life. So what do we do? Do we let our emotions run unchecked and make a determination about which candidate is least morally flawed in our personal ...

Past elections: 'dire' Christian predictions not new

 
During the presidential campaign of 1800, Christian opponents of candidate Thomas Jefferson warned he "abhors the Christian system" and if elected, might send troops to seize Christians' Bibles. In 1860, Abraham Lincoln's election was thought by some Southern Baptist leaders to threaten fundamental American liberties. A century later, the presidential campaign elicited the Chicago Sun-Times headline "Southern Baptists Tell Why They Are Attacking Kennedy." These and other interjections into presidential politics by followers of Jesus have led a Baylor University church historian ...

Doctors, states oppose federal transgender mandate

 
Thousands of health care providers and eight states are challenging a new federal rule that requires doctors to perform gender transition procedures or treatments even on children. The latest transgender directive from the Obama administration mandates physicians carry out such gender-altering measures even if they believe they could prove harmful or would violate their religious and ethical beliefs. Health care providers who refuse to abide by the regulation might face imposing fines and the loss of their jobs. The transgender ...

Former SBC president addresses refugee crisis on '60 Minutes'

 
Amid today's tumult of political rhetoric and social discourse about Syrian refugees entering the United States, a pastor and former Southern Baptist Convention president spoke out in an Oct. 16 "60 Minutes" report, as well as a Sept. 11 sermon, calling on Christians to lean on God's Word to determine how to respond to the Syrian refugee crisis. Bryant Wright, senior pastor of Johnson Ferry Baptist Church, said Christians are not to make decisions about Syrian refugees "by our feelings, by our fears, ...

Clinton, Trump share plans for Supreme Court in final debate

 
The third and final debate of the 2016 presidential election between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump focused on various issues of concern to many evangelical Christians: the U.S. Supreme Court, abortion, immigration, personal character and ongoing turmoil in the Middle East. The University of Nevada, Las Vegas, hosted the 90-minute debate between Clinton, the Democratic nominee, and Trump, the Republican nominee. Chris Wallace, host of "Fox News Sunday," moderated the event. Wallace opened the evening by asking each candidate about ...

Fighting the religious straw men of the religious right, moral majority

 
As a local church pastor and leader, I stand amazed, but also burdened, over the ongoing attacks that are aimed at what I call “religious straw men.” The term “fighting a straw man” is used when one states a belief in an exaggerated way and then destroys it. Usually someone is attacking the belief and practice of another person, but doing so by creating a different reality of what actually occurred. These imaginable characters receiving the ...

Political engagement, trust in God's sovereignty urged

 
Jesus is the "ultimate" refugee and immigrant, and as a result the church has a responsibility to love and care for strangers in their land, said Georgia pastor and former Southern Baptist Convention president Bryant Wright during an Oct. 11 chapel message during Heritage Week at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. "The role of government is different. The role of government includes a protection of the citizens, but our role in the church is to love our neighbor," said Wright, who received ...

Evangelical political divide seen in LifeWay Research survey

 
Americans with evangelical beliefs share a great deal in common. They trust in Jesus alone, evangelize their neighbors and believe the Bible is the final authority in their lives. But when it comes to voting, race and political affiliation still divide evangelicals, according to a survey from Nashville-based LifeWay Research taken from Sept. 27-Oct. 1, before the second presidential debate. Overall, fewer than half (45 percent) of those with evangelical beliefs planned to vote for Donald Trump, according to the survey. A ...

Kentucky pastor: God is bigger than Clinton, Trump & my vote

 
I've struggled with the choices we've been handed next month in perhaps the strangest and most divisive presidential election in recent history. I've listened to people I respect give their thoughts about the situation. With Hillary Clinton on the far left and Donald Trump on the far right (I think), the choice would seem clear. But I've observed that, for some, there is a genuine struggle to endorse either with their vote. I'm a Christian who has the wonderful privilege ...

Albert Mohler: Evangelical support of Trump destroys ‘moral credibility'

 
The 2016 presidential election presents “an excruciating moment” for evangelicals because the two major candidates fail “the baseline test of character,” said R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, during an Oct. 12 appearance on “CNN Tonight” with host Don Lemon. “When it comes to Donald Trump, evangelicals are going to have to ask the huge question, ‘Is it worth destroying our moral credibility to support someone who is beneath the ...

Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump clash in second heated debate

 
The U.S. Supreme Court—the defining issue for many evangelical Christians in the 2016 presidential election—finally received attention just before the close of the second debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump Sunday night (Oct. 9). The debate—only two days after the release of a 2005 video in which Trump lewdly describes his efforts to have sex with women other than his wife—lacked discussion of such issues as abortion and marriage until about 10 minutes before ...

Faith, social issues spotlighted in vice presidential debate

 
A nine-minute discussion of personal faith and social issues capped a vice presidential debate between Democrat Tim Kaine and Republican Mike Pence that also included discussion of racial bias in the criminal justice system, immigration and humanitarian aid in Syria. The 90-minute debate hosted by Virginia's Longwood University Oct. 4 additionally featured squabbles about the character of presidential nominees Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Kaine, Virginia's junior U.S. senator, criticized Trump for not releasing his federal income tax returns and ...

Roy Moore suspension said to ignore 'rule of law'

 
Although the nine-judge panel charged with trying Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore did not achieve the unanimous ruling required to remove him from office, it suspended him without pay for the remainder of his term in what Moore's attorney, Mat Staver, called a violation of state law. "To suspend Chief Justice Moore for the rest of his term is the same as removal," Staver, founder and chairman of the nonprofit legal group Liberty Counsel, said in a news release. The ...

Clinton, Trump spar over race, personal ethics in first debate

 
Race relations, personal ethics and terrorism were among the topics discussed by Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump on Sept. 26 in their first head-to-head presidential debate. The 90-minute event hosted by Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y., included no mention of abortion, same-sex marriage, transgenderism or religious liberty by either candidate and no specific mention of radical Islam during the discussion of terrorism. More than 20 consecutive minutes were devoted to the subject of race relations. Clinton argued for criminal justice reform ...

Opposition mounts to Florida medical marijuana amendment

 
In what many call an unnecessary constitutional amendment, Florida voters will once again be asked to vote on whether or not the use of medical marijuana should be expanded to people with certain medical conditions. The Nov. 8 referendum marks the second time voters have been asked to weigh in on this issue. In 2014 a similar amendment was defeated, falling just 2 percentage points short of the 60 percent majority needed to pass. While proponents of the measure say changes to the language ...

GOP VP running mate Mike Pence introduced at FBC Jacksonville

 
Mac Brunson, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, introduced GOP vice presidential running mate Mike Pence to Sunday morning worshipers on Sept. 18. Quoting James Dobson, Brunson said of the former Indiana governor: “This man is perhaps the most genuine Christian in politics today.” He then conducted a brief question-and-answer with Pence, asking him about his salvation experience, reflections on 9/11 and the Christian’s obligation to vote. In response to Brunson’s question about the ...

Tim Kaine cites Genesis 1, pope to support gay marriage

 
In a speech to America's largest pro-gay lobbying group, Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine said the Bible buttresses his support of same-sex marriage. And he predicted the Roman Catholic Church eventually will change its mind on the issue, like he has. Evangelical theologians, however, said Kaine appeared to distort biblical teaching and Catholic doctrine in service of a political agenda. Speaking Sept. 10 at the annual Human Rights Campaign (HRC) dinner in Washington, Kaine called himself a "devout Catholic" and ...

SBC president says election rhetoric can inhibit evangelism

 
Conviction and kindness are the prescription of Southern Baptist leaders for the final eight weeks of the U.S. presidential campaign. With early voting by mail having begun in North Carolina and in-person early voting slated to begin in three states next week, Southern Baptist Convention President Steve Gaines, Dallas Pastor Robert Jeffress, Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. and Cedarville University President Thomas White are among those to weigh in with ethical and spiritual advice for voters. Gaines, pastor ...

Polygamists asks Supreme Court to review lower-court ruling

 
Polygamy is knocking at the door of the U.S. Supreme Court. A polygamous family featured in the reality television show "Sister Wives" asked the justices Monday (Sept. 12) to review a lower-court ruling that had reversed a federal judge's decision in favor of the polygamists. The high court will decide in the months ahead whether to grant review and rule on the case. Defenders of the biblical and historic view of marriage already were following the case and will continue ...

Transgender restroom bill applied to Massachusetts churches

 
A Massachusetts government commission's claim that churches may be subject to the state's transgender restroom bill has drawn expressions of concern from local evangelicals. "The United States Constitution has been understood since the founding of our nation as specifically protecting the rights of churches to function in keeping with their deeply held religious beliefs," Terry Dorsett, executive director of the Baptist Convention of New England, told Baptist Press in written comments. "Any attempt by a small vocal activist group to ...

Pulpit no place for political endorsements, say most Americans

 
Since the 1950s, the IRS has banned preachers from endorsing candidates during church services. Most Americans seem to like it that way. Eight in 10 (79 percent) say it is inappropriate for pastors to endorse a candidate in church. Three-quarters say churches should steer clear of endorsements. Yet fewer than half want churches to be punished if they do endorse candidates. Those are among the findings in a new report on religion and politics from Nashville-based LifeWay Research. Scott McConnell, ...

Talking about politics, God focus of new LifeWay Research study

 
Politics trumps God for most Americans when it comes to conversations with their friends, a new study shows. Six in 10 Americans are more comfortable talking about politics than their spiritual beliefs. And most say they aren't interested in having more spiritual conversations. By contrast, evangelical Christians prefer talking about God over politics by a 2-to-1 margin. Those are among the findings of an online survey of 1,004 Americans about their views on spirituality and politics from LifeWay Research. Scott McConnell, executive ...

Hillary Clinton's DNC speech short on social issues

 
Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton's 5,000-word address to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia July 28 devoted a total of one phrase to abortion and even less to so-called homosexual rights. The sparse mention of social issues led Walter Bradley, a former Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission trustee who served as New Mexico's Republican lieutenant governor from 1995-2002, to express concern Clinton seemed to "avoid these very important issues." On Wednesday night (July 27), vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine's speech to the ...

DNC Day 2 features Bill Clinton, talk of 'glass ceiling'

 
Talk of Hillary Clinton's Methodist roots, an address by Planned Parenthood Federation of America President Cecile Richards and discussion of Clinton's becoming the first female presidential nominee of a major U.S. political party were among the newsworthy events July 26 at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. On the day delegates officially nominated Clinton, her husband, former President Bill Clinton, delivered a keynote address chronicling their life together and her record of public service, including its religious influences. "Hillary got ...

Baptists react to Hillary Clinton's VP choice of Tim Kaine

 
Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, whose pro-life stands in state-level offices stand in stark contrast to a socially liberal voting record since being elected to the U.S. Senate, has been selected as the running mate of presumed Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. The former secretary of state and first lady announced her selection July 22 via text message to her supporters, The New York Times reported. Elected to the Senate in 2012, Kaine served as Virginia's governor from 2006-10 and as chairman ...

Donald Trump promises change; Baptists remain divided

 
Donald Trump told Americans he would solve their country's problems in accepting the Republican Party's nomination for president Thursday (July 21) but appeared unable to bridge the divide over his candidacy among Southern Baptists and other evangelical Christians. Trump closed the GOP convention in Cleveland with a nearly 75-minute speech in which he promised to restore law and order to the United States and to repair the "rigged" political system. "Nobody knows the system better than me, which is why I ...

Mike Pence makes case for Trump; Ted Cruz: 'Vote your conscience'

 
Vice presidential nominee Mike Pence made a social conservative's case for Donald Trump on the Republican National Convention's third day, but the GOP runner-up--Texas Sen. Ted Cruz--grabbed the spotlight by refusing to endorse his party's nominee. Pence, 57, accepted the Republican nomination for vice president Wednesday evening (July 20) and offered reasons the lightning-rod billionaire should be trusted over presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. The Indiana governor made his case, however, after a wave of boos ushered Cruz off the stage in ...

Ben Carson invokes the devil in support of Donald Trump

 
Donald Trump officially became the Republican Party's presidential nominee Tuesday (July 19) on a day when the devil was invoked at the GOP convention as part of a reason not to vote for his Democratic opponent. The controversial billionaire easily passed the 1,237 votes needed to secure the nomination during a state-by-state roll call, ending a divisive, even bitter, campaign season among Republicans. In what was a foregone conclusion, Trump won with 1,725 delegates, easily surpassing other GOP candidates who had suspended their ...

GOP passes pro-life, conservative platform

 
The Republican National Convention approved a strongly conservative platform—including what was described as its most pro-life stance ever—on an opening day marked by charges of plagiarism and a failed effort by delegates opposed to Donald Trump. Voting Monday (July 17) in Cleveland, GOP delegates endorsed a platform that supports biblical/traditional marriage and the right to life of unborn children while opposing the Obama administration's new transgender directive to public schools. In incidents that demonstrated the continuing ...

Donald Trump chooses Mike Pence as running mate

 
Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has selected a social conservative—Indiana Gov. Mike Pence—as his running mate. Trump announced his vice presidential choice in a tweet Friday (July 15) and said he would hold a news conference regarding his decision July 16, two days before the Republican National Convention opens in Cleveland. The brash billionaire's choice likely will be interpreted as an effort to help him gain votes from evangelicals and other conservatives—some who have proven ...

'We the People' stirs Kentucky state legislator's loyalty

 
Only a few people recognized the words written more than 150 years ago when David Floyd read them at Bardstown (Ky.) Baptist Church during a God and Country emphasis. Citing a call to "public humiliation, prayer and fasting" to be observed by all Americans, the state representative and military veteran shared these words of proclamation to his church: "Whereas it is fit and becoming in all people at all times to acknowledge and revere the supreme government of God, to bow ...

Jimmy Draper, Jerry Vines support pastors' counsel to Donald Trump

 
Uphold love and unity in conduct and conversations regarding the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign, former Southern Baptist Convention presidents Jimmy Draper and Jerry Vines urged in an open letter to Southern Baptists. Negative reactions to the attendance of several noted Southern Baptists at a June 21 New York meeting of 1,000 evangelical leaders with Donald Trump precipitated the letter, the two wrote. "Disagreements with fellow believers should be private and not unleashed in the hands of an often hostile press that does ...

Pastors & politics considered by 9Marks panel

 
The "moral formation" and unity of the church are two vital considerations for a pastor in guiding God's people during a disturbing presidential election season, attendees were told at the first of two 9Marks panel discussions held in conjunction with the Southern Baptist Convention's annual meeting in St. Louis. SBC entity heads and a pastor assessed the convention and its proceedings during a second 9Marks discussion the following evening. The sessions were sponsored by 9Marks, a church health ministry based ...

Ronnie Floyd, Robert Jeffress among new Donald Trump advisers

 
Immediate past Southern Baptist Convention President Ronnie Floyd and Dallas pastor Robert Jeffress are among a diverse group of evangelicals Donald Trump named June 21 to advise him on religion and politics. Trump's 25-member Evangelical Executive Advisory Board includes at least eight Southern Baptists. They were among more than 1,000 conservative faith leaders who attended a June 21 invitation-only question-and-answer session with Trump and Ben Carson in New York, hosted by United in Purpose and the one-year-old My Faith Votes, and moderated by ...

Pastors on politics: Be biblical, not controversial

 
Proclaiming Scripture instead of promoting controversy is their approach when addressing political issues, pastors said during a June 15 panel discussion at the 2016 Southern Baptist Convention. Five Southern Baptist pastors explained to Ronnie Floyd, now former SBC president, during the afternoon session how they handle political issues in their churches. The panel discussion -- titled "Pastors and the Church in American Politics Today" and moderated by Floyd -- came during a tumultuous election season that has found many Southern Baptists and ...

Clinton breaks barrier; Trump sweeps final primaries

 
A major American political party selected a female as its presumptive presidential nominee for the first time, while Donald Trump swept the final Republican primaries without any active opponents. Hillary Clinton easily won the California primary and three other contests Tuesday (June 7) to cement the Democratic Party nomination, a nod she reportedly had clinched on the eve of her latest victories. If officially nominated at the Democratic convention, she will become the first woman to head a presidential ticket for ...

Evangelical leaders to meet with Donald Trump on June 21

 
Southern Baptist Convention President Ronnie Floyd is among perhaps 500 evangelicals and other conservatives planning to meet with presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump about his faith and values June 21 in New York. Family Research Council President and Southern Baptist Tony Perkins, and United In Purpose leader Bill Dallas who partners with nearly 50 groups to uphold biblical principles in the United States, recruited Floyd among a small group of leaders to spearhead the meeting as the steering committee. Members of the ...

Donald Trump's Supreme Court list draws mixed reaction

 
Donald Trump's list for the U.S. Supreme Court gained approval from many social conservatives but apparently was unable to convince all to support his presidential candidacy. The presumptive Republican Party nominee named Wednesday (May 18) 11 candidates he would consider as replacements for the late Antonin Scalia on the high court. Trump offered the list as a self-acknowledged effort to reassure conservatives, saying later in a television interview he released the names "to quell any fears that people may have." The ...

Donald Trump knocks Russell Moore on Twitter

 
Russell Moore spoke and Donald Trump took notice in one of his Twitter posts today (May 9). Trump's tweet came the morning after Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, criticized the presumptive Republican nominee on CBS' "Face the Nation" and, two days earlier, in a New York Times online op-ed. ".@drmoore Russell Moore is truly a terrible representative of Evangelicals and all of the good they stand for. A nasty guy with no heart!" Trump tweeted ...

Pray, vote, engage, Franklin Graham urges

 
Christians cannot restore America by rallying behind political parties, but must pray, vote and engage in politics to uphold biblical principles, evangelist Franklin Graham told a crowd of about 8,600 gathered at May 3 in front of the Tennessee State Capitol building in Nashville. It was the largest crowd to date in his Decision American Tour 2016 with Franklin Graham—a series of sermons and prayer rallies at each capitol in the nation that began Jan. 5 in Des Moines, Iowa—and ...

Trump's win draws support, concern from evangelicals

 
Donald Trump's striking victory in Indiana Tuesday (May 3) apparently settled the race for the Republican presidential nomination, but it did little to resolve the divisiveness among conservatives and evangelical Christians over his controversial candidacy. The brash billionaire triumphed easily in the latest primary over both of his rivals for the GOP nomination, leaving him seemingly with no opponents and an open path to the nomination barring a stunningly dramatic development. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas announced Tuesday night he was ...

Mohler, Thomas discuss 'God and Politics'

 
Christians should be involved in the political process but remember their ultimate hope lies beyond any office or vote, said evangelical thinkers R. Albert Mohler Jr. and Cal Thomas at the April 25 “God and Politics” event at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. Mohler, president of Southern Seminary, and Thomas, a political pundit and syndicated columnist, discussed their views regarding the religious beliefs of political candidates before a full Alumni Memorial Chapel. Although the event came about ...

Tenn. governor vetoes Bible as state book, override effort planned

 
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam vetoed a bill April 14 that would have made the Bible the official state book, but the measure's sponsors are hopeful a veto override will occur. Rep. Jerry Sexton and Sen. Steve Southerland, both Republicans, told The Tennessean they plan to lead an override effort, which would require only a simple majority in both chambers. The bill passed earlier this month by a 55-38 margin in the state House of Representatives and a 19-8 margin in the ...

Former Angola Warden Burl Cain exonerated

 
Burl Cain, a longtime warden who infused faith into what had been called the nation's most violent maximum security prison, has been cleared of alleged ethics breeches following investigations by two Louisiana state agencies. "Thank you so much for the prayers," said Cain, former warden at the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola, speaking to the state's Baptists in an exclusive interview with the Baptist Message newsjournal. A Southern Baptist, Cain was Angola's warden from February 1995 until Jan. 1 when he retired ...

Donald Trump dealt setback in Wisconsin primary

 
Donald Trump's apparent ascendancy to the Republican presidential nomination suffered a significant setback Tuesday (April 5) in Wisconsin. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas defeated the controversial billionaire/celebrity by 13 percentage points and won 36 of the Midwest state's 42 delegates in the race for the GOP nomination. Wisconsin's primary result increases the possibility of a scenario in which Trump is unable to win the delegates needed to prevent an open convention in July. Democrats also saw their frontrunner lose in Wisconsin. Sen. Bernie ...

Religious freedom tops ERLC legislative agenda

 
Religious freedom leads the issues in the policy plan by the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission for the final year of President Obama's administration. The ERLC already has been focusing during this congressional session on many of the bills and initiatives cited in its 2016 legislative agenda. In some cases, the House of Representatives adopted proposals promoted by the commission in 2015, while the Senate has yet to approve those measures. On religious freedom, the sanctity of human life and ...

Florida among states with laws to help pastors decline gay weddings

 
Pastor Protection Acts adopted in multiple states and under consideration in others seek to protect the right of ministers not to perform same-sex weddings. But the bills have drawn mixed reviews from religious liberty proponents. Three state legislators who have served as Southern Baptist ministers told Baptist Press that Pastor Protection Acts are helpful even though they should be supplemented by broader guarantees of religious liberty in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court's legalization of same-sex marriage. Roger ...

Southern Baptist leaders commend John Kerry's genocide label for ISIS

 
Southern Baptist and other religious freedom advocates commended the Obama administration's declaration Thursday (March 17) that the Islamic State's murderous campaign against Christians and other minorities in the Middle East is genocide. The announcement by Secretary of State John Kerry provided a satisfactory resolution to what concerned observers had feared for four months would be a disturbing decision by the administration. Religious liberty advocates urged Kerry and President Obama to reverse course after it was reported in mid-November the State Department ...

Trump, Clinton score convincing victories; Rubio drops out of race

 
Donald Trump won the Republican primaries Tuesday in Florida, Illinois and North Carolina, and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio decided to suspend his campaign as a result, according to multiple news sources. Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton won the Democratic primaries in Florida, Illinois, North Carolina and Ohio. Trump’s win in Florida didn’t surprise a lot of people, but the magnitude of his win did. Trump carried every county except Miami-Dade, which Rubio won. Ted Cruz finished a distant ...

2016 Florida legislative wrapup: ‘Pastor protection’ bill becomes law

 
Florida Gov. Rick Scott has signed the “pastor protection” bill into law, guaranteeing pastors and churches in the Sunshine State immunity from litigation if they refuse to perform same-sex weddings based on religious beliefs. Some people have said that the bill was not necessary because Florida pastors are not facing attacks on their religious freedom. “Notwithstanding one isolated case in Houston, Texas, pastor and ministers are far from being the most vulnerable to Florida discrimination lawsuits in 2016,&...

SCOTUS pick Merrick Garland lacks record on social issues, critics say

 
Merrick Garland, a federal judge described in media reports as a "moderate" with little judicial record on abortion or same-sex marriage, is President Obama's choice to fill a Supreme Court vacancy left by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. Announcing his pick from the White House Rose Garden today (March 16), Obama praised Garland's ability to build consensus among "colleagues with wide-ranging judicial philosophies" and told Senate Republicans failing to consider the nomination would be "an abdication of the Senate's constitutional ...

Miami GOP debate: Israel policy divides Donald Trump, rivals

 
A divide on policy toward Israel became evident between Donald Trump and his three remaining rivals during a March 10 Republican presidential debate in Miami. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio all argued the U.S. president should not remain neutral in the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Authority but must stand with Israel. Trump said multiple times he is "pro-Israel" but argued the president should take a "somewhat neutral" posture toward the ...

SCOTUS, Cuba, Hillary Clinton's character discussed at Miami Democratic debate

 
The Supreme Court, immigration, human rights in Cuba and Hillary Clinton's character were among the topics discussed during a March 9 Democratic presidential debate in Miami featuring the former secretary of state and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. Co-sponsored by Univision with some questions asked in Spanish, the debate saw no mention of same-sex marriage or abortion until the evening's final question drew a promise from Clinton to nominate Supreme Court judges who support abortion rights. In nominating justices, Clinton said, "you ...

Free access to voters guide in March 10-23 issue

 
Every so often an event so important comes along that we cannot keep our exclusive content behind our paywall for subscribers only. Such is the case with our March 10-23 print edition, which is highlighted by a voters guide for the Florida presidential primaries scheduled for March 15. “Our country has rarely had as much at stake as we do during the 2016 presidential election,” said Executive Editor Kevin Bumgarner. “The next president will continue to set the tone ...

Ted Cruz makes gains on Donald Trump in GOP race

 
Sen. Ted Cruz cut into frontrunner Donald Trump's delegate lead March 5, providing evidence the presidential nominee of the Republican Party should not be considered a foregone conclusion. Cruz and Trump split four states, but the senator from Texas won 16 more delegates than the billionaire businessman. By winning the Kansas and Maine caucuses comfortably, Cruz outpaced Trump, 69-53, in delegates gained. Trump won the Louisiana primary and the Kentucky caucus but by less than five percent in each state. In the ...

Donald Trump's character draws focus during Detroit GOP debate

 
Whether GOP front-runner Donald Trump is morally fit to be president drew extended focus during a March 3 Republican presidential debate in Detroit that also included discussion of religious liberty, adoption by same-sex couples, judicial nominations and the water crisis in Flint, Mich. Trump's opponents, and at times the Fox News moderators, suggested Trump's alleged unkindness toward others, inconsistent policy positions and business impropriety are unbefitting a U.S. president. Trump countered that he is "flexible" rather than inconsistent, his business ...

Florida House passes bill expanding use of medical marijuana

 
The Florida House of Representatives approved the expansion of medical marijuana in a 99-16 vote on Thursday. House Bill 307 makes low-THC cannabis available for eligible patients to purchase from dispensing organizations. It also makes allowance for three more dispensing organizations once there are 250,000 eligible patients registered. Those opposed to the bill expressed that passing it was the first step in opening the doors to more people being allowed to legally use marijuana. “As much as I love the intention, ...

Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton make gains on Super Tuesday

 
Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton piled up more victories on Super Tuesday, further raising the question of whether they can be stopped from winning the presidential nominations of their political parties. Trump—the celebrity billionaire—won the Republican vote in seven states on the busiest day of the nomination season, while Clinton—the former secretary of state and first lady—also gained victories in seven states March 1 in her effort to win the Democratic nod. Even ...

Super Tuesday: Voting and the 'evangelical'

 
As pollsters analyze the voting patterns of "evangelicals" in Super Tuesday presidential primaries, some pastors and theologians have noted the mainstream media's failure to account for immense diversity among the movement claiming that label. Voters went to the polls March 1 in 13 states and one U.S. territory, including several so-called Bible Belt states where evangelical voters were expected to exert considerable influence. Yet confusion over the term "evangelical" has led Southern Baptist ethicist Russell Moore to stop using it to ...

Trump wins GOP, 'evangelical' vote in S.C. primary

 
Donald Trump easily won the Republican primary Feb. 20 in the evangelical Christian stronghold of South Carolina, strengthening his frontrunner's status for the presidential nomination. Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton defeated Sen. Bernie Sanders in the Nevada caucuses the same day, providing an important victory after her 20-point loss in New Hampshire. The former secretary of state and first lady gained 52.6 percent of the vote, while Sanders, a self-described socialist, polled 47.3. Trump won all 50 GOP delegates in play in South Carolina, receiving 32.5 percent ...

Obama's upcoming visit to Cuba stirs religious liberty discussion

 
As President Obama prepares to become the first sitting U.S. president to visit Cuba in 88 years, a U.S. senator has said further steps to normalize relations with Cuba could hinder the advance of religious freedom in the island nation. Cuban Southern Baptists hold a range of views about the effect of strengthened U.S.-Cuba ties on religious liberty. For example, a Maryland pastor told Baptist Press normalized relations between the United States and Cuba will enable the ...

Florida Competitive Workforce Act defeated; Pastor Protection Act advances

 
The 2016 regular session of the Florida Legislature has crossed the halfway mark, and its fifth week of meetings saw decisions by House and Senate committees on key legislation. The Florida Competitive Workforce Act (Senate Bill 120) was defeated during its committee review in the Senate last week. “If this bill were to become law, LGBT rights would in certain situations trump the religious liberty rights of Christians and other religious groups,” wrote Bill Bunkley, president of the Florida Ethics &...

Jacksonville's human rights ordinance bill expected to be withdrawn

 
A bill to expand Jacksonville, Fla.’s human rights ordinance to include protections to LGBT individuals is expected to be withdrawn at the next city council meeting on Feb. 18. In a statement released Saturday, City Councilman Tommy Hazouri announced that he has requested to withdraw the bill that has been the subject of much debate throughout Jacksonville during the past several months. In an effort to start a dialogue and hear from the people of Jacksonville, Mayor Lenny Curry ...

Antonin Scalia leaves conservative legacy, vacancy on U.S. Supreme Court

 
Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, a stalwart leader of the U.S. Supreme Court’s conservative wing for nearly three decades, has died. Scalia, 79, was found dead Saturday morning (Feb. 13) in his room at a resort ranch in west Texas near Marfa. He had attended a party with about 40 people the night before but did not appear for breakfast, according to the San Antonio Express-News. Scalia’s death appeared to be of natural causes, a federal official told the ...

New Hampshire evangelicals 'energized' for primaries

 
When evangelist Franklin Graham held an outdoor rally last month at the New Hampshire state capitol encouraging Christians to live out their faith at the ballot box, organizers hoped 300 people would attend. But 1,500 showed up on the capitol steps in Concord despite sub-zero temperatures. Rich Clegg, director of missions for the New Hampshire Baptist Association, believes the high attendance was symptomatic of an "energized" evangelical electorate in the Granite State that could turn out for today's (Feb. 9) presidential primaries in ...

President Obama tells of personal faith at prayer breakfast

 
President Obama used his final National Prayer Breakfast address as America's chief executive to explain how he has combatted fear by drawing on his personal Christian faith and by looking to people of all faiths for inspiration. "Like every president, like every leader, like every person, I've known fear," Obama said today (Feb. 4). "But my faith tells me that I need not fear death, that the acceptance of Christ promises everlasting life and the washing away of sins. If Scripture ...

Southern Baptists 'engaged and involved' in Iowa caucuses

 
Iowa pastor Todd Stiles had a specific prayer for caucus season: "Lord, come quickly, and till then, help me stand strongly." Southern Baptists across the Hawkeye State apparently agreed with the sentiment because many, including pastors, stood for biblical principles during caucus season, campaigning for the presidential candidates they believed would best represent their values. Iowa pastors and state convention staff members spoke for candidates at their respective caucus sites--in keeping with a unique feature of Iowa's caucus process. Some ...

Prison task force recommendations mirror 2013 SBC resolution

 
The recommendations of a bipartisan congressional task force on reducing the federal prison population have drawn praise from some evangelicals and parallel at several points the recommendations of a 2013 Southern Baptist Convention resolution on "America's growing prison population." Among the recommendations of the Charles Colson Task Force on Federal Corrections were elimination of mandatory minimum sentences for some nonviolent drug and weapon-possession offenses; implementation of a Second Look program to permit early release of some inmates who have served at ...

Cruz, Carson, Rubio poll higher than Trump among pastors

 
Ted Cruz is the leading presidential candidate among Protestant pastors who lean Republican, with Hillary Clinton leading among Democratic pastors, according to a telephone survey of 1,000 Protestant senior pastors by LifeWay Research. Donald Trump, meanwhile, is near the back of the pack. However, "Undecided" is the most popular choice of America's pastors according to the survey, released Jan. 28. The survey found nearly half of those planning to vote (48 percent) don't know whom they would vote for if the presidential election ...

GOP debate: social issues prominent, Donald Trump absent

 
Frontrunner Donald Trump did not take center stage at the final Republican presidential debate before Monday's Iowa caucuses, but social issues did. In Trump's absence, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who is running second in many Iowa and national polls, bore the brunt of questions asking other candidates to attack his positions. Regarding Trump, Cruz joked, "I'm a maniac and everyone on this stage is stupid, fat and ugly. And Ben [Carson], you're a terrible surgeon. Now that we've gotten the ...

Gambling a major topic for Florida lawmakers early in session

 
The first two weeks of the Florida Legislature regular session saw some legislation dealing with Christian worldview issues come to the forefront. On the opening day of the session, Jan. 12, the House Business and Professions subcommittee passed a committee substitute for the fantasy contest bill (House Bill 707) that would legalize betting on daily fantasy games like FanDuel and DraftKings. “We will oppose this legislation, as with all other forms of gambling or gaming,” wrote Bill Bunkley, president of ...

Donald Trump at Liberty University: 'I'm big with evangelicals'

 
More than 10,000 Liberty students packed into the university's Vines Center on Jan. 18 to hear Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. Liberty President Jerry Falwell Jr. introduced Trump at a convocation on the first day of the spring semester. Trump also addressed a convocation in 2012. Falwell told the students that while the university wasn't officially endorsing the New York businessman, Trump is a caring man who is politically incorrect and reminded him of his father, Jerry Falwell Sr.—which Trump said ...

President Obama addresses gay marriage, Islam in his final State of the Union

 
In his final State of the Union address, President Obama praised nationwide legalization of same-sex marriage, warned against overemphasizing the threat posed by the terrorist group ISIS and touted American exceptionalism. The hour-long address made no reference to abortion-related issues, including the attempt by conservatives to withdraw government funding from Planned Parenthood, America's largest abortion provider. Obama proposed few legislative agenda items to the Republican-controlled House and Senate, opting instead to review some of his administration's accomplishments. At times, he ...

Franklin Graham brings Decision America Tour to Tallahassee

 
Franklin Graham will be holding a prayer rally on the Historic Capitol building steps in Tallahassee today (Jan. 12) as part of his Decision America 2016 tour. The rally, which begins at noon, is the second stop on Graham’s tour of all 50 states this year. Curtis Clark, senior pastor of Thomasville Road Baptist Church in Tallahassee, is chartering a bus to help his members get there, as are many churches in the Tallahassee area and beyond. Clark expects hundreds from ...

Florida capital sentencing procedure overturned by U.S. Supreme Court

 
The U.S. Supreme Court has struck down a Florida law granting judges rather than juries the final say in whether convicted murders receive the death penalty. Some observers wonder whether the Jan. 12 ruling signals a step toward a broader decision on the constitutionality of the death penalty.   The 8-1 ruling marks the culmination of nearly two decades of Supreme Court opinions strengthening the role of juries in capital cases, veteran legal journalist Lyle Denniston wrote in an analysis. "...

Donald Trump's presidential candidacy stirs debate among evangelicals

 
With Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump scheduled to address thousands of young evangelicals at Liberty University this month, conservative Christians have renewed their discussion of whether political support for the real estate mogul can be consistent with a Christian worldview. Trump's Jan. 18 Liberty convocation address will make him at least the fifth 2016 presidential candidate to speak at the Christian university. Republicans Ben Carson, Ted Cruz and Jeb Bush and Democrat Bernie Sanders all have addressed students there. Liberty President Jerry ...

Renewed gay marriage ban in Alabama debated

 
A Southern Baptist judge in Alabama is among the supporters of state chief justice Roy Moore's renewed order that probate judges stop issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. "I absolutely agree with his reasoning behind why [Moore] is doing what he's doing," said Nick Williams, probate judge in rural Washington County and a former Southern Baptist pastor. Moore "has every right to issue administrative orders when the court system seems to be in chaos." Moore issued an order Jan. 6 stating ...

Obama vetoes bill defunding Planned Parenthood

 
President Obama squandered no time in killing legislation that would have largely defunded the country's No. 1 abortion provider. The president vetoed Friday (Jan. 8) a budget-related bill that would have cut nearly 90 percent of federal money in the next year for the Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) and its affiliates. The legislation also would have essentially gutted the controversial 2010 health-care law opposed by nearly all pro-life organizations. Obama, a strong backer of both Planned Parenthood and the health-care law, had ...

Congress sends PPFA defunding bill to Obama

 
Congress has forced President Obama's hand on federal funding for the country's No. 1 abortion provider. The U.S. House of Representatives passed Wednesday (Jan. 6) in a 240-181 roll call a budget-related bill that would cut nearly 90 percent of federal funds in the next year for the Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) and its affiliates. The legislation also repeals fundamental sections of the controversial 2010 health-care law opposed by nearly all pro-life organizations. The Senate approved the same measure by 52-47 ...

Christian bakers pay $137,000 fine, continue appeal

 
Christian bakers Aaron and Melissa Klein have paid the state of Oregon a fine of nearly $137,000 after refusing to violate their religious beliefs by baking a wedding cake for a lesbian couple, the Oregonian newspaper reported. The Kleins paid the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries $136,927.07 Dec. 28 with money contributed through a crowdfunding page after the Oregon labor commissioner seized just weeks before Christmas their personal bank accounts which totaled nearly $7,000, the Oregonian said. In total, the Kleins have paid ...

Former Atlanta fire chief's lawsuit against city to proceed

 
The Alliance Defending Freedom lawsuit filed on behalf of former Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran will proceed against the city following a ruling by a federal court. The Atlanta Division of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia dismissed some claims but allowed the suit to go forward on Cochran's primary claims of "retaliation, discrimination based on his viewpoint, and the violation of his constitutionally protected freedom of religion, association, and due process (firing without following ...

GOP debate: Donald Trump's proposed Muslim ban challenged

 
Donald Trump's proposal to temporarily ban Muslims from entering the United States drew critique at the first Republican presidential debate since Islamic terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, Calif. Following opening statements by the nine top GOP candidates, moderator Wolf Blitzer of CNN asked Trump about his proposal. "We're not talking about religion," Trump said. "We're talking about security. Our country is out of control." Among candidates to take issue with temporarily barring Muslims from entering America were Texas ...

Angola Warden Burl Cain to retire Jan. 1, thanks Louisiana Baptists

 
Burl Cain, known for a much-heralded transformation at the "bloodiest prison in America," is retiring Jan. 1 after nearly 21 years as head of the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola. Cain, 73, the longest-serving warden of any prison in the United States, governed the sprawling 18,000-acre facility that sits next to the Mississippi River with a firm hand and a strong love for Jesus. Cain, a Southern Baptist, is quick to tell everyone it was Jesus Christ who pacified Angola. As he ...

Southern Baptist ethicist Russell Moore's critique of Donald Trump draws media focus

 
Southern Baptist ethicist Russell Moore has renewed his criticism of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, drawing a wave of media attention for denouncing the businessman's proposal to temporarily prevent all Muslims from entering the United States. "Anyone who cares an iota about religious liberty" should denounce Trump's "reckless, demagogic rhetoric," Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, wrote in a Dec. 7 blog post that had been shared 17,000 times on Facebook by the morning of Dec. 9. In addition, the ...

Compassion key to political engagement for Christians, authors of new book say

 
Navigating the relationship between the White House and the church house can be difficult for many Christians. In a new book, "One Nation Under God," Bruce Ashford and Chris Pappalardo seek to offer a Christian hope for American politics. After observing the way most Christians view politics, Pappalardo said they saw a need for a book that demonstrates "Christians can care deeply about politics, but more deeply about the Gospel." "One Nation Under God," published by B&H Academic, ...

President Obama's claims on Islam evaluated by Christian scholars

 
In an address on a "new phase" in America's war on terror, President Barack Obama said committing acts of violence in the name of Allah represents a perversion of Islam. Presenting a televised speech from the Oval Office for just the second time in his presidency, according to The Associated Press, Obama called Muslims "to speak out against ... those interpretations of Islam that are incompatible with the values of religious tolerance, mutual respect and human dignity." He called all ...

Jacksonville faith leaders discuss how changing city's human rights ordinance could affect religious freedom

 
On Thursday night, Dec. 3, hundreds of Jacksonville, Fla., residents gathered to hear a panel of local faith leaders discuss the religious freedom implications of a possible change in the city’s human rights ordinance (HRO), which would include protections for members of the LGBT community, and how that change would specifically affect area churches. Four panelists addressed the crowd at Edward Waters College, including ...

Analysis: God in Thanksgiving presidential proclamations

 
Each fall since 1863, the sitting U.S. president has issued a proclamation declaring a national day of Thanksgiving. Though perhaps viewed by some as merely a pro forma holiday ritual, these proclamations evidence the rich American tradition of government leaders' officially invoking God's guidance and care. Without violating the First Amendment's prohibition of establishing an official American religion, these proclamations highlight the validity of official and public appeals to God. They provide a corrective to those who seek to remove ...

GOP presidential debate: Candidates link economics and ethics

 
The moral implications of economic issues were among the topics addressed Nov. 10 at a Republican presidential debate involving the top eight candidates as determined by Fox Business. Malcolm Yarnell, a seminary professor who formerly worked as a bank financial analyst and investment advisor, told Baptist Press Christians should care about economic issues "alongside our other necessary social concerns" because, according to Scripture, "human economies clearly have theological importance." No candidate mentioned abortion or same-sex marriage during the two-hour debate in ...

Marco Rubio among critics of China's new population policy

 
China's lifting of its "one-child policy" does not eliminate the heinousness of its population control program, pro-life critics say. All married couples in the world's most populous country will be able to have two children, China's Communist Party announced Oct. 29 at the close of its Central Committee meeting, Xinhua News Agency reported. The "one-child policy," as it has been known, has generally restricted Chinese couples to a single offspring since its imposition in the late 1970s, although exceptions have been ...

Faith, religious liberty among presidential forum topics

 
If most evangelical Christians are avoiding the polls and allowing leaders to be elected by non-believers, "is it any wonder we have a federal government that is assaulting life?" asked Sen. Ted Cruz during a presidential candidate forum at Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas. "There are 90 million evangelical Christians in America," Cruz said during the Oct. 18 event that drew about 6,000 people to hear from Cruz and five other presidential candidates. "In the 2012 election, 54 million evangelicals didn't vote; it's a ...

Race, climate change prominent topics during Democratic presidential debate

 
Race relations, marijuana legalization, climate change and gun control were among the moral issues highlighted Oct. 13 at a Democratic presidential debate in Las Vegas involving five candidates. The issues of abortion and same-sex marriage came up only in passing and were mentioned only a few times during the two-hour debate. Perhaps the most extended reference to sanctity of life issues came when frontrunner Hillary Clinton alleged Republicans suspend their typical opposition to "big government" to regulate Planned Parenthood and limit ...

Florida bill would allow concealed weapons on college campuses

 
The recent mass shooting at Umpqua Community College in Oregon has many wondering, once again, about the safety of our college campuses.   Many are saying the shooting, which killed 10 and injured nine, is another example of why stricter gun laws are needed.   Others say that more rigorous mental health checks would keep guns out of the wrong hands.   And while Florida hasn’t experienced a college campus shooting in 2015, just last November three Florida State University ...

Southern Baptist leaders: Pope Francis' speech to Congress troubling

 
Pope Francis' historic address to Congress proved troubling in both its lack of clarity on moral issues and in its church-state impropriety, Southern Baptist leaders and pastors said. The pope spoke to a joint session of Congress on Thursday (Sept. 24), becoming the first head of the Roman Catholic Church to address the U.S. legislative body. His speech came on the final day of a three-day visit to Washington, D.C., that featured a White House welcoming ceremony, a parade ...

Baptists 'not threatened' by pope's U.S. visit

 
As Pope Francis visits the United States, Southern Baptist leaders say they stand with his statements of biblical morality but urge Catholics to reject the Vatican's official teaching on salvation in favor of a personal relationship with Christ by faith alone. Russell Moore, president of Southern Baptists' Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, hopes Francis will speak to key moral concerns being debated in the public square during his Sept. 22-27 U.S. visit. "I hope the pope speaks with clarity ...

Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis freed from jail

 
A federal judge freed Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis from jail Tuesday (Sept. 8). David Bunning, a federal judge in Ashland, Ky., ordered Davis' release after he became convinced the deputy clerks in her Rowan County office had obeyed his order to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, the Louisville Courier-Journal reported. He ordered Davis to jail Sept. 3 when she again refused to comply with his previous order to grant licenses. In a two-page order, Bunning said Davis' release was on ...

Baptist leaders react to jailing of Kentucky county clerk

 
A federal judge jailed Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis Thursday (Sept. 3) for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. In finding her in contempt of court, Judge David Bunning rejected the option of fining Davis, instead ordering federal marshals to take her into custody until she agrees to abide by his earlier order to provide licenses to gay couples, according to The (Louisville) Courier-Journal. A fine would be insufficient, said Bunning, who expressed concern Davis’ supporters would pay ...

Marijuana legalization presses on amid concerns

 
Marijuana legalization advocates continue to gain ground as nearly half of all states have decriminalized marijuana possession at least for medical purposes and a majority of Americans reportedly have told pollsters marijuana should be legal. Despite such momentum, ethicists, federal agencies and even some mainstream media outlets are warning of serious consequences of further legalization of the mind-altering drug. Barrett Duke, a Southern Baptist public policy specialist, said it is troubling to see so many states weakening their laws on ...

Kentucky clerks continue fight against gay marriage

 
A federal judge has granted temporary relief to one of two Kentucky county clerks still refusing to issue any marriage licenses following the Supreme Court's nationwide legalization of same-sex marriage. In a seemingly convoluted ruling Aug. 17, U.S. District Judge David Bunning denied a request from Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis to delay a previous ruling ordering her to issue marriage licenses to all couples regardless of gender. But Bunning, noting "emotions are running high," ruled to delay implementation of ...

IRS promise to religious organizations met with praise, caution

 
The Internal Revenue Service will not revoke the tax-exempt status of religious organizations that object to same-sex marriage, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen has promised at least twice in recent weeks. But some tax code experts say the commissioner's commitments are not a guarantee of tax shelter for organizations with religious objections to the Supreme Court's nationwide legalization of homosexual marriage this summer. Michael Batts, a CPA who specializes in nonprofit organizations, told Baptist Press some types of tax exemptions could ...

Bush, Rubio address Southern Baptists at conference

 
Southern Baptists heard from two presidential candidates and considered how the Gospel of Jesus applies to politics in back-to-back events Aug. 4 and 5 in Nashville. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida—both bidding for the Republican Party presidential nomination—answered questions Aug. 4 before more than 13,000 people gathered for the Send North America Conference in Bridgestone Arena. Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, interviewed the candidates at the conference, ...

ERLC presidential candidate forum sparks discussion

 
A presidential candidate forum to be hosted by the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission Aug. 4 at the Send Conference in Nashville has sparked discussion—and a variety of opinions—among Southern Baptists. Some have defended the ERLC's scheduled interviews with Republicans Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio as consistent with the goals of a missions conference sponsored by the North American Mission Board and International Mission Board. Others have asked why the ERLC did not invite other candidates and ...

Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio to participate in ERLC forum for presidential candidates

 
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio will be the first two participants in a series of civil forums for 2016 presidential candidates hosted by Southern Baptist ethicist Russell Moore. Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, will interview Bush Aug. 4 during the Send North America Conference at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville. The event will also feature a prerecorded video interview of Rubio, according to an ERLC press release. Moore wrote in a blog post that ...

Death penalty debate rekindled by SCOTUS ruling

 
A Supreme Court ruling that Oklahoma's method of lethal injection does not constitute "cruel and unusual punishment" has rekindled discussion of capital punishment among evangelicals and the high court's nine justices. "I do not believe that the death penalty is inherently cruel or unusual punishment if the governing authorities hand it down as the most extreme form of dispensing justice and every effort has been made to ensure the guilt of the individual," said Shane Hall, pastor of First Southern ...

Presidential hopefuls react to gay marriage ruling

 
Reaction among 2016 presidential candidates to the Supreme Court's nationwide legalization of gay marriage is divided largely along party lines, with all five Democrats in the race lauding the decision and at least 13 of 14 Republicans opposing it. As marriage and religious liberty moved to center stage of the campaign, one pastor and former U.S. Senate candidate urged Christians to consider supporting a candidate financially. "There are enough believers in this country that if everyone just did something, it would make ...

North Carolina pastor elevates Christian flag to highest position

 
North Carolina pastor Rit Varriale wants to see churches fly the Christian flag above the American flag as a biblical statement, reversing flag etiquette that calls for the American flag to be flown in the prominent position. Varriale, as senior pastor of Elizabeth Baptist Church in Shelby, N.C., said the church installed its first-ever flagpole in order to raise the two flags in a special ceremony after morning worship on Sunday (July 5) in which the Christian flag was raised ...

Florida Baptists sound off on Supreme Court’s gay-marriage ruling

 
Ted Traylor, pastor of Olive Baptist Church in Pensacola, shared the sentiment of many Florida Baptists on Friday after the U.S. Supreme Court issued its ruling granting Constitutional protection to same-sex marriage. “We certainly disagree with the court,” he told the Florida Baptist Witness in an interview. “We will live and preach and stand by our conviction of the biblical definition of marriage, and at the same time we must have compassion. There are a lot ...

Florida governor signs bill officially repealing ban on gay adoptions

 
Gov. Rick Scott has approved a bill that will remove Florida’s long-standing prohibition against homosexuals adopting children. The bill also puts the state’s faith-based adoption agencies at risk, according to the Florida Family Policy Council.   “We are profoundly disappointed in Gov. Scott’s signing and approving this bad bill,” said the Florida Family Policy Council, in a statement issued late in the evening of June 11. “First, the governor’s office ...

Southern Seminary President Albert Mohler receives religious liberty award

 
For his "significant efforts in publicly promoting and defending religious liberty," R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, received the 2015 Edwin Meese III Originalism and Religious Liberty Award from the Alliance Defending Freedom on May 15. "This award is presented to those who clearly demonstrate through their lives and callings a profound understanding and commitment to defending the original meaning of the United States Constitution and our liberty," said Alan Sears, ADF's president, CEO and general counsel. Speaking ...

Florida pastor Dean Inserra urges believers to vote for pro-life candidates, not parties

 
With abortion emerging as an issue in the 2016 presidential campaign, a Florida pastor involved in pro-life ministries is urging believers to vote for pro-life candidates while not pinning their ultimate hope for protecting unborn children on either major political party. "As we condemn the Democrats for their views, we can't pretend that Republicans are the champions for" the pro-life cause, Dean Inserra, lead pastor of City Church in Tallahassee, Fla., told Baptist Press. "We can't put our hopes into a ...

U.S. Supreme Court justices weigh same-sex marriage arguments

 
The U.S. Supreme Court debated at length Tuesday, April 28, whether the Constitution requires states to license or recognize same-sex marriages in a landmark case that could produce a nationwide revision of the institution legally and elevate already existing concerns about religious liberty. In two-and-a-half hours of oral arguments, the nine justices questioned and listened to advocates on both sides of the issue. It's the next step toward a decision that the justices are expected to issue in late June ...

Christians join together to pray for the 'preservation of marriage'

 
As attorneys presented their arguments on gay marriage to the U.S. Supreme Court on April 28, believers across the nation gathered to pray God would lead the justices to uphold the traditional definition of marriage. "We do pray in particular for the preservation of marriage in this country," Andrew Walker, director of policy studies for Southern Baptists' Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said during a prayer gathering at the ERLC's Nashville office. "We pray this as Christians who believe that ...

U.S. Supreme Court to hear arguments over definition of marriage today

 
The U.S. Supreme Court will hear two-and-a-half hours of arguments today (April 28) as the next step toward a long-awaited decision that will determine if marriage in all 50 states is expanded beyond the definition it has held since the beginning of time. In oral arguments in the landmark case, the justices will ponder whether the U.S. Constitution requires a state to license or recognize a marriage between people of the same sex. In a ruling expected in late June ...

Ben Carson will not speak at SBC Pastors' Conference

 
Likely Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson and leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention Pastors' Conference have "mutually agreed" that Carson will not address the Pastors' Conference in Columbus, Ohio, as previously scheduled. "We didn't want this to become a distraction for our convention," Pastors' Conference President William Rice told Baptist Press. "A number of people began to write about it and express their views on it, and it threatened to become a distraction we never wanted it to be. We ...

Tennessee Senate kills bill to make Bible official state book

 
The Bible will not become the official state book of Tennessee—at least not this year. The Tennessee Senate voted 22-9 to send the Bible bill to committee April 16, effectively killing the measure after it had passed the House of Representatives the previous day by a 55-38 margin. The bill was introduced earlier this year by Rep. Jerry Sexton, a first-term Republican from Bean Station, and Sen. Steve Southerland, a 13-year Republican veteran from Morristown and deputy speaker of ...

ERLC launches Pray for Marriage initiative

 
The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission is inviting Christians to pray regarding what might be a landmark decision on marriage by the U.S. Supreme Court. The ERLC launched its Pray for Marriage initiative Tuesday (April 7), three weeks before the high court's April 28 oral arguments involving same-sex marriage. The justices are expected to issue an opinion by late June or early July. In asking Southern Baptists and others to pray, the ERLC pointed in a post on its ...

Revisiting the Terri Schiavo case 10 years after her death

 
The 10th anniversary of Terri Schiavo's death has prompted discussions of marriage laws, the definition of a "good death" and even the pro-life record of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, an apparent frontrunner for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination. "Sadly, even now, after a decade of hindsight, we fail to see what led us to this tragedy," Joe Carter, a communications specialist for Southern Baptists' Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, wrote on the ERLC website. "Many well-meaning people mistakenly believe the ...

Ted Cruz begins GOP presidential bid; social issues percolate

 
With Ted Cruz becoming the first Republican to officially announce his candidacy for the White House in 2016, social conservatives are beginning to assess potential candidates' stands on abortion, gay marriage and other social issues. Cruz, a first-term senator from Texas, announced his candidacy March 23 by tweeting, "I'm running for president and I hope to earn your support!" He launched his campaign with a speech at Liberty University, the Christian school founded by the late Jerry Falwell. In the speech, Cruz "...

Gay marriage developments create concern for evangelicals across nation

 
From churches in California and Alabama to the largest Presbyterian denomination in America, gay marriage continues to prompt concern in the larger evangelical community. City Church in San Francisco has drawn criticism from evangelicals for lifting its requirement that members with same-sex attraction not engage in homosexual behavior. The church has about 1,000 attendees at two locations and is part of the Reformed Church in America. Meanwhile, Weatherly Heights Baptist Church in Huntsville, Ala., has been disfellowshipped from its local Baptist ...

Jailed pastor Saeed Abedini offers son 'gift of salvation' for birthday

 
Written in the wobbly penmanship of a 7-year-old who has said he misses his dad "a thousand lots," Jacob's card invites his father to his birthday party on March 17. But his father, American pastor Saeed Abedini, imprisoned since Sept. 26, 2012, under harsh conditions in Iran because of his Christian faith, cannot attend at the family's home in Boise, Idaho. Instead, Abedini wrote a letter offering his son the "gift of salvation." "Even though I AM NOT there with you, I AM ...

Florida House approves amendment that lifts gay adoption ban

 
The Florida House of Representatives voted, 68-50, on March 11 to approve a bill amendment that, in part, removes the ban on gay adoption from law. The bill is supposed to boost adoptions in Florida, where 900 children in the state foster care system are legally available for adoption, according to Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville. Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, backed the bill, but not without first expressing his anxiety as he arrived at that decision, saying that it is the toughest vote ...

Saeed Abedini's 'dark day' sparks more calls for release from Iranian prison

 
After imprisoned American pastor Saeed Abedini witnessed fellow prisoners being beaten and taken to their executions in Iran's Rajai Shahr prison last week, the American Center for Law and Justice called the U.S. not to make any nuclear deal with Iran until it releases Abedini. "We have continued to work with the U.S. State Department as we pressure the administration not to leave Pastor Saeed behind as it sits at the negotiating table with Iran," ACLJ Executive Director ...

Franklin Graham, Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum to speak at 'The Awakening 2015' in Orlando

 
Liberty Counsel and Freedom Federation will host "The Awakening 2015" event on Saturday, March 14, in Orlando. The annual event “is a unique and inspirational God-and-country event bringing people together around shared values,” as described on the event’s website. The theme this year is “Rebuilding The Wall,” and the confirmed speakers include Franklin Graham, Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum, James Robison, Mat Staver, Kamal Salem, Janet Boynes and Gail McWilliams. “Those gathered will be united by ...

Alabama Supreme Court halts same-sex marriage licenses

 
The Alabama Supreme Court has ordered a halt to same-sex marriage licenses in the state, posing a direct challenge to a federal court in Mobile that overturned the state's marriage laws. The Alabama court, in a March 3 decision, stated: "As it has done for approximately two centuries, Alabama law allows for 'marriage' between only one man and one woman. Alabama probate judges have a ministerial duty not to issue any marriage license contrary to this law. Nothing in the United ...

SBC President Ronnie Floyd on CNN: We can't be silent amid ISIS

 
Southern Baptist leaders are imploring President Obama to act against ISIS not only for global security, but to enable themselves to give a proper account before the Lord on Judgment Day, Southern Baptist President Ronnie Floyd said March 4 on CNN. "We need to understand that each one of us, we believe, as Christians and followers of Christ who believe in God's Word, will one day stand in front of God Himself. And we will give an account of ourselves before ...

Netanyahu to Congress: Iran poses world's 'greatest danger'

 
Militant Islamists with nuclear weapons would be the likely result of an agreement the United States may sign with Iran, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a joint meeting of Congress on March 3 in Washington. "The greatest danger facing our world is the marriage of militant Islam with nuclear weapons," said Netanyahu, who joined Winston Churchill as one of two foreign leaders to address Congress three times. "To defeat ISIS and let Iran get nuclear weapons would be to win ...

'I would hug him,' says florist of gay accuser

 
A Southern Baptist florist does not regret her nine-year friendship with a homosexual man who won a lawsuit against her after she refused to design floral arrangements for his gay wedding, she told Baptist Press. "If Rob [Robert Ingersoll] walked in the store today, I would hug him and catch up on his life," Barronelle Stutzman, owner of Arlene's Flowers in Richland, Wash., told BP. "The same faith that tells me that I can't be a part of Rob's wedding ...

SBC presidents send open letter to President Obama about ISIS

 
In an open letter, Southern Baptist Convention President Ronnie Floyd, along with the support and signatures of 16 former SBC presidents, called on President Obama to "take the necessary actions now" against ISIS terrorists. "Since ISIS is a continuing threat to world peace in a way unknown to us since the Nazis of World War II, we humbly call upon you to use the influence and power of your distinguished office to take the necessary actions now in this urgent hour ...

Survey: 81 percent of Americans for religious freedom on marriage views

 
Contrary to the "inevitability" narrative most Americans have accepted of same-sex marriage, a survey released Feb. 24 finds broad support for traditional marriage and protection of those who hold such views. The survey, commissioned by Family Research Council in partnership with National Religious Broadcasters, found that 81 percent of Americans agree that government should "leave people free to follow their beliefs about marriage as they live their daily lives at work and in the way they run their businesses." Additionally, 61 percent support ...

Former Atlanta fire chief sues city, mayor over firing

 
"Americans are guaranteed the freedom to live without fear [of] being fired because of their beliefs and their thoughts," said David Cortman, senior counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, explaining the lawsuit ADF filed on behalf of dismissed Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran. "... In America, a religious test cannot be used to fire a public servant," Cortman said Feb. 18 in a news conference moments after the lawsuit was filed at the state capitol. The federal civil rights lawsuit against the city ...

Oregon judge rules that bakers discriminated against lesbian couple

 
GRESHAM, Ore.—Christian bakers who declined to provide a cake for a same-sex commitment ceremony violated Oregon law and may face a hefty fine, a state agency has announced. An administrative law judge ruled that Aaron and Melissa Klein unlawfully discriminated against a lesbian couple in 2013 by refusing their request for a cake, thereby breaking a state law that protects civil rights based on sexual orientation. The judge, Alan McCullough, issued an interim order in the case Jan. 29, and ...

Alabama judges may issue gay marriage licenses

 
A key judicial organization in Alabama said Jan. 28 that it believes a federal judge's ruling striking down the state's gay marriage ban could soon require probate judges to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Following U.S. District Judge Callie V.S. Granade's Jan. 23 ruling that the "Sanctity of Marriage Amendment" to Alabama's constitution violates the federal constitution, the Alabama Probate Judges Association issued a statement claiming the ruling only applied to "parties in the case" and did not require ...

Supreme Court to rule on same-sex marriage

 
WASHINGTON--The U.S. Supreme Court will not wait any longer to rule on same-sex marriage. The high court announced Friday afternoon (Jan. 16) that it would review an appeals court decision on the issue. The announcement came after a private conference among the justices the same day. The court will hear oral arguments in March or April and likely issue an opinion before it adjourns this summer. Depending on the justices' decision, gay marriage could be legal throughout the country by ...

Florida Baptists take part in Gov. Rick Scott’s inaugural prayer breakfast

 
Dr. Mac Brunson, lead pastor of First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, and Rev. Mathieu Jean-Baptiste, pastor of United Haitian Baptist Church in West Palm Beach, represented Florida Baptists Tuesday at Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s inaugural prayer breakfast.   The breakfast, which was held in Tallahassee at Florida A&M University, was designed to bring together religious leaders from all over the state representing many different faiths and denominations. Faith leaders from Miami, Tampa, West Palm, Jacksonville and ...

Protectors of religious liberty feel hopeless as Florida allows same-sex couples to marry

 
In another blow to biblically-based morality, county clerks in all 67 Florida counties have begun issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.  Miami-Dade was the first to change, when on Monday afternoon it ended its ban on gay-marriage after Circuit Judge Sarah Zabel lifted the stay on her July decision that declared Florida's gay-marriage ban unconstitutional. That was followed early Tuesday by U.S. District Judge Robert L. Hinkle's decision to lift the state's ban on gay marriage at midnight, and ...