Warning for Churches • Pastor Disarms Man with Gun • MI Marriage Fines: News Roundup
This week’s headlines that affect churches and church leaders.
Warning for Churches • Pastor Disarms Man with Gun • MI Marriage Fines: News Roundup

Government Agency Warns Churches. A new advisory issued by the US Department of Homeland Security last month reveals that churches may have cause for concern. Some of the advisory’s pertinent statements are listed below:

  • “DHS [US Department of Homeland Security] is especially concerned that terrorist-inspired individuals and homegrown violent extremists may be encouraged or inspired to target public events or places.”
  • “In the current environment, DHS is also concerned about threats and violence directed at particular communities and individuals across the country, based on perceived religion, ethnicity, or nationality.”

The advisory lists other resources as well to help organizations and members of the public be prepared (“National Terrorism Advisory System Bulletin – December 16, 2015,” US Department of Homeland Security).

Pastor Peacefully Disarms Man with Gun. “Pastor Larry Wright was talking to his small eastern North Carolina congregation about the senseless deaths in his community when a man with a rifle walked into his church. Wright, who leads the Heal the Land Outreach Ministries in Fayetteville, told CNN the man had a gun in one hand and an ammo magazine with shiny rounds in the other. . . . ‘I'm the first person to see him and when I saw him, I thought it was a dummy gun, but then I saw the bullet clip in his hand and the bullets were shining,’ he said. As first reported in the Fayetteville Observer, Wright said he walked up to the man and said, ‘Can I help you?’ . . . the man asked Wright to pray for him, the pastor told CNN on Saturday.
. . .
Then the man asked to speak to the 60 or so churchgoers. He apologized to them, telling them when he set out that evening he intended to do something terrible that night. But the Lord spoke to him, he said” (“During sermon on violence, N.C. Pastor confronts man with rifle,” CNN).

Michigan Pastors May Face Fines If Not Performing Civil Marriages. “While it might seem that the Supreme Court's Obergefell decision last June mooted the many pending cases seeking to make inroads into now invalid bans on same-sex marriage, the Detroit News reported yesterday on a lawsuit that shows this is not universally so. A year ago, Detroit minister Neil Patrick Carrick filed a lawsuit in Michigan federal district court challenging two Michigan statutes which at that time effectively fined clergy for performing same-sex marriages. MCL Sec. 551.14 imposes a $500 penalty on any member of the clergy or other person who ‘knowingly joins any persons in marriage’ in violation of Michigan law. MCL Sec. 551.106 provides that: ‘Any clergyman or magistrate who shall join together in marriage parties who have not delivered to him a properly issued license . . . shall be adjudged guilty of a misdemeanor' and fined $100 or sentenced to 90 days in jail. The complaint in Carrick v. Snyder alleged that these provisions violate the [First] Amendment free exercise and expressive association rights of clergy whose faith and religious beliefs allow them to perform marriages that are not authorized by civil law” (“Suit Challenges Requirement of Marriage License for Religious Ceremony,” Religion Clause).

Members Fight at Church After Pastor Is Accused of Theft. “A shoving match erupted at a New York City church Sunday when parishioners attempted to confront a pastor who has been criminally charged with pilfering money from the parish. Pastor Daniel Iampaglia still leads services at the Rock Church on East 62nd Street despite being charged with petit larceny after surveillance video captured him allegedly pocketing the church's offerings.
. . .
Board members say Iampaglia refuses to resign and [they] wanted to question him Sunday at the church. A security team attempted to stop them from entering and a shoving match ensued. Eventually, police officers arrived” (“Fight Breaks Out at NYC Church Jolted by Pastor’s Arrest,” NBC New York).

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