Posts from February 2016 (Page 7)

The President’s Visit To A Baltimore Mosque Is Political And Misguided…And Typical

US President Barack Obama gestures during a press conference following the G20 summit in Antalya on November 16, 2015. Obama said on November 16 the United States had no precise intelligence warning of the Paris bombing and shooting attacks that have been claimed by Islamic State group jihadists. The United States has agreed to speed up its sharing of military intelligence with France to try to avert such assaults, the US leader added in a news conference after a summit in Turkey. AFP PHOTO /OZAN KOSE        (Photo credit should read OZAN KOSE/AFP/Getty Images)

For the first time since taking office, President Barack Obama will visit a mosque in this country: the Islamic Society of Baltimore to be precise.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest calls the visit “an opportunity to reaffirm that religious freedom and religious tolerance [are] essential to our way of life in this country.”

OZAN KOSE/AFP/Getty Images

Reaffirm with who exactly? Where are these roving bands of torch-wielding Americans having their own version of Kristallnacht against our Muslim community? It’s not religious freedom’s import to our way of life that should be in question…its the other guys’ way of life that has no place for any god but Allah and Muhammad is his prophet that is the issue. If anything, the president should lecture those inside the mosque to get their act together, not us. But he won’t.

The timing of the visit after so many deaths at the hands of jihadists both outside and within the United States is, as is everything with this president, purely political. It is designed for its “optics” as the pros call it. Mainly to highlight the difference in visions between the Democratic and Republican views on immigration and the extent of religious tolerance. It promotes the typical good guy bad, guy narrative so effective in campaigning, if unsustainable in the face of objective scrutiny.

The visit is primarily timed to shore up support for Obama’s program to allow 10,000 Syrian refugees in the United States this year; this is a program that many Democrats as well as the GOP are against. (Apparently no Muslim countries closer to the Levant have opened their doors to their suffering brothers and sisters other than to let them pass through on their way West.)

After witnessing the most recent in a long string of attacks from Paris to San Bernardino by Islamic extremists, the concern over the inability to properly screen refugees has been at the forefront of debate. And the chaos on the streets of Europe from Cologne to Stockholm exacerbated by the inflow of so many migrants should give us legitimate pause.

It is safe to say that the opposition to the refugees, although framed as an act of bigotry by the left, stems from a duty to place the health and well-being of American citizens first. Erring on the side of caution is not the same as being uncaring and spiteful. The fact is that these people are not the same as the Jewish refugees callously turned away from our shores in 1939. The inflow of migrants is from a far more primative part of the world than Europe. They hail from a land that is the nexus of a growing jihadist movement. And we simply cannot guarantee who they are.

Yet confronting naked bigotry is the implicit, acerbic message behind the president’s mosque visit. For in the world of Obama there are never two legitimate sides to a debate. There is his side, which is the intelligent reasoned, morally superior position…and then the ignorant side motivated by (take your pick) racism, greed, intolerance, or xenophobia.

Said Earnest:

“[The concern over radical Islam] has, unfortunately, infected our political debate in a way that doesn’t reflect the values that are so central to the founding of our country. So I think this would be an appropriate venue for the president to make clear that Muslim Americans make a valuable contribution to the success of our country, and that the protections that allow Muslim Americans to worship God according to their traditions in this country are sacrosanct.”

Well yes and no. At the World Trade Center (of all places) PATH train stop yesterday I found myself walking past what looked, at first, like a Tolkien wraith, but was, in fact, a Muslim woman in full Niqab, draped in all black from head to toe. I would like to ask Earnest how this get-up, which conceals all but the eyes like a bandit’s, is somehow “sacrosanct” or consistent with ideals of our nation’s founding? And how can this person possibly assimilate into a classically liberal Western culture? More to the point, does she even want to? Go to Malmo, Sweden for further study.

This nation often places limits on religious expression or behavior when the greater good is at stake. In this cloaked woman’s case, not only is such dress an expression of underlying misogyny that certainly has no place in modern America, it is also a security threat.

As a denouement, after I exited the PATH I got my usual Dunkin’ Donuts and the cheerful young ladies who took my order were all wearing the Hijab, or traditional head scarf. Hey, that’s fine. Whatever floats their boat. I could see their smiling faces. I could read them and interact with them. I could find some common ground, if not in religion then at least in the shared experience of the New York daily grind. If one cannot see the difference between these contributing immigrants in the simple and unobtrusive head scarf, and the cloaked, isolated, oppressed specter behind the black shroud–as though someone who dresses and acts according to a man’s interpretation of the alleged insistence of a 7th century warlord is just another commuter–then you are complicit in the mass cultural suicide already well underway in Europe.

The GOP campaign rhetoric also has concerned White House officials who say it’s damaging to U.S. efforts to gain cooperation from moderate Muslims at home and abroad to fight extremist groups such as the Islamic State. As if the Muslim world is so open to the West? In the Wall Street Journal today Steven Stalinsky gives us insight into just how much tolerance is preached at the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem…one of the most influential and important religious institutions in global Islam. Here’s one sound bite: On July 6, 2015, Sheikh Muhammad Abed declared that from “the land of the Prophet’s nocturnal journey [Jerusalem] armies will set out to conquer Rome, to conquer Constantinople…Washington and London.” Always good to have a plan, huh?

A 2011 book “The Price of Religious Freedom Denied: Religious Persecution and Conflict in the Twenty-First Century by sociologists Brian Grim and Roger Finke shows that Islamic nations clearly have considerably lower levels of religious freedom than the rest of the world and Christian-majority countries. 78 percent of Muslim-majority countries have high levels of government restrictions on religious freedom, compared with 43 percent of all other countries and 10 percent of Christian countries. Once again, though, it is the American people the president takes to the woodshed as intolerant, for cynically political gain.

The Baltimore mosque itself also leaves one scratching the head. Its past imam, Mohammad Adam el-Sheikh, was a member of the extremist Muslim Brotherhood in Sudan in the 1970s. He also has worked for an Islamic relief group that the Treasury Department designated as a terrorist organization in 2004. And now the president is calling on this same terror accomplice’s former home base. Is this the level of acquiescence to Islamic conduct that the White House still sees as ‘outreach’?

Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser, a Muslim who is vice chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, calls the president’s decision to visit there “disgraceful.”

But Earnest could only say by way of explanation “I can’t speak to why this specific mosque was chosen,” other than it “represents the diversity of…” blah blah. Yeah, yeah we know. Allahu Akhbar.

TheBlaze contributor channel supports an open discourse on a range of views. The opinions expressed in this channel are solely those of each individual author.

Jimmy Kimmel Imagines What GOP Candidates’ Quotes Would Sound Like Coming Directly From ‘Jesus’

Jimmy Kimmel reimagines candidates' quotes through the mouth of Jesus (YouTube)

Comedian Jimmy Kimmel decided to reimagine some of the quotes that have been made by Republican presidential candidates during the primaries, presenting them through the eyes — and lips — of “Jesus.”

“God is a very important part of this primary election,” Kimmel said this week during an introduction of a brief segment on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” “Most all of the candidates go out of their way to talk about the Bible and their faith.”

So, the comedian said that he wanted to see how some of their quotes would sound coming “from the mouth of Jesus.”

He then flashed over to a pre-taped segment that featured an actor dressed as Christ uttering a variety of proclamations about guns, immigration and international affairs.

Jimmy Kimmel reimagines candidates’ quotes through the mouth of Jesus (YouTube)

“You don’t lock your doors because you hate the people on the outside,” Jesus said, reciting a similar quote from Marco Rubio. “You lock your doors because you love the people on the inside.”

He then pressed on by paraphrasing a quote from Chris Christie that went as follows: “We need appropriate vetting and I don’t think that orphans under 5 should be admitted into the United States at this point.”

There was also a Ted Cruz quote that was shared about stopping bad guys by “using our guns” as well as the infamous slam that Donald Trump seemingly made about Carly Fiorina’s appearance a while back.

“Look at that face,” Jesus recited along with an audible gag. “I mean, would anybody vote for that?”

Watch the segment below:


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Hamas Is Having a Really Bad Week. Here’s the Latest Mishap to Hit the Terrorist Group.

Palestinian women weep during the funeral of Ahmed Al-Zahar, at his family home, south of Gaza City, Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2016. Hamas said two of its men were killed after a tunnel they were digging from Gaza into Israel collapsed. Hamas identified the men as members of its militant wing. The incident marks the second deadly tunnel accident in a week, after seven Hamas fighters died when heavy rainfall trapped them inside a tunnel. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

The Palestinian terrorist group Hamas has suffered its second tunnel collapse in just one week, in which two more fighters — including a field commander — were buried alive following a similar fate that struck seven of their comrades-in-arms last week.

Hamas announced the latest casualties in a statement Wednesday that noted that the tunnel “belonged to [the] resistance.”

“Resistance” is a euphemism widely used by Palestinians to refer to violent attacks against Israelis.

Palestinian women weep during the funeral of Ahmed Al-Zahar, at his family home, south of Gaza City Wednesday. Hamas said two of its men were killed after a tunnel they were digging from Gaza into Israel collapsed. Hamas identified the men as members of its militant wing. The incident marks the second deadly tunnel accident in a week. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

Hamas’ military wing, the Izzedin Al-Qassam Brigades, reported that eight others were missing after the tunnel they were in Tuesday caved in.

Hamas has built dozens of tunnels connecting Gaza to Egypt and Israel that have been used to smuggle goods and weapons as well as to launch armed attacks on southern Israeli communities over the border.

The Jerusalem Post noted that along with the statement on the fighters’ deaths, Hamas released a propaganda video Wednesday dramatizing how its fighters live and pray in the tunnels from which they then aim to sneak out in camoflage to attack Israelis:

The Israeli news site NRG quoted residents of Gaza who described a virtual underworld teeming with activity under their feet that nobody dares talk about publicly.

“Everyone knows that we have a city under our feet and after extreme weather these tunnels are collapsing. It has become a sensitive issue,” said one resident who wasn’t named.

NRG reported that Tuesday’s tunnel cave-in was the third such accident in the past month.

“We know we have an underground city under our feet and that Hamas is restoring tunnels destroyed during the last war [2014],” the resident of Gaza told NRG.

“After extreme weather, the tunnels under our feet collapse and leave huge holes. It’s a crazy situation. Everybody knows there are tunnels, but it’s become a sensitive topic that’s taboo to talk about,” the resident said.

Senior Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh on Friday threatened Israel that Hamas was continuing investing in building tunnels and developing rockets with which to strike Israel during the next round of fighting.

In response, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Sunday that Israel would strike Hamas even harder if that were to happen.

“Of course, if we are attacked from tunnels from the Gaza Strip, we will take very strong action against Hamas, much stronger than we took in Operation Protective Edge,” the Israeli leader said, referring to the fighting between Israel and Hamas two years ago, adding, “I do not suggest that anyone test us.”

The independent Palestinian news agency Ma’an quoted a 2012 report from the Institute for Palestine Studies which stated that that Hamas has counted 160 deaths inside the tunnels since 2007. In August 2014, Al Jazeera reported the number of tunnel-digger casualties was as high as 400.

Hollywood Director Reveals the Biblical Miracle That Leaves Him With a Big Question for Jesus

Hollywood director and writer Cyrus Nowrasteh has some big questions for Jesus after writing and directing the soon-to-release film, “The Young Messiah,” based on famed writer Anne Rice’s book, “Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt.”

When asked if he could ask Christ one question, especially after spending so much time pouring over the details of the Christian savior’s life, Nowrasteh said that he would want to know about the presence and sequence of “miracles” in the scriptures.

“It came up so many times, the issue of miracles, and the question was, ‘Well, he doesn’t perform his first miracle until the wedding, where he turned water into wine, but he’s induced to do that by his mother, by Mary,” he told The Church Boys podcast. “And then the question that I would ask: Is that the first recorded miracle — or the first miracle, period?”

Nowrasteh said that he wasn’t able to get the theologians that he consulted with on the film to agree on the details, which are recounted in the Bible in John 2, and he said that the question has also opened up other related curiosities.

“How does [Mary] know you can perform miracles?” he asked. “And when did you first realize that you could?”

Listen to Nowrasteh discuss “The Young Messiah” below:

[soundcloud url="" params="auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&visual=true" width="100%" height='450' iframe="true" /]

Nowrasteh, a Christian whose previous projects include “The Stoning of Soraya M.” and “The Path to 9/11,” said that he took great care in consulting faith leaders to ensure that the contents of “The Young Messiah” are accurate and theologically sound.

This is notable considering that the Bible doesn’t tell us much about Jesus’ childhood — and that’s the central theme of Nowrasteh‘s movie.

“He’s 7 years old throughout the story, so we wanted to make sure that, theologically speaking, we weren’t doing something that would be offensive or would be a problem,” he said, adding that the first priority was to make sure that there was “nothing in the story that contradicts anything in the Bible.”

Nowrasteh added, “We can’t have him as a child doing things that are inconsistent with his character as we know it.”

Watch the trailer below:


Clearly, the film adaptation has resonated, as it has attracted scores of endorsements and support from well-known individuals across the Christian spectrum, including: Dr. Ted Baehr, Kathie Lee Gifford, Hugh Hewitt, the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez and Ron Luce, among others.

In the end, the movie promises to offer up something quite different from past looks at Jesus and his family.

“We take you inside the holy family in a fashion that you’ve never seen,” Nowrasteh said. “In this movie you are inside this family and I think even the secular audiences connect with this movie on that level. What would it have been like for Mary and Joseph to parent the child of God?”

“The Young Messiah” releases nationwide on March 11.

Atheists Forced Post Office to Remove ‘God Bless America’ Banner. But It’s the Community’s Response That’s Really Sparking Attention.

Officials at a post office in Pittsburg, Kansas, recently took down a “God Bless America” banner that had hung on the outside of the building following an atheist group’s complaint that called its presence a violation of the separation of church and state.

It was a sign that was visible to the community for years, having been posted after the 9/11 attacks in an effort to rally the community — that is, until the Freedom From Religion Foundation, an atheist activist group, complained and it was subsequently removed last week.

“Employees are free to ask God to bless America all they want on their own time,” Madeline Ziegler of the Freedom From Religion Foundation told KOAM-TV. “The problem comes when they ask their government employer to endorse their personal religious beliefs by plastering them on the side of the federal building.”

She continued, “We’re really excited that the post office decided to take the right action here.”

Vehicles lined up as far as the eye can see to pick up a free “God Bless America” banner @ @jakesfireworks

— CityofPittsburg,KS (@PittsburgKS) January 29, 2016

The removal made headlines, but it’s what happened next that’s been getting even more attention.

After the single sign was removed, frustrated residents decided to act, with more than 1,500 signs and banners popping up around town.

Jakes Fireworks, a local business, reportedly had the “God Bless America” signs printed up, and handed them out to locals. According to Twitchy, “Now residents of the town are saying you can’t drive a block without seeing a ‘God Bless America’ banner or American flag.”

Some residents — including those who made the initial decision to post the post office banner back in 2001 out of what they said were patriotic and not religious motivations — have been speaking out over the past week against the atheist-led complaint.


“It’s sad, it’s sad that they feel like that this is something that they understand when they don’t,” said Ed Hinde, a former postal worker.

Local Jason Marietta added, “Obviously, we’re among the majority that didn’t agree with the decision to take the sign down.

Cars lined up back onto Rouse for @jakesfireworks free patriotic signs and banners.Enter 27th Terr.from the south.

— CityofPittsburg,KS (@PittsburgKS) January 29, 2016

The Freedom From Religion Foundation has said that it has no problem with the sign being posted on private property, but that its placement on government property was problematic.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Post Office said that post offices are precluded from allowing posted messages unless they are official government notices.

(H/T: Twitchy)

Obama Directly Addresses Opponents Who Criticize Him for Refusing to Call Terrorists ‘Islamic’

President Barack Obama speaks at the Islamic Society of Baltimore, in Windsor Mill, Maryland on February 3, 2016. / AFP / Mandel Ngan (MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Many Republicans have criticized President Barack Obama for not identifying the Islamic State and other terrorist groups as Muslim. But Obama said Wednesday that would give the organizations legitimacy.

“Groups like ISIL are desperate for legitimacy,” Obama said at the Islamic Society of Baltimore. “We must never give them that legitimacy. They are not defending Islam.”

“The notion that America is a war with Islam ignores the fact that the world’s religions are who we are,” Obama said.

President Barack Obama speaks at the Islamic Society of Baltimore in Windsor Mill, Maryland, Wednesday. / AFP / Mandel Ngan (MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

This marked the first time Obama has visited an American mosque as president, and he used the occasion to take what seemed to be jabs at Republicans — and likely GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump, who has called for halting Muslim immigration — when he denounced negative rhetoric, while also calling for better depictions of Muslims in TV shows, praising the historic contributions of Muslim-Americans and reminding Americans of the importance of religious freedom.

“Recently, we’ve heard inexcusable political rhetoric against Muslim Americans that has no place in our country,” Obama said.

The choice of the mosque in Baltimore raised controversy because it has indirect ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, Fox News reported.

Obama said that some American Muslim children fear they will be “rounded up,” while others “feel like second-class citizens,” the president said.

He continued by noting that Thomas Jefferson believed religious freedom created a strong civil society, but added another note about the former president: “Thomas Jefferson’s opponents tried to stir things up by suggesting he was a Muslim. So I’m not the first. Look it up.”

Obama went on to criticize the “media distortions” of Islam and said, “Our TV shows should have some Muslim characters that are unrelated to national security.”

But as the speech went on, he also called for Muslim leaders to more aggressively speak out against extremism and to speak out.

“Muslims must speak up when Christians and Jews around the world are targeted, often by Muslims,” Obama said.

But the president said Christians in the United States have an obligation to look out for the rights of religious minorities: “I say this to my fellow Christians, an attack on one faith an attack on all of our faiths.”

UK Principal Mocked for Asserting Belief That Evolution Is a ‘Theory’

Image source: St. Andrew's Church of England primary school, Oswaldtwistle.

A primary school principal in England was ridiculed on Twitter recently after sharing her belief that evolution is “a theory” and there is “more evidence that the Bible is true.”

Christina Wilkinson, headteacher of St Andrew’s Church of England school, voiced her comments in a tweet responding to another headteacher in London, Tom Sherrington.

Image source: St. Andrew’s Church of England primary school, Oswaldtwistle.

In a previous tweet, Sherrington had urged teachers not to “water down the science to accommodate religious perspectives” and stick to scientific evidence when teaching the origins of life.

Wilkinson’s tweet read: “Evolution is not a fact. That’s why it’s called a theory! There’s more evidence that the Bible is true.”

Image source: Daily Mail

The Christian school teacher received a storm of criticism on Twitter, with many demanding her resignation, the Guardian reported.

Wilkinson then issued a follow-up statement, saying, “I’d like to make it clear that we teach the full national curriculum in school and that our pupils receive a fully rounded education.”

She pointed out that the tweet was from her personal account and “represents my own views”. But shortly after the dispute, Wilkinson deleted her tweet and her Twitter account, @WilkinsonHead, was closed.

Wilkinson’s comments were met with scorn on Twitter, with one person suggesting she become a vicar instead.

“That’s an unacceptable level of stupidity from a headteacher,” another critic said.

“This is horrifying. I’m still holding out hope her response is some kind of performance art,” Liv Boeree tweeted. “Pls pls pls tell me this lady doesn’t work in education. Please.”

@NickyAACampbell @WilkinsonHead @headguruteacher This is horrifying. I’m still holding out hope her response is some kind of performance art

— Liv Boeree (@Liv_Boeree) January 26, 2016

@WilkinsonHead @NickyAACampbell @headguruteacher pls pls pls tell me this lady doesn’t work in education. Please.

— Liv Boeree (@Liv_Boeree) January 26, 2016

“Sigh. I sincerely hope your students aren’t told that. Take them to a natural history museum,” Sherrington wrote before Wilkinson closed her account.

@WilkinsonHead No, there really isn’t. Sigh. I sincerely hope your students aren’t told that. Take them to a natural history museum.

— Tom Sherrington (@headguruteacher) January 26, 2016

The post that sparked the exchange had read, “For me, it is critical that teachers do not water down the science to accommodate religious perspectives if that means sacrificing the acceptance of evidence.”

“It shouldn’t be remotely controversial to tell students that you are an atheist or that creationism is untenable given our knowledge of science,” Sherrington wrote.

“This applies to science and RE teachers,” he continued. “New Earth creationism and more subtle variants of Intelligent Design are a denial of science and I think all teachers need to be conscious of that.”

Evolutionary biologist and New Atheist Prof Richard Dawkins weighed in, claiming that Wilkinson was misusing the word “theory.”

“Scientists call evolution a theory only in a special scientists’ sense, which is NOT the same as the layman’s ‘tentative hypothesis’,” he said.

“This is so often misunderstood that I now recommend abandoning the confusing word ‘theory’ altogether for the case of evolution. Evoluton is a fact, as securely attested as any fact in science. ‘We are cousins of monkeys and kangaroos’ can be asserted with as much confidence as ‘Our planet orbits the sun’.”

Dawkins offered special praise for Sherrington and his work:

Any school would be fortunate to have a Head like this.

He deals, sensitively but firmly, with brainwashed students

— Richard Dawkins (@RichardDawkins) January 26, 2016

A year and a half ago, the U.K. government banned the teaching of creationism in science classes in public schools. It said funding would be withdrawn from any public school that taught theories that run “contrary to established scientific and/or historical evidence and explanations.”

But some were quick to point out that Wilkinson’s is an Anglican school.

“It’s a Church of England school and it will, of course, teach the Bible,” Graham Jones, Labour MP for Hyndburn, whose constituency includes Wilkinson’s school, told the Daily Mail. “But it should also teach the children about other religions and beliefs.”

“I don’t think we should be promoting any religious text as more scientifically accurate than hundreds of years of detailed study,” Ken Moss, a local education councillor, said.

“There is plenty of room for religious teaching, but I do not think that should be above science fact,” he added. “The role of a school and a headteacher is to inform the pupils of the facts and not to just promote religious texts.”

All of the back-and-forth was apparently more than Sherrington had expected for one little post:

This sums up my week. #Itsjustatheory

— Tom Sherrington (@headguruteacher) January 29, 2016

(H/T: Guardian)

Front-page image via Shuttershock

Christian Baker Punished for Refusing to Make ‘Gay Marriage’ Cake Takes on the Government: ‘Like Something Out of a Science Fiction Book’

Photo credit: Shutterstock

One of the Christian bakers in Northern Ireland who is at the center of a legal battle after refusing to make a cake with the words “support gay marriage” on it has said that the entire debacle is “strange” and “like something out of a science fiction book.”

Daniel McArthur, general manager of Ashers Baking Company, spoke out in an interview with the Telegraph just one day before he is set to go back to court in Balfast to appeal a previous ruling finding his bakery guilty of discrimination for refusing the cake.

“Is is strange,” McArthur said. “It is like something out of a science fiction book: ‘You have to do this, there is no choice … you must do this, no matter what your conscience tells you, no matter how hard, never mind that you couldn’t do that, you have to do it we demand it of you.'”

The family has been at the center of headlines since a man named Gareth Lee requested that the cake include the line “support gay marriage” along with an image of Sesame Street characters Bert and Ernie. The couple refused and chaos — and legal battles — followed; despite the bakers’ punishment, gay marriage remains illegal in Northern Ireland, adding to the bizarre nature of the case.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

The refusal to make the cake resulted in a legal conundrum, with the bakery being taken to court under Northern Ireland’s 2006 Equality Act, which makes discrimination illegal. A court found the bakery guilty of discrimination and forced them to pay $765 in damages for “injury to feelings” to Lee, but the bakers are fighting back on appeal.

McArthur has said that, rather than discriminating against Lee, he believes that it is Ashers Baking Company that has been discriminated against, with the government demanding that the bakers produce a cake with a message they patently reject.

“For us, I think it means you have to leave your Christianity at your house and in your church, once you go out the door in the morning you can forget about your Christian beliefs,” he told the Telegraph. “I’m sure that affects many other religions as well … but [our faith affects] every part of our lives. It is impossible for us not to bring it with us during the day.”

The baker explained that the family “can’t be forced” to do something that “goes against those beliefs” and that it is their “human right to live according to those beliefs.”

McArthur is hoping that by battling the verdict he and his family can help other Christian business owners who face the same pressures.

“To be honest, we have been really surprised by how much support we had through it,” he said. “When it first started we were slightly worried ourselves. We didn’t know what way the general public was going to take to it.”

But in the end, he said that they have received quite a bit of support, which now includes a prominent gay rights activist who has announced a major change of heart. British human rights advocate Peter Tatchell penned a piece for the Guardian on Monday, proclaiming that he “initially condemned” Ashers Baking Company for refusing to make the cake, but now feels differently.

While Tatchell believes that a business cannot and should not discriminate based on gender, faith, race or sexuality, he said that the court made an error in ruling that the refusal counted as discrimination against Lee based on his political opinion and sexual orientation.

Photo credit: Shutterstock Photo credit: Shutterstock

“His cake request was refused not because he was gay, but because of the message he asked for,” Tatchell wrote. “There is no evidence that his sexuality was the reason Ashers declined his order.”

These arguments mirror what “Star Trek” and “X-Men” star Sir Patrick Stewart told BBC’s “Newsnight” last summer when he announced that he’s siding with the owners of the Ashers Baking Company.

“It was not because it was a gay couple that they objected — it was not because they were celebrating some kind of marriage or an agreement between them,” he said. “It was the actual words on the cake that they objected to, because they found the words offensive.”

The actor continued, “And I would support their rights to say, ‘No, this is personally offensive to my beliefs. I will not do it.’”

(H/T: The Telegraph)

Front page image via

Christian Pastor Released in Iranian Prisoner Swap Breaks His Silence Following Wife’s Allegations: ‘I Will Always Love Her…’

Naghmeh Abedini

Saeed Abedini, the 35-year-old American pastor who was detained for more than three years in Iran before being released in a recent prisoner swap, called his estranged wife, Naghmeh Abedini, a “hero,” and said he plans to work on their marriage just days after she filed for separation.

“Naghmeh has been a hero to me and suffered enormously as a result of being 7,000 miles away from me and being a single parent to our two precious children while traveling and leading a crusade on my behalf,” Abedini wrote in a statement to the Idaho Statesman over the weekend. “I will always love her for her sacrifice.”

Abedini’s letter to the outlet came after his wife penned an open statement on Facebook last week, apologizing to supporters and alleging abuse at the hands of her husband.

Naghmeh Abedini, holds a necklace with a photograph of her husband, Saeed Abedini, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, June 2, 2015, during a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

“I do deeply regret that I hid from the public the abuse that I have lived with for most of our marriage and I ask your forgiveness,” she wrote. “I sincerely had hoped that this horrible situation Saeed has had to go through would bring about the spiritual change needed in both of us to bring healing to our marriage.”

In the end, though, Naghmeh Abedini said that the opposite unfolded, claiming that her husband made demands that she could no longer conceal.

“Three months ago, Saeed told me things he demanded I must do to promote him in the eyes of the public that I simply could not do any longer,” she wrote. “He threatened that if I did not the results would be the end of our marriage and the resulting pain this would bring to our children.”

Abedini went on to say in her open letter that she hopes for reconciliation that is “based on God’s word” — a reunion that is achieved through counseling to “deal with the abuse.”

According to the Idaho Statesman, Saeed Abedini pleaded guilty to misdemeanor domestic assault 2007 and was allegedly sentenced to 90 days in jail; that sentence was suspended and he was placed on a year-long probation.

The pastor said in his statement to the outlet that he learned that his wife had “filed a domestic relations case, apparently in order to ensure our children could remain in the state” after his return to the U.S. last month, adding that he had no intention of taking the kids out of their home.

Naghmeh and Saeed Abedini (ACLJ)  Naghmeh and Saeed Abedini (ACLJ)

Abedini said that he plans to work privately with his wife to remedy their marriage, and that much of what he has read in her “posts and subsequent media reports” is simply untrue.

“Last November, Naghmeh began to write about our marriage on her Facebook page and suspended her public advocacy for me. Her Facebook reports have been widely reported in other media outlets, raising questions about me, and the state of our marriage,” Abedini wrote. “As a prisoner in Iran I was not able to respond to her comments and accusations.”

He continued, “I have chosen not to respond in the two weeks I have been back in America because I believe personal issues are best dealt with personally.”

Read the statement in its entirety here.

(H/T: Idaho Statesman via Charisma News)

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Hamas Rolls Out Its New ‘Tank’ to Fight Israel. See If You Can Spot the Problem.

Palestinian members of the Izzedin Al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of the Hamas movement, gather around a mock Israeli tank on January 31, 2016 in Gaza City during a gathering to pay tribute to the brigade's militants who died after a tunnel collapsed in the Gaza Strip. Seven Hamas militants were killed on January 28, 2016 after a tunnel built for fighting Israel collapsed in the Gaza Strip, highlighting concerns that yet another conflict could eventually erupt in the Palestinian enclave. (Mahmud Hams/AFP/Getty Images)

During a memorial service Saturday for seven Hamas militants killed when the tunnel they were in collapsed on them, Hamas rolled out what it called a “locally-produced” tank it said was fashioned out of an Israel Defense Forces’ tank captured two years ago.

However, a number of observers, both Palestinian and Israeli, noticed that there was something odd about the armored fighting machine which a Hamas spokesman warned would be used on the “path of jihad.”

Palestinian members of the Izzedin Al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of the Hamas movement, gather around a mock Israeli tank Jan. 31 in Gaza City during a gathering to pay tribute to the brigade’s militants who died after a tunnel collapsed in the Gaza Strip. (Mahmud Hams/AFP/Getty Images)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s spokesman Ofir Gendelman pointed out that the contraption appeared to be a mockup constructed of wood placed atop another vehicle whose wheels could be spotted poking out of the bottom.

Hamas paraded yesterday a “captured, rebuilt Israeli tank”. FYI, tanks aren’t made of wood and don’t run on wheels.

— Ofir Gendelman (@ofirgendelman) February 1, 2016

Others suggested the gun turret was actually a sewage pipe.

The pro-Israel Elder of Ziyon blog reported Tuesday that a poster was created by Hamas’ rival Fatah mocking the tank display. The poster stated: “Can they excite the feelings of their supporters with … sewer pipes and fiberglass panels?”

During his speech inaugurating the tank, Hamas’ Izzedin Al-Qassam Brigades spokesman Abu Obeida warned the Islamic movement was “preparing ourselves for the day that we shall meet those [Israeli] tanks.”

“Let us point our index finger toward heaven and renew our pledge of allegiance to Allah and to the commanders of the Izzedin Al-Qassam Brigades and vow to continue on the path of jihad and resistance,” he said at the ceremony according to a translation by the Middle East Media Research Institute, which posted televised excerpts aired by Hamas’ Al-Aqsa TV.

Senior Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said Friday that Palestinian fighters are digging tunnels into Israel and testing rockets in order to prepare for a new round of fighting with Israel.