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Hollywood Celeb Donates ‘MasterChef’ Winnings to Terror Supporting Org

On the surface, it appeared as if Kal Penn committed a noble deed.

This week, Penn won the “MasterChef Celebrity Countdown” contest in a Fox TV special, securing a $25,000 donation for a charity of his choice. The Hollywood celebrity decided to give the cash to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).

Penn, best known for playing Kumar in the “Harold & Kumar” stoner movie comedies, previously served in President Obama’s White House Office of Public Engagement. A committed leftist like the rest of Hollywood, Penn often articulates his political views on social media.

Though UNRWA postures itself as a simple relief agency for Palestinian refugees, its presence in the Middle East has actually worsened the Arab-Israeli conflict. Instead of solving the Palestinian territorial crisis, UNRWA has helped to move it into perpetuity.

Originally, the United Nations organization only recognized 750,000 Palestinians as “refugees.” But the U.N. has expanded the definition for Palestinian refugees to include original refugees’ children and grandchildren, which has expanded the total to above 5 million. This puts Palestinians in a refugee league of their own.

The U.N.’s other refugee agency, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), does not allow other refugees to pass down their status to their kids and grandkids. And also unlike UNHCR, UNRWA does not promote resettling their “refugees” into countries that might be willing to take them in. Instead, they keep Palestinians in an endless state of dependency, with an ever-growing roster.

Worse, the Relief and Works Agency has essentially embedded itself with the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip. UNRWA has employed actual terrorists and Nazi sympathizers, and uses its U.N.-funded schools to push false, exterminationist, anti-Semitic narratives about Jews and Israel.

The U.N. outfit has been caught several times stockpiling missiles for Hamas in children’s schools, and the agency’s construction materials sometimes end up in Hamas’ homemade tunnels, which are used to infiltrate Israel and commit terror attacks.

The United States remains the top contributor to UNRWA. In 2015, the U.S. taxpayers contributed $380 million toward the agency’s projects.

By all indications, Kal Penn, like UNRWA, is not a big fan of the state of Israel.

In 2014, as Israel was under bombardment from Hamas rockets, Penn vented his frustrations with U.S. policy. He disagreed with the rearming of Israel in its battle with Palestinian terrorism. Penn took to Twitter, writing: “Wow, guess we’re not serious about a ceasefire.”

(For more from the author of “Hollywood Celeb Donates ‘MasterChef’ Winnings to Terror Supporting Org” please click HERE)

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Society Isn’t Normalizing Mental Illness. It’s Medicalizing Normalcy

In a recent syndicated column published by Conservative Review, writer Ben Shapiro argues that society needs to stop “mainstreaming” mental illness, challenging the I’m-Okay-You’re-Okay mentality that allows people to engage in deviant or aberrant behavior without censure.

He describes a case in which a woman who enjoyed being led around by her boyfriend on a leash has disappeared, suggesting that the tragedy could have been avoided if she had been given the proper treatment.

But is it true that modern society is increasingly accepting of mental illness as normal behavior? In fact, just the opposite. Many things formerly considered within the bounds of normal human variation are now classified as illnesses and treated as such.

An analysis of the Fourth Edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-IV) found that, based on its diagnostic criteria, 46.4 percent of Americans will have a “disorder” at some point in their lives.

But because the mind itself is allegedly sick, should people diagnosed with these conditions be robbed of their agency and treated like children at the whim of their doctors, their families, or the state?

The psychiatric profession insists that mental illness is “just like any other illness,” but this is obviously untrue. Bodily illness can be diagnosed objectively from a detectable pathology. The presence of cancerous cells in the brain leads to a diagnosis of brain cancer, even if no symptoms are presenting.

Mental illness, on the other hand, has no such pathology. How could it? The mind is an intangible, unobservable concept. Therefore, mental illnesses must be diagnosed solely based on a subjective interpretation of behavior. The symptom is indistinguishable from the disease itself, meaning that all such diagnoses are opinion-based rather than objective.

And how do we define mental illness anyway?

We’re frequently cautioned against treating delusions as reality, but who is going to serve as the arbiter of what constitutes reality? By this definition, an atheist would be justified in classifying all people of faith as delusional and mentally ill for their belief in a higher power. To an atheist, a believer talking to God is no different than James Stewart talking to a giant rabbit in “Harvey,” and given the chance, he will treat the two equivalently. Is that really a road we want to go down, especially when our political leaders are becoming increasingly secular?

At the core of the question is this: Are we justified in depriving individuals of their freedom, of forcibly hospitalizing (read: imprisoning) and medicating them against their will because they behave in a way that we find odd or difficult to understand?

It’s important to remember that, in the past, Americans were diagnosed as mentally ill for being gay, for engaging in masturbation, and, in the days of slavery, for trying to escape from their masters. Benjamin Rush, the father of American psychiatry, thought the consumption of alcohol and opposition to the American Revolution constituted mental illness. These perfectly normal behaviors were regarded as so aberrant as to justify depriving individuals of their freedoms “for their own good.” And while these specific conditions are no longer recognized as mental illness, far more supposed disorders have arisen to take their place.

Wanting to be led around on a leash is odd, bizarre even, but the claim that such behavior justifies imprisonment and drugging is incomparably more horrific. If any unpopular behavior can be called a sickness, only conformists are safe from oppression. And who wants to be a conformist anyway?

America is supposed to be a country in which minority opinions, beliefs, and behaviors are protected from the tyranny of the majority. Ayn Rand said that the smallest minority is the individual, and I would add to this that the individual with unaccountably odd behavior is smaller still. It’s all well and good to claim such people are irrational, but to that I will respond with two quotes from the great economist Ludwig von Mises.

From “Epistemological problems in Economics”:

The assertion that there is irrational action is always rooted in an evaluation of a scale of values different from our own. Whoever says that irrationality plays a role in human action is merely saying that his fellow men behave in a way that he does not consider correct.

And from “Socialism”:

If a man drinks wine and not water I cannot say he is acting irrationally. At most I can say that in his place I would not do so. But his pursuit of happiness is his own business, not mine.

I’ll leave you with this question: Whom do you trust to decide which behaviors are “correct,” and are you willing to surrender your pursuit of happiness to white-coated experts who claim to know better? (For more from the author of “Society Isn’t Normalizing Mental Illness. It’s Medicalizing Normalcy” please click HERE)

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Let’s Be Pro-Life Champions, Not Just Vote Casters

“Radical hospitality and generosity.” That’s a phrase I heard Carter Snead, a law professor at Notre Dame, use this fall and I can’t get it out of my head. It’s an attractive phrase. It draws you in. It seems to call out to us that we are not alone, suggesting home and welcome. It’s a phrase that radiates hope and promise. It’s also a call to action.

It’s a notion similar to the one expressed by the words of Emma Lazarus inscribed at the base of the Statue of Liberty:

Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

Are we going to live up to these words in the foreseeable future?

That’s a real question people have on their hearts and minds. There’s an uncertainty in the air, which centers on a Washington in transition. And with the Republican party in the majority in Congress, one of the first issues that has come up is defunding Planned Parenthood. There are many columns about the merits of this; this is not one of them. I’m grateful for Speaker of the House Paul Ryan’s commitment here. But winning this issue should be beyond Republican vs. Democrat dynamics. It should be about “radical hospitality and generosity.” (Read more from “Let’s Be Pro-Life Champions, Not Just Vote Casters” HERE)

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Babies Left to Die: UNM Abortion Doctors Not Trained to Deal With Babies Born Alive

“Imagine an infant in an abortion clinic without food, without care, defenseless, confused, crying and grasping for life — being left alone to die on its own.”

That was the response of New Mexico Alliance for Life Executive Director Elisa Martinez, after she read the final report of the Select Panel on Infant Lives. Martinez continued, “It’s almost too difficult to imagine, but this is the reality taking place at UNM Hospital and Southwestern Women’s Options, confirmed by testimony from the abortionists themselves.”

Released Friday, Dec. 30, 2016, the report covers more than a year of investigative effort by the panel, which was established on Oct. 7, 2015, in light of the Center for Medical Progress videos.

One particularly disheartening account is that of abortion doctors at the University of New Mexico (UNM), where a faculty member, whose name is redacted from the report, admitted that doctors at the university were not trained on how to handle children who were born alive during an induced abortion.

This flies in the face of the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act — which requires that children born alive in the case of an abortion or attempted abortion receive “immediate admission to a hospital,” “diligence to preserve the life” and the mandatory reporting of any failure to comply with the law.

When pressed for more information, such as if the doctors took resuscitation training, the faculty member, who is also a doctor, simply replied, “OB/GYN doctors do not resuscitate neonates.”

Upon being read the language of the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act, the faculty member claimed she had not discussed the law with her council, nor did she “understand the relevance” of the law to her practice — despite admitting that she was aware of instances “where a planned abortion … [was] born alive,”

“Coming from the official who is arguably most responsible for making UNM an abortion provider,” the report declares, ” this testimony is a startling reflection of the absence of attention given to any standard of care for infants that survive the abortion procedure.” (For more from the author of “Babies Left to Die: UNM Abortion Doctors Not Trained to Deal With Babies Born Alive” please click HERE)

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Chip Gaines Responds to 2016 Buzzfeed Controversy in Blog Post Calling for Unity

House-flipping celebrity Chip Gaines encouraged people to “lovingly disagree” in a blog post on Monday.

“If there is any hope for all of us to move forward, to heal and to grow — we have got to learn to engage people who are different from us with dignity and with love,” Chip wrote.

The blog post appears to refer, at least in part, to the controversy that sprang up in November 2016 after Buzzfeed published an article attacking Antioch Community Church of Waco, Texas and its pastor Jimmy Seibert for taking a “severe, unmoving position” against same-sex marriage. HGTV Fixer Upper stars Chip and Joanna attend Antioch Community Church and have long been vocal about their Christian faith.

“So are the Gainses against same-sex marriage?” Buzzfeed writer Kate Aurthur asked of the married couple.

Since the teaching that marriage is between one man and one woman is a basic tenet of Evangelical Christianity, and since Chip and Joanna had never spoken about the issue themselves, many criticized Buzzfeed’s piece as a “non-story.”

HGTV responded to the controversy at the time with a statement saying the network doesn’t “discriminate against members of the LGBT community in any of our shows,” and moved forward with airing the fourth season of wildly popular Fixer Upper (the November 29 premier garnered 3.4 million views).

Chip and Joanna initially refused to make a statement, with Chip turning to Twitter to request “respect” for Aurthur and tweet about the family’s faith.

In Monday’s blog post, Chip still didn’t address the Buzzfeed article, or same-sex marriage, head-on, writing:

Plenty of folks are sad and scared and angry and there are sound bites being fed to us that seem fueled by judgement, fear and even hatred. Jo and I refuse to be baited into using our influence in a way that will further harm an already hurting world, this is our home. A house divided cannot stand …

Joanna and I have personal convictions. One of them is this: we care about you for the simple fact that you are a person, our neighbor on planet earth. It’s not about what color your skin is, how much money you have in the bank, your political affiliation, sexual orientation, gender, nationality or faith. That’s all fascinating, but it cannot add or take away from the reality that we’re already pulling for you. We are not about to get in the nasty business of throwing stones at each other, don’t ask us to cause we won’t play that way.

Chip went on to say that he and Joanna “feel called to be bridge builders.”

“We want to help initiate conversations between people that don’t think alike,” he wrote. “Listen to me, we do not all have to agree with each other. Disagreement is not the same thing as hate, don’t believe that lie.”

Chip ended his post by asking people to work together.

We propose operating with a love so real and true that you are willing to roll up your sleeves and work alongside the very people that are most unlike you. Fear dissolves in close proximity. Our stereotypes and vain imaginations fall away when we labor side by side. This is how a house gets unified.

Read the full blog post at MagnoliaMarket.com. (For more from the author of “Chip Gaines Responds to 2016 Buzzfeed Controversy in Blog Post Calling for Unity” please click HERE)

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Court Strikes Down Transgender Mandate, Protecting Doctors, Children, and Hospitals

While family and friends were counting down to the new year, I was watching a different kind of countdown—whether doctors and health care providers would be forced to violate their medical judgment and provide procedures, including gender transition services and abortions, under a new government mandate.

The mandate is a 362-page regulation that claims to interpret part of the Affordable Care Act. It was issued in May 2016, and major portions of this mandate would have kicked in on Jan. 1.

Becket Law had asked a Texas court for an order protecting health care providers. It was less than nine hours to midnight when we heard the good news: A Texas court issued an injunction protecting doctors and the families they serve from the mandate.

The court ruling came after eight states, an association of almost 18,000 doctors, and a Catholic hospital system challenged a new federal regulation that requires doctors to perform gender transition procedures on children, even if the doctor believes the treatment could harm the child.

Doctors who followed the Hippocratic oath—the historic medical vow that doctors take to act in the best interest of their patients—would have faced severe consequences, including losing their jobs.

This is a commonsense ruling. The government has no business forcing private doctors to perform procedures on children that the government itself recognizes can be harmful and exempts its own doctors from performing. The ruling ensures that doctors’ best medical judgment will not be replaced with political agendas and bureaucratic interference.

The federal regulation applied to over 900,000 doctors—nearly every doctor in the U.S.—and would have cost health care providers and taxpayers nearly $1 billion.

The government itself does not require its own military doctors to perform these procedures. It also does not require coverage of gender transition procedures in Medicare or Medicaid—even for adults—because the government medical experts that oversee those programs did not believe medical research demonstrates that gender reassignment surgery improves health outcomes, with some studies demonstrating that these procedures were in fact harmful.

But under the Department of Health and Human Services rule developed by political appointees, doctors citing the same evidence and using their best medical judgment in an individual case would have faced potential lawsuits or job loss.

A website about this court case provides leading research on the issue, including guidance the government itself relies on. This research shows that up to 94 percent of children with gender dysphoria will grow out of their dysphoria naturally and live healthy lives without the need for surgery or lifelong hormone regimens.

The government desperately wanted to avoid a court ruling on these facts, telling the Texas court that no injunction was needed. Instead, doctors should wait around to see if they got sued and then see whether the government would agree, based on the circumstances, that they were entitled to protection.

That argument was pretty rich coming from the Department of Health and Human Services, which has spent the last five years fighting lawsuits to limit conscience protections for groups like the Green family, who own Hobby Lobby, and the Little Sisters of the Poor.

In those cases and others, the government has been quick to argue for strict limits on protections like the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the Church Amendment, which protects providers from having to perform abortions.

Never did the government claim that rulings on the contraceptive mandate should wait until someone brought a lawsuit and the government had time to weigh the issues and pick a side. The court didn’t buy that excuse, instead recognizing that the mandate would create immediate and irreparable harm to doctors nationwide.

This ruling is an across-the-board victory that will ensure that the deeply personal medical decision of a gender transition procedure remains between families and their doctors.

This case was brought jointly by Becket Law—which defended Franciscan Alliance, a religious hospital network sponsored by the Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration, and the Christian Medical & Dental Associations—and by the Texas attorney general and the states of Texas, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Kentucky, Kansas, Louisiana, Arizona, and Mississippi. (For more from the author of “Court Strikes Down Transgender Mandate, Protecting Doctors, Children, and Hospitals” please click HERE)

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New York Proposed Free College, but Not Everyone’s Buying It

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced an “aggressive” new plan to provide free college tuition to families earning up to $125,000 a year. Under the proposal, nearly a million families would qualify.

“We’re making college tuition-free for middle-class families,” Cuomo, a Democrat, said. “This is the most aggressive plan ever proposed.”

To participate, students are required to enroll full time at a state university of New York (SUNY) or city university of New York (CUNY) two- or four-year college.

Richard Vedder, director of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity and a professor of economics at Ohio University, called the proposal “extortionately inappropriate.”

“You’re taking money from the general taxpaying public—including some low- and middle-income people—and redistributing that to a group that will probably include a very significant part of a somewhat more affluent population,” Vedder told The Daily Signal. “It’s certainly not a redistribution to the poor; it’s a redistribution to the middle class—and a fairly affluent middle class.”

Cuomo is billing the proposal as “the first of its kind in the nation.” But while the plan appears to be the most far-reaching, it’s not the first time states have leveraged tax dollars to pay for at least some of their students’ college tuition. Oregon, Tennessee, Georgia, Michigan, and Louisiana have all done so in various forms, but not all of those programs have proven sustainable.

Louisiana, said Norbert Michel, an expert in financial regulations at The Heritage Foundation, provides a case study for why free tuition is “bad public policy.”

“It simply is not true that ‘everyone’ must have a college education,” Michel told The Daily Signal. “Pretending otherwise devalues the college degree, and it isn’t really free. Someone always ends up paying more for a college education when we pretend it’s free because we transfer tax dollars over to universities.”

Under the Louisiana college scholarship program, called the Taylor Opportunity Program for Students (TOPS), any student earning a 2.5 GPA or above who scores at or above the state average on the ACT or SAT is eligible for money to cover the full tuition of any public university in the state, despite how much or little their family earns. Scholarships can also be applied to private schools, although they won’t cover the full cost.

Last March, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, said due to a historic budget shortfall, the state no longer had adequate money to fund the program. According to CNN, more than half of Louisiana State University’s 26,000 undergraduates receive state-funded scholarships, totaling “about $58 million.”

From 2000 to 2010, Louisiana saw a 20 percent spike in the number of high school students who headed to college in one year. But in the wake of the budget shortfall, thousands of students received notifications last year that the scholarship program would only cover 42 percent of tuition costs for the spring 2017 semester.

To address the costs of college affordability, Vedder of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity said he’d “do nothing.”

“I think we’re over-invested in higher education,” he said. “But if you’re going to do something—and maybe there’s a political case for doing something—I would reduce subsidies to the state universities that are already being given, and convert that money to vouchers and give it to the low-income students.”

Cuomo’s Excelsior Scholarship program aims to provide free tuition to students from middle-class families making up to $125,000 per year, which according to the governor, accounts for 80 percent of New York households. He estimates the plan will cost approximately $163 million per year.

In creating the plan, Cuomo took a page from Sen. Bernie Sanders’ playbook. Sanders, an independent from Vermont, appeared alongside the governor on Tuesday at LaGuardia Community College to announce the new proposal.

“If the United States is to succeed in a highly competitive global economy, we need the best-educated workforce in the world,” said Sanders, who campaigned on the issue of free tuition while running for president. “We must make public colleges and universities tuition-free for the middle-class and working families of our country.”

The program, called the Excelsior Scholarship, will be paid for “by leveraging New York State’s generous aid programs,” Cuomo’s press release reads. It adds:

Currently, the Tuition Assistance Program, or TAP, provides nearly $1 billion in grants to college students statewide and New York is one of only two states in the nation that offers this type of entitlement. Under the program, eligible students would still receive TAP and any applicable federal grants. Additional state funds would cover the remaining tuition costs for incoming or existing eligible students.

Average tuition costs for a bachelor’s degree fall between $6,000 and $7,000 at SUNY and CUNY.

Cuomo’s proposal still needs approval from the state Legislature. He and Sanders are hopeful if the measure passes, other states will follow.

“Mark my words,” Sanders said. “If New York state does it this year, state after state will follow.” (For more from the author of “New York Proposed Free College, but Not Everyone’s Buying It” please click HERE)

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Movies With a Message: Top Faith-Based Films of 2016

2016 brought us an abundance of inspirational and faith-based movies. Not only overtly Christian movies, but also movies boasting main characters with strong faith. As we kick back this extended New Year’s weekend it seems a good time to recall some of the best from the silver screen for the year that helped pushed faith to the forefront of cinematic conversation.

If you haven’t seen them yet, here are some of 2016’s faith-based movies worth a watch:

Hacksaw Ridge — R (for graphic scenes of war violence)

This film is based on the true story of a soldier who goes to war with Company B in World War II without a weapon. Pvt. Desmond Doss was drafted in 1942, but because of his faith, he refused to kill anyone or carry a weapon. He spent his time at war as a medic rescuing injured soldiers, at risk of great harm to himself. Called a “conscientious objector,” Doss said his mental image of Christ kept him from harming soldiers. “I pictured Christ saving lives — I want to be like Christ who’s saving life instead of [taking] life.”

Doss spent much time in prayer and reading his Bible. At one point, his Bible reading and prayer delayed an assault on the enemy. His colleague said when he finally finished and the assault began, it was as if Doss said, “I’ve got permission from God.” By nightfall, Company B held Hacksaw Ridge and thanks to Doss’ efforts, 75 men were rescued. Doss later said that, “The Bible was my main source of strength all during the war and in the service — and then when I lost it I was lost. … I thank God He enabled me to do what I did to save lives.”

Director Mel Gibson underscored the power of prayer in Doss’ success. “What he did was supernatural. And he only did it through faith — that’s all. He was armed only with his faith. … This man existed, he was a man of faith and conviction, never fired a bullet [and ] got the Medal of Honor for extraordinary feats that he could only have achieved through the power of God.”

Risen — PG-13

The movie Risen, written by Paul Aiello and directed by Kevin Reynolds, is the story of Christ’s death and resurrection told from the perspective of a Roman military tribune who was present for the crucifixion. This beautifully written film documents the journey of Clavius — the Roman tribune, and follows his quest for truth about Yeshua, the Christ.

For Clavius, the discovery that Yeshua (Jesus) — a man whom he knew to be dead — was alive comes as an overwhelming shock. This discovery leads the tribune to begin a cross-country journey to follow Yeshua’s disciples, if only to find out more about him.

The beauty of Risen is in the genuinely felt love of Yeshua for others, and in particular, His disciples. The precious love story of Yeshua and his disciples was very tender and meaningful. The excitement of the disciples upon seeing Yeshua tells a believable story of mutual philos: love between friends and brothers as observed by Clavius.

Risen tells the story of Yeshua’s crucifixion and the resurrection with poise and grace, accuracy and even a little humor. For those who know and love the story, this film is one you won’t want to miss.

Miracles From Heaven — PG

Miracles From Heaven tells the true story of Annabel Beam, a 10-year-old girl with incurable digestive disorders. The movie follows the Beam family throughout their struggle to find a cure for their daughter, praying for a miracle, yet feeling that God is nowhere near. However, when Annabel has what should have been a catastrophic freak accident at home, the Beams learn that God works in miraculous ways all around them. “God is real and God is faithful,” says Annabel’s father Kevin, “and He’s there even if you don’t see Him.”

God’s Not Dead 2 — PG

The sequel to Pure Flix’s 2014 God’s Not Dead highlights difficulties that Christians have in sharing the reason for their hope and faith. Starring Melissa Joan Hart, God’s Not Dead 2 is the story of a high school teacher, Grace, who reaches out to help a hurting teenager by sharing her faith, only to be told that she is not allowed to talk about God in school and to do so has jeopardized her job. A court case ensues, leading Grace to lean on her faith in God more than ever as she faces the loss of her beloved career and ability to witness to others.

Woodlawn — PG

What would a top movies list be without an inspiring sports movie? Woodlawn is yet another true story of miraculous events. These took place in Birmingham, Alabama in 1973, when 40 members of a high school football team gave their lives to Christ. The collective decision is even more astounding given the backdrop of a recently-desegregated high school where students and townspeople are filled with frustration and anger. Actor Sean Astin (Hank) heads the cast for this captivating faith-based film — another inspirational movie for the star of the football classic Rudy.

Hank points the way to hope and forgiveness based on his own experience of hope and love at a Christian revival. Following the team’s conversion, things begin to change in a big way around Woodlawn. Hank tells the players the changes occur not because of what they’ve done: “This is what happens when God shows up.”

Top Films of 2016, and a Sneak Peak at 2017

Box Office Mojo lists 2016’s top 10 “Christian” movies (by gross sales), defined as “movies produced by Christians that promote or embody their religions.”

Miracles From Heaven

Risen

God’s Not Dead 2

The Young Messiah

Hillsong: Let Hope Rise

I’m Not Ashamed

Greater

Priceless

The Insanity of God

Believe

Looking ahead, 2017 seems to be shaping up nicely as well for films offering a faith-based message or main character — starting right out of the gate with heavyweight director Martin Scorsese and his long-awaited passion project Silence. Based on a 1966 book by Japanese author Shūsaku Endō, Silence tells the fictional story of Jesuit priests in 17th Century Japan who endure persecution as they attempt to share their faith. The official release date for the U.S. is January 6, so be on the lookout for The Stream’s upcoming review.

And coming March 3, The Shack, based on the emotional best-seller about a grieving man who receives a mysterious, personal invitation to meet with God. (For more from the author of “Movies With a Message: Top Faith-Based Films of 2016” please click HERE)

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Cub Scouts Facing Transgender Crisis

The Cub Scouts are facing a transgender controversy after an eight-year-old born a girl but who identifies as a boy was asked to leave a New Jersey pack.

Several readers alerted me to this story from Secaucus, New Jersey. Before I get into the heart of the issue, I want to explain why I have chosen not to identify the parent or the child.

I find it reprehensible a grown woman would parade her child in front of the national media to advance some sort of cultural agenda. This parent is sacrificing her child’s privacy and innocence for 15 minutes of fame. And I refuse to give the woman the satisfaction of reading her name in print.

The eight-year-old, who had been a member of the scouting group for about a month, was kicked out of Cub Scout Pack 87 because she is transgender. Local news accounts indicate an unknown number of parents were upset their sons were in a scouting group with a girl who identifies as a boy . . .

But the Boy Scouts of America defended the child’s ouster, pointing out to the newspaper the “child does not meet the requirements to participate in this program.” “Gender identity isn’t related to sexual orientation,” BSA spokesperson Effie Delimarkos told the New York Daily News. (Read more from “Cub Scouts Facing Transgender Crisis” HERE)

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Catholic Groups Sue Obama Administration Over ‘Transgender Mandate’

Two Catholic groups have sued the Obama administration to halt a mandate requiring them to perform abortions and gender identity surgeries or provide insurance that will pay for them.

In a lawsuit filed on December 28, the Catholic Benefits Association (CBA) and the Catholic Diocese of Fargo say Obama administration’s regulations violate their groups’ religious beliefs. They also say the rules express a political agenda, not sound science.

“For decades, Congress and the courts have understood the term ‘sex’ in federal law to mean biological sex – male and female,” Archbishop William Lori, chairman of the Catholic Benefits Association, said in a press statement. “By redefining ‘sex’ to mean both ‘gender identity’ and ‘termination of pregnancy,’ the Obama administration is not only trying to sidestep Congress and impose radical new healthcare mandates on hospitals and employers, it is creating a moral problem for Catholic employers that must be addressed.”

The “Transgender Mandate”

The CBA and the diocese are not the first organizations to file a lawsuit against the mandate. Earlier this year, five states (Kansas, Kentucky, Nebraska, Texas and Wisconsin) and multiple Christian-based groups sued the federal government over the “transgender mandate.”

The mandate is based upon the same section of the Affordable Care Act that the administration insists requires even religious institutions to provide insurance covering contraceptives, sterilization and abortifacients. That mandate has twice gone to the U.S. Supreme Court, where it lost once and was sent back to lower courts.

According to the lawsuit, provided to The Stream, the Department of Health & Human Services’s regulation is an “expansive interpretation” of one section of the Affordable Care Act. The HHS used “a little-remarked-upon section of the ACA that prohibits discrimination ‘on the basis of sex’” to create “a mandate that coerces” Catholic institutions to perform or pay for sex-change surgery and abortions.

The regulation says (see page 31387 in the Federal Register) that “the term ‘on the basis of sex’ includes, but is not limited to, discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, false pregnancy, termination of pregnancy, or recovery therefrom, childbirth or related medical conditions, sex stereotyping, and gender identity.”

HHS justified its interpretation by appeal to Title IX regulations, rulings by the Supreme Court and other courts, and previous decisions by federal agencies. According to the National Center for Transgender Equality, which praised the regulations, this wording “make illegal the practice of categorically excluding all gender transition-related health care from coverage.” It will apply to companies that have a federal contract or receive federal funds, including Catholic hospitals and ministries.

What CBA Wants

In a press call, CBA’s general counsel Martin Nussbaum told The Stream and other outlets that CBA objects to the mandate for many legal and constitutional reasons. In its press release, the CBA claimed the government was violating the Administrative Procedure Act, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and other federal laws, as well as the First Amendment.

In a follow-up email, Nussbaum told The Stream that the CBA has asked for “injunctive relief,” asking to court to tell the HHS to stop trying to force groups to accept the mandate. The CBA has also asked for “declaratory relief,” a judgment that the agency has no legal basis to enforce the mandate. The goal is making sure its members can “conduct their ministries and work consistent with their religious beliefs.”

Legal Complexities

CBA CEO Douglas Wilson accused the regulations of harming patients instead of helping them. The mandate is “shoddy science,” he said. “HHS’s own experts agree that these procedures can harm patients with gender dysphoria in ways that are often irreversible.”

Nussbaum told The Stream that the mandate is in effect even after President Barack Obama leaves office on January 20. “The orders, regulations and opinions issued by DOE, HHS and EEOC under this administration continue in force when a new president takes office.

Unfortunately, “Some of these have now morphed into judicial and quasi-judicial decisions that are either binding or persuasive precedents.” The new administration cannot undo those decisions by itself. Such actions from a Trump administration “would be a help,” Nussbaum admitted.

“For many CBA members, [judicial] relief would protect them from potentially fatal enforcement actions,” concluded Nussbaum, who in a press statement also accused the Obama administration of engaging in a “continued assault on religious freedom.” (For more from the author of “Catholic Groups Sue Obama Administration Over ‘Transgender Mandate'” please click HERE)

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