Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
In today's edition:
U.S. Supreme Court Begins Same-Sex Marriage Hearings
The U.S. Supreme Court began hearing oral arguments in two same-sex marriage cases this week, the outcome of which could have a profound impact on how America defines marriage and family, CNN reports. On Tuesday, the justices heard a challenge to California's Proposition 8, the 2008 voter-approved ballot measure which defines marriage as between a man and a woman and effectively bans gay marriage. California voters approved it as a ballot initiative by 52 to 48 percent in November 2008 less than six months after the state Supreme Court ruled marriage was a fundamental right that must be extended to same-sex couples. The overriding legal question in the case is whether the 14th Amendment's guarantee of "equal protection" prevents states from defining marriage as California has. The Obama administration has formally expressed support for same-sex marriage in California, weighing in on the case in a brief last month. In a separate argument on Wednesday, the Supreme Court is set to take on the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a 1996 law defining marriage for federal purposes as between a man and a woman. As the split 5-4 conservative-liberal bench -- which has the option of ruling broadly or narrowly -- is poised to perhaps offer the final word on the issue, supporters of traditional marriage worry that legalizing same-sex marriage could have serious consequences. It could be the first step to redefining marriage altogether, possibly leading to polygamy or even group marriages -- ideas openly supported by some advocates of gay marriage. It could also eventually hurt religious freedom in America as churches, religious organizations and even businesses would have to support whatever the government defines as a marriage or risk facing government action.
North Dakota Governor Approves 6-Week Abortion Ban
Gov. Jack Dalrymple signed legislation Tuesday that would make North Dakota the nation's most restrictive state on abortions, banning the procedure if a fetal heartbeat can be detected -- something that can happen as early as six weeks into a pregnancy, AP reports. The Republican governor also signed into law another measure that would make North Dakota the first to ban abortions based on genetic defects such as Down syndrome, and a measure that requires a doctor who performs abortions to be a physician with hospital-admitting privileges. The measures, which would take effect Aug. 1, are fueled in part by an attempt to close the state's sole abortion clinic in Fargo. Dalrymple said in a statement that the fetal heartbeat bill was a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade. "Although the likelihood of this measure surviving a court challenge remains in question, this bill is nevertheless a legitimate attempt by a state legislature to discover the boundaries of Roe v. Wade," Dalrymple said. Pro-abortion advocates have promised a legal fight that they say will be long, costly and unwinnable for the state. Dalrymple said in his statement that the legislature "should appropriate dollars for a litigation fund" before the session ends in early May.
Florida Student Declares Victory After Refusing to Stomp on Paper Bearing Jesus' Name
Liberty Institute has declared victory on behalf of its client Ryan Rotela, the Florida Atlantic University student who was brought up on academic charges and suspended from class out of retaliation for reporting a lesson to university officials that included an in-class assignment involving jumping on a sheet of paper bearing Jesus' name. In addition to apologizing to Rotela on its website and following a closed-door meeting with Liberty Institute, university officials agreed not to take any further action against him. The university will expunge all academic charges from his student records and will allow him to take the course under the supervision of an alternate professor. "We are thankful that the university has conceded and done the right thing, so that our client Mr. Rotela can continue pursuing his education without distraction," said Hiram Sasser, Liberty Institute director of litigation. "Decades ago, the Supreme Court ruled that students do not leave their First Amendment rights at the schoolhouse gate. That is still true today." Liberty Institute is a nonprofit legal group dedicated to defending and restoring religious liberty across America.
'The Bible' Miniseries Dominates Across Media
History Channel's "The Bible" miniseries continues to draw audiences from across all platforms, including books, DVDs and downloads, as it heads into its finale, according to Grace Hill Media. The series, which has been viewed by close to 80 million people, has continued to outperform all other television shows on Sunday nights. It took over the No. 1 spot on iTunes for top TV show downloads, and is currently ranked No. 2 on the list of 100 on Amazon's bestsellers list in movies and TV. Executive producers Roma Downey and Mark Burnett's novelization of the miniseries, The Bible: A Story of God and All of Us, which debuted Feb. 26, has also climbed to No. 10 on the Publishers Weekly top hardcover fiction list and No. 20 on the New York Times hardcover fiction list. "Roma and I continue to be grateful for the overwhelming global enthusiasm for 'The Bible' series," Burnett said. Downey added: "The audience reaction says so much about what people are looking for these days. We are just thrilled that we were able to bring these stories to life."
Publication date: March 27, 2013