September 21, 2015: Pastor Craig Groeschel of LifeChurch.tv started a new sermon series called “Stay Positive,” and shared in his first message on Sunday eight reasons for believers to be optimistic in life based on what God says in just one chapter in the book of Romans in the New Testament.
“There’s an epidemic of negativity around the world,” Groeschel said after he introduced the new series, in which the description reads: “Cynicism and negativity may be the easy choice, but they’re not the best choice. If you seek what’s good, you’ll see what’s good. Let’s embrace the way we’re created to think and stay positive.”
The pastor said he also needs this message, as he can also easily drift into negativity. The series will look into biblical qualities of optimism, gratitude, encouragement, generosity, enthusiasm and confidence, he added.
Some are naturally optimistic, while others are naturally pessimistic, Groeschel told the congregants. An optimist would read the verse, “My cup overflows,” and say, “The Lord is blessing me.” And a pessimist would say after reading the verse that there’s going to be more mess today.
It’s true that many things are going wrong today, but there are also many things that are going right, the pastor said.
“You always find what you look for,” Groeschel added, and quoted Proverbs 11:27, “If you search for good, you will find favor; but if you search for evil, it will find you.”
However, he cautioned, “I’m not optimistic based on what I feel. I’m optimistic based on what God says.”
The pastor then shared eight reasons from just one chapter in the book of Romans why he is optimistic, just as all believers should be.
One, my sins are forgiven and my eternity is secure, he said, quoting Romans 8:1-2, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.”
“This makes me eternally optimistic,” the pastor said.
Two, Jesus is at the right hand of God praying for me, Groeschel added, and read out Romans 8:34, “Christ Jesus who died — more than that, who was raised to life — is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.”
Jesus knows what we go through as He also lived on Earth, the pastor explained, adding that it gives him immense confidence to know that Jesus is praying for him.
Three, my future victory is grater than my present pain. God is going to sharpen us to conform us to the image of His Son through what we are going through right now, Groeschel explained, and quoted Romans 8:18, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”
Four, my mind is filled with the peace of God, the pastor said, based on Romans 8:6, “The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.”
God’s Word renews our mind, helping us experience peace, he explained.
Five, if God is for me, who can be against me? The pastor quoted Romans 8:31, 33, “Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? … It is God who justifies.”
If you live boldly as a Christian, people would ridicule you and persecute you, but since God is with you, all those things do not matter, Groeschel said.
Six, God’s Spirit helps me in my weakness, the pastor shared, and quoted Romans 8:24-26, “Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness.”
When we are weak, we get to know God in a more intimate way because it is His strength that carries us, he explained.
Seven, my God is working everything in my life for good, Groeschel said. He read out Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
Eight, nothing can separate me from the love of God, Groeschel said, and quoted Romans 8:38, 39, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, not any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
You cannot outrun God’s love and cause it to stop, he stressed, and stated that our God is too good for us to be negative in life.
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Vatican, 09 September, 2015: With two documents announced yesterday, issued Motu Proprio, the Pope has given power to the local bishop to judge annulment cases and allowed for “increased brevity” in the legal process by removing the requirement for a second judgment.
Currently, a decree of marriage nullity requires a review of the first decision or “sentence.”
The new rules mean in certain cases a bishop can provide a quick annulment to couples. Church annulments rule that a marriage has been invalidly contracted: however, there have been complaints for many years that the process is laborious and inaccessible to many Catholics.
Last September, Pope Francis announced a commission to look at a reform of the process.
In an introductory letter, which was issued yesterday only in Latin and Italian, Pope Francis admits that an “abbreviated process of judgment might put the principle of the indissolubility of marriage at risk.”
As a result, however, he has “desired that, in such cases the Bishop himself shall be constituted judge, who, by force of his pastoral office is with Peter the greatest guarantor of Catholic unity in faith and in discipline.”
Furthermore, the rules allow for appeals in annulments to be heard by the local Metropolitan See which gives increased responsibility to local churches.
Vatican City, September 4, 2015: Pope Francis held an audience with Israeli president Reuven Rivlin on Thursday, where they exchanged gifts and discussed efforts to secure peace and to address the plight of Middle East Christians.
Pope Francis gave the Israeli president a new bronze medal at the Sept. 3 audience. On the medal was a depiction of a rock split into two parts, but joined by an olive tree. The medal bore the words: “Search for what unites. Overcome what divides.”
When the Pope gave the gift to Rivlin, he winked at the president. “There is some division, but the challenge is to unite,” Pope Francis said.
The audience focused on the political and social situation in the Middle East, giving “special attention” to the condition of Christians and other minorities, the Holy See press office reported.
“In this respect the importance of interreligious dialogue was recognized, along with the responsibility of religious leaders in promoting reconciliation and peace,” said the press office, which described the discussions as cordial.
The meeting also highlighted the need to promote a climate of trust between Israelis and Palestinians. It focused on the resumption of direct negotiations that aimed at “an agreement respecting the legitimate aspirations of the two populations, as a fundamental contribution to peace and stability in the region,” the press office said.
The Holy See and Israel have disagreed over the status of Palestine; Israel has objected to the Holy See’s recognition of the State of Palestine in its negotiations with Palestinian leaders.
When Pope Francis greeted the president, he spoke in English: “Pray for me.”
The president responded: “I will see you in Israel.”
Rivlin gave the Pope a replica of the earliest mention of King David’s dynasty outside of the Bible. The words were carved on a basalt stone dating back to the eighth or ninth century B.C. The original is in the Museum of Israel.
“I think it is right that His Holiness has this gift to remember the common roots between Judaism and Christianity,” the Israeli president said when he presented the gift.
He also gave a plate with the inscription: “Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem.”
The Pope also gave the Israeli president a copy of his encyclical on the care of creation, Laudato Si’. He also presented him with his 2013 apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, explaining: “This is for all Christians, but there is a chapter dedicated to dialogue with the Jews.”
The official Israeli delegation included the president’s wife. The Pope gave everyone in the delegation a medal for the third year of his pontificate, marking the 500th anniversary of St. Theresa of Avila’s birth.
Rivlin also met with the Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, who was accompanied by Archbishop Paul Gallagher, the Secretary for Relations with States.
Other topics at the meeting included the relations between the Holy See and Israel, and between Israeli authorities and local Catholic communities. Both parties at the audience voiced hope for a prompt conclusion to the drafting of a bilateral agreement. They also hoped for an adequate solution for other matters of common interest, such as the situation of Christian schools in Israel.
Jailed for Jesus: Kentucky Clerk sent to the slammer for refusing to issue marriage licenses to gay couples
Kim Davis, the clerk at Rowan County who garnered national attention for refusing to issue the marriage licenses, was found in contempt of court Thursday by U.S. District Court Judge David Bunning.
Bunning chose a prison sentence over a fine because he believed Davis, who makes $80,000 per year, would not comply with his order if given a fine, reported USA Today.
Bunning added that Davis will be released from prison once she has agreed to comply with the court order and proceed to issue marriage licenses.
Around one hundred protestors representing both sides of the marriage definition debate crowded outside the Ashland courthouse.
On June 26, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in Obergefell v. Hodges that state level bans on gay marriage violated the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
Obergefell was the culmination of over a year of judicial rulings that struck down several state constitutional amendments passed by popular referenda.
Since the Supreme Court’s decision, many county clerks across the nation have either refused to issue marriage licenses to gay couples or resigned from their posts.
In July, Davis refused to follow an order from the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky demanding that she issue marriage licenses to gay couples.
During the appeals process for the legal action against her, Davis was eventually given a stay on the decision that expired on Monday. An attempt to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court failed.
“To issue a marriage license which conflicts with God’s definition of marriage, with my name affixed to the certificate, would violate my conscience,” stated Davis on Tuesday.
“It is not a light issue for me. It is a Heaven or Hell decision. For me it is a decision of obedience. I have no animosity toward anyone and harbor no ill will. To me this has never been a gay or lesbian issue. It is about marriage and God’s Word.”
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September 1, 2015: A historical researcher has observed that the planets Saturn, Uranus, Jupiter, Earth and Venus aligned in an orrery model to form what can be seen as a man on a crucifix on the day associated by some with Jesus Christ’s crucifixion, namely April 3, 33 A.D.
“More than a few studies have pinpointed that date based on the Bible, calendars, astronomical conditions, even geology,” researcher and University of Wisconsin-Madison history major Miguel Antonio Fiol said in a statement.
An illustration released to the public shows the positioning of the planets on the date close to 2,000 years ago, noting that Saturn’s rings at the top of the figure could be seen as representing a “halo” or the crown of thrones placed on Jesus’ head. Uranus and Jupiter form the stretched hands, while Earth and Venus form the feet.
“Even at first glance I knew it looked like the crucifixion,” Fiol added. “But it took time to uncover all the incredible parallels.”
The researcher says that the planetary alignment began in mid-March and lasted through mid-April of 33 A.D. The same alignment occurs once every 333 years, and has been observed six times between the year 0 and 2000 A.D.
Fiol admitted that not everyone will see a crucifix in the planetary alignment, which is open to different interpretations.
“People will see what they want to see though I think coincidence is a hard argument,” the researcher said.
“It’s like spotting Jesus on a Reuben or any kind of sandwich, either you see it or you don’t.”
The historical date of Jesus’ death has been debated among Christian circles, though a number of researchers have pointed to Friday, April 3, A.D. 33 as the likely date.
Scholars Andreas J. Köstenberger and Justin Taylor, who wrote the book The Final Days of Jesus: The Most Important Week of the Most Important Person Who Ever Lived, have also agreed with the April 3, A.D. 33 date.
“To be clear, the Bible does not explicitly specify the precise date of Jesus’s crucifixion and it is not an essential salvation truth. But that does not make it unknowable or unimportant,” they write in an article for First Things.
“Because Christianity is a historical religion and the events of Christ’s life did take place in human history alongside other known events, it is helpful to locate Jesus’s death — as precisely as the available evidence allows — within the larger context of human history.”
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Vatican city, August 18, 2015: Pope Francis is looking for a few good “missionaries of mercy”, priests who are known for their preaching and their dedication to hearing confessions and granting absolution.
If they have their bishop’s or superior’s support, priests interested in being one of the special communicators of God’s mercy are invited to apply online.
The Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization, the office Pope Francis charged with coordinating the Holy Year of Mercy, which begins Dec. 8, posted a list of desired qualities and the application form on the Year of Mercy website.
The missionaries will be commissioned formally by the pope and sent out Feb. 10, Ash Wednesday.
The council said the missionaries are to be “a living sign of the Father’s welcome to all those in search of his forgiveness”.
They should be “inspiring preachers of mercy; heralds of the joy of forgiveness; welcoming, loving and compassionate confessors, who are most especially attentive to the difficult situations of each person”.
With an invitation from a local bishop, the missionaries will preach and administer the sacrament of reconciliation during special Year of Mercy events, the council said.
When Pope Francis announced the Holy Year of Mercy, he said he would give the “missionaries of mercy” special authority or faculties “to pardon even those sins reserved to the Holy See”.
Bishop Juan Ignacio Arrieta, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, said the reference to “reserved” sins refers to actions that can bring with them automatic excommunication, for example, abortion when the person is aware of the penalty and commits the sin anyway.
If the person is repentant, he said, the missionaries will be able to remove the excommunication and grant absolution in those cases, which normally require the intervention or permission of the local bishop or the Apostolic Penitentiary, a Vatican court.
Texas, August 10, 2015: Pastor Levi Lusko of Fresh Life Church in Montana was the guest speaker at Pastor Ed Young’s Fellowship Church in Grapevine, Texas, on Sunday, and he shared four ways of dealing with suffering, just as he and his wife, Jennie, dealt with the death of their 5-year-old daughter, Lenya.
Suffering in life is not an obstacle to being used by God, it’s an opportunity to be used like never before,” Lusko, the author of Through The Eyes of a Lion, told the congregation as he began his message, which was first of the three-part series, Influence, that Fellowship Church has started.
“The influence of Fellowship Church has reached far beyond our walls and stretched across the globe,” the megachurch says about the series. “It is a picture of what God has in store for all of us when we tap into His plan and purpose for our lives.”
Lusko’s message was based on 2 Timothy 1:10, which reads, “But it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel.”
The pastor told the congregation that on Dec. 20, 2012, their second daughter, Lenya Avery Lusko, suddenly had an asthma attack. They thought she would respond to medicines, but it got worse. Soon, she stopped breathing. They begged for God to intervene and save her. But she died.
They wondered what her tombstone should say. And they came up with these words: “Jesus has destroyed death. He has brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel.”
Lenya died days before Christmas, but “death was the reason why there is Christmas in the first place,” Lusko said.
He quoted Hebrews 2:15, “And free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.”
“Christmas exists so that there could be Easter, so that we could live with hope so that we could die without fear,” Lusko said.
However, a hurt is a hurt, he cautioned. “Hurting with hope still hurts.” Even God grieves when we go through pain and suffering, though there’s hope, he added.
It’s okay to cry and feel terrible, but Jesus defeated death by dying and then rising to life, Lusko said.
He shared how he and his wife were able to hold their daughter’s hand with one hand and raise the other to heaven to pray for her as she was dying. They said they knew they were not alone.
You are not alone when you lose a loved one or a job or anything that hurts, the pastor said. “He will walk beside you.”
Lusko said most Christians find themselves in the same situation as Jesus’ disciples the day after His death on the cross. Jesus was crucified on a Friday and rose on a Sunday, and Saturday was the time of trial for His disciples. A promise had been given but not fulfilled yet. The question is, he said, how do we live on “Saturday.”
There are four ways to turn off the dark in your heart, he told the congregation.
One, don’t rely on the naked eye, Lusko said. “Things are not as they seem. We walk by faith, and not by sight.”
You can rely on what you’ve heard, he explained. Faith comes by hearing, and hearing of the Word of God, so don’t just see what you see but believe what He has said.
Two, train for the trial you’re not yet in, the pastor went on to share. “You and I have two Google calendars … one that we’ve put together and we have one that’s really gonna be.”
We can plan, but we can never be sure what the future holds, he explained.
What you’ve done before the trial matters more than what you do in the midst of it, he said.
Three, let God use your pain, he said, adding that it’s an honor to be trusted in trials.
“God trusts His most difficult assignments to His most trusted soldiers. … He puts to use everything He puts us through,” the pastor said.
God allows us to go through pain with a definite plan. “Pain is a passport that would take you to places where you would never have been otherwise,” he stated.
Four, you can cue the eagle, the pastor said, quoting Isaiah 40:30-31, “Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”
He reminded the listeners, “Anytime you need, and as often as you need to, all you need to do is call on the name of the Lord, and you can receive new strength.”
Pray and ask for God’s strength when you think you’re failing, he encouraged, quoting Psalm 73:26, “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”
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International, July 30, 2015: Pope Francis is intent on ending resistance to changes that came with the Second Vatican Council that includes a Church that is open to all and building a society that cares for the environment, says the president of the Jesuit Provinces in the Asia-Pacific region, Fr. Mark Raper.
The fundamental difference between Pope Francis and his predecessors is that he is “not just talking to the converted … he is talking to everyone,” Fr. Raper told ucanews.com.
“Fifty years ago the Vatican Council promoted a fundamental change of attitude towards secular society with its concern for the common good and freedom of conscience. The Church was opened up to the world,” said the 73-year old Jesuit.
“While many people in the Church have been trying to live this approach, there has often been resistance, even from within the Church,” said Fr. Raper. “Now Pope Francis will not tolerate resistance to this change of approach.”
Fr. Raper pointed out that Pope Francis is determined to speak to as many people around the globe as possible and cited the encyclical Laudato si’ (Praise be to you — On Care For Our Common Home) that was addressed to every person on the planet.
“It is a tremendous gift. It is not just a boost to those who consider care for our environment important. It is insightful in new ways. He has brought together solid science, deep theology and a quite radical view of the place of human life in creation. It is most inspiring,” said Fr. Raper.
The Jesuit priest said that many people consider that the encyclical was addressed to world leaders in the UN Climate Summit to be held in Paris in November, asking them to take responsibility for climate change and steps to control it.
“Now it is urgent that we mobilize support in preparation for this. It calls for a big change of heart and of consciousness regarding the questions of our human habitat,” Fr. Raper said.
“We do this through our educational institutions, in our preaching, writing and through many other means, joining with others. Of course, Paris is a milestone and the question is a long-term one. But there is no time to lose,” he said.
Fr. Raper, who heads one of the six conferences that coordinate and facilitate the mission of the Jesuits around the world, also talked about what it meant having a pope who is also a Jesuit.
“Certainly we Jesuits may have felt like we were under a bit of a cloud at times. Jesuits were asked by different popes to keep pushing the boundaries. But when we do, we can be misunderstood,” he said.
“Now we have a Holy Father whose way of thinking corresponds with how we were educated. On the other hand, he is not a young man and his time will not last forever.”
Fr. Raper’s conference covers Jesuit life and service in Australia, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Myanmar, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, Timor Leste, Vietnam, and the countries of the Pacific, notably Micronesia.
The conference serves to help bring an international perspective to and on local initiatives.
“We have a number of priority commitments — care of vulnerable migrants, a focus on the environment, dialogue with Buddhism and Islam,” Fr. Raper said. “The Jesuit mission is to promote a faith that does justice in dialogue with cultures and religions.”
There are about 1600 to 1700 Jesuits in this conference. That does not include the more than 4,000 Jesuits in the Indian subcontinent.
But Raper voiced concern about the declining number of Jesuits in Indonesia and the Philippines, the two biggest provinces of the order in the region, where he said that numbers are contracting slightly each year.
Asked for the reason, he said: “I cannot give one coherent reason for this, but I was talking to a Buddhist monk recently in Chiang Mai and he had the same message. He sees a decline in vocations to the monkhood, especially in the cities.
“He gave similar reasons to what I have heard among our religious, such as an increase of consumerism, rise of secularism, the culture of the cities and what our superior general calls the ‘globalisation of superficiality’. Also, of course, families are smaller, opportunities are greater and there are more distractions.”
On the upside, Jesuit numbers are rising in Vietnam, Cambodia, Timor-Leste and Myanmar.
Fr. Raper pointed out that Catholics in Asia have a disproportionately larger impact than its percentage of the population across Asia would suggest. He said this is because of the Church’s involvement in education, health and social services that serve all.
“We seek to learn from others. But because we often cooperate with many others, our presence can be quite discrete,” he said.
The Church’s education, health and socio-economic programs have highlighted respect for human dignity, safeguarded human rights as seen with its campaigns for reconciliation, peace and justice and concern for marginalized groups such as the Montagnards in Vietnam and the Rohingya in Myanmar.
“We do not take public roles of advocacy in every instance. There are times when it may be more appropriate to ensure that those who have real leadership roles are heard,” Fr. Raper said.
For instance, someone like Cardinal Charles Bo in Yangon is in a better position to speak publicly and to dialogue with authorities about the need for justice in Myanmar, he said.
Also, having a popular pope, the first Jesuit elected to that office, does make the job for Jesuits both easy and difficult at the same time, Fr. Raper said.
Israel, July 17, 2015: A recent Breaking Israel News article about the nascent Sanhedrin’s intention to put Pope Francis on trial in absentia for his recognizing the Palestinian state has caused quite a ruckus.
Though it may seem shocking to many that a group of rabbis would interfere in international policy, or exert authority over the Pope, the Sanhedrin feels compelled to do so. Rabbi Dov Stein, the secretary of the Sanhedrin, explained to Breaking Israel News that he feels it is their duty to bring God’s law into this world.
Thus far, the Vatican has not responded to the Sanhedrin’s letter. “As expected, no. It would seem that the Pope has chosen to ignore the letter. But a trial will be held anyway, and the result may be very risky for the Pope,” Stein said.
“God in heaven is listening and obeys the Sanhedrin because the Torah interpretation is in the hands of the Sanhedrin here in this physical world, not in the heaven in the hands of the angels.”
Not just a court for Jews, the rabbis on the Sanhedrin believe they are commanded by God to right injustice wherever it appears, regardless of religion or country.
“It has happened in the past that people have ignored the Sanhedrin, which is a mistake, because the Sanhedrin is vital to the proper functioning of the world. Only when the Jewish nation will heed the Sanhedrin of the Torah, will the Torah be one. Today God’s Torah is not the same Torah for all the Jews. Our unity is damaged because of this, because of people ignoring the Sanhedrin,” Stein explained.
In just one example, the Sanhedrin held a trial in 2008 against the Chinese government having to do with the persecution of the Falun Gong. Followers of Falun Gong, a branch of Buddhism, approached the Sanhedrin in 2007, claiming that their fellow practitioners in China were being persecuted. The claims, which have since been substantiated by media sources, were that in 1999 the Communist Party leadership declared Falun Gong a “heretical organization” and began systematically persecuting them, with reported human rights violations.
As of 2009, at least 2,000 Falun Gong practitioners had died as a result of abuse in custody. Some observers put the number much higher, and report that tens of thousands may have been killed to supply China’s organ transplant industry.
“The Chinese embassy tried to prevent it, but the Sanhedrin is not obligated to politics, only to justice,” Stein said. The Chinese embassy in Israel was contacted by the Sanhedrin and responded that the hearing would likely have a negative effect on the diplomatic relations between Israel and China.
Professor Hillel Weiss, a member of the Sanhedrin, responded, “If Armenian representatives would have approached me and complained about the Turks I would support opening a Sanhedrin trial against the Turks. Every regime needs to know that if it hurts another ethnic group it is committing a crime.”
In 2008, the Sanhedrin ruled against China. The Association for Asian research wrote about the judgement, “While many nations and institutions have stayed silent as to the persecution of Falun Gong, the Sanhedrin has gotten it right. It’s time for the world to respond.”
When asked what authority the Sanhedrin has to put foreign leaders and governments on trail, Stein explained, “The Sanhedrin is the Supreme Court with responsibility for the world. All of the people of the world should at least be following the Torah, even if it is only the Seven Laws of Noah, (which are incumbent on all non-Jews). The interpretation of the Torah in each generation is in the hands of the Sanhedrin.”
While the Sanhedrin’s actions of trying Pope Francis in absentia have proven controversial, Stein reveals that the court has received international support for its cause. “We have had many people contact us, Jews and Gentiles, and everyone was pleased with what we are doing and very supportive. They appreciate that there is now one true voice of the Jews and their Torah. There is not even one Beit Din (court) of Jews who dare to say the truth in the world,” he said.
When asked whether the government of the State of Israel has gotten involved, Stein stated, “I do not believe that they will support any such step. The opposite is probably true. The Israeli government is used to being pressured and attacked by the whole world, and therefore the government of Israel is afraid of every political shadow.”
With the Pope soon to address the United States Congress, the boundaries separating religion and state are becoming less clear. It is clear that many international conflicts today are driven more by religious fervor than by economic or diplomatic interests. It may just take a religious court to resolve the Injustices that plague and threaten humanity.
- breaking israel news
Oregon Christian bakers forced to pay $135k by monday or lien may be placed on home; husband now works as trash collector
U.S, July 10, 2015: More than $210,000 has been raised in support of the Oregon Christian bakers who are being forced by the state to pay $135,000 in “emotional damages” to a lesbian couple for declining to bake them a wedding cake in 2013, an act that would have violated their deeply-held religious convictions.
Although an online fundraiser established on GoFundMe.com to support Melissa and Aaron Klein, the owners of the now-closed Sweet Cakes by Melissa bakery in Gresham, raised over $100,009 in nine hours in April, the campaign was taken off the website because the Kleins had been “formally charged by local authorities and found to be in violation of Oregon state law.”
After removing the Kleins’ fundraiser, GoFundMe later revised its user policy to state that the site can’t be used to raise money in “defense of formal charges or claims of heinous crimes, violent, hateful, sexual or discriminatory acts.” The website additionally shut down the fundraiser for Barronelle Stutzman, a Washington florist who’s also facing heavy fines for not working a gay wedding.
After their campaign was removed by GoFundMe, evangelist Franklin Graham’s Samaritan’s Purse stepped in to provide a platform to raise funds for the married couple, through the organization’s donation page designated for persecuted Christians in the U.S.
Another online campaign in support of the Kleins was set up on ContinueToGive.com, which is a “faith based online tithing and giving platform founded on biblical principles” devoted to helping churches, missionaries, nonprofits, individuals and adopting parents.
Although the Kleins fundraiser began with an initial goal of raising $150,000, the website indicates that the goal has been exceeded by 204 percent, which would mean over $306,000 was donated to the campaign.
But according to the website, it charges 3.9 percent and 60 cents per donation for personal fundraisers. The Daily Signal estimates that the Kleins have raised at least $210,000.
“Let’s help the Kleins through this hard time as they fight for religious freedom; which they are not just fighting for themselves but for all of us as our freedoms are threatened,” the fundraiser states. “They have been struggling financially ever since they were forced to close the doors of their bakery in 2013 as their income was basically cut in half. If they are forced to pay the damages to the lesbian couple they will be in much worse shape than they are now.”
“They are pioneers in standing strong for the Lord and have been very courageous and steadfast throughout this whole ordeal,” the fundraiser continues.
In an interview with The Daily Signal, the Kleins said that their income has dramatically decreased since they closed their bakery. Now that they are being forced to pay for emotional damages, their financial situation is getting tighter.
Although they have raised money online, Aaron said he picked up a job as a garbage collector after the closing of the bakery to help make ends meet.
As Oregon’s Commission of Bureau of Labor and Industries, Brad Avakian, upheld last week that the Kleins must pay $135,000 to Rachel and Laurel Bowman-Cryer for mental damages caused by the refusal of service in 2013, the couple has been notified that they must pay by next Monday or risk having a government lien placed on their home.
A letter from BOLI was sent to the Kleins informing them of their payment options.
“The letter informs them that if we do not hear from them, we may turn the matter over to the Department of Revenue, which can place a lien on real property,” a BOLI spokesman told Fox News’ Todd Starnes. “Of course, they can also ask for a stay of enforcement while they pursue their appeal.”
Anna Harmon, the Kleins’ attorney from Alliance Defending Freedom, said the letter is just another sign that the state is sticking to its guns.
“This letter, while its the normal procedure, continues to show the state is not backing down,” Harmon told Starnes. “They don’t think they did any wrong here.”
Although it is likely that the Kleins will ask for a stay of the judgment as the couple is expected to appeal Avakian’s ruling to the Oregon Court of Appeals , Avakian will be the one who rules on whether the Kleins should be granted a stay.
“The judge, jury and executioner are all in one place,” Harmon said. “He is intent on using his office to root out thought and speech with which he personally disagrees.”
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