GuideStar Backs Off, Church Buildings Proclaim Gospel, Religious Liberty and SCOTUS, Transgenderism in the Military

SIGNS AND WONDERS

Guiding GuideStar. GuideStar is one of the largest sources of financial information about nonprofit organizations on the Internet. I use it often in my reporting about Christian ministries. That’s why it was troubling when Guidestar started labeling nonprofit organizations as “hate groups” based solely on what Family Research Council called the “defamatory labels” of the Southern Poverty Law Center. That’s why FRC and 41 other organizations sent a letter to GuideStar “to express our strong disagreement with GuideStar’s newly implemented policy that labels 46 American organizations as ‘hate groups.'” The letter seemed to work. GuideStar said it would remove the “hate group” label—for now. In a statement, GuideStar wrote: “We acknowledge there is a deep, nuanced conversation to be had with Americans of all political, cultural, and religious backgrounds regarding how we address—and identify—hate groups.”

The Stones Cry Out. Paul Simon’s autobiographical 1986 hit “You Can Call Me Al” describes “angels in the architecture.” When the troubled, middle-aged man in the song sees them, he cries “Amen” and “Hallelujah.” Paul Simon is apparently not alone in seeing theology carved into the designs of buildings. A new survey of British youth says more of them are Christians than previously realized, and many of them were inspired to follow Christ by the meaning-laden architecture of the churches and cathedrals of the country. The survey says that about 21 percent of British youth claim to be active followers of Christ, a level much higher than previous surveys suggested. More of the youth cited visiting a church building as more important than programs or special events in initiating their walk with Christ. John Inge, the Bishop of Worcester, told The Telegraph, “This shows the power of church buildings—they are powerful for all sorts of reasons. They give a sense of stability, and also the sense that the Christian faith has inspired people to build these extraordinary buildings.”

Religious Liberty Landmarks. The Supreme Court made a couple of decisions this week that could affect the religious liberty landscape. In a 7-2 decision, the court ruled that Trinity Lutheran Church could, in fact, accept material provided by the state for its playground. Lower court rulings had said that supporting the church in this way was preferential treatment of the church and amounted to the “establishment” of one religion over another. The High Court said Trinity Lutheran received no benefit not available to all other nonprofit organizations, and it should not be excluded merely because it was a religious organization. In a second decision, SCOTUS agreed to hear the case of cakemaker Jack Phillips. Phillips refused to bake a cake for two gay men who wanted to use the cake in a same-sex marriage ceremony. The two men filed an anti-discrimination complaint against him, and the case has been winding its way through the legal process for the past couple of years. To read an excerpt of a 2014 interview I did with Jack Phillips, click here.

Reality Bites. The Obama administration told military leaders they had to accommodate transgender service personnel, and they had until July 1 to make the needed changes in policy. However, fighting nature and nature’s God has proven to be difficult. Military leaders are requesting from Defense Secretary Jim Mattis a six-month delay in the implementation of the new rules. And six months night not be enough. According to WORLD, “The Army and Air Force reportedly wanted a two-year wait, but the chiefs feared that request would generate too much opposition on Capitol Hill.”

Image courtesy of rabbit75_ist at iStock by Getty Images.

Warren Cole Smith is an investigative journalist and author as well as the Colson Center vice president for mission advancement.


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