Little Sisters of the Poor Could Face Defeat with Split Supreme Court. “The US Supreme Court heard arguments [March 23] on whether the Little Sisters of the Poor will be required to offer birth control to employees on its health insurance plan. The court took up the case after a string of decisions by lower appeals courts supporting the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate was broken. In September, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Dordt College in Iowa and Cornerstone University in Michigan could not be penalized for refusing to accept the mandate. If the court splits in a 4–4 vote, as many are predicting after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, no national precedent would be set. The lower court decisions would stand, which means the Catholic nuns would lose their case” (“Why Five Christian Colleges and Southern Baptists Really Missed Scalia Today,” Christianity Today).
Georgia Governor Refuses to Sign Controversial Religious Protections Law after Corporate Backlash. “The backlash against efforts to weaken anti-discrimination protections for gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgender people took sharp turns on Monday when Georgia Governor Nathan Deal announced he will veto a controversial religious freedom bill and activists sued North Carolina's governor over a law that blocked cities from passing their own protections. Governor Deal's decision came amid rising pressure from companies that work and hold events in Georgia, including Hollywood figures and the NFL, to avoid signing a law that would have allowed businesses and clergy to refuse services to people based on their religious opposition to same-sex marriage. The bill's opponents include Comcast and NBCUniversal, parent companies of NBC News. Deal said he knew of no instances in which the conflicts that the bill seeks to prevent had actually taken place. And he said he was concerned that the bill would feed discrimination, even if unintentionally” (“Georgia Governor to Veto 'Religious Freedom' Law as NC Is Sued for LGBT Bias,” NBC News).
Man Carrying Assault Rifle Stopped by Church Security Team. “An armed man attempted to enter Bellevue Baptist Church just after the 11 a.m. service started Sunday, but was stopped by security without incident, police and church officials said. A security guard at the church apprehended the man, later identified as 31-year-old Marcus Donald, and took the weapons, Memphis police spokeswoman Karen Rudolph said. She said Donald was carrying a loaded .40-caliber Beretta in his pants pocket and a .300 Blackout assault rifle in a backpack. ‘The suspect stated that people in society are a threat to him and that he must be vigilant,’ Rudolph said, adding that Donald was arrested for ‘emergency commitment’ and was being evaluated Sunday evening [March 27]. The apprehension of the armed man at the church comes less than a year after 21-year-old Dylann Roof opened fire in the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, last June 17, killing nine people” (“Armed Man Stopped at Bellevue Baptist in Memphis without Incident,” The Commercial Appeal).
Download Confronting Gun Violence at Church to prepare your ministry for this growing threat.
New Jersey Sex Offenders Are Not Legally Barred from Working with Church Youth. “Sex offenders in New Jersey are allowed to work with children as long as they’re part of a church group, an appellate judge decided this week. The decision upheld a 2015 ruling by Superior Court Judge Julie Marino, sitting in Somerville, New Jersey, who dismissed an indictment against a convicted sex offender who had been charged with violating Megan’s Law by volunteering as youth leader, counselor, mentor, and chaperone at the No Limits Youth Ministry of Eternal Life Christian Center.
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“Marino dismissed the indictment . . . because the ministry was part of the church and not an organization specifically serving youth, defined by the law as ‘a sports team, league, athletic association or any other corporation, association or organization . . . which provides recreational, educational, cultural, social, charitable or other activities or services to persons under 18 years of age’” (“Court: NJ Sex Offenders Allowed to Work with Church Youth Groups,” New Jersey 101.5).
There are ways to manage the risks of sex offenders as members—not leaders—of faith communities. Download our resource for a full picture of the steps churches should consider.
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