Government Easing Restrictions on Prayer in School

Government Easing Restrictions on Prayer in School

In 2003, the United States Education Department issued a document called “Guidance on School Prayer.” It contained very restrictive rules for prayer in a school setting. We have reported on some cases where a student was prohibited from giving a talk connected to an earned award because they insisted on including a prayer. Now, we see the government easing restrictions on prayer in school.

The 2020 release by the Education Department states that “student speakers can pray at assemblies or sports games as long as they were not chosen to speak based on their religious perspective.” Education Secretary Betsy DeVos says, “Our actions today will protect the constitutional rights of students, teachers, and faith-based institutions.”

The new rules also expand the ability of faith-based groups to participate in government programs, and it “aims to put religious groups on equal footing when competing for federal grants and other funding.” We have recently pointed out the problems with accepting government money when it means the government gets to decide what you can teach, preach, and do.

Since this new set of rules comes in an election year, some may impugn the motives of the government rule-makers. I am sure it will generate a lot of reaction from atheistic groups. At the very least, the government easing restrictions on prayer in school will move it away from a totally atheistic stance on the rights of young people.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Data from Associated Press, January 17, 2020.

You can read the new guidelines HERE.

Christian Seminary Students in Same-sex Marriages

Christian Seminary Students in Same-sex Marriages and Lawsuits

Yesterday we reported on the LGBT conflict which is breaking the United Methodist Church apart. The dispute over sexual morality is also affecting one of the oldest and most highly regarded theological seminaries in the United States–Fuller Theological Seminary. The conflict involves Christian seminary students in same-sex marriages.

Fuller has a “Sexual Standards Policy,” which states that the seminary “holds marriage to be a covenant union between one man and one woman.” The policy also says that “homosexual forms of explicit sexual conduct” are “inconsistent with the teaching of Scripture.” Two students, one man and one woman, were expelled because the seminary learned that they were in same-sex marriages. They are both suing the school for one million dollars each.

The problem here is that Fuller and many other Christian colleges and seminaries receive government assistance in scholarships and other educational funding. Title IX government funding rules bar “discrimination based on sex.” The original intent of this rule was that women could not be refused participation in educational programs just because they were women. Now LGBT supporters are mounting legal efforts to expand Title IX protections to gender identity and sexuality.

What happens here will have a profound effect on Christian colleges who participate in any scholarship program where government grants or loans allow students to get an education. This would include those with minority and military scholarships. It will also affect those schools and churches that use government commodities in benevolent programs or minority support programs.

Christian seminary students in same-sex marriages is only one aspect of a growing problem. It seems that the government’s beliefs about morality are dictating what Church programs can teach. The only option is for churches and schools not to use government support in any way, or else they must change their moral teachings.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

You can read about this on the Christianity Today website at THIS LINK.

Chinese Persecution of Christians

Chinese Persecution of Christians

Our materials have been used in China for many years. Our DVD series was translated into Mandarin, and many years ago, we helped arrange for a Chinese national to duplicate the DVDs in large quantities and distribute them throughout China. We are now hearing from our contacts in China about an increase in Chinese persecution of Christians.

For several years, churches have had to register with the government. Now the government is placing surveillance cameras in the churches to monitor congregants. Churches that refuse to allow the cameras are being shut down. All churches with a cross on their buildings have had those crosses taken down, and images of Christ are replaced with pictures of Xi Jinping.

In 2018, the Chinese government implemented a new law called “The Revised Regulations on Religion,” which forbids landlords from renting their premises to Christians for meetings. It also prohibits children and teenagers from attending church services.

One congregational leader expressed the dedication that our brothers in China have. When he was arrested, he told an American visitor, “I have lost my congregation, my freedom, and I am starting to lose my health. I have cried to God, ‘Why are You letting me go through this?’ I now see that the persecution is a formula for revival. As I read Exodus 3:7-8, I see God aware of the miserable bondage His chosen people endured for 400 years, but He was not indifferent to their sufferings. As we pray, we can rest in the fact that we are part of God’s wise and caring plan, no matter how inscrutable that plan may appear to human eyes.”

It isn’t only Chinese persecution of Christians. We hear similar stories from Nigeria, India, Eritrea, and Pakistan. Our prayers are with our brothers and sisters in these countries. New laws restricting and persecuting Christians are being considered in New York, California, Chicago, and Washington D.C. Satan makes a mistake when he uses these direct attacks on the Church because it will wake people up. The revival that results will defeat him. We are not revealing names or sources here for obvious reasons.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Why We Don’t Accept Government Grants

Why We Don't Accept Government Grants

We have received several letters from readers who appreciate what we are trying to do in our ministry. They say that they want us to be aware that there are grants for certain types of educational efforts that we can get from the government. We serve and educate hundreds of prisoners around the country. We have to explain why we don’t accept government grants.

Many years ago, Ohio Valley Christian College (now Ohio Valley University) erected an auditorium using a grant program from the government. The auditorium served the community and provided a venue for theatrical programs. The school conducted a short devotional at the beginning of each day as a part of the education of the students presenting the values of a Christian education. The government informed the school that they could no longer use the auditorium for that purpose because it could be interpreted as the government sanctioning religion. To the school’s credit, they returned the government grant.

I happened to share a motel room with the president of the school during that time and learned first-hand the dilemma it presented. The government is very inconsistent with this kind of control. When I was involved in atheism, we were able to use public facilities free of charge, with the government providing the facility and bearing its expense. Ten years later, when I was a Christian, we tried to rent a public facility in New York. We were refused because we were talking about God and the scientific evidence for faith.

Hillsdale College here in Michigan makes a point of stating clearly: “Hillsdale refuses to accept one penny from the government – not even indirectly in the form of federal or state student grants or loans. This is essential to our ability to remain independent and stay true to our educational mission.”

We applaud Hillsdale for that policy, and we fully understand it. That’s why we don’t accept government grants. Like Hillsdale, this ministry is totally funded by the generosity of those who believe what we are doing is essential. We will not use grants or loans that have government connections.

— John N. Clayton © 2019

Atheist In Foxhole Courage Award

Atheist In Foxhole Courage Award and the Ten Commandments

One of the most vocal atheist groups in America today is the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), which operates out of Madison, Wisconsin. They present a prize called the Atheist In Foxhole Courage Award. At their Pittsburgh convention in 2016, they gave it to Marie Schaub, who successfully sued the Valley High School in New Kensington, Pennsylvania. The court decision forced the school district to remove a six-foot monument of the Ten Commandments that stood in front of the high school.

The monument was erected during the Eisenhower administration in honor of veterans who graduated from the high school and who died defending America. In her acceptance speech, Schaub said that she was “confused and sickened” the first time she saw the monument. She referred to its removal as “righting a wrong that was committed so long ago.” And she said removing it “will provide a more welcoming environment.”

What is “wrong” with a series of statements about not murdering, not stealing, and not bearing false witness? It is hard to comprehend how removing admonitions to young people about right living makes the environment more welcoming. Reminding young people of their heritage, and that the high school has a history of heroes who defended America seems hard to criticize. If the basis of removing the monument was to avoid offending those who do not accept the historical underpinnings of this country, one might be able to make a case for the removal. Vilifying the Ten Commandments is a very different thing.

So the Atheist in Foxhole Courage Award is given to people who don’t have the courage to see something that makes them “sickened and confused” because they can’t accept what it says. The FFRF and other atheist organizations are dedicated to “removing every historical monument that mentions God from the public arena.” That will obliterate much of America’s history with no reasonable replacement.

— John N. Clayton © 2019

You can read or hear the full text of Ms. Shaub’s acceptance speech HERE.

Atheist Experiments and Failures

Atheist Experiments and Failures

One of the least publicized aspects of atheism is the question of what has happened when atheist beliefs are incorporated on a practical level. In short, does atheism work when applied to the real world and real people? Some atheist experiments have tested that idea.

A good example is the story of Liberal, Missouri, which was founded in 1880 by an atheist named George Walser. Walser was a lawyer, and he bought 2000 acres of land in southwest Missouri to start an experimental community. He advertised across the country for atheists to come and live in a town without a church “where unbelievers could bring up their children without religious training.” He said in Liberal there would be “neither God, Hell, Church, nor Saloon.” Supporters of Walser published a boast that Liberal “is the only town of its size in the United States without a priest, preacher, church, saloon, God, Jesus, hell, or devil.”

Similar atheist experiments have been tried elsewhere, such as in France in the late 18th century. The government issued a declaration that God did not exist and condemned any public worship, including observance of any Sabbath. Atheist-based political systems exist today, including several communist states such as North Korea, and China.

In the case of Liberal, Missouri, the crime level, violence, and abuse became so bad that people left the town. They made written statements such as, “I’ll never live in another town that does not have a church.” Today Liberal has a population of less than 800, and there are five churches in town. Walser became a believer and wrote a book titled The Life and Teachings of Jesus. He called himself “a converted infidel who had searched for hope through materialism, atheism, agnosticism, and spiritualism, but found none.” Atheism fails all tests of practical application. Atheist experiments such as Liberal, Missouri are testimonies to what happens when God is excluded from human activities.

The Psalmist said it best “The fool has said in his heart ‘there is no God. Corrupt are they, and have done abominable iniquity: there is none that does good. God looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, that seek God. Every one of them is gone back: they are altogether become filthy; there is none that does good, no, not one.” Psalms 53:1-3.

As an atheist in my earlier days, I would have vociferously argued against that statement. Looking back at my life as an atheist and at the atheists who shared my belief system, I have to say the Psalmist was correct.

— John N. Clayton © 2019

Christians and Politics

Christians and Politics

We live in a difficult time for the United States. Not only is the country divided, but the political leaders on all sides embrace moral decisions that fly in the face of how Christ taught us to live. We are concerned about issues regarding Christians and politics.

It is not a new thing for political leaders to clash with good morals. In Luke 3:18-20, we read that Herod the tetrarch imprisoned John the Baptist when he spoke out about Herod’s evil actions with his brother’s wife. (See Luke 3:18-20.) The enemies of Christ tried to get him in trouble by saying the He was opposed to Caesar and the Roman authorities. Today it is likely that someone speaking against the immoral practices of politicians may suffer consequences. Our courts now endorse immoral practices.

In spite of John’s imprisonment and execution by a Roman leader, Jesus told his followers to pay taxes. He said, “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22:21). Today, some religious leaders have gotten involved in politics to the extent of telling their followers how to vote. What is the proper relationship between Christians and politics?

Paul addresses that question in Romans 13. In verses 1 and 2 he tells us that God has instituted governing authorities and that Christians should be subject to them. In verses 3-5, he wrote that rulers are servants of God. The next two verses tell Christians to pay taxes and give respect and give honor to authorities. Paul wrote this to people living in a pagan, violent, immoral political system. Starting with verse 8, Paul talks about what Christians should be doing that was in contrast to the political system of his day.

God instituted civil law to provide order in the human community. Even the most corrupt politician does not want the culture he rules to be dominated by murder, violence, and anarchy. The Ten Commandments provide the structure we need for order in society. As humans have strayed from God, they still need order and structure. Even when the agents of this order and structure are corrupt, they still provide a framework in which people can live. As far as Christians and politics, we are not called to make a political agenda our number-one priority. Romans 13 ends with Paul saying, “Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. Put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.”

Whatever you do politically, let your Christian values guide it. The wall of separation we need to be concerned about is the wall between walking in the light and walking in darkness. (See 1 John 1.)

— John N. Clayton © 2019

Frightening Polarization and Violence

Frightening Polarization and ViolenceFor 51 years, we have presented public programs on scientific evidence for the existence of God and the validity of the Bible. During that time, we have seen a lot of violence, going beyond verbal threats. I have had a pie thrown at me during a lecture. Someone smashed the windows of my truck with a hammer. Personal property at my home was set on fire. In a few situations, I have been shoved, pushed, or hit with a stick. Those incidents have always involved disgruntled individuals with an ax to grind who felt that I was persecuting them. In each case, the damage was minimal. Receiving threats is common for anyone who takes a strong position on God or politics. The frightening polarization and violence is a whole different matter if those threats are physically carried out.

We regularly get reports of violence against believers in God who are public about their faith and why they believe. We recently heard of a threat against Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos by Austin College professor Robert Rancho. He posted a statement that “.. I’d be ok if Betsy DeVos was sexually assaulted.” Nahweed Tahmas tells of being punched, kicked, and spat on for stating his patriotic beliefs because he is a conservative with a positive message about God. I want to emphasize that the problem is not that some people may not agree with the position of some public speakers. I don’t agree with some things these two people have presented. The problem is that we have reached the point in America today where it is acceptable to use violence when we disagree with a public speaker.

The frightening polarization and violence are being addressed by an organization called The Leadership Institute in Arlington, Virginia. Dealing primarily with incidents of campus violence, The Leadership Institute is organizing and recruiting people on all campuses to report abuses. While the Does God Exist? ministry does not have a political agenda, we do understand that we are all affected by the polarization of Americans that encourages militarism and physical retaliation for perceived injustices.

Years ago, I worked with a group in London, England, who were reaching the British people. They said they had arranged a public meeting for me, and they led me to platform in a city park. “Start telling your message,” they told me. As I spoke, a crowd gathered, and I wondered if I was physically safe. The group was polite, paid attention, asked good questions, and stated objections in a pleasant way.

I wonder if that could happen in America today? I suspect that in many places, it could not. A physical, political organization that encourages the use of force is not the answer. Jesus went up onto a hill, and people came to him (Matthew 5:1-2). When He had physical opposition in Nazareth, He simply passed through it and went on His way (Luke 4:16-30). We need to present our case as Jesus did, with patience, love, and consideration, not increasing the frightening polarization and violence in America today.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Religious Knowledge in America

Religious Knowledge in AmericaIn today’s anti-Christian climate, kids not only don’t know anything about Christianity or the Bible, but they are also profoundly ignorant about religion in general. In today’s world, religious knowledge is needed.

Pew Research Center has released some of its findings on what American kids know. Since a majority of kids go all the way through school with no education on religion of any kind, their ignorance of religious knowledge is profound. Here are some of the things the Pew Research Center found:

50% of high school students think that Sodom and Gomorrah were married.
A majority of Americans cannot name the first book of the Bible.
17% believe Ramadan is the Jewish Day of Atonement.
Many teens think “Moby Dick” is from the Bible.

This is not just a teen problem. George W. Bush was told about the Sunni and Shiite conflict in Iraq and responded by saying, “I thought the Iraqis were Muslims.” Jeff Stein of the New York Times reported that in his work with congressional leaders most didn’t have a clue about the difference. There have been attacks on Sikhs by people who thought they were attacking Muslims.

Atheists and secularists have been very successful at intimidating the leaders of education with threats of recriminations. The result is that the role of religion in America’s history has been lost in one generation. It isn’t a matter of separating church and state, but whether this purging has left modern Americans with a massive gap in religious knowledge. They don’t have an understanding of our country’s values and how faith in God has been a foundation that has produced the freedom we all enjoy.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Data from the Houston Chronicle, June 25, 2019 page F8.

Entrapped for His Faith

Entrapped for His FaithWe have previously mentioned Christian business owners who have been sued for refusing to do something that violated their Christian faith. One of the individuals we mentioned before is Jack Phillips who owns a business called “Masterpiece Cakeshop” in Colorado. Because some people didn’t respect his religious beliefs, they set up a plan so he would be entrapped for his faith.

The big issue here is whether a business owner has the right to refuse goods or services that violates that owners religious convictions. That battle is going on in the courts in various cases. When Mr. Phillps declined to design a cake for a same-sex wedding, the Colorado Civil Rights Commission prosecuted him, and the case went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Mr. Phillips won against the Colorado Civil Rights Commission in the Supreme Court. Then someone set up a plan for Phillips to be entrapped for his faith. An attorney called Masterpiece Cakeshop and requested a cake that would be blue on the outside and pink on the inside to celebrate a gender transition. Mr. Phillips believes that God created us male and female and that humans have no right to change the way God created us. He declined to make the cake. The attorney then filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, and the Colorado government began to prosecute Mr. Phillips again.

It turns out that the attorney was not celebrating a gender transition. The request was an attempt to set Mr. Phillips up to be entrapped for his faith and dragged into court again. The question is whether individual freedom still exists in the United States. Can a person freely follow their faith and allow it to influence what they do professionally?

The information on this case comes from a legal organization called Alliance Defending Freedom in their August 2019, bulletin. More and more, Christians are being attacked for their faith both in the physical world and in the legal world. Thankfully the attacks cannot be made in the spiritual world in which we function.
— John N. Clayton © 2019