Christian School Punished Over Biblical Teaching on Homosexuality

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CHRISTIAN POST)

 

Christian School Punished Over Biblical Teaching on Homosexuality Files Lawsuit Against School District

(PHOTO: BRSD.AB.CA)Cornerstone Christian Academy in Kingman, Alberta, Canada

A Christian society in Canada has filed a lawsuit claiming it was punished by a school district for refusing to censor certain biblical references.

The Cornerstone Christian Society of Camrose and three parents of the Cornerstone Christian Academy are suing the Battle River School Division No. 31 after the school’s agreement with the public school district was unilaterally terminated earlier this year.

The lawsuit, filed by the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, claims that the Society, which has had held a master agreement with the BRSD to serve as a Christian alternative program since 2009, lost its agreement in June after it initially refused to remove 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 from a revised academy “vision and purpose” document and scrub religious teachings that could be deemed offensive.

Although the school and BRSD had instituted a five-year agreement in 2015, when Cornerstone submitted its vision and purpose document in January 2017, the school was told by division officials that they must remove the biblical passage.

“[B]ased on the position of the Minister of Education and Alberta Education, we do not support leaving this reference in the document,” the lawsuit quotes Imogene Walsh, BRSD assistant superintendent of business, as writing in an email to the school district on Jan. 30.

The Corinthians passage states: “Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men, nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”

“The Verses reflect Evangelical religious beliefs that BRSD was well aware are foundational to Cornerstone’s religious character,” the lawsuit explains. “BRSD’s request to remove the Verses was a profound interference with the religious character and religious freedoms of the Applicants, as well as the contractual agreement between the parties evidenced by the Master Agreement.”

According to lawsuit, the master agreement states that BRSD recognizes that Cornerstone is “an educational setting which operates in accordance with the religious beliefs, core values.”

The lawsuit also claims that Laurie Skori, then chair of BRSD Board of Trustees, told the school in an email in May that the concern is about “any actions, teachings or scripture that results in any student, staff member, parent or other stakeholder from being discriminated against based on any protected grounds.”

“For example, any teachings that denigrate or vilify someone’s sexual orientation, since that appears to be the focus, would not permit the school board to meet with its legal obligation,” Skori wrote.

Although Cornerstone eventually agreed to remove the verse from the document in early June, the agreement was official terminated on June 29 and will be effective in June 2018.

“BRSD was not satisfied with the removal of the Verses. Ms. Skori wrote the same day in response to require Cornerstone to make a further concession: that it would not use any Scripture that ‘could be considered inappropriate,'” the lawsuit explains.

In a statement, Justice Centre President John Carpay stated that the school district “acted out of anti-religious prejudice and ideological discrimination” and further argued that the district “lost sight of the best interests of the children.”

According to the court application, the case will be heard on April 17 at a court in Wetaskiwin. The school is seeking a stay of the school district’s decision.

“In attempting to censor the teaching of Biblical sexuality, and in attempting to prevent the Society from communication with staff and parents, BRSD breached its obligations under the Master Agreement, the School Act, the Alberta Bill of Rights and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms,” Carpay added.

In June, Skori explained that the school district was “disappointed” with how Cornerstone went public with the school’s request that offensive verses be removed, saying that the situation was turned into a “public spectacle.”

“We are now at the center of a firestorm as a result of information distributed without our knowledge, by the Cornerstone Christian School Society board and their partner in this process, the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms,” Lori was quoted by CBC News as saying. “Hate mail is flowing, misinformation and fear-mongering are widespread. The Cornerstone society has compromised our reputation, risked our safety and broken our trust.”

Skori also denied that the school district was trying to restrict religious teachings.

“The board does not want to get involved in things like that. I think it’s up to the school to decide what things are appropriate or not,” Skori stated.

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Iraqi Christians in Mosul Celebrate Christmas For First Time in 3 Years

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CHRISTIAN POST)

 

Iraqi Christians in Mosul Celebrate Christmas For First Time in 3 Years

(PHOTO: REUTERS/MUHAMMAD HAMED)Ameen Mukdad, a violinist from Mosul who lived under ISIS’s rule for two and a half years where they destroyed his musical instruments, performs at Nabi Yunus shrine in eastern Mosul, Iraq, April 19, 2017.

Christians in Iraq attended a Christmas service in Mosul for the first time since Islamic State militants took over the city in 2014, hoping they will soon be able to return to their homes.

Armoured vehicles guarded Saint Paul’s, the only functioning church in Mosul. Its bombed-out window frames were covered with white sheets during the Christmas service, the BBC reports.

The patriarch of Iraq’s Chaldean Catholic Church, Louis Raphael Sako, urged the worshipers to pray for “peace and stability in Mosul, Iraq and the world.”

Islamic state, also known as IS, ISIS, ISIL or Daesh, was driven out of Mosul in July, but Christians are yet to rebuild their lives and their homes. Less than a dozen Christian families have been able to return to the city thus far.

“The situation made us so sad,” Voice of America quoted Fadi, a worshiper, as saying. “This is our city, our grandparents’ city. We lived here, we grew up here. We built our schools, universities, churches families and friends here.”

In the Nineveh Plains, which was also liberated from IS a few months ago, Christians earlier this month celebrated the reconsecration of the first church, St. George’s, to be reopened there since IS was driven out of the region.

“ISIS wanted to eliminate the Christian presence here — but ISIS is gone and the Christians of Telleskuf are back,” Chaldean Archbishop Bashar Matti Warda of Erbil, Kurdistan, said at the ceremony in Telleskuf.

“I am moved by the fact that the church of St. George has not only been reopened, but that it has become more beautiful and glorious than before. That is the way God’s Providence work,” the archbishop declared.

About 80,000 Christians have yet to return home and remain displaced inside of the country as winter has arrived, Juliana Taimoorazy, an Assyrian Christian who founded the Iraqi Christian Relief Council and serves as a senior fellow at the Philos Project, told The Christian Post last week.

She said as many as 50,000 Christians have returned to their homes. Between 150,000 and 180,000 Iraqi Christians were displaced when IS took over in 2014.

“There are many who left Iraq. They went to Turkey. They went to Lebanon. They went to Jordan. The number of Iraqi Christians that are in Turkey is about 45,000. In Jordan, it is about 20,000. In Northern Iraq, we probably would want to say that there are at least 80,000 to 100,000 are displaced in the Northern Part of Iraq.”

Taimoorazy added: “While those aren’t official numbers, as there isn’t a way of counting these people with no census system in place, these numbers are provided to Iraqi Christian Relief Council by various aid organizations and officials from Iraq.”

Pastors in India Beaten, Forced to Sign Apology Letter Because the Gospel Offends Hindus

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CHRISTIAN POST)

 

Pastors in India Beaten, Forced to Sign Apology Letter Because the Gospel Offends Hindus

(PHOTO: REUTERS/DANISH SIDDIQUI)A protester holds a placard during a rally by hundreds of Christians against recent attacks on churches nationwide, in Mumbai, February 9, 2015. Five churches in the Indian capital New Delhi have reported incidents of arson, vandalism and burglary. The latest was reported last week when an individual stole ceremonial items.

Two pastors who were attacked and beaten by Hindu extremists right before the beginning of a three-day Gospel meeting in India’s Chhattisgarh state were forced to apologize because their conference and the words of Jesus caused snowflake radicals to be offended.

A local pastor told Morning Star News, a nonprofit news agency that reports on Christian persecution, that pastors Vijay Jogi and Santosh Rao were coerced by police into signing an apology letter to a mob of Hindus who prevented them from holding their Gospel meeting that was to be attended by over 1,000 people at Railway Grounds in Charoda.

On Nov. 16, a group of about 70 Hindu nationalists attacked the pastors just minutes before the event was about to start.

“Pastor Vijay Jogi and Pastor Santosh Rao were receiving the people at the entrance,” Pastor Amos James told the outlet. “Suddenly a mob of 70 Hindu Dharm Sena and Bajrang Dal activists gheraoed (encircled) the entrance, and Pastor Jogi and Pastor Rao were beaten and summoned to the police station.”

Jogi told Morning Star News that the extremists slapped Rao three times and then proceeded to beat them both.

Jogi explained that before the start of the meeting, he had received a call from local police warning them to call the meeting off. It wasn’t until after the attack that they realized that “these people will not let us conduct prayers.”

According to Jogi, the Hindu extremists became upset when they saw the words of Luke 7:22-23 in pamphlets around the area advertising the event.

That verse states: “And [Jesus] answered them, ‘Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by Me.'”

“The Hindu activists began arguing with us, ‘You are promoting blind beliefs. How can lame walk? How can deaf hear? How can you raise the dead? When your God can do all this, why are you people going to the doctors then?'” Jogi recalled.

“They told me it is very wrong that I have written these lines,” the pastor continued. “I said, ‘I did not write these words. It’s a verse taken from the Holy Bible and applies to the entire humankind.”‘

The activists declared, “We are offended by these lines,” Jogi said.

“If because I quoted these lines in the pamphlet, it is offending you at personal level, I apologize to you brothers. We are very sorry,” Jogi recalled telling the Hindu radicals.

Although Christian leaders in the area have had no issues holding events in that location in the past 20 years, the Hindu mob reportedly claimed that the pastors needed to have approval for the event from the sub-judicial magistrate in addition to approval from the railway police.

The extremists then took the pastors down to the police station, where the pastors were also questioned by the police about needing the approval of a sub-judicial magistrate.

“The police told me to settle the matter here and stop the event immediately,” Jogi claimed. “I was cautioned while Pastor Rao and I were in the police station that the activists are tearing and burning the banners, breaking the tube lights, chairs and dismantling the stage. The police officer told us even if he lodged a case [against the extremists], it would go strongly against us, and that even he can’t help it. The police did not register an FIR.”

Pastor Rao told Morning Star News that Hindu radicals badgered them while they were at the police station and asked questions like “Why are you calling Hindus to your events?” and “Why are you conducting open gospel meetings publicly?” The extremists demanded that the Christian leaders only work among Christians.

Rao explained that once the police were on the Hindu mob’s side, there was “very little hope for Christians in a situation like this.”

While Jogi and Rao were in the police station, they were “forced to sign a letter handwritten by the activists under the supervision of BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) worker Rajguru Ghosale.”

“The letter said by conducting this meeting we hurt the feelings of Hindus, we sincerely apologize for it and canceling the event,” Rao recalled. “They slapped me to sign it.”

The pastors told Morning Star News that they will not file charges against the Hindus or the police.

“We will conduct the gospel meetings again in May. We are not giving up this time. With permissions from all the authorities and government officials, we will conduct the meetings,” Jogi was quoted as saying. “The activists are following me wherever I go. I know there is threat to my life. But I have dedicated my life fully to my Lord’s work, and I will be at it till my last breath.”

The news surrounding the Gospel meeting in Charoda comes as India ranks as the 15th-worst nation in the world when it comes to Christian persecution, according to Open Doors USA’s 2017 World Watch List.

Most recently, it was reported that seven pastors in Northern India were arrested and could face up to three years in prison after they were accused of forcible conversion. The arrests occurred after the pastors were called to a home in Uttar Pradesh to pray for a recent Christian convert and her husband. However, family members were upset by the couple’s conversion and complained about a forced conversion to police, which eventually led to the seven pastors’ arrests.

Through the past year, a number of Christians have been arrested in Madhya Pradesh state while transporting children to Christian schools after Hindu extremists accused the Christians of forcibly converting Hindu children.

Morning Star News also reported on six Christians in India’s Jharkhand state who were jailed for over a month for praying for a sick Hindu woman.

“India continues its trajectory towards despair,” Wilson Chowdhry, the chairman of the London-based charity British Asian Christian Association, said in a recent statement. “The caste system is gaining renewed impetus, destroying the lives of disenfranchised citizens simply for the families they were born into. Worse, still every minority living in the midst of the Hindu majority are living through a time of increased suspicion and animosity.”

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Christian Website Social Cross Refused Service by Web Developer Over Views on Gay Marriage

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CHRISTIAN POST)

 

Christian Website Social Cross Refused Service by Web Developer Over Views on Gay Marriage

(PHOTO: SOCIALCROSS.ORG)

The organizer of a new social media platform for conservative Christians is voicing his displeasure after he claims that he was refused service from a web development company because of his views on same-sex marriage.

Rich Penkoski, an evangelical preacher who helped organize the new Christian Facebook alternative SocialCross.org and runs the West Virginia-based online ministry Warriors for Christ, is speaking out after he says he was refused service when he tried to enlist the services of Open Social, an organization that provides intranet solutions for nonprofits and companies, and powers over 250 online communities.

Penkoski told CP Monday that he was looking for a way to improve the 12,000-user SocialCross.org and was interested in learning more about how Open Social could help the site, which was launched earlier this year.

After talking initially with a representative of Open Social about a possible free trial last week via email, Penkoski was later contacted by the co-founder of Open Social’s parent company on Friday.

Penkoski shared an email he allegedly received from Taco Potze, co-founder of the Netherlands-based company GoalGorilla and the Open Social distribution.

“Thanks for your interest in our services. We as a company unfortunately can’t align our mission of equality with yours, for example when it comes down to equal marriage rights for both straight and gay people and your warrior merchandise advocating to ‘make marriage straight again,'” Potze wrote in his Dec. 9 email, referencing the “Warriors for Christ” merchandise page that features a $26 “Make Marriage Straight Again” hat.

“Seeing how our principles differ, there just wouldn’t be a good fit cooperating.”

Potze’s email also offered an alternative for Penkoski and gave him a link to other agencies that could help him implement the open-source software for SocialCross.org.

“I am always looking for things to make the SocialCross better. I wanted to see what they offered by using their trial. In this case, I asked about how I could migrate my users over to this particular platform because theirs is open-source. I just wanted to see what they offered compared to what we are doing right now to see if there are any changes that are better. We are always on the lookout for stuff like that. But they refused service to me,” Penkoski explained.

“I went back and forth with the representative and all of a sudden, I got that email. I never even mentioned Warriors for Christ, not a word. How they found the merchandise from SocalCross, I don’t know because we don’t even sell that stuff on SocialCross.”

The Christian Post reached out to GoalGorilla and Potze for comment on Penkoski’s claims. An update will be provided once a statement is received from Potze or a GoalGorilla representative.

Penkoski is not afraid to let his opinions be heard when it comes to LGBT issues on the “Warriors for Christ” webpage and social media pages. One of the reasons Penkoski created SocialCross was because he had been suspended from Facebook a number of times because of posts about same-sex marriage and LGBT issues.

Penkoski explained that although everyone is welcome to join SocialCross, there are some limitations about what users can and can’t say when it comes to LGBT advocacy on the platform.

“People come on there and are supposed to have dialogue without the trolling, without that anger that Facebook breeds. Even with LGBT members who want to join, that is fine as long as they don’t advocate and don’t try to push it on people,” Penkoski said. “If they have genuine questions about why Christians don’t support same-sex marriage, and other genuine questions, we have no problem with that.”

“We have had a couple that have come on and joined SocialCross and say, ‘I love being gay’ and they use the profanity and that kind of stuff,” he added. “That is the line.”

The company’s refusal to offer service to Penkoski and SocialCross.org came during the same week in which the U.S. Supreme Court heard the oral arguments in the appeal of Colorado baker Jack Phillips of Masterpiece Cakeshop, who was punished by the state government for acting in accordance with his faith and refusing to bake a cake for the wedding celebration of Charlie Craig and David Mullins in 2012. It’s important to note that Colorado didn’t recognize same-sex marriage until 2014.

“This is a private business and I believe that in America, you should have the right to refuse,” Penkoski said. “But the double standard is where I have the issue. If you can do it to Christians then Christians should be able to do it to you without a problem.”

Reactions to Trump Recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CHRISTIAN POST)

 

8 Reactions to Trump Recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital: From Biblical Prophecy to ‘Day of Rage’

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(PHOTO: REUTERS/JONATHAN ERNST) U.S. President Donald Trump places a note in the stones of the Western Wall, Judaism’s holiest prayer site, in Jerusalem’s Old City on May 22, 2017.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s announcement on Wednesday that America is to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel has sparked both “day of rage” outcry and praise around the world.

Some have hailed the president for keeping his promise, while others have warned it will obstruct peace efforts in the Middle East.

Trump’s administration has said the move is not intended to come on the side of Israel when it comes to territory dispute with Palestine, with the White House stating that it simply reflects the “fundamental truth” of Jerusalem’s status.

“The president believes this is a recognition of reality,” a White House official told reporters on Tuesday, according to Reuters. “We’re going forward on the basis of a truth that is undeniable. It’s just a fact.”

Some evangelicals have hailed Trump’s decision; many Islamic leaders have condemned it with grave warnings, while church leaders, such as Pope Francis, have expressed concern.

Here are eight reactions from world leaders, organizations, and faith figures.

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Supreme Court Hears Oral Arguments in Colorado Gay Wedding Cake Case

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CHRISTIAN POST)

 

Supreme Court Hears Oral Arguments in Colorado Gay Wedding Cake Case

(PHOTO: REUTERS/RICK WILKING)Masterpiece Cakeshop owner Jack Phillips decorates a cake in Lakewood, Colorado, September 21, 2017.

The day has arrived for Colorado Christian baker Jack Phillips, whose case will finally be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday after he was punished by the state for refusing to serve the wedding of Charlie Craig and David Mullins.

The high court will hear oral arguments in the case of Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, a case that could go a long way in determining the limit of Christian wedding vendors’ First Amendment protections.

In a case that pre-dates the Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage in 2015, the conservative legal group Alliance Defending Freedom will defend Phillips and argue that wedding cakes are equivalent to art and free expression and that their client has the right to refuse events that violate his convictions.

In the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s legalization of same-sex marriage, there has been much heated debate in the country surrounding the intersection of LGBT protections and the religious freedom of Christian conservatives.

Many conservative Christian leaders have considered this case to be one of the most important cases pertaining to religious freedom in over a decade.

Ronnie Floyd, a former president of the Southern Baptist Convention and the president of the National Day of Prayer Task Force, told The Christian Post that he fears a ruling against Phillips could set a negative precedent on religious freedom rights for Christian professionals, even those outside of the wedding industry.

“As the editorial board of The Wall Street Journal noted, It could compel Catholic doctors to perform abortions or force Catholic adoptions services to place children with same-sex couples,” Floyd, the pastor at Cross Church in Arkansas, said. “I think that is the far-reaching issue, whether it is Catholic or it’s evangelical — those of us who have a deep belief in religious liberty and the sanctity of human life and those kind of matters. Where does it stop? That is extremely frightening.”

“I don’t think by any means that someone that did what Jack did should be discriminated against because he doesn’t feel like he can in good conscience do that,” Floyd added. “I just think that is a violation to his own personal commitment to what he believes is right relating to one of the great traditions of the Christian faith: family and marriage between a man and a woman. That is one of the core principles.”

Some argue that Phillips should be required to make cakes for same-sex weddings because in this specific case he was not asked to travel to or attend the wedding ceremony as a part of the transaction because the wedding was in Massachusetts and the cake was for a wedding reception in Colorado.

“But even if the cake were to have been consumed at a wedding, Phillips’ creation of the cake before the ceremony would not have constituted participation in any meaningful sense,” conservative political commentator George F. Will wrote in an op-ed published by The Washington Post.

“Photography is inherently a creative, expressive art, so photographers have a strong case against compulsory documentation of ceremonies at which they must be present. Less clearly but plausibly, florists can claim aesthetic expression in floral arrangements, but their work is done before wedding ceremonies occur. Chauffeurs facilitate ceremonies, but First Amendment jurisprudence would become incoherent if it protected unwilling chauffeurs from their supposedly expressive participation in ceremonies to which they deliver actual participants.”

Will asserted that he believes Phillips should “lose this case.”

“A cake can be a medium for creativity; hence, in some not-too-expansive sense, it can be food for thought. However, it certainly, and primarily, is food,” Will said. “And the creator’s involvement with it ends when he sends it away to those who consume it.”

In a response to Will, National Review columnist David French argued that wedding cakes are art.

“Who has ever said that a wedding cake was primarily food? No one wants the cake to taste like trash, but is that the reason that brides, moms, and wedding planners agonize over their cake choice? (Grooms are more likely to be indifferent.) No, they want the cake to be beautiful. They want it to be — dare I say it — a work of art,” he wrote.

Carrie Severino, a former clerk for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and policy director at the Judicial Crisis Network, said in a statement that this case is not about “generic cake.”

“This is not about a generic cake someone picks up at Costco. After all, Jack Phillips was willing to sell an off-the-shelf cake to the couple. But the government wanted to unconstitutionally force him to design a custom wedding cake that would promote a message in direct conflict with his conscience and deeply held religious beliefs, even when there were plenty of other businesses with no such conflict that were happy to bake that cake,” she said. “The left will try to frame this case as an LBGTQ case but, at its core, it’s about whether or not the government can force or compel an American citizen — protected by the First Amendment — to violate their religious convictions and their right to free speech.”

The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board published an op-ed on Sunday in support of Phillips that argued that the state of Colorado is doing what the Supreme Court said shouldn’t be done — “demean” or “stigmatize” those with different morals.

“As Justice Kennedy noted in Obergefell, the ‘Constitution promises liberty to all within its reach, a liberty that includes certain specific rights that allow persons, within a lawful realm, to define and express their identity,'” the WSJ op-ed concludes. “If this applies to same-sex marriage, which isn’t mentioned in the Constitution, it certainly ought to apply to religious belief, which is there in black and white.”

Although Will believes that Phillips should lose his case, he doesn’t believe Phillips should have been subject to government punishment for what he did.

“Phillips ought to lose this case. But Craig and Mullins, who sought his punishment, have behaved abominably,” Will contended. “To make his vocation compatible with his convictions and Colorado law, Phillips has stopped making wedding cakes, which was his principal pleasure and 40 percent of his business. He now has only four employees, down from 10. Craig and Mullins, who have caused him serious financial loss and emotional distress, might be feeling virtuous for having done so. But siccing the government on him was nasty.”

“Denver has many bakers who, not having Phillips’s scruples, would have unhesitatingly supplied the cake they desired. So it was not necessary for Craig’s and Mullins’ satisfaction as consumers to submit Phillips to government coercion. Evidently, however, it was necessary for their satisfaction as asserters of their rights as a same-sex couple,” Will continued. “Phillips’ obedience to his religious convictions neither expressed animus toward them nor injured them nor seriously inconvenienced them. Their side’s sweeping victory in the struggle over gay rights has been decisive, and now less bullying and more magnanimity from the victors would be seemly.”

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ISIS Holiday Horror, ‘Christmas Blood’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CHRISTIAN POST)

 

ISIS Holiday Horror, ‘Christmas Blood’ Attack Warnings Must Be Taken Seriously: Security Expert

(PHOTO: REUTERS/FABRIZIO BENSCH)Police work at the site of an accident at a Christmas market on Breitscheidplatz square near the fashionable Kurfuerstendamm avenue in the west of Berlin, Germany, December 19, 2016. 

A security expert has warned that the Islamic State terror group’s warnings of violence and bloodshed over the Christmas holiday season need to be taken seriously, given the lone wolf attacks that continue rattling the world.

“The recent spate of threats to attack during the upcoming holiday are significant and should be taken seriously by law enforcement agenciesm,” said Jeffrey Treistman, an assistant professor of national security at the University of New Haven, according to The Hill. “It is essential that security experts remain vigilant during the upcoming Christmas holiday and closely scrutinize their list of radicalized individuals who are most likely to heed the Islamic State’s call for violence.”

Treistman, who previously worked for the U.S. Department of State as a policy advisor in Baghdad, Iraq, and was a consultant for the Department of Defense’s African Command, pointed to the slaughter in Berlin on a Christmas market last year, when 12 people were killed by an IS-backed truck driver.

“Similar mistakes must not be repeated this year,” he urged.

Though IS has lost much of its territory throughout Iraq and Syria following a series of major military defeats this year, the terror group continues claiming responsibility for lone wolf attacks around the world, including in America and Europe.

Earlier in November, the jihadists published a poster warning of “Christmas Blood” this season, seemingly targeting St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican.

As Epoch Times reported, IS also made specific threats against Christmas markets in the U.K., Germany and France.

Posters circulated by the group feature images of jihadists holding bloody knives and eyeing up landmarks, such as the Eiffel Tower in Paris, above a caption reading “soon on your holidays.”

Another image appears to show Santa Claus on his knees with his hands tied, with a jihadi dressed in black looming over him, which is reminiscent of many of the beheading videos IS has published.

The U.S. Department of State has issued a travel warning for Americans visiting Europe this holiday season, with Berlin and other major cities looking to bolster their security around public events.

“Holidays are an especially attractive time for terrorists to strike. First off, the multitude of crowded markets and religious gatherings increases the likelihood that an attack will yield a high casualty rate. Christmas festivities often draw large crowds that constitute a soft civilian target,” Treistman positioned.

“Islamist terrorists also seek to strike during the Christmas holiday because they recognize the emotional and symbolic impact that a terrorist attack would have on a public’s psyche. Indeed, in the aftermath of the failed Christmas day airline bombing in 2009 the Yemen-based al Qaeda cleric, Anwar al-Awlaki, justified the attack on the American people by recognizing that Christmas is ‘the holiest and most sacred days to you.'”

The security expert noted that IS enjoys the media attention around holiday terror attacks, and is especially looking to strengthen its image after a year of heavy losses.

Treistman offered that IS’ reliance on lone-wolf operatives can be seen as a sign of weakening, as it signals the terrorists are unable to carry out large-scale attacks on their own.

“This is not to suggest, however, that ISIS does not constitute a viable threat. Indeed, law enforcement and counterterrorism agencies need to be on high alert this holiday season for a potential attack,” he warned.

“Lone-wolf attacks can be notoriously difficult for intelligence agencies to anticipate since some radicalized individuals rarely have direct contact with a terrorist group’s command structure.”

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Virginia Youth Pastor Is Charged With 3 Counts Of First Degree Murder

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CHRISTIAN POST)

 

Virginia Youth Pastor Charged With 1st Degree Murder in Thanksgiving Day Triple Homicide

REUTERS/SHANNON STAPLETONNYPD crime scene tape is seen at the site of a shooting at the corner of Marcus Garvey Blvd. and Pulaski Street in the Brooklyn borough of New York.

A Virginia youth pastor has been charged with first-degree murder in the shooting deaths of his wife, stepdaughter, and stepdaughter’s boyfriend on Thanksgiving Day and is now in being held in jail.

In an incident police are calling a domestic in nature, Christopher Gattis, 58, shot and killed his wife Jeanett Gattis, 58; her daughter Candice Kunze, 30; and Andrew Buthorn, 36, Kunze’s boyfriend, at the home near Richmond that they shared with Gattis just before 11:30 p.m. Thursday night, Yahoo News reported Sunday. The women were found dead in the home; Buthorn’s body was found in the yard.

Gattis, who is a youth pastor at Grace Lutheran Church in Chester, Virginia has been charged with three counts of first-degree murder and three counts of use of a firearm in the commission of a felony. He is now being held at Chesterfield County jail without bond. He will appear in General District Court on Monday and Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court on Tuesday.

“Members of Grace Lutheran Church are deeply saddened by the loss of life last night as a result of three individuals being shot in Chester, and this tragedy included members of Grace Lutheran Church,” the church said in a statement on its website.

“Grace Lutheran Church has experienced many hardships over the years, but this heartbreak has unique challenges. Grace Lutheran Church asks for the prayers from the community as our congregation begins the process of addressing the grief being experienced by everyone involved.”

Residents of Gattis’ neighborhood are surprised.

“We were all friends. We hang out sometimes [and] cook out in the back,” Mike Brown, neighbor to Gattis, told the Richmond-area CBS affiliate.

“I mean every time I see them, they’re always the same way. [I] had no clue that they were having problems that I knew of, but behind closed doors is behind closed doors.”

Neighbor Larry Patton, who lives across the street from the Gattis home, described the family in Friday’s Richmond Times-Dispatch as “good people.” When he and his wife moved into the neighborhood two years ago the Gattis family welcomed them, and the neighbors often shared meals together.

“He’d do anything for you. He was always quick to laugh. He had a hearty laugh,” Patton recalled of Mr. Gattis, the youth pastor.

The neighbors told reporters that approximately six weeks ago Candice had moved back home from Oregon and brought her boyfriend along with her.

Gattis’ Facebook page listed Grace Lutheran Church as his employer since 2014.

Police say that their investigation into the triple murder is ongoing.

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Southern Baptist Convention Offers to Cover Funeral Expenses for All 26 Church Shooting Victims

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CHRISTIAN POST AND FOX NEWS)

 

Southern Baptist Convention Offers to Cover Funeral Expenses for All 26 Church Shooting Victims

(PHOTOS: FAMILY PHOTOS VIA NBC NEWS)Eighteen of the 26 victims who were fatally shot by Devin Kelley at First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas, on November 5, 2017. They are (1st row L-R) Bryan Holcombe, Karla Holcombe, Crystal Holcombe, Brook Ward, Marc Daniel “Danny” Holcombe, Richard Rodriguez; (2nd row L-R) Annabelle Pomeroy, Greg Hill, Joann Ward, Emily Garza, Tara McNulty and Shani Corrigan; (3rd row L-R) Emily Hill, Haley Krueger, Noah Holcombe, Sara Johnson, Dennis and Megan Hill.

The North American Mission Board, the domestic missions agency of the Southern Baptist Convention, has offered to cover the funeral expenses for the families of the 26 people killed inside the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas, at the hands of Devin Kelley on Sunday.

The NAMB confirmed the offer in a Baptist Press report on Monday.

SBC President Steve Gaines also confirmed on Twitter Tuesday that he, along with SBC Executive Committee President Frank S. Page, visited with Sutherland Spring’s Pastor Frank Pomeroy and his wife, Sherri, who lost their daughter, Annabelle, in the massacre.

“Just spent a few hours with @RichardsJim@frankpagesbc with Pastor Frank Pomeroy and his wife, Sherri, here in Sutherland Springs. Godly people,” Gaines said.

As the tragedy unfolded on Sunday, Gaines, who leads Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis, Tennessee, said his congregation felt led to pray for the Sutherland Springs church and he felt a need to help in their time of grief.

“Yesterday as we prayed at Bellevue for the families of those slain and also the others who were wounded at First Baptist Church, Sutherland Springs, I sensed the need to go there and try to minister to the pastor and his wife and their devastated congregation,” Gaines said.

(PHOTO: REUTERS/JONATHAN BACHMAN)A woman places flowers at a memorial in memory of the victims killed in the shooting at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas, November 7, 2017.

“I discussed it with Frank Page and Jim Richards, and we all agreed to go and help any way we possibly can. Our Southern Baptist family grieves with this beloved church and the community it serves. Our prayers are ascending steadily to God’s throne of grace. May God bring healing and hope to those that are hurting,” he said.

As the small congregation worshiped at First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs on Sunday, Kelley, 26, began firing his Ruger AR-556 rifle inside the building shortly after the 11 a.m. service began.

Within minutes, 26 people were dead and at least 20 others were left with serious injuries The New York Times reported. At least eight members of one family including a pregnant mother were killed. Nearly half of the deceased are children.

Police say Kelley unleashed about 450 rounds of ammunition on the helpless congregation and survivors say the deranged shooter who later killed himself expressed an intention to execute the entire congregation.

Roseanne Solis, one of the survivors of the church massacre, told KSAT 12 that the congregation was singing a new song when Kelley interrupted the praise with gunfire and declared that everyone was going to die.

“I hear firecrackers popping. Ta-ta-ta,” she recalled before someone screamed at the church members to take cover.

“Everybody started screaming, yelling. Everyone got down, crawling under wherever they could hide,” Solis said. “It was so scary. He was shooting hard.”

She explained that she got shot in the left shoulder and watched as other church members started falling to the floor, bleeding and in shock.

Things got quiet briefly inside the church after the first barrage of bullets but quickly deteriorated again when Kelley told everyone they would die.

“I thought it was the police when he went inside because everyone got real quiet. Everyone was saying ‘Be quiet. It’s him. It’s him.'” Then he yelled out, ‘Everybody dies [expletive],’ and Kelley started shooting again.

David Brown, whose mother was sitting in the back pew of the church, told Fox 31, that Kelley went from pew to pew to exact his mission to kill everyone.

Solis’ husband, Joaquin Ramirez, who was also inside the church at the time of the attack, said even though the church members were urging each other to keep quiet as the gunman hunted for survivors the children couldn’t stop crying.

Kelley found them, he said, and shot them at point-blank range. About half of the 26 victims from the massacre are children.

Heroic Mother Died Shielding Own Children in Texas Church Slaughter

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CHRISTIAN POST AND FOX NEWS)

 

Heroic Mother Died Shielding Own Children in Texas Church Slaughter: ‘She Was Epitome of Christ’

(SCREENSHOT: FOX NEWS)Vonda Smith, a close friend of slain mother Joann Ward, speaks with Fox News on November 8, 2017.

Three of the 26 victims in Sunday’s mass church shooting in Texas were a mother and two of her young daughters, though the woman’s two other children reportedly survived only because she sacrificed her life for them, a family friend has said.

Vonda Smith, a close friend of slain mother Joann Ward, told Fox News in an interview on Wednesday that she spoke with 9-year-old Rihanna, one of Ward’s children that survived the shooting at First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs.

“The first thing she told me was that the reason she didn’t get shot like everybody else was that her momma threw her on the ground and told her to hide,” Smith said.

“As soon as she threw her on the ground, she scooped up her other three that were sitting next to her in a pew — Ryland, who’s 5, and Brooke, who’s 5, and Emily, who’s 7 — and she immediately covered them with her body. And that’s exactly how Rihanna described it.”

While Rihanna and Ryland survived the attack, Emily and Brooke died alongside their mother.

Smith explained that her friend was strong in her relationship with Jesus, and would tell people to “live for Christ, no matter what.”

“She was dragging people to Church. She was begging her best friend, Cody, to go to Sunday school with her. That was her heart,” Smith recalled.

The family friend noted that the community is not surprised at Ward’s ultimate sacrifice for her children.

“If they needed anything, it was [at] the drop of a hat. It was about her children. And that’s Joann’s heart,” she said. “It’s the thing that you hear sometimes parents say, but you never think they’ll have to. She said, ‘I would die for my children.’ And she ended up having to do that, in the very end.”

“She loved them so. And she gave it up for them ultimately,” Smith continued. “She was the epitome of Christ.”

The tragic stories from Sunday’s shooting carried out by 26-year-old Devin Patrick Kelley that has shaken Christians across the country continue flowing in.

Pastor Frank Pomeroy of First Baptist Church and his wife, Sherri, were away on the day of the shooting but revealed that their 14-year-old daughter was among the victims.

Sherri Pomeroy said in a statement that the church was not composed of “members or parishioners,” but was a “very close family.”

“We ate together, we laughed together, we cried together, and we worshiped together. Now, most of our church family is gone, our building is probably beyond repair and the few of us that are left behind lost tragically yesterday,” the pastor’s wife said.

“As senseless as this tragedy was, our sweet Belle would not have been able to deal with losing so much family,” she said, referring to her daughter.

On Monday it emerged that a pregnant mother and three of her five young children, along with several other members of her extended family, were all killed in the shooting.

Crystal Holcombe was killed within minutes of the attack, alongside her children Emily, Megan and Greg, with her father-in-law, his wife, her brother-in-law and his 18-month-old daughter being among the victims as well.

Michele Hill, Holcombe’s aunt, said in a GoFundMe campaign message:

“Through all the pain we still hold on to the unshakable truth that we serve a mighty and just GOD. HE is on HIS throne and is kneeling down to hear our prayers and is collecting each and every tear we shed. We do not mourn their death because we are unsure of where they are, we mourn the loss of their presence in our lives. We have no doubt that their last breath here was their first breath in the presence of our GOD and HE welcomed them with open arms.”

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