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Russell Moore, Ravi Zacharias, 100 Christian Leaders Sign Criminal Justice Declaration

Organized by Prison Fellowship, the Colson Center for Christian Worldview, the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and the National Association of Evangelicals, Christian leaders gathered at the National Press Club Tuesday to sign the “Justice Declaration.”

“The United States locks up more people than any other nation. In fact, the United States represents a mere five percent of the world’s population but we house 25 percent of the world’s incarcerated population,” Prison Fellowship CEO James Ackerman said during the press conference. “Today, there are nearly 2.2 million Americans behind bars. There are 2.7 million children with a parent in prison and there are 65 million stumbled by the consequences of a criminal conviction.”

“Our country’s over reliance on incarceration fails to make us safer or restore people and communities who have been harmed,” Ackerman continued. “The Justice Declaration represents a framework grounded in biblical values to guide the church’s response to this crisis. It has already been signed by approximately 100 Christian leaders from across the country. … Today, we invite Christians of any denomination or background to add their names at JusticeDeclaration.org.”

The declaration reads:

“Because the good news of Jesus Christ calls the Church to advocate (or “be a witness”) for biblical truth and to care for the vulnerable, we, His followers, call for a justice system that is fair and redemptive for all. The Church has both the unique ability and unparalleled capacity to confront the staggering crisis of crime and incarceration in America and to respond with restorative solutions for communities, victims, and individuals responsible for crime.

Therefore, we make an urgent appeal to all who follow the Lord Jesus Christ to:

– Affirm that the God of the Bible is a just God: justice flows from God’s very character, and the works of God’s hands are faithful and just;

– Treat every human being as a person made in God’s own image, with a life worthy of respect, protection, and care; Foster just relationships between God, fellow human beings, and property, which will lead to human flourishing;

– Redouble our efforts to prevent crime by cultivating the “seedbeds of virtue,” including families, churches, neighborhoods, schools, and other sources of moral formation;

– Care for the physical and emotional wounds of survivors of crime, ensure their safety, and support their meaningful participation in the justice system;

– Take up the cause of the poor and vulnerable, ensuring fair access to education, economic opportunity, the social safety net, and, for those accused of crimes, the instruments of justice;

– Advocate for proportional punishment, including alternatives to incarceration, that protects public safety, fosters accountability and provides opportunities to make amends;

– Preach the good news of the gospel and proclaim that true freedom in Christ is available to all, including prisoners, recognizing that His atoning sacrifice covers all sin;

– Invest in the discipleship ofincarcerated men, women, and youth, protect their safety and human dignity, and minister to the needs of families and children with incarcerated loved ones;

– Celebrate redemption in our congregations and communities by welcoming back those who have paid their debt to society, and by providing opportunities for all persons to reach their God-given potential.”

Along with Ackerman, appearing at the press conference to participate in a signing ceremony were Moore, president of ERLC; Harry Jackson, presiding bishop at International Communion of Evangelical Churches and member of President Donald Trump’s evangelical advisory board; NAE President Leith Anderson; and the Rev. Gabriel Salguero, president of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition.

The leaders at the press conference called for state and federal criminal justice systems to embrace reforms that allow offenders who are in prison to get treatment or help for underlying addictions or problems that if not addressed, could lead them back to prison after being released. The leaders called for more restorative efforts that will allow inmates to overcome their issues and be successful once they are released back into the public. The speakers also called on churches to minister and take interest in prisoners from their community and their families that are suffering.

“Our criminal justice system exists in order to restrain evil and in order to facilitate and reform those who have committed crimes,” Moore said at the press conference. “If we have a criminal justice system that doesn’t stop crime but, in many cases, actually furthers crime and makes criminals out of those who are not yet criminals and ignores those who been victims of crime and [doesn’t deal] with issues of addiction, then we have a criminal justice system that doesn’t work and ought to be fixed.”

“When we have family members left behind waiting for those who are incarcerated and wondering if anyone remembers them, the Church of Jesus Christ needs to be at the forefront of that,” Moore added. “Most of us in American life can agree, our criminal justice system doesn’t work the way it is supposed to. We should fix it and, as evangelical Christians, we should be the first to say so.”

The declaration comes amid bipartisan opposition to a memorandum signed by Attorney Gen. Jeff Sessions last month that effectively rescinded an Obama-era policy. The policy had instructed federal prosecutors to avoid charging nonviolent offenders with crimes that have unfair mandatory minimum sentences attached. The Sessions memo, however, instructs prosecutors to pursue the most serious and readily provable offenses, which opponents say could lead to “counterproductive” sentencing under current law.

Considering the declaration comes just days after Sessions defended his sentencing memo in an op-ed published by The Washington Post, the speakers at the press conference were asked to give their thoughts on mandatory minimum sentences and the May sentencing memo issued by Sessions.

“We do not believe in a system that has mandatory sentencing. We believe it removes from the judge the ability to do her or his job, which is to judge and consider the person in front of them — whether the person has repented for what they have done or whether they have taken steps to put themselves on the right path — and give them a sentence that is proportionate that the judge believes will … lead that person to behavior that is restorative and positive for the community,” Ackerman stated.

“So we do not support mandatory sentences and we think they are a big mistake,” he asserted, later adding that Prison Fellowship supports sentencing guidelines, just not mandatory sentences.

In addition to the declaration, Prison Fellowship commissioned a recent Barna poll that found that 87 percent of Americans agree that the primary goal of the justice system should be to foster restoration for all involved — including the victim, community and the person responsible for the crime. According to Barna, a higher percentage of Christians than other Americans “agree strongly” with that statement, while a total of 44 percent of evangelicals strongly agree.

Other notable signatories who were not at the press conference are Zacharias, founder of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries; Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference; Joni Eareckson Tada of Joni & Friends International Disability Center; humanitarian and member of Trump’s evangelical advisory board Johnnie Moore; and Daniel Akin, president of the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.

In addition, notable heads of Christian denominations signed the declaration, including the Episcopal Church’s Presiding Bishop Michael B. Curry; Foley Beach, the archbishop of the Anglican Church of North America; and Frank Dewane, the bishop of Venice & chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice & Human Development.

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Deporting Iraqi Christians called ‘death sentence’

WASHINGTON (BP) — Southern Baptist religious freedom advocate Russell Moore has joined other evangelical leaders in urging the Trump administration to stop its deportation of Christians to Iraq.

Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), and six others asked John Kelly, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, in a letter Monday (June 19) to end the deportations until Iraq’s government can protect religious minorities. Recent reports have indicated the federal government has started the process of deporting Chaldean Christians back to their homeland, where the United States government has designated the murderous campaign of the Islamic State (also known as ISIS) as genocide.

“We write urgently and with grave concern that Christians will be removed from the United States to face potential persecution, and even death, in the Middle East,” said the leaders, who represent the seven organizations that are members of the Evangelical Immigration Table (EIT).

While the letter signers said they are encouraged by the Trump administration’s emphasis on protecting the rights of religious minorities globally, they requested the administration “exercise the discretion available under law to defer the deportation of Chaldeans who pose no threat to U.S. public safety to Iraq until such time as the situation in Iraq stabilizes and its government proves willing and capable of protecting the rights of religious minorities.”

They urged Kelly “to take the same approach to any individual, regardless of whether they share our Christian faith or not, who does not pose a threat to the safety of Americans and for whom deportation would be likely to result in persecution, torture, or death.”

The United States deported some Iraqis to their home country in April and is scheduled to deport about 1,400 more, according to Christianity Today.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials arrested about 40 Chaldean Christians June 11 in the Detroit metro area, the Detroit Free Press reported. Chaldean Christians fear they will be targets of Islamic extremists if deported to Iraq.

Moore told Baptist Press, “This is wrong, wrong, wrong. Deporting these Iraqi Christians is nothing less than a death sentence.

“I cannot understand how our government could act so cruelly and counter-productively to some of the most vulnerable people in the world,” he said in written comments. “These deportations should be stopped immediately. We should be protecting these imperiled people, not surrendering them up for execution.”

Also signing onto the letter were: Samuel Rodriguez, president, National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference; Leith Anderson, president, National Association of Evangelicals; Scott Arbeiter, president, World Relief; Shirley Hoogstra, president, Council for Christian Colleges and Universities; Hyepin Im, president, Korean Churches for Community Development; and Jo Anne Lyon, ambassador and general superintendent emerita, The Wesleyan Church. EIT is a coalition of evangelical organizations supporting immigration reform.

The EIT letter cites comments by Vice President Mike Pence in making its appeal to the administration. According to the letter, Pence said at a global summit in May on Christian persecution, “[I]n Iraq, at the hands of extremists, we’ve actually seen monasteries demolished, priests and monks beheaded, and the two-millennia-old Christian tradition in Mosul virtually extinguished overnight.”

Iraq had not received deportees from the U.S. since 2010 but agreed earlier this year to do so to be removed from President Trump’s temporary travel ban, Christianity Today reported.

The letter signers acknowledge at least some of the Iraqis facing deportation have committed crimes.

“We do not minimize the serious criminal offenses of which some of these individuals have been convicted; it is entirely appropriate that they be punished for their offenses,” the letter says. “However, having served their sentences, we must seriously consider whether it is just to deport a person who poses little risk to the American public to a situation where they are likely to experience significant harm because of their faith.”

The U.S. House of Representatives approved legislation June 6 to aid Christians and other survivors of the genocide committed by ISIS and to bring the perpetrators to justice. The bill, which still requires Senate approval before going to Trump, would provide humanitarian aid to Christians, Yazidis, Shia Muslims and other religious and ethnic minorities in the two Middle East countries. It also would promote criminal investigations and prosecutions of the terrorists responsible for genocidal acts and crimes against humanity.

In March 2016, then-Secretary of State John Kerry designated the terrorist campaign by ISIS against Christians and other religious minorities as genocide. No ISIS member has been tried for genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes since then, religious freedom advocates have said.

ISIS’ terror campaign in the Middle East has included execution, rape and sexual enslavement. Other ISIS atrocities cited by religious liberty advocates include torture, mass graves, assassination of religious leaders and the destruction of churches, monasteries and cemeteries.

Violence by Islamic extremists since the invasion of Iraq in 2003 has resulted in an exodus from the country by many Christians and other religious adherents. The number of professing Christians in that country has declined by death and displacement from as much as 1.4 million to less than 300,000, according to estimates.

Original post can be read here: http://bpnews.net/49087/deporting-iraqi-christians-called-death-sentence

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Latino Christians Lead Tidal Wave of Change in Church, Communities, the World

“For many, the Latino Reformation is unknown, unrecognized, and unimportant—three good reasons why every white and black Christian needs to read When Faith Catches Fire.” —Dr. Scot McKnight, Julius R. Mantey professor of New Testament, Northern Seminary

Latino Christians are blazing trails of local, national, regional and global change. In the next few years, their influence will only continue to grow and be felt in the church, in business, in government and politics, in the economy, in arts and sports and in the important and pressing issue of race relations.

This year the Christian church will celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. In When Faith Catches Fire: Embracing the Spiritual Passion of the Latino Reformation (WaterBrook, June 20, 2017), Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, and Dr. Robert Crosby, theology professor at Southeastern University, argue that the Latino Reformation has begun. A movement they call the “salsafication” of the church is poised to impact every area of culture.

According to Rodriguez and Crosby, the tipping point is here. Consider these facts:

  • •Latino Evangelicals are the fastest-growing religious group in the United States…
  • •Latinos are turning not just to Protestantism but to its evangelical strain…more than 35% of Hispanics in America call themselves born-again…
  • The massive Christian population in Latin America is becoming more Pentecostal or charismatic Rodriguez was the first Evangelical Latino to participate in the inauguration ceremony for a U.S. president…

“We believe the church’s greatest opportunities are now multiethnic and multigenerational…” write Rodriguez and Crosby. “Whether you’re a neighbor, pastor, teacher, government leader or businessperson who wants to reach out to Latinos, this is the book to help you do so, to help you understand more of the significance and immediacy of the opportunity.”

In When Faith Catches Fire, Rodriguez and Crosby unpack the reasons for the growing Latino influence on the Church, noting the phenomenon is more of a spiritual awakening than a social trend. This awakening is leading to what the authors see as a more passionate, spirit-filled faith sweeping throughout North and South America. Along with it comes changes in forms of worship, an emphasis on diversity and a growing concern to incorporate compassion into evangelism.

In addition, Rodriguez and Crosby address head on the Latino influence on many of the leading issues of the day for not only Latino Christians themselves, but for the direction of American society as a whole, such as:

  • Immigration
  • •Race Relations
  • •Politics
  • Sanctity of life

“This carefully researched, balanced, and highly readable book provides a superb overview of one of the most important developments in the religion and culture of our time,” says Dr. Harvey Cox, Hollis professor of divinity emeritus, Harvard University. “The volume will be indispensable for leaders and laity alike in all denominations.”

Order your copy today at http://whenfaithcatchesfirebook.com/

ABOUT THE AUTHORS:

Samuel Rodriguez is the president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC)/CONEL, the world’s largest Hispanic Christian organization, which represents more than 100 million Hispanic Evangelicals in nearly 500,000 churches in the U.S. and other countries. Rodriguez, who spoke at the inauguration ceremony for President Donald Trump, is the first Evangelical Latino to participate in a presidential inauguration. He has served as an advisor to three presidents. Rodriguez is named on many lists of influencers in America’s religious and Latino communities. He is the author of The Lamb’s Agenda and Be Light. He and his family live in Sacramento, CA. www.nhclc.org.

Dr. Robert Crosby is a pastor, conference speaker and the co-founder of Teaming Life. He serves as professor of practical theology at Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida. He has pastored multi-ethnic churches in New York, Boston, and Tampa. His most recent books include The One Jesus Loves, The Will of a Man & The Way of a Woman and The Teaming Church. He writes for Christianity Today, Leadership Journal, Outreach Magazine and The Huffington Post. www.teaminglife.com

PRAISE FOR WHEN FAITH CATCHES FIRE:

“In When Faith Catches Fire, Samuel and Robert bring us up close to this incredible growing movement of Latino Christians. Read it, and you will find your own faith enriched and reignited.” —Roma Downey, producer, actress, and president and chief content officer of Lightworkers

 

“When Faith Catches Fire is the prophetic and unapologetic response to the passionate wave of change that is on the cusp of exploding from the church to the corridors of Washington. Rodriguez and Crosby have unearthed the undeniable sound of the forthcoming Latino era. It’s the dawn of a new day, and Latinos are leading the way.” —Sergio De La Mora, founding lead pastor of Cornerstone Church in San Diego and author of The Heart Revolution

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When Faith Catches Fire

As the fastest growing minority in America, Latinos are impacting church culture through vibrant worship, fervent prayer, and a commitment to change the world–one soul at a time. Sammy Rodriguez, a national leader of the evangelical Latino church in America, will issue an invitation to Christians everywhere, to rekindle a passionate faith.

Listen to this interview with Rev. Rodriguez from Moody Radio

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Samuel Rodriguez Speaks Out Against Trump Admin. Rescinding DAPA Protections

On Thursday, Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly issued a memorandum that effectively rescinded a November 2014 Obama-era memoranda that created the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) program.

The program was designed to offer deferred action status to parents of citizens or permanent residents who have lived in the United States since 2010. However, the program was blocked by federal courts and lower court rulings were affirmed by an equally divided eight-justice Supreme Court last June.

In a press release, the Department of Homeland Security explained that the DAPA memoranda was rescinded “because there is no credible path forward to litigate the currently enjoined policy.”

Rodriguez, who is the president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference and senior pastor at New Season Church in Sacramento, California, noted his concerns with Thursday’s memo in a statement shared with The Christian Post on Friday.

“Today, we received the unfortunate news that DHS Secretary John Kelly, after consulting Attorney General Jeff Sessions, has rescinded the Obama-era memoranda known as DAPA, which provided protection from deportation for parents of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents,” Rodriguez explained. “While DREAMers remain protected under DACA, it is of little comfort to children whose parents are now at risk of being deported from this country.”

(Photo: The Christian Post/Sonny Hong)Rev. Samuel Rodriguez on the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission panel on “Hobby Lobby and the Future of Religious Liberty,” at the Southern Baptist Convention, Baltimore, Maryland, June 9, 2014.

Rodriguez also explained that he and others at the NHCLC are reaching out to DHS to express their concern and “offer to help the administration find an alternative solution” that provides “Dreamers and their parents with the security promised to them by then President-elect Donald Trump in December of 2016.”

“At that time, we were heartened to hear his promise ‘to work something out for Dreamers,’ and we are hopeful that sentiment persists,” Rodriguez concluded.

Although the Trump administration will keep the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, Kelly’s memoranda also cancelled an expanded version of DACA that gave three-year work authorization status to immigrants who arrived in the country as children, as opposed to a two-year DACA work authorization.

“I want to — in the highest possible terms — commend President Trump for fulfilling a promise he made directly to the NHCLC by continuing the DACA program and allowing DREAMers to stay in the United States,” Rodriguez said in a separate statement shared with CP. “These young men and women were brought to this country not by their own choice, but they grew up in this country and have become as American as any other American. President Trump’s decision to keep DACA is exhibit A of the administration listening to and cooperating with the Hispanic community, and we commend him for it.”

However, Rodriguez stressed that DHS should not be looking to “separate families.”

“We must remember the real solution to all of these issues in the United States of America is the responsibility of Congress, not the president,” he added. “[A]nd we — once again — appeal to Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform. It’s more important now than ever before, and it is their responsibility to address this long standing issue. It is their responsibility to take up and prioritize this issue and to, once and for all, solve a problem they have exacerbated by their inaction.”

This is not the first time that Rodriguez has voiced concern with the Trump administration’s immigration enforcement policies.

Earlier this year, Rodriguez spoke out after reports indicated that Immigration and Customs Enforcement was deporting law-abiding undocumented immigrants with families that rely on them even though Trump vowed that only immigrants who with criminal records would be targeted for deportation.

“[T]here was a percentage, a number of great God-fearing, hard-working people who were not criminals who don’t even have a traffic violation that were deported,” Rodriguez told CP in April. “These are egregious stories.”

“We are looking at, for example, a mom whose kids were born here and whose kids don’t even speak Spanish. The mom who came here legally with a visa and the visa expired and she never got a deportation order was deported,” he continued. “These kind of egregious stories are the stories taking place. That is why I oppose it. I really want our president to fulfill his entire promise.”

Rodriguez is not the only evangelical leader who spoke at Trump’s inauguration who has voiced concern with the Trump administration’s deportation policies.

As a media firestorm has ensued as reports indicate that the administration is preparing to deport as many as 199 Iraqis, most of whom are Christian, back to Iraq, where they could face persecution, leading evangelist Franklin Graham to issue his concerns on the matter on his Facebook page on Friday.

“I find it very disturbing what I have read about Chaldean Christians being rounded up by U.S. ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) for possible deportation,” Graham, the president of the evangelical humanitarian organization Samaritan’s Purse and the son of Billy Graham, wrote. “I would encourage the president to have someone investigate these cases thoroughly. I understand a policy of deporting people who are here illegally and have broken the law. I don’t know all of the details, but I would encourage our president to give great consideration to the threat to lives of Christians in countries like Iraq.”

Read original post at http://www.christianpost.com/news/samuel-rodriguez-speaks-out-against-trump-rescinding-dapa-protections-188226/#rlAfK1tzD0yCMHvy.99

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Major Christian groups praise Trump’s decision to maintain Obama-era DACA program

The Christian humanitarian organization World Relief as well as the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference have praised President Donald Trump for maintaining an Obama-era policy that protects young, illegal immigrants.

On Thursday, Trump officially rescinded the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA), which was passed in 2014, but never went into effect, while he kept intact DAPA’s sister program, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).

To date, the DACA program has allowed some 800,000 young immigrants who illegally entered the U.S. as minors to remain in the country, protecting them from the threat of deportation and enabling them to obtain employment authorization.

“We’re very grateful that President Trump and his administration have made this decision,” Scott Arbeiter, president of World Relief, said in a statement obtained by TheBlaze. “It’s a huge relief for many young people whom we serve. It was a wise and compassionate decision, consistent with the biblical values that compel us to pursue just and compassionate treatment for immigrants and to have a particular concern for children.”

World Relief, which criticized Trump in January for seeking to implement a travel ban that has since been blocked from implementation, provides legal services to several illegal immigrants who apply for so-called “Dreamer” status.

“As we interact with DACA applicants on a day-to-day basis, we hear the individual stories of lives transformed by this program,” Courtney Tudi, director of immigrant legal services for World Relief, said.

And the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference offered similar acclaim for the White House’s decision.

The Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the NHCLC, commended Trump “in the highest possible terms” for maintaining his predecessor’s policy regarding those brought to the U.S. as children.

“These young men and women were brought to this country not by their own choice,” he said, “but they grew up in this country and have become as American as any other American.”

He went on to describe the president’s decision to maintain DACA as “exhibit A of the administration listening to and cooperating with the Hispanic community, and we commend him for it.”

In late January, NHCLC Vice President Tony Suarez told TheBlaze that the White House arranged a phone call with Hispanic leaders of several different Christian denominations to discuss how the Trump administration would address “Dreamers.”

And in a phone interview Friday afternoon, Suarez, who said he was “very encouraged” by this week’s decision, highlighted the importance of keeping families together, urging Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill to come together to pass comprehensive immigration reform.

“[Maintaining DACA] places the priority on families,” he told TheBlaze. “That we cannont separate families. … We have to remember that these ‘Dreamers’ are not here because of any fault of their own. They didn’t choose to cross the border, they didn’t choose to come without a passport or without proper documentation.”

He said the Obama-era policy “protects” children and families from being torn apart. Ultimately, though, he said keeping DACA isn’t enough — the White House needs to implement a policy, not unlike DAPA, to protect parents.

“This is the beginning of several steps that need to take place for a true immigration reform to fully be executed,” Suarez noted.

Moving forward, the NHCLC leader said it is up to Congress to take action, to pass a bipartisan, sweeping immigration reform.

“In the same manner that an executive action by President [Barack] Obama could not dictate immigration policy — we’re still left waiting for Congress to act [under Trump],” Suarez said. “And they have promised for — at this point — decades to act. For the last 30 years.”

“It’s time,” he added. “[T]hey need to get this done.”

Trump’s decision to maintain the DACA program marks a shift from his campaign promise to “immediately terminate” the policy, which — at the time — he described as an “illegal executive amnesty.”

Since taking office, though, the president had been softening his perspective on the issue. During a February press conference from the White House, Trump vowed to treat DACA immigrants “with heart.” He said dealing with DACA is “a very, very difficult subject for me.”

“To me, it’s one of the most difficult subjects I have because you have these incredible kids — in many cases, not in all cases,” Trump said. “In some of the cases, they’re having DACA and they’re gang members and they’re drug members, too. But you have some absolutely incredible kids — I would say mostly — they were brought in here in such a way. It’s a very, very tough subject.”

Original post can be read here: http://www.theblaze.com/news/2017/06/16/major-christian-groups-praise-trumps-decision-to-maintain-obama-era-daca-program/

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Inside Evangelical Leaders’ Private White House Dinner

On the eve of the first National Day of Prayer of his presidency, Donald Trump invited his closest evangelical advisors to join him for a private, long-awaited dinner celebration at the White House.

For the first time since they formed last June, the members of Trump’s campaign advisory board were meeting together not in weekly phone calls but in person, and having already accomplished what a year ago many thought was a long shot.

Less than four months into Trump’s presidency, their biggest hope of getting a conservative Supreme Court justice on the bench had been reached, and their supporters’ other objectives were in sight. As they gathered in the Blue Room, news was spreading through Washington that Trump was preparing an executive order to relax prohibitions on religious organizations’ political activities, and the House of Representatives was preparing to vote on a repeal of the Affordable Care Act.

Most of Trump’s evangelical advisory board flew in for the event, including Trump’s longtime spiritual advisor Paula White, Southern Baptist pastor Robert Jeffress, evangelist Franklin Graham, Focus on the Family Founder James Dobson, former Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, South Carolina televangelist Mark Burns, Faith and Freedom Coalition chairman Ralph Reed, and others. They were joined by top White House officials, including Vice President Pence, Second Lady Karen Pence, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, Reince Priebus and Steve Bannon.

Guests at Trump’s table included White, Jeffress and Marcus Lamb, CEO of the Christian television network Daystar. “We asked him questions, I asked things about the health care bill, he indicated that he was very positive about the passage of that tomorrow,” Jeffress says. “The overall tone was positive. … We could not be more delighted with the progress the president is making.”

The evening, guests say, was more a celebration of their victories so far than a discussion on future policy. Trump took photos with the guests in the Red Room, Graham kick off festivities with a prayer, and a dinner of shrimp scampi with parsley butter, red wine braised short ribs, and wild ramp gnocchi was served. White presented Trump with a gift on behalf of the group from the Museum of the Bible, a framed page of an original King James Bible from 1611 A.D., “a Bible which as you know was commissioned by a political leader in service to the church,” she said.

Acclaimed evangelical musician Steven Curtis Chapman performed his songs “Be Still and Know” and “The Lord’s Prayer.” Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, gave a benediction, and Trump then invited everyone up to the residence for a brief after party, complete with a tour of the Lincoln bedroom and the Truman balcony, before shaking hands again.

“It was a reunion more than anything,” Bachmann says. “For people of faith, there was so much trepidation about what would happen in this election. They really felt that if Mrs. Clinton had prevailed it would have spelled a diminution of the nation, the nation would have morally suffered.”

The evening reaffirmed the bond Trump has forged with evangelical and social conservative leaders who propelled him victory in November, one based on shared policy ambitions and often couched in prayer events. Jeffress, who preached a private sermon for Trump the morning of his inauguration, addressed the group briefly, reminding Trump, “Mr. President, we are going to be your most loyal friends,” and “We thank God every day that you are the president of the United States.” Trump at one point took the podium to a standing ovation, and spoke of the large numbers of evangelical voters who elected him in November. Exit polls showed 80% of white evangelicals backed Trump.

On Thursday morning, the leaders will gather again, this time in the Rose Garden for the signing of Trump’s latest executive order. “This won’t be a token and this won’t be a bone that is thrown,” Bachmann says. “We will see the goal of preserving religious liberty fulfilled.”

“Tomorrow is going to be a really big day, sometime between 11 and 11:30 in the morning, the President will sign an executive order that will administratively repeal the Johnson amendment and repeal the Obamacare restrictions on conscience and religious freedom, and about 90 minutes to two hours later, the House of Representatives will repeal Obamacare and defund Planned Parenthood,” Reed says. “That’s about as big a day as the social conservative movement has had in its history.”

Original post can be read here: http://time.com/4766485/national-day-prayer-white-house-dinner/

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Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, President of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, Commends President Trump’s Executive Order That Rolls Back Johnson Amendment

 

“This new executive order not only signals President Trump and Vice President Pence’s commitment to fighting for and representing the Evangelical community, but also the larger struggle for religious liberty.”

Rev. Samuel Rodriguez

WASHINGTON, May 4, 2017—Rev. Dr. Samuel Rodriguez, who participated in today’s National Day of Prayer service and will deliver tonight’s benediction at the Capitol, applauds President Trump’s executive order aimed at increasing religious freedoms and rolling back the Johnson Amendment.

“I was honored today to stand next to our president, vice president and many of our nation’s faith leaders as we gathered for the National Day of Prayer. This administration has gone to great lengths to signal their commitment to listening to and befriending America’s faith community. I can tell you every Christian leader who was at the White House today feels welcomed, heard and valued. There is a new tone in Washington, and it’s yet another reason I am so honored to be delivering tonight’s National Day of Prayer benediction at the Capitol.

“This new executive order not only signals President Trump and Vice President Pence’s commitment to fighting for and representing the Evangelical community, but also the larger struggle for religious liberty. For years now, people of faith—especially Christians—have been essentially told that their faith has no place beyond their front door. A subversive oppression has taken a hold of our nation and sincerely held beliefs are subject to not only social ridicule but also legal retribution. I strongly support the president’s position and urge Congress to throw their support behind a full repeal. Our job is not yet done.

“I believe the freedom of religion—for all religions and even no religion at all—is the cornerstone of our republic. The right to believe and to act on belief is at the very heart of human freedom. By signing this executive order today, the president has stood not only for religious liberty, but for a freedom upon which so many other rights rest.”

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Samuel Rodriguez Urges People to Look at Facts Behind 23-Y-O Dreamer’s Deportation to Mexico

The Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, one of six faith leaders who spoke at President Donald Trump’s inauguration ceremony and the president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, has issued a statement regarding the widely reported deportation of a 23-year-old Mexican dreamer.

(Photo: Reuters/Mark Makela)A sign is displayed in support of Angela Navarro, an undocumented Honduran-born immigrant with a deportation order, who moved into West Kensington Ministry Church with her family – her husband and two U.S. born children, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, November 18, 2014. Navarro, who has “always lived in fear” of deportation said on Tuesday she moved into a Philadelphia church as part of a national civil disobedience action aimed at pressing President Obama on immigration reform. Navarro is the ninth undocumented immigrant who has taken refuge in a church recently as part of what activists are calling the New Sanctuary Movement. Organizers offer sanctuary in churches because federal guidelines prohibit arrests in sensitive areas unless there is a threat to public safety or national security.

Last week, it was reported that federal immigration agents may have “ignored” President Donald Trump’s pledge to protect undocumented immigrants brought into the country as children from deportation and deported a man named Juan Manuel Montes-Bojorquez, who had lived in the U.S. since he was 9 and received Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals status under the Obama administration.

According to USA Today, Montes-Bojorquez’s deportation was the first documented case of a dreamer being deported under the Trump administration.

Rodriguez, the lead pastor at New Season Church in California, issued a statement following the report that said he is “hugely alarmed” by the reports of Montes-Bojorquez’s deportation and separation from his family. Montes-Bojorquez is now believed to be staying with his aunt and uncle in Western Mexico.

“As the investigation on this incident remains unresolved, we must wait until we have the facts and not jump to conclusions,” Rodriguez said.

(Photo: The Christian Post/Sonny Hong)Rev. Samuel Rodriguez on the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission panel on “Hobby Lobby and the Future of Religious Liberty,” at the Southern Baptist Convention, Baltimore, Maryland, June 9, 2014.

“I will reiterate my position that the Trump administration has promised to not touch our Dreamers’ or separate good families,” Rodriguez added. “As such, I ask our leaders to get to the bottom of this issue to determine whether the deportation of Mr. Montes-Bojorquez violated this promise, and, if his deportation was indeed unwarranted, to immediately reunite him with his family.”

According to the San Diego Tribune, Montes-Bojorquez filed a federal lawsuit last week that claimed he was deported twice in February.

The lawsuit claims that the first deportation was when he was approached by a border officer in Calexico and the second came when he tried to re-enter the U.S. a day later.

The lawsuit also claims that Montes-Borjorquez was first apprehended in Calexico when he was leaving a friend’s house and approached by an officer on his way to a taxi stand. The lawsuit claims that he had forgotten his wallet with his authorization card in his friend’s car and was prevented from going to get it and was later deported.

A statement released by the Department of Homeland Security last week states that there are no records to verify Montes-Borjorquez’s claim that he was first apprehended on Feb. 18 and deported through the port of entry in Calexico. Records only verify that Montes-Bojorquez was apprehended as he climbed the border fence in downtown Calexico on Feb. 19. DHS said that “he admitted to agents that he had illegally entered the United States and was arrested.”

“There are no records or evidence to support Montes-Bojorquez’s claim that he was detained or taken to the Calexico Port of Entry on Feb. 18,” the statement reads.

Montes-Bojorquez was approved for DACA in 2014, with an expiration date of Jan. 25, 2018, the DHS statement acknowledged. However, the statement claims that Montes-Bojorquez “lost his DACA status when he left the United States without advance parole on an unknown date prior to his arrest by the U.S. Border Patrol on Feb. 19.”

“According to his interview with the Border Patrol, conducted in Spanish, he entered the United States on Feb. 19 and he acknowledged that he understood the questions that he was being asked,” the statement reads. “Departing the country without advance parole terminates the protections Montes-Bojorquez was granted under DACA.”

Additionally, DHS claims that Montes-Bojorquez never informed border agents of his DACA status during his interviews and was repatriated to Mexico on Feb. 20.

The Daily Caller reports that Montes-Bojorquez was convicted of shoplifting last July and sentenced to probation. Additionally, he has also received three convictions for driving without a license.

Although Rodriguez is in favor of stopping illegal immigration and opposes offering amnesty to illegal immigrants, he has criticized the Trump administration earlier this year after reports indicated that a large percentage of undocumented immigrants targeted in ICE raids earlier this year hadn’t committed any serious crimes.

He told The Christian Post in March that conversations he had with the Trump transition team led him to believe that God-fearing and law-abiding undocumented immigrant families would not be affected by the deportation policies.

“[T]here was a percentage, a number of great God-fearing, hard-working people who were not criminals who don’t even have a traffic violation that were deported,” Rodriguez said. “These are egregious stories.”

“We are looking at, for example, a mom whose kids were born here and whose kids don’t even speak Spanish. The mom who came here legally with a visa and the visa expired and she never got a deportation order was deported,” he continued. “These kind of egregious stories are the stories taking place. That is why I oppose it. I really want our president to fulfill his entire promise.”

Rodriguez’s church in Sacramento implemented a “safe haven” program this year that offers anyone in the community, including illegal immigrants, who feel like they are in need of safe haven a place to take shelter.

“The safe haven is for everyone in the community — those who are victims of domestic violence, those that are fleeing gang activities, any family that believes their family is threatened. It could be internally or externally,” he told CP. “I want to distinguish that from sanctuary churches that are explicitly committed to opening up their doors to people that are undocumented. We are not going to ask you if you are documented or undocumented. If you are coming to our church and say, ‘I need safe haven,’ without asking you any questions, we are going to provide safe haven.”

Original article can be read here: http://www.christianpost.com/news/samuel-rodriguez-23-year-old-dreamers-deportation-mexico-181800/

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Major Free Exercise Case Before Supreme Court Tomorrow

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments tomorrow in Trinity Lutheran Church v. Pauley to decide whether excluding churches from public grant program violates the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause and the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause. Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, who replaced Justice Antonin Scalia, took the bench for the first time on Monday, and tomorrow he will be on the bench in time to participate in what could be a major case involving the Free Exercise of Religion.

Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Missouri, which operates a preschool and daycare with a public playground, applied to a state grant program that helps nonprofits install recycled rubber playground surfaces. The church applied for the Missouri Scrap Tire Program in 2012 to replace the gravel surface of its playground to provide a safer and more accessible playground for children. However, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources rejected its application, citing a clause in Missouri’s state constitution that bars the use of state funds “directly or indirectly, in aid of any church, sect or denomination of religion,” despite having ranked it fifth out of 44 submissions in a competition that resulted in 14 grants. The church sued in federal district court, arguing that its exclusion was a violation of free-exercise and equal-protection rights. The district court rejected Trinity Lutheran’s claims, ruling that to do otherwise would raise “antiestablishment concerns.”

At issue is whether the government can exclude a qualified church from a grant program that uses neutral criteria for approving awards solely because the applicant is a church? There is a split among the federal courts of appeal on this issue, which the High Court is expected to resolve.

Liberty Counsel filed an amicus brief in the U. S. Supreme Court, on its own behalf and for the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference-CONEL, to end discrimination against churches.

“If the government were permitted to discriminate against Trinity Lutheran Church in this case, then some would extend this case to allow the government to withhold police and fire protection, water and sewer service, or street and sidewalk maintenance,” said Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel. “The government could also disqualify religious hospitals from Medicare or Medicaid funds to treat patients. It is time to end discrimination against churches and Christian viewpoints,” said Staver.

Original articel can be read here: http://canadafreepress.com/article/major-free-exercise-case-before-supreme-court-tomorrow

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